Greed and Fear

Why on earth should we buy lottery tickets? Some argue that buying a ticket for the National Lottery or the Euromillions allows one to believe that although the chances of winning tend towards zero that portion of our stake devoted to good causes is going to a variety of good homes and we can forget about the rest. And if we won, of course we would give a tidy whack to the charities of our choice. By contrast, others feel that the national, international, even global addiction to gambling is bad enough already it needs no feeding frenzy driven by the illusory chances of wealth beyond imagining.

They say you need to speculate to accumulate but the odds are stacked against the individual speculator, so much so that most of those who do it are hired hands paid to speculate with other people’s money. Solid and steady investment – in bricks and mortar, pension pots, education and training, fitness – may sound slightly boring but, over time, they have proved their worth as against those schemes which offer amazing rewards. Remember Bernie Madoff who made off with investors millions. There was even a reference in the last episode of Downton Abbey to the amazing profits offered by a certain Mr Ponzi after whom all subsequent ‘robbing Peter to pay Ponzi’ schemes are named. Does anyone out there remember the Dover Plan?

Coming off the fence, I admit to buying lottery tickets every other week on average; one lucky dip per draw. But I stand behind people in the queue and watch with amazement as they spend ten or twenty pounds on their chosen numbers. I do not step forward to point out that my lucky dip has an equal chance with each of their selections. So, returning to the original question, why do all of us do it? The answer, I fear, is what it always has been – greed and fear. The sum of over £122M that went unclaimed last Friday and that will have risen to nearer £150M by next Tuesday is so alluring that we succumb to the greedy feeling that we would like to have it and at the same time feel the dreadful fear that if we don’t buy a ticket then someone else will win all that money we could have done so much good with.

Learned economists who say that the two basic investment motives are greed and fear are absolutely right and I will not let the fact that I had two numbers in last Friday’s draw cloud my own sober judgement; well, not much anyway.

1 Comment for “Greed and Fear”

Stephen Pike


I remember the Dover Plan, and I was trying to explain to a group, but no-one had heard of it. These people were all financially literate, and all about 65 years old, and a few were in the financial services industry. Amazing how such a newsworthy event could be forgotten so easily.

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