I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read about what millions of Canadians have factored into their plans for a secure financial future. Fully one-third of my fellow adult citizens believe that they will either win the lottery or receive a hefty inheritance from out of the blue at some point. For these dreamers, Lady Luck or Uncle Pennybags will at last take care of all financial worries in life. It’s just a matter of time and providence, so the thinking goes. All one has to do is keep playing the numbers, or wait for an unidentified relative to keel over somewhere before the estate lawyers get in touch. Rather than learn how to budget they've put their financial future on the line.
Now, I am not making this stuff up. The revelations come as a result of a reliable survey commissioned by Capital One Canada in association with my agency, Credit Canada Debt Solutions. The research actually focused on the making and breaking of financial resolutions amongst Canadians, the lack of budget planning, and the delusional business of basing financial security on lottery jackpots and long-lost rich relatives was in essence a footnote to the findings. Some footnote, though. It kicked me in the brain, and left my head spinning.
This got me thinking about the commonly shared notion that there are better odds of being hit by lightning than of winning the lottery. I have often heard that said, as I’m sure most of us have, but I’ve never really given much thought to the claim’s validity. It occurred to me that maybe a little online research into the matter might help emphasize the lunacy behind all this wishful thinking amongst my compatriots.
A Web site called The Wizard of Odds offered insight into the matter. Through links to a forum, I discovered that lightning hit odds in North America come in at 1 in 750,000 based on population and lightning strike data, while “average” lottery jackpot odds come in at about 1 in 8,000,000 based on a general round up of gambling statistics. So it’s true that the odds of being hit by lightning are greater – indeed, far greater - than the odds of winning a big lottery jackpot. In fact, if we extrapolate the data, we find that a person is more likely to be hit by lightning 11 times before he or she wins a single, big lottery jackpot.
Now, as to the odds surrounding the likelihood of receiving a surprise inheritance that paves the way to easy street, I made no effort to find statistics that address the matter. I think it’s fair to say that the question of odds in this case are not even worth discussing, since we are dealing here with pure, childish fantasy based on no rhyme or reason. At least with lottery jackpots there are known possibilities, however faint.
I have to say, it’s deeply troubling to see so many Canadians putting more trust in the lottery and in silly wishes than in sound financial planning. Frankly, in addition to being sad, it’s a bit scary. Many Canadians need to recognize that there is no magic trick to gaining control of finances. Sound personal finance takes work, with a sane and realistic approach to creating a budget on real income.
Truth is, Lady Luck can be fun, but try to depend on her and she’ll run you to ruin. And as to Uncle Pennybags, trust me, he’s just a figment.