Could You Handle Suddenly Becoming Obscenely Wealthy?

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If you were to win millions of dollars in a lottery —– or if you were the sole heir to a multi-million dollar estate —– would you be able to handle all the stresses that go along with such massively good fortune?

Most people would tell you that they could, indeed ….. and they would go off on a detailed tirade, telling you all the good things they would buy for themselves if such a lightning bolt of good fortune were to strike their everyday existence.

I do not wish to crush the dreams of anyone hoping to become obscenely wealthy someday but I would like to offer a lesson in reality here based both on personal experiences and the experiences of others that I have known.

I have never personally won a lottery of any significant size although I have, in my lifetime, won a few thousand dollars playing these things against massive odds.

But I did, at one point in my life, get into a situation, virtually overnight, that catapulted me into a position here my income suddenly exploded by at least Three Hundred percent and this, in turn set off a firestorm of experiences … some good … some bad … including a temporary total bankruptcy at one point … a horror that I have since fully recovered from.

But for the purposes of this blog post, I am going to use a contrived fictitious example based on the scenario of suddenly winning the jackpot in a multi-million dollar lottery game. I am using this example because it appeals to me to be the easiest scene to set and though the story about the lottery win is fabricated, the ramifications and challenges faced by the newly wealthy are common to most people in such circumstances …. and I have endured some or most of these challenges myself.

I had a Brother-in-Law named Bill H—-s once who won Four Million dollars in an Illinois state lottery. The first thing Bill discovered was that the Federal Government and the State of Illinois took it all except for the amount he finally was able to take home which was Two Million, Three-Hundred Fifty One dollars ($2,351,000).

Somehow, Bill managed to get that money deposited in a number of checking accounts in different banks around the area where he lived. He never thought to open a savings account of any kind because he believed that he had won enough money to allow him to live in luxury for the remainder of his life. He was about 52 years old at the time of his win.

Bill did what a lot of big winner do … He bought a small farm and immediately redecorated the home on the land, installed everything in it brand new …brand new everything … furniture, fixtures, bath room, carpets, interior decorating, dishes, silverware, small appliances … everything.

He bought two big luxury automobiles … one for himself and one for his wife. He also bought a nice car for his wife’s adult son.

Bill and his wife went to Europe and stayed in luxury hotels and enjoyed the high life for a couple of years.

He bought a huge outdoor barbecue, built a large new patio and invited a hundred or so friends, relatives and associates, once a year, to a big outdoor party at his new farm. He loved to dress up in a chef’s suit complete with white hat and flip burgers for all his guests.

He went to town to spend Saturday evenings playing poker and pool (Billiards) gambling away a few hundred dollars each session.

He made loans to friends … he bailed his wife son out of jail a few times …he loved to open his checkbook and tell anyone who would pay attention, “I bet you have never seen a bank balance like this one.”

He blew every cent of his fortune in a matter of just Three short years. He ended up penniless.

So what should Bill have done once he hit it big?

First of all, he should keep his mouth shut about the winnings and not tell a soul except his wife. News spreads like wildfire and if one is not careful one can be surrounded by friends he or she never knew they had, relatives that they never met, strangers wanting handouts, people asking for money for one cause or another, sales people knocking at the door wanting to sell you things …news reporters hanging around wanting interviews, television cameras taking pictures of your shrubs and flowers, hoping to get a glimpse of you and many others … a shitload of people all trying to get at you … all hoping somehow to share in your pie.

Even though my personal case had nothing to do with winning a lottery, I found that I had to go and rent out a hotel suite for about a month to let things simmer down when I found myself in a good place and the news filtered out. Moving to a new location eventually became what I considered to be an absolute necessity …. moving to a place where no one knew who I was. I made the move 300 miles distant from where I lived and set up house keeping in a new community just for the sake of a little peace and quiet.

I had to change my telephone number to an unlisted one first and eventually had to engage a telephone answering service to take calls.

I think one of the first priorities of a person who suddenly finds themselves making a couple of hundred times their old salary should be to engage the services of at least three professional people: (1) A good attorney, (2) A well-qualified financial advisor, and (3) A reputable certified public accountant to do taxes and pay the bills.

I do not believe that an ordinary person who has no business experience should try to handle newfound wealth all by themselves without the assistance of professionals who are familiar with the ins and outs and the legalities and liabilities involved with being … rich.

I tried going it on my own the first time around and I went totally bankrupt in 1978 and it took me until 1990 or thereabouts to get back on track again.

In the year 2001, I divested myself of all the responsibilities I had taken on in the Business World and retired to a downsized lifestyle.

Today I no longer have the hassle of worrying about timelines, balance sheets, labor-management relations, marketing, interoffice politics … none of that glitz and glamour stuff.

Today I sleep until Noon if I want to ….I go where I want when I want …I eat well .. too well….I do a little shopping now and then ….I am a social recluse for the most part, doing my best to avoid people ….I kind of live on the Internet ….but I have other interests also … I check bank balances still regularly ….I too play lotteries but I don’t know what I would do if I ever won a big one … I am not sure I would want the hassle ….

I wrote all this for information only — I did not write this post to offer advice or instruction of any kind …. I am not an expert in these kinds of things but I have had some experience and I want to share those experiences in case someone finds them interesting …Do not ever make the mistake of doing any of the things I have done because everyone is different … If you are concerned about the things I have been talking about here, seek professional guidance ….Do not rely on what I have said here …ever …Your life is different from mine.

3 thoughts on “Could You Handle Suddenly Becoming Obscenely Wealthy?

  1. I think a lot of how you cope depends on how old you are. I have seen so many examples of young lottery winners here going off the rails, some even ending up in jail. One 19 year-old who won £5 million lost it all within three years, buying cars and houses, and using cocaine. He even built a small racetrack on his property and raced around it with his friends in new cars, smashing them up and just leaving them wrecked.
    I am 70, so I could cope with a big money win. And the first step is (as you say) to remain anonymous. Do not accept any publicity from the lottery company, or local news outlets. Luckily, lottery wins are not taxable in the UK, but the money earned from investing them is. So it is desirable to buy everything you might need, before investing what is left.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Great advice John. Sadly most people tat win the lottery are always playing with scared money…..and when they win they do all they have not been able to do before…… chuq

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