Well, here it is, Monday morning and the start of another week of work. If you were holding one of the 635 million Powerball tickets sold before the big Wednesday night drawing, you didn’t expect to be here.
No, like me, you expected to pick up the phone and say, “I’m calling in rich, boss. Rich and drunk. From the Presidential Suite at the Four Seasons. In Maui. In the hot tub. And guess what I won’t be doing ever again? Oops — gotta go. Room service is here with the fireworks and all-girl mariachi band.”
It was a beautiful fantasy. You’d buy several estates, a couple of yachts and a few U.S. senators. You’d have a hit man on retainer. You’d make them keep “Downton Abbey” on the air forever. Instead, today you’re Googling “laser tattoo removal” along with “Gulfstream G650 restocking fee.”
But maybe you shouldn’t let go of your Powerball fantasy just yet.
Be a sore loser
The period between buying a big lottery ticket and when you shrug your shoulders and tear it up offers valuable insights into what you really want out of life, says Katharine Brooks, author of “You Majored in What?” and executive director of personal and career development at Wake Forest University.
“It’s kind of a magical period,” Brooks says. “It asks the question, if money were not a factor, what would you do with your time? When you’re waiting for a lottery win to come in, you’re allowing yourself to actually consider that fantasy, and now the boundaries and boxes that we live in are taken away.”
Brooks uses the lottery in an experiment that helps clients focus on their career and life goals. For 10 days, they send her an email describing what they’d do after a lottery win. The first few days it’s all margaritas on the beach, fancy cars and big homes, she said, but then the focus shifts to philanthropy and how to use the money for good.
Then you lose, go back to work and that’s where the dream ends. And that’s a mistake.
“Maybe you ought to stop and think a minute: Is there a way to create some of those things you were thinking about in your life, and what does that say about your values and how you spend your money?” Brooks says. “We think we need things to happen on a grandiose scale but sometimes there are very small, easy changes that can bring us a little bit of what we’re looking for.”
Buying the dream
If your dream was a bigger house or an exotic trip, start saving, even if that’s only a few bucks a week and it’ll take you 12 years. In 2028 you can either be 12 years older or be 12 years older and headed on a six-week cruise.
For some, the fantasy may have been finding a more meaningful career or doing something nice for someone who helped out in the past. A lottery win means you can go save the whales (and goodness knows you’ll have the room) or buy a new house for your aunt. Not winning doesn’t mean giving up those plans, it just means scaling them back.
“I’m really grateful for the person who does payroll at my center, so that’s a meaningful career to me,” Brooks says. As for repaying a past kindness, she says, “Just call up that person and thank them, even if you didn’t win the lottery.”
If you find yourself buying 20 lottery tickets at a shot, that already tells you something has gotten off track in your existence. But even if it’s only one ticket, the next time a big Powerball jackpot builds up, don’t shrug it off.
The lottery gives us permission to dream. Pay attention to where those dreams are trying to point you in life and it could be the best $2 you’ll ever spend.