I realize it's old news by now, but I still can't get my mind off of the recent Mega Millions jackpot story.
Back on Jan. 4, two people from the Northwest -- one in Idaho and one in Washington -- successfully picked the six numbers in the Mega Millions lottery. As a result, they split a cool $380 million. Three hundred eighty million.
That's $190 million each, folks.
Maybe it's just me, but that seems like an awful lot of money.
One of the winners, an older couple from Ephrata, Wash., stepped forward almost immediately. The other, a 29-year-old mother of two living in Rathdrum, Idaho, waited a few days before coming out of the multimillionaire closet. (And frankly, if I'm the two winners, the first item of business? Pay to have my town's name changed to something other than "Ephrata" or "Rathdrum.")
As it turns out, the Idaho winner may have to split her take with an ex-con husband -- long estranged and thought to be out of the picture -- who allegedly used to like to knock her around. I don't know, they say $190 million will buy you a pretty good attorney. I say you can hire a decent hit man for a lot less.
One of the things that most intrigues me about these big-money lottery winners is that such financial windfalls often turn out to be personal disasters. Apparently, the world is filled with cautionary tales of lotto winners who end up broke and unhappy. Their ship comes in, only to turn out to be the Titanic. More money, so the conventional wisdom goes, simply means more headaches.
Yeah? Well, $190 million will buy you quite a few bottles of aspirin.
Besides, the problem of too much money seems infinitely preferable to the problem of too little money. Not that I'd be that all-fired smart with my own winnings, seeing as how I long ago identified my first five impulse buys in the event that I ever do win the lottery:
1. Apache attack helicopter
2. A liger
3. The manufacturing plant that makes that delicious Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal
4. A guest-starring role on "Glee"
5. Rhode Island
So then, what would you do if you won that kind of money? I mean, besides telling your boss there was a 100 percent probability you wouldn't be coming to work the next week? And that the following week was looking iffy, too?
I'll tell you what I'd do: Invest it. In more lottery tickets.
That's right. If I won $190 million, I'd probably go out and buy 190 million Mega Millions tickets. Well, actually, closer to 176 million tickets.
Here's how my ingenious plan would work:
According to the Mega Millions website, the odds of hitting the "Jackpot" -- which is picking all five balls, plus the one "Mega Ball" -- are one in 175,711,536.
I assume that figure is calculated by taking the five sets of numbered balls from 1 to 56, and the other set of numbered balls from 1 to 46, and adding together all of the possible numerical combinations.
So then, if I bought 175,711,536 of the $1 Mega Millions lottery tickets -- one in each of the 175,711,536 possible combinations of numbers -- it stands to reason that I'd be a lock for winning the jackpot. As a $190 million winner, I'd bank $14 million, wait until the prize money had built up to astronomical proportions again, purchase my 175 million-plus lottery tickets, and sit back and wait for the inevitable.
It's sorta like rubbing a lamp, and a genie comes out to give you three wishes. If you're smart, with one of those wishes you wish for three more wishes.
Do that a few times with your lottery winnings, and pretty soon you're richer than Larry King's divorce lawyer.
Now, admittedly I'm not the sharpest steak knife in the drawer. And heaven knows, being a journalist, numbers aren't exactly my strong suit. So I'm sure that some probability/statistics expert out there will point out the fatal flaw in my ingenious investment plan.
Even so, how much riskier could it be than my 401k?
One potential fly in the ointment: OK, so technically, there's the possibility that some other lucky sap would just happen to hit on the six correct numbers, and I'd have to split the prize money. But really, when you think about it, what are the odds?
I'll tell you exactly what they are: 175,711,536 to one.
Call me crazy, but I like those chances.
For other sound investment ideas (four words, people: bacon-scented air freshener) contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.