Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

: Mega Millions hits $1.55 billion, but you should buy stocks — not lottery tickets. Here’s how to get 8% return.

The Mega Millions jackpot is now at an estimated $1.55 billion, and the next drawing is Tuesday night after there was no winner on Friday. (The numbers were 11, 30, 45, 52, 56, and the gold Mega Ball was 20.)

Tempted? Here are other numbers for you to mull over: You have a 1 in 302.6 million chance of winning. They’re not great odds.

Want better odds of making money?

The National Association of Investors/BetterInvesting, a nonprofit investment education organization that’s been around for seven decades, ran some numbers, and the results could be a wake-up call for people hoping for a get-rich-quick lottery scheme with a dollar and a dream.

On Friday, stocks closed lower after Fitch downgraded the U.S. credit rating earlier in the week, and the July labor report showed the economy is still adding jobs, but at a moderating pace. But over the long term, research shows that the stock market is still a better bet.

Suppose a lottery dreamer spent $40 each month on lottery tickets beginning in 2002 and, every year, that amounted to $480 for tickets that were, in all likelihood, losers. In two decades, you would be $9,600 out of pocket.

Instead of being a lottery dreamer, imagine that person was a stock-market planner, and put that same $40 each month into the S&P 500 from 2002 to 2022. That would equate to approximately $22,000 profit, said Ken Zendel, CEO of the National Association of Investors/BetterInvesting.

The compound annual growth rate for S&P 500 SPX was 8% from January 2002 to December 2022, by Zendel’s count. (That does not adjust for inflation, but includes a dividend reinvestment.)

‘By transforming lottery losses into potential lifetime opportunities, we can foster a nationwide culture of informed investing, where people from all walks of life secure their financial future in an honest and proven way.’

— Ken Zendel, CEO of NAIC/BetterInvesting

The S&P 500 is up more than 17% so far this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA is up more than 6% year to date while the Nasdaq Composite COMP is up 33%.

While other places offered lottery-themed promotions, like a free Krispy Kreme DNUT, -0.34% doughnut for those who show their lottery ticket, the National Association of Investors/BetterInvesting is also getting into the act.

There is one crucial difference: it’s trying to promote a path to wealth that’s rooted in reality, not lotto-winning dreams.

People who supply their losing lottery ticket numbers can get a free 90-day trial with the nonprofit to access resources, including online stock-analysis tools and the organization’s investing clubs. After that free trial, membership starts at $120 a year.

“Americans’ desire for financial freedom should not rest on the immensely long odds of a 1 in a 300 million shot,” said Zendel.

“By transforming lottery losses into potential lifetime opportunities, we can foster a nationwide culture of informed investing, where people from all walks of life secure their financial future in an honest and proven way,” he added.

The good news: people are wise to the benefits of compounding where your initial capital investment and the returns you earn earn on your money and, as such, they are investing through direct stock ownership, mutual funds or a retirement account.

Six in 10 Americans said they were invested in the stock market this year, according to a recent Gallup poll. That’s up from 58% in 2022 and is at the highest point since 2008, Gallup noted.

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