Buying a lottery ticket is something that many people do on a weekly basis. Even people who don’t ever buy a ticket will buy one when the jackpot reaches an absurd amount. Everyone who does this is thinking the same thing: “Someone has to win, so why not me?” Well, it’s not exactly that simple. There are a few reasons why not you, the majority of which revolve around the millions of other people who have the exact same mindset. If you’re someone who buys a ticket every week, you’d be much better served by putting your money in the bank than giving it away in hopes of a quick fortune.
I understand the impulse of buying a ticket. We’ve all had those discussions with our friends where we detail our lives after we win the lottery. Most of us would tell off our bosses, buy an expensive car and travel the world until we’re inevitably murdered by our next of kin. It is, however, important to know the odds before you shell out your life savings $2 at a time. According to the Powerball website, there is a 1 in 292,201,338 chance that you’ll win the jackpot. For the million dollar prize, there is a 1 in 11,688,053,52 chance of winning. While it’s not zero, there are substantial odds against you every time you buy a ticket. Here are 15 things more likely to happen to you than winning the lottery. Admittedly, quite a few of them are death related, but there are some positive possibilities as well. In short, you’re much more likely to make a fortune through your own efforts rather than relying on a quick-pick you get at the liquor store.
15. Getting Audited
Make sure you get do your taxes correctly, because an audit is no fun. Unfortunately, you have a much greater chance of the IRS digging around in your finances than you do of winning the lottery. The chance of getting audited is declining every year, but it will have to take a serious dive before it becomes comparable with getting all six winning numbers. If you’re worried about getting audited and your taxes are complicated, make sure you have a professional assist you. A 1 in 119 chance may seem high, but it’s actually quite low when you consider how many people file their taxes each year. In this case, if you happened to actually win the lottery, your chances of being audited jump substantially. People with a six-figure annual income have a higher chance of being audited, so that Powerball jackpot could come with quite a bit of a headache come tax season.
14. Writing A Best Seller
In Gregory Baer’s book, Life: The Odds: And How to Improve Them, he places the odds of becoming a bestselling author at around 1 in 220. Pretty much everyone would love to become an author. Think about it, you can wake up whenever you want, work whenever you want on whatever you want. Your stories are your own, and you get to share them with the world. Actually, becoming a bestselling author isn’t as difficult as it used to be, what with the age of technology upon us. You can self-publish much easier than ever before, and aren’t at the mercy of what another person thinks will sell. If you can market your book on your own, there’s actually a pretty decent chance of becoming a successful author. Of course, it will take hard work and dedication. It’s not as easy as going to the gas station and picking up some Powerball tickets, but many authors make seven figures annually. If you’re looking for your big break, it may be worth your time to start writing.
13. Catching A Ball At A Baseball Game
I was actually astonished at how low the probability for catching a foul ball at a baseball game is. You’d actually have a better chance of becoming a bestselling author. Still, there’s an astronomically better chance that you’ll be that 1 in 563 people to wrestle the ball from the little boy sitting a row in front of you than you are to win the lottery. It may even net you a pretty big payday if you happen to catch a monumental home run or foul ball. Selling these on eBay could net you a sizable reward, which would far outweigh the cost of a ticket. If you happen to catch a landmark home run, like a player’s 500th, the team may reward you with some serious memorabilia that you can keep in your man-cave or sell online. Even if you don’t catch a ball, you’re at least buying an experience that extends beyond watching the 7:00 news only to be disappointed when they announce the first number.
12. Dying In A Car Accident
Car accidents happen literally every minute. Globally, almost 1.3 million people die annually from traffic accidents, which is about a 3,561 daily average. The United States alone accounts for over 37,000 fatal crashes every year. That equates to a 1 in 606 chance that you will meet your demise on the road. Most people drive every day, and don’t consider the possibility that it could be their last ride. It’s understandable; we’d drive ourselves crazy if we were always aware that death was right around the corner. That’s exactly the point, though. Most of us don’t entertain the idea that driving to work in the morning could result in our death. However, we still buy lottery tickets in the hope that we’ll be the big winner. I guess we’re optimists, but you’d have much more luck if you avoided ever getting into a car, as a 1 in 606 chance is not terrible odds. After all, what’s half a billion dollars if you die in a car crash three days after you win? That would be one hell of a funeral.
11. Playing In The NBA
If you’re still in high school or college and are a basketball player, then your chances of playing for an NBA team is actually exponentially higher than the chance that you or anyone in your family will win the lottery. There are a lot of factors at play, including height and NCAA program, but about one in every 9,000 high school basketball players go on to play professionally. If you’re tall enough and work hard enough, you can win the lottery with a big NBA contract. Then you can live the dream of being an NBA superstar who works for his fortune. You may even get a sneaker deal and rake in cash through sponsors. Don’t waste time giving money to the state when you could be practicing your fundamentals. Of course, for those of us who are past our prime and older than the stars in the league, the lottery is probably a surer bet.
10. Dying In A Plane Crash
Everyone knows that you’re more likely to die on your way to the airport than you are to die in a plane crash. The statistics vary based on how much you travel by plane, but the average person has a 1 in 9,737 chance to get killed in a plane crash. In a given year, those odds shrink to 1 in 3.5 million. Obviously, if you travel for work then your chances will be a bit higher. While these chances are slim, you’re still more likely to die in a plane crash this year than you are to win the lottery over your entire lifetime. That means that if you buy a lottery ticket for your sister and fly to your parent’s house for the holidays, it’s more likely that you or your sister will die on the flight than it is that she’ll win any substantial money. It’s a pretty dark prospect but I think I’ve conveyed my point.
9. Getting Struck By Lighting
This is the big one that everyone sites as a greater possibility than winning the lottery. A lot of people seem to be fixated on ways to get hurt or die that are more likely than winning the lottery, but I digress. Getting struck by lightning is the metric we usually use to determine how unlikely something is. That must be pretty aggravating to the people who were actually struck by lightning. Unfortunately, you have a far greater chance of pissing off Zeus than winning even 1 million on the Powerball. One person in 13,000 will get struck by lightning over the course of their lifetime, while only 1 in about 11,688,053 will win 1 million on the Powerball. You’re actually more likely to get struck by lightning this year than you are to win 1 million (about 10,000,00/1). I don’t love the odds here, especially when you consider the fact that (virtually) no one is trying to get struck by lightning. No one accidentally wins the Powerball, which means far more people are accidentally in the worst place at the worst time than go to the gas station and get a randomly generated number that could make them a millionaire.
8. Dying By A Bee Sting
Hornet, wasp and bee stings certainly hurt, but only 1 in 64,706 people will die from being stung. For those who are allergic, the statistics rise but it is still far less likely than other means of death. It’s still 4,515 times more likely that you’ll die by being stung by an angry hive of bees than ever winning the lottery. Next time you go to the gas station to play your numbers, make sure there are no wasps around, because a freak accident like this is far more likely to be your fate than a multi-million dollar lottery prize. Hell, just driving to the place is putting you at risk, and then you’re at a gas station that can be robbed or blown up, adding further danger to your purchase. Is a chance to win a fortune really worth all of these fatality risks? Just stay in your house, close the blinds and never go outside. Then you’ll be safe!
7. Having Conjoined Twins
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, conjoined twins are birthed 1 out of every 200,000 births worldwide. Unfortunately, most of them die, but you’re more likely to have conjoined twins that both live than you are to win the big prize on the Powerball. Maybe your conjoined twins will become a viral sensation and end up netting you a fortune in internet clicks. While it’s a pretty weird and specific thing to wish for, this wish is actually much more likely to come true than your dream of winning the lottery. Maybe you’ll just have a regular kid that you can groom to become a pro athlete. That’s something else birth-related that’s more likely than winning the lottery. Basically I’m telling you to take some fertility pills and get your kid throwing/acting/singing before they can walk. A payday coming from your offspring is a lottery win of its own.
6. Winning An Olympic Gold Medal
There’s about a 1 in 662,000 chance that you’ll be a gold medal Olympian over the course of your lifetime, which is substantially better than being a lottery winner. Of course, if you’re 50 and have no physical ability then you might want to stick to the Powerball, but if you’re young enough to start training in your favorite sport then you have a chance. Try to pick a finesse sport like curling, as you’ll have a longer career and a better chance to make the national team. Granted, this route to fame and fortune takes a lot more work than picking six random numbers, but you’ll still have a better chance earning gold through your blood, sweat and tears. Even if you don’t make it to the end, you’ll be doing something you love for a living and you can’t put a price on that. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a coach and guide another young athlete to the gold.
5. Becoming A Movie Star
Have you ever tried your hand at acting? If you ever acted in your high school or college play, you may consider moving to Hollywood and making it big-time. Book some commercials, maybe a TV pilot, eventually a movie, and then BANG, you’re one of the hottest acts in town! Maybe you’ll even be the runner-up who got snubbed for an Oscar, but still, that’s a pretty lucrative loss. You don’t even have to be exceptionally talented either. David Spade is worth an estimated $40 million and he hasn’t delivered a hit in quite some time. The point is, bet on yourself instead of on random ping-pong balls. At the end of the day you’ll have something to look back on and be proud of. Even if you find yourself working in a coffee shop doing local theater for the rest of your career, you’ll have pursued your dreams. That’s more than most of us can say.
4. Becoming President Of The United States
Of course, this only applies to people who were born in the US. If you immigrated here then keep playing the lottery, as your chances of becoming POTUS is down to 0%. For the rest of us, though, you may want to start working your way through the ranks of politics. Any given US citizen has a 1 in 10,000,000 chance to become President. The president doesn’t make that much money, but if you’re willing to sell part of your soul to the highest bidder then you can make quite a bit of cash on your way to the top. If you can find success through a different path, you may even be able to make a fortune before you become president. Hell, if you’re really talented and lucky, you may be able to become a movie star and spin that into a successful presidential run. It’s worth a try, but to be fair the chances of being a movie star and going on to become president are actually worse than winning the jackpot.
3. Getting Attacked By A Shark
Getting attacked by a shark is quite a rare occurrence, but unfortunately it’s becoming more common as sharks are moving closer to the shoreline. As it stands, you have about a 1 in 11,500,00 chance of being attacked by a shark. Luckily, you are almost as likely to win 1 million on your lottery ticket, so we’re approaching reasonable odds here. Unluckily, you’re still far away from the odds of becoming the jackpot winner. On the bright side, you could leverage your shark attack into a book or movie. I’m sure being attacked by a shark gives you even better odds of becoming a best-selling author. Then you can make your millions on your own without relying on the numbers falling your way; just a good spin to put on a possible tragedy. Keep your head on a swivel though, surfers, because I doubt you’d trade one of your limbs for a possible pay-day.
2. Becoming An Astronaut
It’s unclear the exact odds of becoming a NASA astronaut, but they aren’t high. They generally sit around 1 in 12 million, as this is one of the most selective careers in all of society. If you applied to be on the Mars One, you’re in luck. These applications have a 1 in 42,000 chance of being selected. Still, it’s unlikely that you’ll be one of the few selected to explore the final frontier. Most of those who are selected are pilots, and those who aren’t pilots almost always have a Masters and PhD on their resume. If you’re just a guy in a cubicle with a Bachelor’s in Communications who wants to go to space; I hate to break it to you but it’s not happening. This is a disappointing reality for many children who grow up dreaming of being an astronaut, but is still more realistic than the adults who dream of winning the lottery.
1. Becoming A Saint
It’s a long shot to become a saint, but it’s still more likely than winning the jackpot. No, not becoming a New Orleans Saint, although I’m sure the odds for that are also pretty low. According to Gregory Baer, the chances are about 1 in 20,000,000 that your life will be considered that of a Saint’s by the Catholic Church. This may seem insurmountable, but it’s still nearly 15 times more likely to happen than winning the lottery. Becoming the pope may help your chances, but that alone is pretty unlikely. Still, if legacy is what’s important to you, then you’d be much better served devoting your life to God than playing the numbers. After all, I don’t think Jesus would be too pleased with all of the state-sanctioned gambling that’s going around. You can’t put a price on a spot in heaven, so go help the poor instead of spending your money on tickets that will likely get you nowhere.