The lady watched her husband open the safe in the bedroom and memorized the code (true story). She then proceeded to open the safe once he had left for work, and took the valuable ring he had given her for their anniversary. She took it to the nearest pawnshop and accepted the first offer, about 20% of the real value (a diamond worth about $2,000).
Is she a criminal? No, the woman was not a thief; she was not a criminal. She simply was addicted to slot machines and gambling in general. She bought scratch lottery tickets every day, panting with anticipation at the immediate potential reward. When she won, she bought more tickets, or she went back to the arcade to “invest” in her favorite game. She could spend hours watching the cards tumbling in the dark, screaming with joy when she hit the winning combination. Needless to say, she never recouped enough to recover the diamond ring.
The marriage almost ended in divorce when the husband found out. He called me and asked for my help, although he really had the need to unload his immense frustration. Since I have an amateur’s knowledge of personality disorders, I explained to him that some people simply cannot control their urge to gamble; his wife was one of them. The only cure was to keep her away from temptation and get her some counseling.
It is human nature to gamble. Lotteries and gambling are as old as civilization. There are even lottery sites out there that proudly declare that “proceeds from the United States Lottery in 1777 paid for the provisions for Washington’s troops”. Whether or not these proclamations and claims are backed up, the fact stands that the gambling or gaming industry is big business.
Is this about taxing the poor? It is commonly believed that lotteries are a hidden tax on the poor and yet, the lady in my example comes from a high middle class background. Apparently, the low income class don’t play the lottery as much as the middle class. It is not a tax, of course, but one could argue that real taxes would be higher if it weren’t for lotteries which go to education and programs for the poor.
So what attracts us to gambling? My spouse and I know that the odds of winning are remarkably small: 1 chance in 300 million to hit the jackpot. Yet we buy our ticket every week, for it is not so much the money, as it is the excitement, the adrenaline flowing as we wait for the winning number to appear. For a lot of people, that excitement may just be worth the $5 a pop.
A Few Tips On Playing The Lottery
Here is some good advice from the pros. Experts recommend the following when buying a ticket:
- Don’t buy a ticket for a friend or neighbor. Imagine the problem (or misunderstanding) if you find out that what you are holding onto is the big winner, worth millions. Do you have a claim on these riches? Of course not — while you paid for the ticket, your friend still paid you back the five dollars. It’s his and his alone!
- Don’t go half-and-half with a friend or relative. How can you prove that you paid your share? He has the ticket and you may be left holding the bag if the ticket wins big. By the same token, play it carefully if you are joining a pool of some sort (say a church or office pool). Make sure that everyone is on the same page about who has a stake or claim on the prize before anything happens.
- Don’t fall for the well designed ads that promise you the infallible way to win at the lottery. If they found a way, why should they share it with you? All they want is to scalp the naïve and gullible citizens.
- Keep your old losing tickets if you constantly spend on (or “invest” in) lottery tickets. You might be able to itemize your losses as tax deductions, but check with your accountant for specifics.
Ultimately though, you don’t want to feed a gambling habit. Know how to recognize this and when to ask for help (if necessary). Not realizing when to stop or to seek support or help can cost you your entire life’s savings. In fact, the costs can even be higher, as in the case of the infamous Joran van der Sloot, who eventually lost his freedom.
Other Ways To Lose Money Big Time
This brings to mind something else I’ve read in Consumer Reports. One of their articles discussed a doozy of a list that details the 12 biggest money mistakes that could cost you a tremendous amount of money — altogether adding up to $1,000,000 or more! Surprisingly, a gambling addiction (or any other vice or money sapping addiction) was not in this list.
Even when everyone says that the small things add up, they don’t compare to how quickly your money gets drained when you find yourself in situations that can cost you in a HUGE way. The list was ranked and I was somewhat surprised at some of the results. Here’s a quick ranking for you based on cost:
Money Mistakes That Can Cost You Big ($1,000,000)
|Investing for your retirement way too conservatively.||$360,000 to $750,000|
|Premature retirement or retiring earlier than necessary.||$237,000 to $309,000|
|Battling it out in a divorce (with lawyers milking you dry).||$49,000 to $188,000|
|Not getting enough home insurance (what about other types of insurance which cause out of pocket payouts?).||$16,000 to $194,000|
|Overpaying the mortgage.||$27,000|
|Maintaining a credit card balance.||$5,000 to $23,000|
|Living an unhealthy lifestyle.||$4,600 to $42,000|
|Not having a Roth IRA.||$9,000 to $26,000|
|Cashing out of a 401k too early.||$6,000 to $17,000|
|Underfunding your 401k.||$36,000|
|Paying too many account or fund fees.||$4,000|
|Becoming a scam victim.||At least $100|
A gambling addiction or an expensive vice should be at the top of this list, being that they’re fairly common and can turn out to be the most damaging financial mistake that anyone can make. If you’re interested in more money mistakes, you can check out The Digerati Life’s own list.
I’m always of the mind that keeping your money is more important than even making it. So if you can sidestep these problems and situations, you’re already miles ahead with your money!
Created January 20, 2008. Updated September 13, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.