The Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots have climbed to over $1.5 billion. The Mega Millions is currently the 2nd largest jackpot at $970 million (a paltry $320,000,000 lump sum after federal taxes.) The odds of winning the jackpot is 1 in 302 million, incredible odds that only becomes ridiculous when you consider the things that are more likely to happen to you than winning the lottery.
- Getting a Royal Flush in Poker and beating 4 Aces – 1 in 165 Million
- Becoming US President – 1 in 10 Million
- Dying from scalding hot tap water – 1 in 5,000,000
The Lottery of Life
But have you ever stopped to think about the odds that you are you? Forget that the probability that we exist at all is so non-existent that it is basically zero. But what are the chances that you own a car? (About 1 in 6) What are the chances you speak English? (About 1 in 5) How about the odds that you have blue eyes? (About 1 in 12). With that, we can figure that the chances of picking a random person from the world and that they would be a blue eyed English-speaking car owner is 1 in 360 or 0.27%; that’s me. What about some of my other characteristics?
The Odds of Being Me
On some levels, I know how fortunate I am for my life. But how rare is a life like mine? What are the odds that I would be born when I was born, into my family, earning what I earn and have just a few characteristics of my life? How lucky am I?
- Being born a white male into a middle-class family in the USA – 1 in 140
- Earning $100,000 pre-tax income – 1 in 500
- Being a Millennial with $100,000 saved for retirement – 1 in 6
- Getting married at 22 – 1 in 12
- Being married after 8 years – 1 in 1.35
- Owning a cat and dog – 1 in 9
- Having 2 boys – 1 in 4
The odds of me being born with/attaining these attributes is approximately 1 in 244,944,000 – Just based on these 7 attributes, I’ve basically already won the life lottery. Unfortunately, I don’t always live my life truly appreciating the privilege and joy just these few statistics give me. Certainly, it was easier to achieve #2 & #3 because of #1. Because of #2 I can afford #6 and #7. So back to my original question, ‘How luck am I?’ – Extremely.
Blind To My Fortunes
I’m so fortunate that I’m blind to just how comparatively great my life is. So many things I take for granted day in and day out, and I’m guessing I’m not alone:
I’m currently sitting on my laptop, twirling my smartphone in my hand, completely clothed and feeling full from my lunch. If I feel hungry, I will go to my refrigerator and get more food. If I get thirsty, I will drink from my reusable bottle of filtered water, when it runs out I will walk 10 feet and get more. When I get cold I can turn on my heat and set my home to the exact temperature I want it to be. When I need to use the bathroom, I will go to my toilet and my plumbing will send it away from my home in an instant. If I get sick I will go to the doctor and receive medicine to fix my illness.
All these things that occur in my life I take for granted every day. What are the odds that a person living today can say the same things?
- Owning a smartphone – 1 in 3
- Not living in hunger – 1 in 1.2
- Having access to drinking water – 1 in 1.1
- Having electricity – 1 in 1.35
- Living in adequate housing – 1 in 1.25
- Having internet access – 1 in 2.2
- Owning a toilet – 1 in 1.65
- Having access to adequate medical care – 1 in 2
In the world today, only 1 person in 49 or 2% of the world is living with all of these things. Each one I would consider a basic necessity. To others in the world, have a few would be a luxury. Having all of these things at the same time sets me apart from most of the people living on this planet.
What Are My Next Steps?
It’s a humbling position to be in. Certainly, there is more gratitude I can have and show for my privilege and the benefits that have come along with it. Maybe the learning from this exercise is that when I get home from work and the boys are screaming, I can try to be grateful for the roof over my head and the plate of food on the table illuminated by light bulbs. It may not always get me out of the stress I am feeling, but with practice it can start helping me live a life of gratitude.
The Privilege of A Million Dollar Retirement
What an incredible gift that I have a realistic possibility of one day retiring, accumulating $1,000,000, paying off all my debt. What are the odds of a person living today being able to do those things?
- Living to retirement age (65 as a 30 year old in the USA) – 1 in 1.2
- Becoming a millionaire – 1 in 200
- Dying debt free – 1 in 4
Total – 1 in 960 or 0.1%. Low odds – but I know that achieving those things isn’t pulling random numbers from a bucket, I have some control over these things. Unlike the lottery, we do have some control over the things ahead of us.
I have 4,274 days left to hit my $1,000,000 retirement goal. Hopefully it is going to be 4,274 days with more gratitude for what I have now. Maybe I can take some of the time I usually spend day dreaming about winning the lottery, and consider the great fortune I already have.