How to Manage Your Winnings From the Lottery


Many people fantasize about what they’d do if they won the lottery: immediate spending sprees, luxury vacations, paying off mortgages and student loans. But those are only the perks; what’s really important is how you manage the money once you have it.

Most states are now involved in a lottery system, and the majority of state lottery revenues are earmarked for education. This makes lotteries an enormously popular institution that has a powerful hold over specific constituencies: convenience store owners (lottery advertising is prominent in their stores); lottery suppliers (heavy contributions to state political campaigns are routinely reported); teachers (in states where lotteries are earmarked for educational purposes), and, of course, the players themselves.

But if the lottery is to be seen as a mechanism for allocating public goods, it should not only be fair to all participants, but also open to new ideas and methods of distribution. This is not always possible, but it’s necessary to avert the kind of illogical attachments that are illustrated by the villagers’ loyalty to their shabby black box.

Lotteries are a classic example of the way that public policy is often made piecemeal and incrementally, with little or no general overview. As a result, the initial desirability of a particular policy is often quickly overcome by its continuing evolution. Few, if any, states have a coherent gambling or lottery policy. This lack of overall oversight has prompted criticisms of lotteries in areas such as compulsive gambling and their alleged regressive impact on lower-income groups.

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