The income umbrella (AP photo/Charles Dharapak)

An idea: Maybe some insurance company, or group of insurance companies, could create a voluntary income-protection program tied to state lotteries.

Jane Doe could register for, say, the California Lottery Loyalty Program through the Web.

Maybe, for Jane Doe, the main point of registration would be to ensure that the lottery runners can track her down when she wins the lottery, which is sure to happen any day now, because her astrologer gave her great advice about lottery participation strategy.

Doe would then pay a little extra for each lottery ticket, and California would give her a little electronic loyal lottery victim rebate. The cash would flow into a fund that would pay off if Doe ever became disabled. Or maybe Doe could pick from a menu of financial services providers and allocate the extra money to flow to the provider of her choice.

The thought came to me this morning, while I was watching people lining up to buy tickets for the $550 million Powerball jackpot at my local deli.

I don’t really know how that works. I think I once bought a lottery ticket, but I can’t remember that very clearly. Maybe I didn’t.

Anyhow: Anyone with any financial sophistication knows a lottery is just a fun scam that a state or other government agency uses to generate a little extra revenue for a politically favored agency. Plus a little extra revenue for friendly ad agencies, PR agencies, convenience store chains, and whatever media organizations end up getting lottery-related ad money.

The actuaries amongst you are invited to give more precise estimates in the comment section below, but Wikipedia tells me that the odds of winning are something like 1 in 175 million. There are about 100 Powerball lottery drawings per year. If I bought a ticket for each drawing, I think my overall odds of winning would still be 1 in 175 million.

An asteroid the size of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs hits the Earth about once every 100 million years. So, if I bought a lottery ticket, I think the likelihood of me winning would be comparable to the likelihood of me dying in a asteroid-triggered conflagration.

What if the struggling working people who blow, say, $100 per year on lottery tickets were putting a comparable amount of cash into some kind of disability insurance arrangement?

If, say, the California State Lottery Loyalty Program created a menu of classy financial services providers, and Jane Doe and the program paid a total of $200 per year for Jane to one of the providers, that might not be a fortune, but, on the other hand, it might be enough to build up over time. And, because people like Jane Doe would be using the program as an afterthought, not because they thought they were going to become disabled, the risk profile of the participants might be pretty good.

On the other hand, it looks as if the stores that sell lottery tickets today are the same stores that sell cigarettes. Maybe the insurers that could get better results would be annuity sellers, or life settlement companies…

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