By Joshua Huffman, Financial Counselor
The Village Financial Resource Center
I rarely ever gamble. And when I do, it is a few dollars here or there. But, last week’s Powerball jackpot of $336 million was enough to entice me into purchasing a few tickets. I figured it would be best to go into this with a strategy. After all, I consider myself to be one of the unluckiest people alive. I never win anything. I couldn’t just go purchase a few Powerball tickets relying on random numbers.
What I needed was someone with lots of luck to pick some winning numbers. Well, the luckiest person I know is my 6 year old son, Connor. This kid wins everything. We were once at a school festival that drew names for door prizes. The school would put the winner’s name back in the bucket, giving them a chance to win again. Connor won 5 prizes throughout the event. And that is just one example of his good fortune.
So, I figured, why not let Connor pick some random numbers for me? Now, this is the point where I should’ve listened to that voice that was whispering from deep within saying, “Don’t do it!” I figured that I could get the numbers from him without having to explain what gambling was, after all, that was a road I did not want to go down with him just yet.
I sat Connor down with a piece of paper that had a 5×5 graph of squares and asked him to write down any numbers he liked that were 99 and under (which shows how little I play the lottery since Powerball numbers only go up to 59). He wrote down the numbers but kept asking why I wanted them.
Now, in my role as a parent, I decided a long time ago that I would never lie to my kids. I don’t try to convince them that a large man in a red suit brings presents down the chimney. I don’t tell them that a magical bunny hides treats for them come Easter time. In fact, last week when my daughter lost her first tooth, she immediately came to me after finding the dollar bill that was under her pillow and asked me, “Are you the Tooth Fairy?” I told her yes immediately. Co-workers and friends are always giving me a hard time about how horrible I am that I don’t play the Santa, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy games with my kids. The fact is, I just am not comfortable lying to my kids, even when it would be considered harmless fun.
However, as Connor kept pestering me about why I wanted the numbers, I really wished I had it in me to make up a story. I eventually caved and explained what I was doing. I did my best to explain that gambling is something that adults do on occasion for fun. I explained that it is alright in moderation, but if you are not careful it could become a bad habit. I explained that it is possible for people to gamble too much and it can really end up hurting them. At this point, I really thought he understood what I was trying to explain.
After the lengthy explanation, this is what was heard at our house for the following two days. Daddy, if we win can we buy a Camaro? Daddy, if you win how much money will I get? Daddy, if we win can we get a Bugatti Veyron (the world’s fastest street car)? Dad, I want to gamble too (yes, he actually said that). I can’t tell you how many times he brought it up.
I think the reason it bothered me so much is that, in the course of my job as a financial counselor, I often see first hand the damage that gambling can do to families when it becomes an addiction. I really want my kids to be able to understand the realities of it (at an appropriate age) and the dangers it can present. I also didn’t want to get a call from Connor’s teacher saying he was running a dice game with the other children at school.
As a result of this, I don’t think I will be playing the lottery anytime soon. At the very least, I don’t think I will drag my lucky son into it.
Is gambling a topic you have discussed with your children? Let me know if you have any good success stories. I would love to hear them.