People are buying tickets in droves in the hopes of winning the now $1.5 billion and growing lottery jackpot, not only the largest ever jackpot in the United States, but in the world.
ABC reports, “The jackpot is so big that billboards in Texas and around the country have to advertise the price as $999 million because they're not built to show billions.”
The way the lottery is growing in America, they may need to build new billboards for future drawings. Camila Domonoske with NPR writes:
$70 billion — [is] the total amount Americans spent on the lottery in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
CNN Money calculates that's more than Americans spend on sports tickets, books, video games, movie theaters and recorded music, combined.
NASA's annual budget, for comparison, is around $17 billion. Total U.S. foreign aid for next year: just shy of $38 billion.
It’s clear that Americans are chasing a dream, and they are willing to spend a lot of money to catch it. But there’s a problem, and it’s not just the 1 in 292 million odds of ending up with the winning ticket. Recent history has taught us that just because someone becomes instantly rich doesn’t mean they'll end up with any greater sense of happiness.
Zero. That's the impact of a lottery win on net happiness, at least at first.
A famous 1978 study found that major lottery winners were no happier than ordinary folks, and actually got less joy from daily activities. A 2008 Dutch study found winning the lottery doesn't make a household happier.
Now, a caveat: Two studies out of England suggest that it is possible to win the lottery and be content — but only eventually.
"No researcher has ever found that people are happier in the first year after winning the lottery," one of the researchers told The New York Times
And the Times' social science reporter suggests that it might take longer and longer to find contentment the larger your win is.
Despite the high expectations, winning the lottery doesn’t solve our interpersonal problems, but will probably make things worse as friends and relatives clamor for their piece of the prize. Neither will it result in a greater sense of happiness as we suddenly have so much more wealth to worry about protecting, investing, etc.
Most will never have the chance to find out how they'd do with untold wealth, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lesson here for the rest of us. The reality is we all live with the same false hope as the lottery winner—the expectation that the next big promotion, the next good turn of fortune, will finally bring us the contentment and happiness that has eluded us so far.
Let the lesson of past lottery winners be a lesson to you. That transcendent, immune-to-life’s-assault happiness we all search for can’t be purchased or won, but is the byproduct of faith—the result of possessing spiritual riches.
“The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it.” (Proverbs 10:22).