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Most of us know the feeling. It’s Saturday night, we’re checking our National Lottery numbers and, surprise, surprise, that jackpot rollover bonanza has gone to some other lucky swine, as it did last week, and will do next week too.

I don’t fancy those odds

What do you expect, when making a 14m-to-one punt? Those are the odds you’re up against, and I can’t say I like them.

Playing the Lottery costs just £2 a ticket, so it’s no real loss. Or is it? If you were to invest that money on the stock market instead, you could turn it into something quite substantial. And despite what people say, this isn’t some wild gamble.

Stock markets go up and down, so you never know exactly what you’ll get in the end. But history shows that, over the long run, you’ll get back a lot more than you put in. History also shows the UK stock market has delivered long-term average growth of 7% a year. And you can invest in it cheaply and easily through a tracker fund such as the iShares Core FTSE 100, with your returns tax-free inside a Stocks and Shares ISA.

Here’s what you need to do

Let’s say you buy five £2 lottery tickets a week for a tenner, to boost your chances of success. If you invested £10 a week in the FTSE 100 instead, and kept that going for 40 years, you’d end up with a £111,077, assuming 7% annual growth.

Forty years is a long time, and you still haven’t made a million, but you’ve almost certainly made more than you ever will on the Lottery.

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I chose that 40-year figure because that’s roughly the average working lifetime and, if you want to save enough to afford a comfortable retirement, that’s the period over which you should be investing. Ideally, you will need more than a £111,077 though.

If you start with £10 a week, you need to steadily increase that contribution in order to hit a million. Let’s say you hike it by 10% a year so, in the second year, you’re paying £11 a week, and so on. After 40 years, you should have £561,682. You’re still not a millionaire, but you’re a lot richer than you would have been.

Now make that million

You could make that million by lifting your starting figure to £20 a week. Then if you increase that by 10% a year, you’ll have a cool £1,123,364 after 40 years. Yes, you’ve put quite a lot in – £460,296 to be precise – but you’ve got even more back in return – £663,068.

Again, you need luck on your side to generate that on the Lottery, even if you buy several tickets every week for 40 years.

If you’re older, it gets harder to make a million on the stock market, as you have less time for your money to grow. That means you have to pay in more. At 40 you would need to save a hefty £150 a week, or £650 a month, to hit a million by age 67, or to be precise, £1,032,087.

That may seem like hard work, given you can win a million on the lottery with a £2 bet. The problem is you almost certainly won’t.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Motley Fool UK 2019