Do you have Powerball fever? Millions of Americans do, according to the articles appearing in my Facebook and Twitter feeds this morning.
What is Powerball? It is a game sponsored by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL). According to their website, MUSL is a “non-profit, government-benefit association owned and operated by its 36 member lotteries. Each MUSL member offers one or more of the games administered by MUSL. All profits are retained by the state lottery and are used to fund projects approved by the state legislatures.”
Every Wednesday and Saturday night, the winning Powerball numbers are drawn. Five white balls are selected out of a drum containing 69 balls. An additional ball, the red Powerball, is selected out of a drum with 26 red balls. You win by matching all the white balls and the red Powerball. If you match all six numbers, you win the jackpot. You can collect your winnings either as an annuitized prize paid out over 29 years, or you can collect a cash lump sum payment. Any taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Tickets cost $2 each.
I don’t pay much attention to Powerball, but when the jackpot started approaching $500 million last week I started thinking about what I would do with a windfall of cash. When there were no winners in the Wednesday drawing, I thought it might be time to join the craze. I purchased my ticket for last night’s drawing, joking with friends about how I would spend the jackpot which was then up to $800 million.
My ticket was not a winner. In fact, nobody won last night’s jackpot. This means the jackpot for the next drawing is now estimated to be $1.3 BILLION. Yes, billion. As someone who is limited in the amount of financial resources I am able to maintain, it is difficult for me to comprehend how much money this is.
What else costs $1.3 billion? I asked Google and found this story about the North Carolina Alcohol and Beverage Commission estimating underage drinking costs $1.3 billion a year. A new sewage treatment facility in British Columbia, Canada, may cost up to $1.3 billion – although that may be Canadian dollars. A change in pharmaceutical patents may cost federal healthcare programs $1.3 billion over the next decade.
I then had another question. How much money do schools in my state receive from lotteries – more or less than $1.3 billion?
According to the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Year-End Review, the New York Lottery’s contribution to education was $3.11 billion, or 14% of total state education funding. Since the creation of the Lottery in 1967, it has provided $54.71 billion in aid to education.
When I was a contestant in Ms. Wheelchair America as Ms. Wheelchair New York 2001, I was asked what I would do if I won $10 million. My answer then remains the same today.
If I were to win the Powerball jackpot, I would do the following with my $1.3 billion:
- Pay off my debt – loans, credit cards, etc.
- Put half of it into an investment account so I would have money to pay for personal care expenses in the future.
- Build “the Lotto house.” This house, which my best friend Stephanie and I have have planning for twenty years, would be completely accessible. It would have a heated, therapeutic pool and a garage large enough to accommodate an accessible van. I would be able to age in place without needing to worry about living in a nursing home.
- Establish a foundation to support the charities I believe in.
- Purchase or build an accessible house in Tasmania, Australia. Live there during northern hemisphere winter – most likely January until early April each year.
How about you? What would you do? Do you have your ticket?