Which is a Better Gamble, Playing the Lottery or Starting a Business?

August 27, 2007

Have you ever heard a co-worker complain about their job then follow it up with something about quitting once they win the lottery?  I feel bad for these people and would love to crawl into their head to read their thoughts. Do they really think they’ll win the lottery? If their life plan is based on winning the lottery someday, odds are they’re in for disappointment.

Playing the Odds
If you are going to play the odds for income outside of your job, you might as well try starting some venture of your own.  The historical statistics aren’t so good for the success of a new small business.  However, even though many fail in the first few years, your odds of making a small-business work are definitely higher than winning the lottery.

Building Value
Of course offering your own product or service is a lot more work than buying a lottery ticket but statistically it is a much smarter move. A lottery ticket doesn’t hold any long-term value unless it is the winning number. The experience and connections you build when starting your own venture will be of value for years to come, even if the first business doesn’t work out.

Mental Rewards
Running your own enterprise, regardless of size, can be more psychologically rewarding than trying to guess the winning numbers.  When you play the lottery it’s pretty much up to chance, you don’t have control over whether your number is picked.  It can be frustrating when you don’t win time, after time, after time. All you can do to try again is buy another long-shot ticket.

On the other hand, building your own business is something you do have control over.  If something doesn’t work you have the power to make some changes and try something different.  Knowing that you’re in charge of the end result is more empowering than hopelessly wishing the numbers will finally fall your way.

Get Rich Slowly
The obvious draw to the lottery is the get rich quick appeal.  It’s easy to play and you can win a lot of money.  Not to say that I wouldn’t love to win the lottery but the odds are I won’t.  Rather than hold on to a slim hope of hitting it big so I can quit my job, I’d rather put my time & money into growing something that might actually let me quit my corporate job someday.  Not to say you should never play the lottery on a whim, just that you shouldn’t make winning the lottery be your life plan.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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5 Responses to Which is a Better Gamble, Playing the Lottery or Starting a Business?

  • Ben

    SavingDiva, the sad part is that there are people very unhappy with their current situation but doing nothing about it. They buy lottery tickets and dream of winning so they can have a different life.

    Good point Blaine, you don’t have to start a business, simply investing the money is wiser than playing the lottery.

    Lazy, I know what you mean about lack of time & money but if someone is really unhappy in their job, you’d think they’d find a way shift things around to make some changes.

  • Lazy Man

    People are Lazy, I should know. A lot of the problem is that people are putting all the “time & money” they have into their regular job, fun, and yes even retirement.

  • Blaine Moore

    The lottery is a tax on people who don’t understand basic math.

    I frequently tell people that I have a system for winning the lottery with every single drawing (a win being anything that gets me more then I spend)…that method is to take the $1 I would have spent on a lotto ticket and putting it in my interest bearing savings account. I always make out better than spending the money.

  • SavingDiva

    I’ve never bought a lottery ticket…and I guess I always think the people that say they’re going to quit their jobs when they win the lottery are just joking. I don’t think anyone takes it seriously. I agree that starting your own business can be rewarding…but it’s also very hard work…much harder than spending $1 and picking a few numbers.

  • Patrick

    The odds of winning the lottery make it not even worth playing, but I still do when I get pot odds. I will only buy one ticket, and I look at it as $1 for a little bit of fun. The problem with the lottery, is that your not investing in anything but a pipe dream. At least with your own business, you have an effect on the outcome. I would go the business route over the lottery route any day.