Idiot Tax

Words you never want to hear (surprisingly): “You just won the lottery.”

I just read one of the more interesting reddit comments I have ever seen and decided to share. I recommend you read through it as well. Apparently winning large sums of money in the lottery more often than not leads a person on roller coaster ride through their own personal hell. Opportunists, including family members, will hear the news of the large winnings and will attempt to beg, steal, divorce, sue, or even murder to get a chunk of it for themselves. Jealousy and resentment in the community can build up as well even for people not trying to actually gain personally. The prime example given in the comment was that of Jack Whittacker, and is apparently true. Amongst many other problems, the police began harassing him with traffic tickets to the point where he actually tried an abortive attempt to sue them.

One of the more interesting claims in the comment was as follows:

Large jackpot winners face double digit multiples of probability versus the general population to be the victim of:

  1. Homicide (something like 20x more likely)
  2. Drug overdose
  3. Bankruptcy (how’s that for irony?)
  4. Kidnapping

And triple digit multiples of probability versus the general population rate to be:

  1. Convicted of drunk driving
  2. The victim of Homicide (at the hands of a family member) 120x more likely in this case, ain’t love grand?
  3. A defendant in a civil lawsuit
  4. A defendant in felony criminal proceedings

I am not going to spend the time needed to verify all of these stats, but logically it makes sense that when someone suddenly gains great wealth the people around them would let their true (and horrible) colors show. And also that insane people would come out of the woodwork to harass them. A quick google search seems to support, if not the exact stats, the reality that lottery winners tend to have a bad time. I imagine reading through some of the horror stories featured in the previous search would prove quite interesting in a morbid sort of way. It might go a long way in sobering a person up with respect to winning the lottery.

I have a friend who describes the lottery as an “idiot tax” because the chances of winning are so small that you have virtually no chance of winning. A fitting description which is all the more apt after finding about this unfortunate trend. But there are plenty of idiot taxpayers and sometimes a few even win. To their everlasting suffering. If you decide to pay the idiot tax and despite all odds actually win, great care must be taken. The comment also gives seemingly reasonable personal finance advice on that as well. To quote another user:

That was the most useful thing I ever read on how to do something that i will never do

Until then, think twice about whether or not you ever want to hear the words “You just won the lottery.”

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2 Replies to “Idiot Tax”

  1. I would venture there’s likely to be a substantial confounder there: lottery winners are all, by definition, lottery players, and since the lottery is after all an idiot tax, the players (and, by extension, their families and associates) are therefore mostly idiots (with the concomitant high rates of social dysfunction, crime, poverty, &c.). It’s quite possible that a high-IQ middle-class person who won the lottery would be significantly less at risk for those downsides; however, they usually don’t bother playing.

    I’ve heard anecdotes which suggest that the single worst enemy of any poor person trying to break out of poverty is other poor people — the same sorts of parasites appear if their relations become known to have any excess money at all, whether from a lottery or not. This suggests to me that it’s likely more a “poor person” pathology than a “lottery winner” pathology.

  2. I recently inherited a large sum of money and spent a fifth of it buying a foreclosed house on five wooded acres, becoming a homeowner at age 45. I hope to turn it into a hobby farm. Clearing trees and breaking sod is hard work, but it builds huge muscles.

    I’m still very frugal, but all this money has made me lazier, to the chagrin of my customers.

    This is not exactly relevant to the article because the type of people who buy lottery tickets are not the type who accumulate assets and pass them on to their offspring.

    No one in my family buys lottery tickets except maybe my gay half-brother. He spent his first inheritance on heroin, so this time he got an interest-only trust fund, at today’s interest rates!

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