Replacing the Lotto Dream with a Solid, Workable Plan

Last Friday, I stopped in a supermarket to pick up a few groceries. As I was passing the Lotto desk, I decided to get a Lotto quick-pick. There was a man in front of me who had the cashier checking stacks of tickets. He was very polite and told the cashier to take care of me first.

I looked at all the tickets on the counter and the stack of bills he had in his hand to buy more. I asked, “Are you buying for a group?”

He answered in an exhausted tone. “Yes. We have a pool at the office. Every week, anyone who wants to play Powerball kicks in twenty bucks and I come here and buy the tickets.”

I asked, “How many people play?”

His answer was seventeen.

So every week, seventeen people, give or take, pony up $20 to have a shot at winning a share of a Powerball jackpot.

The man told me that he manages a medical practice. I said, “That explains it. Everybody who works in your office dreams of winning enough money to quit their job. Apparently you too, and you’re the guy in charge.”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yeah.”

If the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510, your chances are greater of getting attacked by a shark…in Kansas!  Why would so many people gamble away $20 with such poor odds?

I don’t know how long the lottery players in his office have been doing this, but let’s look at the numbers over the course of a year. Assuming 50 weeks of work, each player potentially gambles away $1,000 a year. I know—there is a chance they might win, in fact, each of them has a greater chance by pooling their resources (the odds are now 320 in 175,223,510 or about 1 in 548,000. Better odds, but still not great.

Why would someone risk $1,000 a year on a sucker’s bet?

Because it feels like hope. That brief time interval between when you hand over the money and the results are announced…you feel like you have a chance of a way out. Even though you know the chances are infinitesimally small, there’s still a chance.

If you spend a dollar or two on a lottery ticket to take a chance at a windfall, it’s not a big deal. But when you’re gambling out of desperation in hopes of quitting your job, maybe you need a more effective strategy.

There was a time in my life when I purchased Lotto tickets religiously (never spent over $5 in any one week). Every time I checked the tickets and realized I didn’t win the jackpot, my first thought was, “I guess I’m going to work tomorrow.” One time I did have five out of six numbers, which paid a paltry $1,665. I know, I should be grateful, and at some level I was. But I was one number away from $17 million and figured that statistically, my chances of ever getting that close again are pretty remote.

Each time I bought a ticket though, it felt good. I knew at that moment that I had as much of a chance of winning as anyone else who bought a ticket. And someone would win eventually. Why not me?

Hope is nice to have, but hope is not a plan. If you dream of quitting your job to do something more enjoyable, create it. Make a plan. I know, a plan implies work and one of the dreams of winning the Lottery is that you’ll be able to spend the rest of your life sipping pina coladas with little umbrellas on beaches around the world. Guess what? Most people I know who retired to the golf course and leisure left retirement to pursue a business or passion.

If you really want to quit your job, figure out the type of work you would like to do that won’t feel like work. Do some research to see if you can earn a living doing it and then get creative. Spend some time with my guests and me at to learn exactly how others were able to do it.

If you’re serious about getting out of an unhappy job situation, invest your time and money in a plan, not in Powerball. Your chances of winning at a career that you create are infinitely better than leaving your future to a random draw.