Could you cope with becoming an overnight millionaire?


Well I’ve just been browsing a popular online news site and came across the story of the 84 year old mother of four from Florida who has just won the biggest unshared lottery prize in American history, $590 MILLION DOLLARS!  Why they don’t just round it up to a Billion and have done with it I’m not sure but I think that many of you reading this post could think of a few ways to spend some of that money. As much as most of us think that we’d enjoy having that much money at our disposal, the article did have me wondering whether I could cope with that kind of overnight fortune, especially if it was received in such a way that the whole world knew about it.

I know it does sound ridiculous that someone might struggle becoming an overnight millionaire but let’s think about the reality of it.

The Media  

Taking some time out of my day to write for this blog is probably about as close as I’ll ever get to any kind of public attention, and to be honest I’m quite happy about that. I’m not the kind of guy that likes to be the focus of attention – though some of my friends might disagree – especially not the centre of a media storm anyway. Imagine it. One day you’re a normal person, in your normal house, living your normal life. If you want to take your kids to the park in the evening you can do so in peace, if you fancy a trip to the shopping centre to buy some new clothes, again you can do so at your leisure. What do you think life would really be like if you were to win $590 million dollars overnight? I suspect that for quite a long period of time you would find the paparazzi snapping you any time you leave the house and it’s not the just the paparazzi, it could even be tough to ignore the whispers of ‘They’re the ones who won the….’ echoing around you. You might even find it difficult to sunbathe on your new private beach without someone trying to take a snap. If you don’t believe me, ask Kate Middleton.

What would people want?

Fair enough, if you were to win $590 million dollars overnight, then the decision of which friends and family to dish out financial windfalls to shouldn’t be that difficult, or would it? What if you only won a million? I know that sounds ridiculous, only a million but it would make for some difficult decisions. Would all the members of your family expect you to pay off their mortgage? What if you did it for some and not for others, would you create some kind of family divide? What if you decided to help out a couple of your close friends, how would your other friends feel about that? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

While we’re on the subject of friends, would your relationship with your friends ever be the same again? As much as we’d like to think it would, let’s be realistic. Would jealousy kick in with some of them? Would you still be content to go to the local café for a drink or would you now prefer to head to more expensive places? Places your friends can’t afford to go to on a regular basis. No problem you say, I’d pay for them. Well that’s a very noble gesture but would your friends want you paying for them all the time or would pride get in the way? Would you want someone paying for you all the time if the situation were reversed?

Where would you put the money?

Deciding how to protect or invest the reasonable savings you currently have can be stressful enough, imagine the decisions you’d be faced with if half a Billion dollars were to suddenly land in your lap. You’d have meetings with financial advisors all telling you different things, which would you trust?

While we’re talking about trust, I wonder if it would be possible to ever trust any new person that comes into your life ever again. I’m not the most trusting person in the world as it is, never mind if I suddenly had millions of dollars that people might be trying to get their hands on.

Money has benefits but it also has drawbacks

So you suddenly find yourself with the money to buy anything and everything that you could ever want. What would you spend it on? Most people would likely go out and buy a dream home and fill it with expensive designer furniture, put a few amazing cars on the drive, invest in a few famous pieces of artwork, but hold on. Now you have to think about how you’re going to protect all of these new expensive assets. So up goes the big security fence, coupled with some top of the range alarm monitoring system. I’m not sure if I’d feel more or less secure in my new personal prison than I did in my old more modest home.

I suppose whether you find this post depressing or refreshing depends upon your outlook. Personally when I think about all these questions, it makes me far less jealous of the predicaments faced by our record lottery winner and far happier with my current more modest lifestyle.

What do you think? Could you cope with becoming an overnight millionaire?

On another note, here are some of my favourite posts from other bloggers around the web this week.

Canadian Budget Binder ~ Summer Jobs For Students: Tips For Finding The Perfect Job

20’s Finance ~ How I Would Invest $1,000,000

Money Smart Guides ~ Understanding Inflation

Reach Financial Independence ~ The fantasy world where money doesn’t exist

Modest Money ~ Evolution of a Blog Design

Gajizmo ~ Cheap and Fun Anniversary Ideas


And I’d like to say a big thank you to all those who have given us a mention recently!


Finance Carnival for Young Adults | The Happy Homeowner

Lifestyle Carnival 6.2.13 — Faithful With A Few

Carnival of Financial Independence 13th edition – Reach Financial Independence

Top Personal Finance Articles #16 – MPB Personal Finance

How to Blog Carnival – More Blogging Tips – Bloggers Classifieds

Carnival of Retirement | Hurricanes, Panties and Dollars

Carnival of Financial Planning – Belated Edition | Budgeting In the Fun Stuff

Yakezie Carnival Stay Or Go Away Stock Market Flavor – Growing Money Smart

Fearless Men’s Most Wanted

16 Responses to Could you cope with becoming an overnight millionaire?

  1. If that happened to me, we’d likely give away all but a couple of mil to charity. We just don’t want the trouble/attention/work that comes with that kind of cash.

  2. Pauline says:

    I think I would remain anonymous, if possible. At 84 year old I’d probably have a heart attack on the spot! Tomorrow, I would tell my family and a couple of friends, maybe offer to fly them over for a little gathering, then find someone smarter than me to manage the money and give me a lifelong annuity. Thank you for the mention!

    • I think handing it over to someone smarter might be the hardest bit for me, I’d worry that if they’re smart enough to manage the money then they’re probably also smart enough to steal it from me. I realised just how untrusting I am when I wrote this, not the best trait I know.

  3. Kris says:

    This is a conversation my husband and I have a lot. Whether we got a million or 500 million, the answer would be the same (though with the latter we’d add in a lot more travel…). We’d immediately consult a wealth advisor and set up trusts to allocate the money out. If we had a million we’d only set up two – one for each child. If we had 500 million, we’d branch out and create small education trusts for nieces and nephews. Apart from that, we’d get a house that had enough bedrooms for everyone (3), at least 2 bathrooms, and a yard for the kids to play with. And then…probably go back to what we were doing before.

  4. You know you are right. It may sound like good times but the smiles could turn to misery quite fast if a plan of action isn’t put into place. Having professionals you trust surrounding you might help. I know that I could handle spending the cash I just don’t know how I would handle everyone wanting a piece of the pot. I rarely worry about what people say about me because if they were my friends they wouldn’t so if they’re not I could care less. I think the best way is to find out from experience so if you have an in with the lottery fairy, send her my way mate! Cheers

  5. Tushar @ Everything Finance says:

    If I won the lottery like this I would definitely want to remain anonymous. That would be best so nobody knew, and I could make generous gifts to friends and family members without anyone becoming greedy. That way I would maintain relationships.

  6. CF says:

    I’d like to think that I could cope with being a millionaire… maybe someone should test out my theory 😉

    If I were ever so fortunate, I’d probably immediately buy nice residences for myself and my family – I’d love a townhouse in Vancouver, a small home for my parents and condos for my two sisters. After that, I’d fill up my retirement account, consult with an advisor on investing the rest in unregistered accounts, and take a vacation!

    Charity-wise, I’m pretty adverse to giving money which will get chipped away by administrative costs. But, I’d love to be able to buy hospital equipment or supplies for an animal rescue.

  7. Victor says:

    I would like to believe I will be OK with the media storm. The paparazzi and media frenzy wouldn’t last for long. Maybe a few days or at max a fortnight. And what I would do with the money? Well, I don’t count my chickens before they’re hatched…. lol 🙂

  8. I don’t believe that I can handle half a billion dollars but I’ll be glad to give it a shot. 🙂

  9. Remember, this lady is not going to take home $590 million. Guess how much of that will go to the state, federal, and local (if applicable) governments?

    A little less than 50%. A windfall like that would put her in one heck of a tax bracket! $300 million is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but just remember to take tax and any other deductions off before counting ANY money as income (for example, a salary at a new job). This simple hint can help you make smarter money decisions!

    • Adam Buller says:

      I don’t think lottery winnings are taxable here in the UK so I didn’t really think about that. It would be a little gutting to lose that much but as you say, $300 million is still some haul hey!

      • Really? They don’t tax your winnings? On this side of the pond, at least, the gov taxes everything…including the money they give you for winning a lottery!

        One more reason not to play…

        At any rate, she’d likely make over $300 million here. Quite a haul, indeed! But winning might actually be WORSE than throwing away money on the lottery!

        A very good post here ( relates that sometimes, people suffer substance abuse, divorce, bankruptcy, murder of family members, or even suicide as a result of winning the lottery!

        No thanks. I think I’ll earn my money the hard way 😉

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