I’ve played the lottery a few times in my life. It’s intriguing, but, invariably, you spend your money and it’s gone. Some states claim “education” benefits, but I don’t see any direct connection, and, besides, I’ve become convinced the money spent on education doesn’t get spent in ways that directly benefit the kids people hope will benefit. I think it’s a ploy to help people feel better about not getting a return on their lottery expenditures.
In 1996, the Air Force, in their infinite wisdom, assigned me to New York City to teach ROTC. The corner store closest to my apartment carried lottery scratch off tickets. My personal favorite was the Bingo version. It took time to play and was kind of fun. Sometimes they would hit for a couple of dollars. I was easily spending $20 a week on these diversions. How did I win the lottery?
By playing an entirely different way. I was a prior service first lieutenant pinning on captain in late September of 1996. At that time, my plan was to fully fund my IRA (until then, I could only afford to partially fund due to mind-numbing debt acquired during my first marriage). I wasn’t fond of my assignment to NYC, but I used it to completely pay off debt, and I’ve never been in debt since, so I made lemonade out of lemons. When I made arrangements to fully fund my IRA, I did so by setting up a mutual fund devoted to that end. I also set up a small investment account in an aggressive growth fund where I deposited $100 a month (and I quit buying scratch offs — that’s where the money for that mutual fund came from). I set this up to begin in January 1997.
Even the most math-challenged among you can easily calculate that $100 a month translates to $1200 a year. It’s been nearly 20 years. For the sake of argument, let’s say it has been 20 years, so I’ve deposited $24,000 into this account. The value in this account as of this weekend (still two months shy of 20 years) is $31,530.60. But wait. There’s more. Last year, I withdrew $18,500 from this account to purchase half a building. My husband, using his resources, purchased the other half of the building. If you follow the blog, that building is the detail shop.
Under certain conditions, USAA will allow members to establish mutual fund accounts with as little as $50. I’m sure they are not the only ones who permit this. Shop around. Look for a free seminar about investing from a non-biased individual. Many investment firms offer educational series to the public. I’ve heard USAA’s pitch, and it’s neutral. Did I win an actual lottery? Of course not. Have I benefitted financially from systematically saving to an aggressively postured mutual fund? You bet. Can you do it? I believe you can.