Tom Sloan Cartoon: The Ridiculously Large Lottery

Written by Tom Sloan

How much money is it possible to win in a lottery? Could you win more money than there is in the world? — There are huge lottery payouts all the time. Some are a lot bigger than others and they make the news. Below is one scenario that you may or may not hear about. Winning a dollar a year for a million years. It sounds stupid because it is.

Cartoon by Tom Sloan

Cartoon by Tom Sloan

But imagine that you were the winner and you let the money sit and accumulate? The actual amount of money you would end up with is beyond anything anyone could imagine. Just a million dollars? Not quite. No piggy bank in the world could hold all your money. The final prize would make you richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett together. In fact, you would have more money than the richest 100 people in the world. Or the richest 100,000. You could not find enough room to store your cash. Not a stadium or a hundred stadiums. The Grand Canyon would be too small for all your money.

Why such a huge sum? It is a result of what some economic pundits call the Eighth Wonder of the World. That would be compound interest. Take that dollar you won the first year and invest it in something that will yield 3.5 percent interest. Rounding up, in 20 years that dollar will double in value at that interest rate. In 40 years it will double again, so you now have $4. Whoopee, I can hardly wait. But if you do the math, that double-your-money factor every 20 years can really add up.

Don’t tell me, I’m well aware you won’t be around for a million years, but it’s fun to see what happens. Every 200 years the value increases by a thousand times. So, in 200 years, you have a thousand dollars. After 400 years? There’s your first million! And after 600 years you’ll have one billion dollars — all from $1 at 3.5 percent. There are still a lot of years left to get to a million years.

The final total prize at that point from that lowly first dollar would be a one followed by 15,000 zeros. That’s 10 to the 15,000th power. If I were to write it out, the number would be about 100 feet long.

How big is that? If every dollar bill was the size of an atom, the universe could not hold it all. Scientists estimate that the total number of atoms in our known universe is about 10 to the 80th power. Remember, our prize is $10 to the 15,000th power.

Be aware, this calculation was done on just the first dollar. There are 999,999 more dollars to gain some interest on too. That math is beyond me so I will let someone else calculate that one out. Now the worst thing is this: How much of that would go to the IRS?

For, I’m Tom Sloan.

Tom Sloan has drawn cartoons and illustrations for numerous publications — including the original BYTE magazine. Not limited to print, Tom’s cartoons and collages are displayed in museums and galleries throughout the United States. He’s also an accomplished animator. He’s created animations for such as clients Sesame Street, HBO, Nickelodeon, Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room, Burger King and McDonalds.