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Consumers are getting swept in the lottery frenzy again, with the current estimated Powerball jackpot reaching $320 million. That’s a nice sum of money but given the lousy odds of winning, why do people continue to buy in? According to CNN Money‘s Jacque Wilson, cash-strapped consumers are in love with the idea of hope, or as human behaviour expert Dr. Wendy Walsh explained in April, the fantasy that “a fairy godmother is going to come in and save us.”
Clearly, we all want a financial lifeline—the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries found U.S. lottery sales totaled $58 billion in 2010, with more than half of consumers playing last year, said Wilson.
Another factor might be the mania itself, which pushes people to jump on the bandwagon even when they know better. Wilson points out the lottery does have a magical quality to it—a dollar and a dream, and all that—so it’s tempting to buy into the idea that you too might spend a little and wind up with a lot.
Of course, winning the lottery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as several winners have noted. One Reddit user named Ruchizzle said winning a million dollars from a scratch-ticket did a number on his social life.
“Sometimes people are a bad investment,” he wrote, “they ask for money and treat you like an ATM.”
And as the old adage goes, having more money won’t make people happier.
As business professor Michael Norton explained in a TED Talk, money buys happiness not when you spend it on yourself, but on others. “The specific way that you spend on other people isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you spend on other people,” he said.