By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tonight could be a big night for someone holding a Mega Millions lottery ticket. The prize is an annuity with a total value of $640 million.
But is all the media coverage creating unrealistic hype?
Temple University psychology professor Frank Farley understands it.
“It sort of triggers the imagination in many people. ‘What would I do if I won?’ It’s kind of a dream,” he tells KYW Newsradio.
But he cites recent studies saying you don’t have to dream about half a billion dollars for happiness — not even close.
“Up to about the range of $70,000, roughly, a year — as you approach that, it’s related to happiness,” Farley (right) notes. “Beyond roughly $70,000 a year income, it doesn’t improve your happiness any.”
Farley worries about people buying tickets, spending way more than they can afford. He also says these jackpots may send the wrong message that success is based on chance.
Drexel University professor Ron Bishop has a similar view.
“It’s sort of the myth that’s been sold to us over the years — that we’re just one step away,” says Bishop, who teaches a class on fame and celebrity.
He says the idea of being an overnight half-billionaire is the same sort of dream that drives reality shows like American Idol.
“It sort of suggests to people that (fame) is just one audition away,” Bishop (right) tells KYW Newsradio. “Like, ‘I’m going to go down and wow them and be the next Kelly Clarkson.'”
A dream is not a terrible thing, Bishop says (he’ll have his lottery tickets too). But that thought may distract us from the happiness we already have, he warns.
“Totally cool to think about — dream about winning over 500 million dollars now — but there’s sort of a lack of competing narrative that, ‘I’m okay with what I have.’ ”
Farley, the Temple psychologist, says that after someone eventually wins the historic lottery jackpot, conversations will come up that the winner “doesn’t deserve all that money.” Farley calls it irrational envy.
“We may judge people rather harshly who win this, if they seem to be undeserving. Now, what’s deserving or undeserving when it’s totally chance? There’s no deservingness here.”
Both say to focus less on the McMansion, because the white picket fence may be good enough.