Summer Kickoff with Powerball

Powerball Fever recently gripped the states offering it, and California is the most recent addition to those ranks. Last week I was stunned when my friends - people who live comfortable lives and otherwise don't seem prone to throwing their money out the window - bought Powerball tickets. And talked rapturously about what they would do with their winnings, about $300 million cash.

The first thing most mentioned was how they would donate large sums of money to help improve the lives of others. (I have kind and empathetic friends.) Then they would save and invest a large amount, just to be sure that $300 million would be enough to take them through their golden years. (We're Boomers, not Depression Babies, but recent years have been so harrowing that our fear of running out of money in retirement now rivals that of our parents'.)

After those two gimmes come the inevitable fantasies. Multiple homes. International travel not involving cheap hotel chains. Servants. Cars. Designer clothes bought at retail. Books bought at the last remaining independent booksellers.

I'm pretty sure the comfortably well-off didn't used to buy lottery tickets or have these fantasies. Hell, even the middle class was able to achieve most or all of those things. But in these days of lowered expectations and a corporate culture that has conspired to wring every dime out of must-haves that used to be affordable (housing, healthcare, insurance, education,  food, gas...), no one in the 98 percent feels rich or confident about the future anymore. Treading water is the new striving. Not worrying is the new luxury.

As we roll into summer without the promise of $300 million for our bank accounts, Powerball disappointment will fade and life will go on. We're all pretty lucky we have enough to survive on and of course each other. But I won't be able to stop thinking about the fact that a $300 million payout briefly became a viable exit plan. Surely there has to be a better way to get off the fiscal cliff.


Please share your thoughts! All comments are moderated. Happy Hellish!