Publishers Clearing House is currently advertising a promotion where people can win $5,000 per week for the rest of their lives. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? But, how good is it really?
Lets take a look at the numbers using my age (38) as the basis for the calculations. If I’m lucky enough to live to age 100, that’s about 62 years from now (or 3,224 weeks). If I were to win PCH’s prize, I would receive $16,120,000 in income over my lifetime:
WOW! The only problem is, I left out two VERY IMPORTANT details:
The IRS wants their share and will withhold 25% of each check. So, from day one, you’ll be receiving $3,750 per week. In addition to that, the $3,750 per week stays the same dollar amount over your lifetime. Everyone knows that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar at some point in the future due to inflation. So, that means that inflation is going to eat into each of those $3,750 checks. In ten years that $3,750 will only have the purchasing power of $2,778 in today’s dollars. Using the numbers from the example, my last check (check #3224) would only be worth $583.46 (and that’s assuming 3% inflation. If inflation runs higher than that, the money will be worth even less).
Of course, there are ways around some of this. For instance, let’s say you are able to save 10% each week ($375 per week) for 42 years. During this time, you invest your weekly saving in an S&P 500 Index fund (like the Vanguard S&P 500 Index). Assuming a straight-line 8% return (.15% per week), at the end of 42 years, you would have an additional $6.77 million, which would be worth approximately $2.8 million after inflation.
So, it would definitely be to your advantage to save some of your winnings.
It’s fun to dream about winning the lottery but the winnings are never as good as they make them out to be.