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Somebody is going to win the Powerball jackpot. Maybe even tonight.
Wednesday’s jackpot has increased to $700 million, the second-largest in US history, after multiple drawings passed without a winner.
The bigger the jackpot, the more people who are willing to buy a ticket – and the worse your odds of taking home the full prize. Still, the appeal of achieving multimillionaire status overnight is worth it to many.
As Business Insider’s Your Money editor, I noticed something about our office Powerball pool that got me thinking.
Most of the reporters who cover finance, markets, and science are conspicuously missing from the list of 51 people who joined the pool. As a certified financial planner and math enthusiast, I have to admit I didn’t chip in either.
Andy Kiersz, our resident quant reporter and another Powerball pool abstainer, told the group members they had a “91% chance of winning at least some prize.” But, he continued, splitting $20 among 51 people probably won’t be easy.
But participating in an office pool is fun – even without the promise of a payout. Two bucks won’t make or break your finances, and discussing what you would buy with your imaginary millions isn’t a bad way to spend a lunch break.
It’s easy to argue that playing is worth the cost, even if you’re far more likely to lose a couple of dollars than you are to win the massive jackpot. And that point proves a basic truth about money: Money is rational, but the way we deal with it isn’t. The financial choices we make are often driven by emotion, rather than logic.
Need further proof? When asked why they decided to join the Business Insider office pool, 86% of the people in the group said it was “because I would be devastated if my colleagues won and I was left out because I didn’t contribute $2.”
That just goes to show that FOMO – the fear of missing out – is more powerful than math. If everyone but you won, it would be torture to be tied to your desk, watching everyone’s Instagram stories from Ibiza, St. Croix, or wherever else their money may take them.
Spending two bucks to avoid that fate could almost seem logical – until you realize that each ticket has only a 1-in-292,201,338 chance of hitting the jackpot.
Deciding to spend a couple of dollars playing the office pool isn’t necessarily wrong or a bad choice, but it’s definitely irrational.
For those of us who did the math and stayed out of the pool, all I can say is: I hope we weren’t wrong. And if we were, I’m unfollowing the rest of our coworkers on Instagram.