Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Some Odds

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Some Odds

    By Allen Wastler

    shamrockAre you thinking about luck on this St. Patrick’s Day?

    What are the odds of finding a four-leaf clover? About 1 in 10,000 according to a Daily Telegraph report quoting a University of Sydney mathematician.1

    How about being the sole winner of the lottery? That depends on the game and number of players, obviously, but you can probably start with a baseline of 1 in 175 million for Powerball, according to the executive director of the American statistical Association.2

    Are slot machines a better bet? Generally the odds are the number of spinning “reels” times the number of symbols on each reel. So a slot machine with five reels and five symbols on each of those reels is offering odds of 1 in 3,125. Of course, the slot machine’s shift into the digital realm has drastically stretched those odds, as this 2011 article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes.3

    How about making a hole-in-one in golf? That’s 1 in 12,000 for the average golfer, according to research done for Golf Digest. (The magazine compared that to bowling a perfect game of 300, which they put at 1 in 11,500 for the average bowler).4

    Bad stuff happens too.

    The odds of a tax audit? One in 116, according to personal finance magazine Kiplinger. Actually, Kiplinger says the odds decline to less than 300 to 1 if your return doesn’t involve income from a business, rental income, or employee expense write-offs.5

    The chance that a 20-year-old will be too sick or injured to work sometime during their career? Well, more than one in four 20-year-olds, insured for disability benefits, becomes disabled before reaching retirement age, according to the Social Security Administration.6 That’s why people should think about disability income insurance (hey, this is a MassMutual article, after all).

    Okay, we don’t want to be a downer on a festive day. So we’ll leave you with this…

    According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in every 30 infants born in 2009 was a twin.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


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    1 “Woman Finds 21 Four-Leaf Clovers,” Daily Telegraph, Aug. 11, 2014.

    2 “A Statistician’s View: What are Your chances of Winning the Powerball Lottery,” Huffington Post, Jan. 7, 2016.

    3 “Odds of Winning Get Longer,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 15, 2011.

    4 “The Unlikely Ace/300 Game,” Golf Digest, Oct. 6, 2014.

    5 “What are the Odds the IRS will Audit your Taxes?”, Kiplinger, may 26, 2015.

    6 Social Security Administration, Publication No. 05-10570, January 2015.

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