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To hell with the National Lottery! I’d rather try for a million with the FTSE 100

Since the balls were first set rolling back in November 1994, the National Lottery has created more than 5,100 millionaires through games like Lotto and EuroMillions.

If you’re lucky enough to scoop the top prize, the rewards can be staggering. Just ask the lucky winners of the EuroMillions draw on July 12, 2011 who received a mind-bending cheque for £161,583,000 which, as of today, still stands as the record all-time high.

Fat chance

Let’s reconnect with Planet Earth for a second though, and consider the cold hard facts of playing the lottery. Sure, for the cost of £2 to enter the Lotto draw, or the £2.50 to compete in EuroMillions, it’s no big deal. However, the chances of winning the millionaire-making domestic game by correctly picking all six numbers stand at a whopping one in 45,057,474.

And for the pan-domestic format the odds of claiming the top award stand for correctly claiming seven numbers sits at an even-bigger one in 139,838,160. To put this into context, the average person has a much higher chance of being attacked by a shark (approximately one in 11.5m), becoming the parent of identical quadruplets (one in 13m), or being elevated to the status of saint (put at one in 20m)!

Even if you’re lucky enough to hit all the numbers, there’s no guarantee that you’ll become a millionaire, either. The size of the prize pot, as set by the number of players in any given draw, as well as the number of others who correctly predict the six drawn numbers and can thus claim a share in the jackpot, also dictate whether or not a winner is able to make a million.

In theory, it’s possible to hit millionaire status by successfully picking a lower quantity of drawn balls in any given draw. Under Lotto rules, for example, if five of your balls match the main six and the remainder correlates with the so-called Bonus Ball you can lay claim to a cool £1m. But even here the chances stand at a whopping one in 7,509,579.

Take stock

It’s not unfair to call participation in the lottery as nothing more than putting your faith in blind luck, then. In my opinion an individual would be much better to spend money earmarked for the lottery on participation on the stock market.

Let’s break this down. Someone who plays the EuroMillions game each and every time without fail, and tries to boost their odds of victory by buying a few tickets costing £2.50 each time, will fork out £60 over the course of a month.

I would argue that using this money to participate in buying shares would be a better way to help you get rich. If you were to tap into the FTSE 100 by buying into a tracker fund, for example, and total returns remained at the same level as they have over the past decade or so. Over a 40-year period, this would allow them to pocket a cool £106,042.

If returns do indeed remain similar to those of yesteryear, it’s clear that investing that £60 alone per month wouldn’t be enough to make you a millionaire. But if added to the contributions you’re already making to your retirement fund, they could well be enough to push you over the top.

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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.