What’s A Billion?

The numbers boggle the mind. Talk about rags to riches. Overnight.

It was an American news story that I probably would have missed if I hadn’t been on vacation in the US and consuming American media.

The rags may be metaphorical, but the riches certainly aren’t. Sometime when I wasn’t looking (because I don’t play lotteries) the jackpot in the American Mega Millions lotto broke the billion dollar mark. That number is just absurd.

There is a catch though. To collect the 1.37 billion the winner has to accept the prize in installments over a 29-year period. Most winners opt for a cash payout, which in this case would be $780 million. Take about half of that for taxes (in Canada lottery winnings are tax-free, but Uncle Sam wants his cut 37 percent and and additional five per cent state tax) and you are still left with almsot half a billion dollars.

I’m not a fan of lotteries, for a variety of reasons that would take multiple posts to completely elucidate. Short version would be that they are a tax on the poor and promote values that are less than beneficial to society.

Even I though, when the jackpot reached that level, would have possibly forked over two dollars for a ticket with a potential billion dollar payoff. Well, maybe. I’d be more likely to think “I should do that” and then forget to buy a ticket.

Lotteries don’t tempt me. I know the odds. Money not spent on a ticket is money in the pocket. Lotteries are just like casino gambling with no free soft drinks. The only thing guaranteed is that if you play long enough you will lose. Even if you win a billion dollars on your first attempt.

Anyway, what would I have done with a billion dollars?


One comment

  1. Dawn Swibold · · Reply

    Someone I knew a long time ago was driving to work early one morning and saw a billboard with the winning number of the Michigan lottery – and it was HER number. She had won. I think the jackpot at the time was “only” around 6k dollars, but still a huge surprise for her, especially seeing her number on a large sign through sleepy eyes while driving through a rural area.

    Having said that, I am also not a fan of the lottery, for the reasons you mention and more. But that story came to mind as I read this.

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