While thinking of ways to use the info from this site I thought of a way to get a lot more out of your office lottery pool than you currently are. Not to cheat others out of the winnings or to guarantee a million dollar payout, but a way to get more out of the $5-$10 you put in each week.
The reason this came to me is because of an off the cuff comment my high school history teaching made a couple decades ago. He said lotteries should be called ‘The Stupid Tax’ because based on the odds you’re pretty stupid to think you'll win, and this idea of it being a ‘stupid tax’ has stuck with me ever since. I still play occasionally but I do feel kind of stupid each time I do.
My recommendation to get the most out of an office lotto pool is to convert it to a happy spouse/partner lotto pool.
Everyone pays in the same as before, but rather than spend all of the money on lotto tickets, raffle off a portion of the money to go to one participant for them to buy a treat for their spouse/partner.
This way you're actually likely to win, and spending money on your partner is one of the best ways to increase your level of happiness, short term and long term. WInning the real lottery is one of the best to alienate you from your friends and family and to break up marriages, so reducing the odds of winning that one might be a good idea too. You'll get to keep enjoying the dream of winning big without having it happen and ruin your life.
Two TED talks that helped inspire this idea
1) Mike Norton on How to Buy Happiness (highlighting how poor we are at predicting what purchases will bring us happiness and how to fix it)
2) Barry Schwartz on Practical Wisdom (keys to happiness are loving relationships and meaningful work, two things you may lose if you win the lottery)
By still putting a portion of the money to the big lotto you can have the best of both worlds. High likelihood of winning money for a nice date night, and the potential to win millions. You could set up the cash payout on a schedule or as a draw, or a draw where you can’t win again until everyone has won. You can do anything you want with it. To keep it familiar you could call it a 50/50 draw, 50% goes to one person to use as they wish (suggestion, treat their spouse) and 50% goes to buying lotto tickets for the group.
So what do you think, would you go for a 50/50 lotto pool instead of the typical one?
Let’s dissect what else is going on here.
1) Why do I remember this ‘stupid tax’ comment?
As we saw in the emotions section of things you should know, novelty and things that you have a strong emotional response to are bookmarked as important to remember. Growing up my dad loved playing the big lotteries, and I, like many people, dreamed of winning big. Those were very positive emotions, and I thought of myself as a smart guy, and really didn’t like the idea of looking stupid. Now my history teacher, whom I hold in high regard is basically telling me I’m stupid and my dad is stupid, and everyone dreaming big is stupid! I loved how simple he made it, how he cut through all the debating people could do back and forth, and I felt like he was right in the sense it should be called a ‘stupid tax’, I think it would reduce sales.
2) Would it reduce sales of the lottery if it was called the stupid tax?
I can’t say for sure but I’ve read in one of Dan Ariely’s books that we will go out of our way to not be like someone we don’t want to be associated with. His studies dealt with rival schools. In the lab they saw people doing the opposite of the people they thought were from the rival school but the same things as people from their own school. So if people don’t want to be associated with stupid people then I think it would really help
3) Why are people so into the lottery?
This is the perfect example of the ‘promise of reward’. This is what the rats burnt their feet over and sacrificed eating and drinking for this.
4) What’s the problem here?
The stats not only show you’re not likely to win, but if you do win the stats show you will probably be worse off. A windfall of cash like that given to someone that wasn’t too good with finances beforehand may not be too good with it.
Why do we ignore this? Because we desperately want this promise of bliss and we tend to think better of our future selves than we do of our present selves. We think they will make better decisions, but that doesn't usually happen.
This could also be a good example of the up and down wave (sine wave) as described in the book the Plateau Effect. We often think more is always better but in their book they argue that the amount of benefit goes up and down like a sine wave. More money is better than no money, but not forever, with more money you could have more problems, with a lot more money you could take care of them, with a lot lot more money you could have even more problems. The trick is trying to find the sweet spot, and the first step to that is trying to be happy without needing to win the lottery.
6) On the topic of the odds and what you should be excited or worried about is in this handy image below. Note this was created by a company promoting online blackJack, which has very good odds, and now I can see why there is so much commotion at those tables. Hopefully you don't get hooked on blackjack now. Please don't gamble with more than you can lose, maybe don't gamble at all.
I plan to have this as the centerpiece of an upcoming post on what you should really be worried about and what you should worry less about. In general if you hear a stat about something bad which you have a 1 in 10 or 1 in something less than 10 chance of getting, you should really look into how you can avoid that or prepare for dealing with that.