Is $810 million worth a $2 Mega Millions ticket? It depends

FILE - A lottery ticket vending machine sits inside a convenience store, July 21, 2022, in Northbrook, Illinois.  The next Mega Millions draw will take place on Tuesday, July 25, 2022 with a jackpot of $790 million.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, file)

FILE – A lottery ticket vending machine sits inside a convenience store, July 21, 2022, in Northbrook, Illinois. The next Mega Millions draw will take place on Tuesday, July 25, 2022 with a jackpot of $790 million. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, file)

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Is 810 million dollars worth 2 dollars?

That’s a fair question, considering it costs $2 to buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket that could fetch an estimated $810 million prize – the fourth biggest jackpot in the country – after the game’s next draw. Tuesday evening.

IS IT NOT AN OBVIOUS QUESTION?

Not really.

For starters, your chance of winning the grand prize is tiny, at one in 302.5 million. You have a better chance of getting a smaller win, like winning $1 million by matching five regular numbers but missing the Mega Ball. But even that is one in 12.6 million. To put that into perspective, your chance of dying in a car accident — something to consider when heading to the mini-market for a lottery ticket — is about one in 101 over a lifetime, according to the National Safety Council non-profit.

As lottery officials note, players should view their $2 bet as a chance to dream while accepting the fact that they likely won’t enter a new income tax bracket on Tuesday night.

STILL, A BLOW TO $810 MILLION SEEMS WORTH $2

Ah, but even if you beat the odds somehow, you won’t get $810 million.

First is the amount for winners who choose the annuity option, paid over 30 annual installments. But winners almost always opt for cash, which for this draw would bring in around $470.1 million.

And then there are federal taxes, which will reduce that cash prize by 37%, which would leave less than $300 million, although state taxes may also reduce that amount, depending on where the winner lives. Another fortune, but a smaller fortune. It also doesn’t take into account the possibility of someone else matching the winning numbers, which means they would have to divide even those smaller wins in half or more, depending on how many lucky players there are.

NEARLY $300 MILLION IS NOT A CHUMP CHANGE

It is certainly a big salary.

To put this into perspective, consider that the median US household income in 2020 was $67,500, which means that a working lifetime at that rate would be less than 1% of the smallest after-tax jackpot.

But unfortunately, if you had won this same prize a year ago, before the nation suffered a year with an inflation rate of around 9%, your purchasing power would have been significantly higher.

BUT SOMEBODY WILL WIN

Eventually though the reason the grand prize has become so important is that no one has matched all six numbers since April. That’s 28 consecutive draws without anyone hitting the jackpot.

With so many people playing now that the potential top prize is so large, it’s becoming more and more likely that one or more players will finally end this streak. Still, past prizes have increased as the biggest payout was a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot won in 2016.

Mega Millions is played in 45 states as well as Washington, DC and the US Virgin Islands. Gambling is overseen by state lottery officials.

SO, IS IT WORTH THE $2 GAME?

If you’re having fun daydreaming about a massive bargain that probably won’t blow your mind, buy a ticket. But if you need to watch your money, remember to keep the $2 in your wallet.

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