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Playing the Lotto: Proceed with Caution

More than $70 billion dollars: that's the amount of money that was spent on lottery tickets in North America last year. Seems like a lot of money to be spending on a thrill that usually only lasts a few minutes, according to state lottery commissions (and this AARP article), the odds of winning a grand prize in state lotteries can be as outlandish as 1 in 175 million, depending on the game. Is spending money on such a slim chance really worth it - especially when nearly one half of baby boomers in the U.S. between the ages of 56 and 62 are at risk of not having enough money for retirement?
That's a lot of people who might not be prepared financially for their retirement - yet a Gallup poll conducted a few years ago found that two out of three Americans had gambled in the previous 12 months, and the most popular form of gambling is the state lottery. Yes, the same state lottery that can offer up to a 1 in 175 million chance in winning.
Now, we get that people like to play the games - I can admit to buying scratch-off tickets when I'm feeling lucky! - but it's important to know the risks and odds going into playing. There's no harm in spending a dollar a week, but just know that you're doing it for entertainment purposes, and don't do it to get out of debt. In reality, those dollars spent on tickets are probably better spent on necessities or paying off that debt.
While you are being cautious, you should also be on the lookout for phony lotteries - surprisingly the eighth most prevalent type of fraud reported to the FTC. Swindlers are sending people notifications that they have won a state lottery, but really they are just trying to extract your personal information. The fact that they are contacting you is enough of a red flag - no real lottery will ever approach you to tell you that you've won something. Check out the whole article for tips on being a smart consumer.
A couple more interesting lottery articles from AARP: this one on what to do if you've lost a lottery ticket, what happens to unclaimed lottery prizes and other perplexing questions, and this one is a state-by-state guide to unclaimed prizes.
Is that more than you ever wanted to know about the lottery? It's important to be informed - and better over-informed than under-informed. Are you a lottery player? Do you play it safe? We hope you will now!

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