The Mega Millions prize has grown to an estimated $1.35...

The Mega Millions prize has grown to an estimated $1.35 billion after there was no winner in the last drawing. Credit: Barry Sloan

Considering the horror stories you hear about lottery winners, of humble folks winning dumpsters full of dollars only to find themselves broke, friendless and mired in legal trouble a few years later, I should feel lucky that my wife’s last lottery win only cost us $30,000.

She had a lottery club at work, see, and the seven of them won a very nice $50,000 to split. After taxes, each player netted $5,000. Angela’s share became the down payment on a new $35,000 SUV, and I got a funny story out of it.

I mention it because with the next Mega Millions drawing coming this Friday, the 13th, any bad luck that might come with the jackpot is worth considering.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re playing, once we come up with the perfect strategy! With the odds against winning at 302 million to one, what’s needed to score the right ticket is an understanding of the human element.

First, you have to find a store, and counter clerk, whom you can actually picture showing up on the evening news attached to such a win. It’s never a spiffy, shiny chain convenience store or massive corporate gas station. The right business is beaten down but homey, a community gathering spot with a name like “Ricky’s Sip ‘N’ Pump” or “The Hawt Spot.”

As for the clerk, you’re trying to find a philosophical, salt-of-the-earth, career-convenience store type who can be counted on to look into a camera and say, “I sure do hope someone claims it soon, ‘cause whoever won has to buy a round!"

If they have enough left from the $1.35 billion, that is. I’m exaggerating, of course, but when you look at the full lottery taxation picture, it’s shameful and stunning how little winners keep.

First, remember that we buy tickets with post-tax earnings, so right off the bat we’ve got to make at least $3 to have $2 left for a ticket.

Then consider the lottery’s cut. The states take about 50% of every dollar paid for lottery tickets, as profit: In order to build a $1.35 billion jackpot, we pay in $2.7 billion and they immediately take half for schools and roads and signs in parks that tell us not to feed candy to bears which, whatever, because when I win I’ll buy my own bear and feed it what I want!

And you don’t get $1.35 billion if you win $1.35 billion, unless you take it over 30 years. If you want it now, it’s just $708 million. My bright idea: If you want to pay the jackpot over 30 years, I should be able to pay for my lottery tickets in 30 annual installments.

Still no word from Gov. Kathy Hochul on that brainstorm.

And before you get that $708 million, the feds are going to be pretty insistent about snatching $262 million in taxes, while New York will want $78 million: Excelsior!

So all told, Americans have to dedicate about $4 billion in pretax earnings to fund the $368 million the wife and I will claim once we win this thing Friday.

And since a $5,000 lottery win left us $30,000 in debt, I can’t even imagine what we’re going to owe a year from now.

Columnist Lane Filler's opinions are his own.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months