A waste of money or the stuff of dreams?

We’re all partial to the occasional lottery ticket or scratchie. For some of us at Starts at 60, it’s a weekly ritual to be savoured; a game of anticipation; even a fun family activity. For others, it’s a casual once-every-other-year purchase, made on the grounds that “hey, you never know”.

We all now the odds are stacked massively against us, almost to the point of impossibility. So why do we do it?

I have incredibly fond memories of entering monthly Boystown Lotteries for houses far bigger and better than we could ever afford. My children would love poring over their prospective new home. They would waste no time allocating and arguing over bedrooms, planning pool parties and plotting out their new life in incredible detail.

Their enthusiasm was infectious; the memory of it makes me smile to this day. Combined with the knowledge that this money would go to a good cause, it’s safe to say we got value out of this ritual. We were under no delusions, at the end of the day, that it was inherently false hope.

It’s a very small cost to create a fantasy world.

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That same love of imaginary pleasures drives many relatives to slip Instant Scratch-Its into birthday cards. I’ve never had much luck on that front, but it’s hard to deny the occasional $9 victory feels strangely special.

On the other end the scale, it’s hard to validate a dream when it’s tipped into genuine addiction. With too much investment in that fantasy world, that fun ritual becomes a vicious cycle. To stop buying the dream would be to give up on it.

Sometimes my cynicism will hold me back. The idea of fuelling that dark side – of giving money to a system that profits from unfulfilled fantasies – will compel me to keep walking past the newsagency.

But come my next birthday, I’ll be scratching those symbols as eagerly as anybody, mentally decorating every future grandchild’s bedroom in the family mansion. Some dreams are too sweet to resist.

How much luck have you had? Where do you draw the line between buying a dream and investing too much in a fantasy?