Have you ever won the lottery?
I don’t play all that often, but occasionally I’ll buy a handful of tickets when I see that the jackpot has shot way up there. I have friends who play all the time, and I have other friends who refuse to play — once a friend told me that playing the lottery is akin to gambling, and gambling is wrong.
It’s customary for my parents to give all of their kids and grandkids a bunch of scratch-off tickets on Christmas morning. It’s fun to take a nickel and scratch them all off, and most years a couple of us will win a few bucks, maybe enough to get a hot sandwich and some chips for lunch.
Many years ago I bought a Powerball ticket and won $100, which was nice. At the time, my family needed a television set, and someone was selling a very good used one for exactly $100, so essentially I won a free color TV.
As I write this, the Mega Millions jackpot this week is above $900 million. That’s a lot of television sets.
Occasionally, I’ll see someone who won millions of dollars in the lottery getting interviewed on television, and they’ll always say something like, “I’m gonna pay off some bills, maybe get a new car.”
Inevitably, whoever is interviewing them will ask them something about quitting their job.
“Oh no, I’m not going to quit my job,” will be the answer. “I won’t change my life all that much. All the money’s nice, but money can’t buy happiness.”
I’m not so sure about that.
It seems to me that that people who most often say that are people with a lot of money. People who don’t have a lot of money seem to believe that money can buy a certain amount of happiness, or at least money can make unhappiness slightly less unhappy.
Also, people who have a lot of money seem to do everything they can to hold on to it. Sure, many of them give large sums of cash to charities, and that’s a good thing. Many of them also invest their money into things that create opportunities for wealth for others, and I’m glad they do.
But a lot of them hide as much of that money as they can, to avoid paying taxes on it. They’ll also try to influence politicians, to get them to change the laws so they don’t pay as much money in taxes.
If having a lot of money really made them unhappy, then they wouldn’t be doing all that.
Old-time rock star David Lee Roth is quoted as saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull right up alongside happiness.”
In other words, when you suddenly have a lot of money, happiness seems a lot closer than it did before.
According to a study I recently read by the American Psychological Association, this isn’t necessarily so. The APA, in summation, said their research shows “extremely wealthy people have their own set of concerns: anxiety about their children, uncertainty over their relationships and fears of isolation.”
Another study I read, published at heartcenteredcounselors.com, concluded that the things money can buy will only make you happy for so long. A new watch or expensive item of clothing may bring you momentary happiness, but it won’t bring you lasting joy.
Things like family, community, connectedness, a sense of purpose and meaning, and self-actualization are what make people truly happy.
That sounds about right to me. I’ve known a lot of poor people who seem to be chronically happy, and a few rich people who always seem to be unhappy about something.
But still, the Mega Millions lottery jackpot is around $900 million this week. Everyone tells me that having $900 million won’t automatically make me happy, but I think I might buy a ticket anyway.
I’d like to find out for myself.