Make money from a lottery? Don't be a fool

Since it is April Fools' Day, we thought it might be a good time to look at a foolish money-spinning idea: The way many people play the lottery with an expectation of winning.

Yes, I know, I know -- you have to be in it to win it, and if I had won it, I wouldn't be hunched over in my miserable little cubicle before dawn every day. Still, the truth is, if you had invested the same amount money in just about anything else, you would make more than if you had bought a lottery ticket.

This nugget comes to us courtesy of J.D. Roth's GetRichSlowly blog, where he presents a handy-dandy lottery simulator. Pick six numbers and hold your breath as you wait to find out if you are a millionaire!

In fact, Mr. Roth "played" the lottery using the simulator for the equivalent of twice a week for a thousand years. Here's what he found: He spent \$104,000 and he got back \$11,554. And, er, that's a total return of minus 89 per cent.

How likely are you to win a share of the Lotto 649 jackpot? The odds are one in 14 million, on average, the British Columbia Lottery Corp. says on its website. It is 300 times more likely that a 20-million tonne asteroid called Apophis will hit the Earth on April 13, 2036, the lottery corporation says, adding:

"If you spend \$2 every week on the lottery, you would expect to wait about 270,000 years before you win a share of the jackpot."

Just for comparison, Mr. Roth points out that if a consumer invested a \$100,000 lump sum in one of five common investments for a period of 30 years, a realistic inflation-adjusted return would be:

-Gold, real estate or savings account: \$135,000

-Bonds: \$200,000

-Stocks: \$750,000