I have a new financial plan.

I'm playing the lottery.

I don't know why I started, but it might have to do with the fact that I've been thinking about it for 45 years.

Or the fact that some of my friends are retiring, and my retirement is now pushed back to 2022.

Meaning that I will have to be 2022 years old to retire.

And then I happened to be driving to New York. You can't drive anywhere without seeing those lighted-up billboards with astronomical numbers for the Powerball jackpot.

There were so many zeros, it reminded me of my marital history.


Also, I remembered that Mother Mary always used to play the lottery and she actually won. Never the big payout, but $50 here and $100 there, just enough for me to think that I should try my luck.

So I bought my first lottery ticket on Sunday afternoon, after my bike ride, standing in line like a rookie. The lady in front of me chose her numbers, filling the circles on a sheet that reminded me of taking the SATs.

But math and I never got along, so I let the machine choose my numbers, and when the impatient clerk asked me how many tickets I wanted, I had to ask how much it cost per ticket, and so I went whole hog for 10 bucks and he gave me back a tiny piece of paper that looked like a Dunkin' Donuts receipt for a cup of coffee.

I stuck it in my wallet, excited all the way home, dreaming of the things I would do with my million-dollar jackpot.

I have dreamed about winning the lottery for years, but I never actually played until now.

It's hard to win if you don't play.

Maybe that should be their new slogan?

The clerk had told me the drawing was on Wednesday night, and when I went home, I checked the website, which was cheerfully multicolored, heavy on the green, for obvious reasons.

And embarrassingly enough, I have to admit that I counted the days until Wednesday night.

I thought the drawing was at 7, but that turns out to be one of the other lottery games because who knew there's not just one lottery game but about three million and they all have different rules and different times for the drawings.


So when Wednesday night rolled around, I grabbed my little tickets/receipt out of my wallet and hurried to the website and waited for the minute hand to go from 10:59 to 11 o'clock, to see the winning numbers.

Numbers appeared on the screen, five white balls with numbers and one red one, and then I looked down on my ticket and realized the problem.

I couldn't read the damn thing.

There were five lines of numbers, 25 numbers in all, and then the Powerball number on the far right with QP next to it, and I still don't know what QP means.

I had no idea whether I had won.

I do have a modicum of common sense, so I figured that if I had a line of numbers that matched, I was $50 million richer, but then I clicked on the "How to Play" page, and it turns out there are about three billion other combinations that qualify as a winning ticket.

Who knew?

Mother Mary, undoubtedly.

I could win $1 million if I matched four white circles but not the red one, or four dollars if I matched the red circle but none of the white ones, and there were so many different permutations I felt like I was taking the SATs again.

I couldn't figure out whether I'd won anything but I couldn't bring myself to throw the ticket away, in case it was a winner.

It was a no-win situation.

And now I feel like a loser, in more ways than one.

But I'm buying another ticket.

I'm powerless over Powerball.

Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's new collection of humor essays, "Have a Nice Guilt Trip," in stores now. Also, look for Lisa's new novel, "Keep Quiet."