We’re all familiar with the saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” While it’s true that having money does allow you to buy certain things that can make your life easier, having enormous amounts of money in your banking account doesn’t always guarantee that your life will be perfect. There are plenty of poor people who are happy and content with what they have and plenty of rich people who grow increasingly dissatisfied with every passing day. And if you think a lottery win could solve all your problems instantly, then think again.
One study found that lottery winners weren’t any happier than people who bought tickets but didn’t win. And probably with good reason too. Many lottery winners find themselves besieged by cousins they’ve never talked to and second cousins twice removed they never even knew existed that come crawling out of nowhere wanting a piece of the pie. Everybody wants a share of the prize if there’s even any left after the winner is done with it. Quite a few lottery winners have blown their cash on a list of materialistic things—fancy cars, fancy houses, fancy clothes, and so on—only to regret it years later when the well runs dry.
If you want to see some examples of lucky lottery winners that had their luck disappear in a heartbeat, then check out this list of 15 lottery winners that ended up worse than they were before. And, take notes if you buy lottery tickets.
15. William “Bud” Post III
William “Bud” Post III wasn’t known as the “Unhappy Lottery Winner” for nothing.
Williams was on disability and had exactly $2.46 in his bank account when he purchased his winning lottery ticket, winning $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. Within two weeks after he won, he spent $300,000. Three months later, he was $500,000 in debt but bought a mansion worth $395,000. Post continued to spend his money frivolously.
He was nearly murdered by his brother for the money, forced to give his ex-wife one-third of his winnings, and convicted on an assault charge. After he got out of jail, he was living off $450-a-month disability check. “I was much happier when I was broke,” he said. Post died at the age of 66 in 2006 due to respiratory failure.
14. Gerald Muswagon
Gerald Muswagon became a multi-millionaire overnight after he purchased a lottery ticket for $2, winning $10 million in the Canadian lottery in 1998. He promptly bought new cars for himself and his friends. Following that, he purchased a new house that he quickly made into a self-proclaimed “party pad” and brought eight-screen TVs for his friends within 24 hours.
Gerald’s partying lifestyle brought with it plenty of alcohol and drug abuse, and Gerald continued to spend his money on various things such as a business venture which eventually fell through. Within seven years, Gerald spent every cent of his fortune and was forced to go back to work. He also had to move into his parents’ garage.
13. Alex And Rhoda Toth
Alex Toth was receiving disability checks and his wife, Rhoda, was a nursing assistant when they won $13 million in the lottery in 1990. The Toths told reporters that they wanted to continue living simple private lives and that they wouldn’t let the money change who they were.
But the money started talking to them and the Toths couldn’t resist. They took a three-month trip to Las Vegas, gambled, and pretty much lived it up. The couple’s estranged children popped up of nowhere and one of them tried to kill them, which created more problems.
A decade later, the couple was broke, guilty of fraudulent income tax returns in 2000, 2001, and 2003, and owed $2 million in back taxes to the IRS. The Toths had to move in with their son and his wife. Before the trial could begin, Alex died at 60 due to numerous health problems.
12. Lou Eisenberg
When Lou Eisenberg won $5 million in the lottery in 1981, it was the biggest payout to date. He quit his job and promptly brought a condo worth $130,000. Eisenberg began making rounds on talk shows like Oprah Winfrey and Johnny Carson and appearing in lottery commercials.
He took trips to Europe and Hawaii, was a regular fixture at the tracks, and pretty much gave money to anyone who needed it because he “wanted to be nice to people.” A large portion of his earnings went to his ex-wife. By 2001, he was broke.
Now, Eisenberg lives in a mobile home in Florida on $250 a week from Social Security and pension checks. Eisenberg said he wouldn’t have done anything differently and that he enjoyed the fancy life. He says he’s found happiness living with his girlfriend.
11. David Lee Edwards
David Lee Edwards was a former convict from Kentucky when he won big in a $280 million jackpot. The jackpot was split between him and three other winners and after taxes were filed, Edwards was granted $27 million. After he won, he said he wanted the money to last for himself and future generations. He said he was going to spend his winnings responsibly.
Edwards proceeded to buy a $1.5 million mansion, a $1.9 million private jet, and enough fancy and expensive cars for neighbors to complain that his mansion looked more like a car dealership. He made many other purchases, blowing $12 million within the first year alone. Edwards and his wife became addicted to drugs and caught hepatitis from the needle drug use.
10. Janite Lee
Janite Lee was an immigrant from South Korea working in a wig shop when she won $18 million in the Illinois lottery in 1993. She used some of her earnings to move her family into a $1 million gated community. Unlike other lottery winners, Lee didn’t spend the rest of her money on herself. She spent it on charity donations, philanthropic enterprises, and political contributions.
Lee dined with the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore and got her name added to the reading room at the Washington University School of Law due to her educational donations. But Lee blew her entire fortune within eight years. She owned $2.3 million in debt and had no more than $700 left in her back account. With no other option, Lee was forced to declare bankruptcy.
9. Andrew “Jack” Whittaker
Andrew “Jack” Whittaker holds the record for being the richest man to win the lottery. When he cashed in on a $315 million bonanza in 2002, the West Virginian construction company president was already worth $17 million.
He gave a stipend of his money to Christian charities, purchased a $123,000 house, and even brought a new Dodge Ram truck for the woman who worked at the convenience store where he bought the ticket, in addition to giving her $50,000. Whittaker became addicted to alcohol and hung around strip clubs a lot. $545,000 was stolen from his car in a strip club parking lot while he was inside. He was robbed multiple times after that, draining his bank accounts.
8. Roger And Lara Griffiths
When the Griffiths won £1.8 million—$2,290,860—in the National Lottery in 2005, Roger quit his job as an IT manager and Lara quit her job as a performing arts teacher before they began living it up.
They traveled to tourist destinations all over the world such as Dubai and Rome, drank expensive bottles of champagne every night, brought new cars for themselves, sent their daughters to pricey private schools, and more. Lara liked shopping, so she spent a hefty amount of money on Louis Vuitton handbags. Roger brought designer clothes to make himself look “cooler” and got some Botox done.
7. Vivian Nicholson
Vivian Nicholson and her husband, Keith, were barely scraping by with the meager pay they received from their jobs, living paycheck to paycheck to take care of their three children when they got a lucky break.
It was 1961 when Keith Nicholson won £152,300 ($240,000)—worth £3.5 million ($4,454,082.50) today—in Britain’s football pools. The couple was besieged by reporters at King’s Cross railway station when they traveled to London to collect their prize. The reporters asked Vivian, “What are you going to do now?” to which she famously responded that she was going to “spend, spend, spend.”
The Nicholsons shelled out money on jewelry, furs, sports cars, champagne parties, vacations, and a large ranch-style home. It took them only three years to blow every dime. Keith died in a car accident, leaving his wife with a huge tax bill and subsequently, bankruptcy. She passed away from dementia in 2015.
6. Lisa Arcand
Lisa Arcand used the $1 million she won in the lottery to make her dreams come true. But first things first, she threw a lavish party, brought a new house with new furniture, took a couple vacations, and enrolled her son in an all-boys Catholic school that cost $10,000 a year. Then, she opened her dream restaurant, a seafood joint in Lawrence, Massachusetts called Fisherman’s Corner.
Arcand had always wanted to open her own seafood restaurant, especially since there was no seafood restaurant in the area. She spent $50,000 on her new business venture, but she saw little profits. Business remained slow and Arcand steadily lost money. In the end, Arcand was forced to close down the restaurant she worked so hard for.
5. Joseph And Ibi Roncaioli
Doctor Joseph and Ibi Roncaioli were already an affluent and happily married couple when Ibi won $5 million in the lottery in 1995. Ibi was the one who handled the finances so her husband trusted her to manage their newfound treasure properly. Only, she didn’t.
Ibi became obsessed with gambling and spent $1,000 a day on her addiction. She purchased a $127,000 house for her son and gave him a lump sum of $100,000, bought a glass mirror business worth $260,000, and bought a condo. $2 million was given to a son from a previous marriage and another hefty and unspecified amount of money was given to another son.
After Joseph found out, he murdered his wife by sticking her with a poison needle. He insisted that he was just checking his wife’s blood due to health issues, but prosecutors proved he was lying and he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
4. Jeffrey Dampier
After Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in the Illinois lottery in 1996, he opened up his own gourmet popcorn business. He moved his entire family to Florida and opened up his sweets shop named Kassie’s Popcorn, in honor of his daughter. In addition to opening up his own company, Dampier bequeathed presents to his family.
Nearly ten years later, he was found dead on a dead-end road. Dampier was kidnapped and murdered by Victoria Jackson, his sister-in-law, and her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson. Detectives found the two with thousands of dollars on them when they arrested them. The detectives didn’t know what the couple had done with the rest of the money Dampier won in the lottery.
3. Abraham Shakespeare
It didn’t take long for people to take advantage of Abraham Shakespeare after he won $30 million in the Florida lottery in 2006. Much of Shakespeare’s money was given away by himself so he could help people out. A woman by the name of Dorice “Dee Dee” Moore came to him under the false pretense of wanting to write a book about people taking advantage of him.
Eventually, she seized control of all his assets after she became his financial adviser. When Shakespeare discovered Moore was cheating him out of millions of dollars, he threatened to kill her. She killed him first, shooting him twice in the chest. Moore didn’t put up any kind of fight during her trial and was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.
2. Sharon Tirabassi
The once millionaire Sharon Tirabassi admits that she was unprepared for the millionaire lifestyle after she won $10.5 million in the Canadian Lotto Super 7 in 2004. She was a single mother living on welfare when she cashed in big. She brought a new house, fancy cars, designer clothes, threw lavish parties, and took trips to foreign destinations. Tirabassi also lent out plenty of money to family and friends, which wasn’t paid back in most cases.
It was only a matter of time before Tirabassi bled her banking accounts dry. Now, she works part-time at a job she has to catch the bus to and lives in a rental property she can barely afford. She and her husband fret from time to time over people figuring out where they live and robbing them since their lottery winnings didn’t make them many friends.
1. Billie Bob Harrell, Jr.
Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. was already broke when he won $31 million in the Texas Lotto in 1997. He promptly quit his job at Home Depot, moved his family to Hawaii, provided enormous contributions to his church, and purchased new cars and houses for his friends and family.
Not too long after that, strangers began calling Harrell on the phone asking for donations, forcing him to change his number several times. Harrell made a bad deal with a company that promised lottery winners lump-sum payments in return for their annual checks that left him with much less than what he had won. Less than a year later, he and his wife separated.
In May 1999, his son found him dead inside his home with a self-inflicted gun wound. Shortly before his death, he told his financial adviser, “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”