The Annual Lottery

CashI’m going to say this plain as day to all the people out there religiously playing the lottery, hoping for the big win. If your income is right up there next to Nothing and his friends Nada, Zilch, Zero and Cero, you might want to cease and desist with the Quick Picks. Now, what I want you to focus your attention on is the FACT that each year a whole lot of you win the lottery. Yes, you do. It’s called a TAX REFUND. The kind that nets you thousands of dollars, despite only having paid a couple hundred dollars in federal taxes, IF THAT.

I’ve heard it said that you stand a greater chance of being struck by lightening than winning the lottery. Well, from January to April of each year, I strongly disagree. Large tax refunds are lottery winnings in disguise. So, all those things you say you’d do if you won the lottery, why not take the most practical and put them into play when you “win” your refund?

I’ve personally known lower-income people who have scraped by on wages of less than $15K before taxes and received $8,000-$10,000 or more in a tax refund. That was their lottery win right there. Their opportunity to come up. Lack of financial management skills coupled with the struggle, damn, man, the struggle, leads to much of the windfall being misappropriated or having it dwindle away due to an avalanche of unfortunate events.

For many, this is more money than they’ve ever had at any one given time in their whole lives. The idea of so much money leaves them as scared as it leaves them excited. What to do? What to do? Kind of like giving a 5-year-old child in a candy store $20 to spend any way they want.

That doesn’t mean they’re bad people or stupid people. They’re people who more than likely see things in the NOW and operate from that perspective. The future may never be, but today, I’m rich. Yeah, nigga, I’m rich. Watch me throw out five bills on the new XBox One and not bat an eye. Shit, there’s more where that came from, shawty. I just got 10G back on my taxes. *sigh*

The whirlwind that accompanies having so much money and nary a thought as to what to do with it can be confusing as hell. All this money. What to do? Oh, I asked that already. But if you’ve been here, tell me that question hasn’t bounced around in your skull a few times. Too often what follows is that we race out and buy everything we ever thought we wanted, while thinking we’re still gonna sock something away, instead of developing a logical blueprint and sticking to a plan. We get mixed up about what’s an investment and what represents a liability or a straight loss. Hell, most times, we don’t even think in terms of investment, only in terms of consuming or preventing ourselves from being consumed, especially if we’ve been engulfed by this bill or that.

My point is that many of us spend the money on needless, worthless material possessions. This is money that we didn’t have, nor did we actually earn, as it exceeds any taxes that were subtracted from our wages. Dependent exemptions, Earned Income Credit and other tax incentives in correlation with a modest income base made for large refunds of “free” money, which also could be what causes us to be a little less attached to the money as well as the potential it represents.

The expectation, I do believe but have no proof, is that most will put this money right back into circulation with the purchase of televisions, stereos, cell phones, computers, clothes, shoes, restaurant fare or the catching up of gas bills, light bills, water bills, phone bills, car payments, etc. It is not expected the money will be used to fund businesses, to invest in businesses, to purchase a cash car, to buy land, to participate in a susu, to save—or anything that would provide the possibility of a return in the form of income or ownership.

What I’ve found to be most difficult, is getting people who receive such “windfalls” to see how it might benefit them more to invest it in something that would offer them a return. Instead, they take off the minute the money arrives and begin spending. Within two weeks, they’re back to where they were before—broke. The next year, they repeat the cycle, never learning the lessons from years’ past.

Is it solely because they don’t have the financial acumen? Is it that investing is a foreign concept to them? Is it because it’s the struggle, man, damn, the struggle? Or is it an ignorance derived from an American culture built on greed and instant gratification? Have “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fucked us all up? Is it psychological conditioning? I dare think there is no one answer, but what I do know is right now there are a lot of people winning the lottery, and they don’t even know it.

Did you win this year? What do you plan to do with your winnings?

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