How to Win the Lottery

Lottery is a game of chance that involves drawing numbers or symbols to determine the winner of a prize, usually money. It is the most popular form of gambling in the world, with Americans spending upwards of $100 billion annually on tickets. State governments have long promoted lotteries as an essential source of revenue and a means to “save children,” but just how much these games cost, and what kind of social trade-offs are made in the process, deserve further scrutiny.

Most state-run lotteries are monopolies that prohibit competitors, and their profits are used solely for government programs. As such, they have a natural inclination to rely on a large base of regular players. According to a recent survey, 17% of adults say they play the lottery at least once a week (defined as “regular players”) and 10% play one to three times a month or less (defined as “infrequent players”). The survey also found that high-school educated middle-aged men in the mid-range of incomes are the most frequent purchasers of state-sponsored lottery tickets.

While it is true that winning the lottery is a gamble, there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of success. First, avoid playing the same numbers over and over again. In fact, sticking to a pattern will actually decrease your chances of winning. Instead, look for numbers that appear in a group and ones that appear alone—called singletons. These will signal a winning ticket 60-90% of the time.

Next, be sure to purchase your lottery tickets in person. Online purchases are not allowed in many states and can be a sign of fraudulent activity. In addition, in-person purchases are typically more expensive than online tickets. Finally, make sure you keep all of your receipts in case the IRS questions them.

Lastly, if you plan on winning the lottery, consider hiring a certified financial planner. They can help you assemble a team of experts to ensure that your windfall is properly invested and secured for the future. They can also assist with personal finance basics, like paying off debt, setting up savings for your children’s education, and diversifying your investments.

Ultimately, it is up to individual lottery players to decide whether the risks involved in gambling are worth the potential benefits. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the majority of lottery winners lose their money, and the money lost can have lasting, detrimental effects on those who do not have a financial safety net to fall back on. If you choose to play, it is best not to treat the lottery as a financial bet, and instead think of it as an expense for entertainment. —Written by Sarah Chartier, NerdWallet Contributor