To Play or Not to Play: Can Lottery Winnings Buy Happiness?

November 28, 2012 – Tonight’s Powerball Lottery is 500 million dollars! What is the psychological and emotional impact of sudden wealth of that magnitude?

Initially, of course, you would probably feel ecstatic. But psychology’s Adaptation Level phenomenon predicts that you will quickly adapt to this new level of wealth, begin to see it as normal, and eventually require more and more money and things to give you another surge of happiness.

The Relative Deprivation hypothesis tells us that we tend to compare ourselves to others who are at the same or a higher level than we are  and we will perceive ourselves as worse off.  If you focus on those who have more money than you or have been wealthy longer, you’ll feel like you don’t measure up. You’ll try to spend more, buy more, have better things than the next guy, and it will never be enough. (Have you seen the ESPN documentary Broke? Young athletes become overnight multi-millionaires and then retire several years later broke. They describe this same phenomenon of trying to outspend the others until they have nothing left).

Before you go out and buy a ticket, I recommend that you take a careful inventory of your relationships, your finances, and your emotional/psychological well-being. If you don’t have trustworthy people in your life now with whom to share intimate, honest relationships, having half a billion dollars probably won’t improve that. For one, you’ll be concerned about any new friends you might make who may just want you for your money.

If you are struggling in your finances now, have never had to manage large amounts of money, and are hiding from creditors, you probably don’t have the financial literacy to manage hundreds of millions. Even John D. Rockefeller found it overwhelming to manage his fortune and had to retire to a simpler life to preserve his physical and mental health.

If you have low self-esteem and emotional issues before you win the lottery, your sudden wealth may just highlight the emptiness or insecurities you already have. Whatever is in your life before a lottery win will be magnified when you acquire sudden wealth.

So, to play or not to play, that is the question. What will YOU do?

Check out my 9News Interview below.