A half-a-billion dollar jackpot up for grabs in Wednesday's Powerball multi-state lottery had people, young and old, wondering what they might do with hundreds of millions of dollars.
But can money buy happiness?
A number of studies done in recent years – and one dating back more than 30 years – say no. And, in fact, winning such a large sum could make you less happy, according to the studies.
Let's take a step back and a look at what is at stake. By now, it is likely known if there is a winner or winners in last night's drawing – or if the pool of cash will grow. Already, the cash payout was estimated on Wednesday to be the second largest, before taxes, in American history at $360 million.
The odds of winning are almost as big as the payout – you have one chance in 175 million. You are more likely to be struck by lightning, eaten by a shark or become president than win the lottery.
But if you do hold the winning numbers, here is what the studies say:
A 1978 study titled "Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?" compared lottery winners, non-lottery winners, and paralyzed accident victims. The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that the lottery winners were not happier than the non-lottery winners. In fact, the lottery winners had more difficulty finding enjoyment in life's "simple" pleasures such as watching TV or playing a board game with the family. The paralyzed accident victims were also found not to be presently happy because of too much time spent reminiscing about their past.
But would you be willing to give up the everyday things that make you happy in order to have enough cash to have almost anything you wanted?
Another more recent study, done in 2009 by Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University found that people who spent money on experiences rather than material possessions were generally happier.
"When people spend money on life experiences, whether they also take someone with them or buy an extra ticket or whatever, most of our life experiences involve other individuals," Howell said in a 2009 CNN article. These experiences fulfill the human need for social experience and adventure, something that material possessions cannot bring about.
"More money would cause me less stress and make life easier, but it couldn't overall buy my happiness," said Jordan Marshall of North Arlington. "I am who I am. Money wouldn't change me, it would just change the way I live."
Others took a harsher view.
"Money is the root of all evil," said Taryn Paglio of Lyndhurst. "You'd begin to not appreciate life and start taking things for granted."
After becoming lottery victors, people like Paglio would be ecstatic at first.
"I'd be running up and down my block screaming and setting off fireworks," she said. "I'd call my close friends and family and let them know that we'd never have to worry about anything ever again."
However, according to CNN, a survey by Keirsey Research showed that this excitement only lasts for so long.
Their results revealed that people eventually grow content with their wealth. After a while, that new, fabulous way of living becomes normal to them.
Amanda Morales of Lyndhurst said she would try to avoid being satisfied with her new lifestyle.
"I would never want to get used to it. That would take the fun out of it," she stated. "I would buy a new house somewhere nice, get a summer home in California, and travel the world to see everything."
The research by Keirsey showed that a household income of $75,000 is what's needed to reach the upper limit of happiness when related to money. If people earn any more than that, they do not grow more fond of their life. Instead, they plateau at that level of delight.
"As much as I'd love to win, it could make life worse," Paglio said. "I eventually wouldn't know the value of a dollar anymore. I like to work hard for what I get."
But for a $2 ticket, millions of people took the chance to live on easy street.