Many of us went out to buy a Powerball ticket over the last few days. Why not? Even a tiny, ridiculously remote chance to win a $1.5 billion jackpot is still . . . a chance to win a $1.5 billion jackpot! How often does the average Jane or Joe have a chance at such enormous sums of money? It’s an irresistible temptation.
Part of what you are buying when you purchase a Powerball ticket under these circumstances is a chance to dream. What would you do with hundreds of millions of dollars? Would you quit your job, move to your dream location, buy a professional sports team, make each of your relatives a millionaire, stay in the President’s suite at the Ritz and take a champagne bubble bath, buy a Ferrari . . . or something else? If you literally had more money than you knew what to do with, even the wildest dreams are possible. I’m guessing that 99.9% of the people who are in the Powerball drawing — even people, like Kish and me, who never play it — have thought something like this at an idle moment: “I know it’s unlikely that we might win, but what if we did?” And then the enjoyable dreams begin.
The passing dreams of millions will come crashing to the ground tonight, when the drawing occurs and, presumably, somebody else will win. It won’t hurt too much, because no one really expected to win, of course, and in any case the opportunity to dream a little about a life-changing cash payout isn’t a bad thing even if the fickle finger of fate passes us by.
Oh, and then there’s the issue of taxes — which are going to take a pretty big bite out of any jackpot. The cash payout amount will be $930 million ($930 million!) and unless you live in a state where there are no state or local income taxes, or lottery winnings are exempt from such taxes, you’re going to pay federal, state, and local income taxes on that staggering sum. In New York City, a single winner of the payout would walk away with $579.4 million, and then would pay another $100 million or so in initial federal taxes.
So that $1.5 billion in the headlines would be reduced to $475 million or so. I guess we could live on that if we had to.