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February 12 2015

Congratulations Lottery Winners -- And Good Luck!

Hadley Heath

According to USA Today, three Powerball winners will share a $564 million jackpot.  The winners bought their tickets in Texas, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico.

In terms of odds, these winners are extremely lucky. The chances of winning this jackpot were 1 in 175 million.

But many lottery winners have had very unlucky outcomes… at least in the long run.  There’s anecdotal evidence of terrible events befalling lotto winners, from alcoholism, to divorce, even to bankruptcy. And several studies show that winning a lump sum jackpot doesn’t make winners happier after the initial prize.

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and also a happiness scholar, has argued that winning the lottery can actually make people less happy, as they deal with the stress of managing a pile of unearned wealth that has been dropped in their lap.

Family members, friends, even distant acquaintances come with their hands out, expecting to share in the winnings.  And unearned wealth can destroy the link between work and merit in the lives of lottery winners.  

But as Brooks is quick to point out, this doesn’t suggest that all wealth makes people unhappy. In fact, earned wealth can make people very happy, but the difference, of course, is that people feel some claim to the success they’ve earned. They feel that they deserve it, and they manage it differently, with more care and restraint.

This is good reminder that while sometimes it surely seems enviable to win the lottery, the truly “lucky” people of the world are those of us who are free to pursue our own success and happiness, to earn it and be worthy of it, and to enjoy the fruits of our own labor. Opportunity is the real prize, and what we do with it is up to us.

For more on this subject, I recommend Arthur Brooks's book, The Road to Freedom.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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