Here One Minute, Gone the Next: Why Lottery Winners Often End Up Broke

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated November 8, 2017

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Personal Finance
October 3, 2016

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

If you were asked to guess what could increase your chance of substance abuse, divorce, depression, suicide and even falling victim to murder, you might not answer with winning a lottery. Yet all of these unfavorable fortunes are found more often in jackpot recipients than in the average population. An estimated 70 percent of sudden millionaires go broke within a few years of winning. You may not think it could happen to you until you consider the common mistakes lottery winners make.

Your lottery win should be kept to absolute secrecy until you’ve spoken to a financial adviser and an attorney, but how many people can keep quiet for that long? Once word gets out, people start asking for money. Since financial help is a legitimate need for most, it can be hard to say no. While it’s perfectly fine to share in your fortune, do so only after you’ve gotten sound financial advice and created a spending plan. Until then, keep the news of your winnings to yourself.

New cars and vacations are enticing and at the top of many wish lists, but they are depreciating assets that shouldn’t take up too much of your cash. The occasional self-indulgence is fine, but most of your money should be invested securely.

Unless you’re a professional investment adviser, you probably won’t know how to invest your windfall. Many lottery winners try investing without professional help and make poor choices because they don’t know how to properly assess a potential investment.

The occasional celebration is fine, but lottery winners often turn infrequent indulgences into lifestyle. New fortune, euphoria and stress can all lead to substance and gambling addictions which are very costly.

Every jackpot, no matter how large, is finite. Some may take longer to spend than others, but they will eventually run out. Lottery winners who have no spending and investment strategy tend to squander their winnings and eventually have nothing left.

What’s the harm in using up all that money that you never had to begin with? Many lottery winners scale back on their jobs or quit altogether while loosening their previously conservative spending habits. After the winnings are gone, they are left with no savings and no income. Even worse, many become estranged from envious family and friends. The money itself doesn’t create happiness and can cause more problems than it solves. While there are some winners who successfully navigate the rough waters brought about by a lottery jackpot, many would be better off never having won.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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