(CBS News) — For a couple of bucks, a lottery ticket can briefly fuel the dream of pushing all of one’s financial troubles aside. But those small wagers add up, and they might be better spent on setting aside money for a rainy day, since a quarter of Americans don’t have emergency savings.
A survey released Wednesday by Bankrate found 28 percent of Americans who earn less than $30,000 a year play the lottery at least once a week. They spend $412 a year on tickets. Other financial vices of low-income Americans include restaurant food and prepared drinks, like coffee and smoothies. In addition to lottery tickets, those items account for $2,118, or 13 percent, of their annual income, on average, Bankrate found.
Presumably, higher earners found different venues to burn through cash. Households with incomes of $75,000 and above spent $105 a year on lottery tickets, a quarter of what low-income homes spent, the August survey of 1,000 Americans age 18 and older found.
Still, people of all income groups blow money on restaurants and takeout food, with 38 percent committing that financial crime at least three times a week, Bankrate found. Further, one in four buys at least three prepared nonalcoholic beverages a week.
These expenditures offer an opportunity to save, and lottery tickets are an especially good example of throwing money away. After all, an individual stands a better chance of getting struck by an asteroid or killed by a shark than of winning the mammoth Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots earlier this year, by CNBC’s account.
“The idea of striking it rich by winning the lottery is enticing, but you can earn a guaranteed return by putting the money in a high-yield savings account,” Amanda Dixon, a Bankrate analyst said in a statement.
A few thousand dollars may not sound like a lot to spend on dining out and buying coffee and lottery tickets. But Dixon noted that the average $3,473 a year that Bankrate calculates Gen Xers spend on such things would reap more than $50,000 if invested for 10 years at an 8 percent return.
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