There's no way of knowing where or how someone will come into a large sum of cash. But, there's also no way of knowing where or how they might lose their money. Just ask these people.
People on Reddit share how they went from rags to riches. Content has been edited for clarity.
"My ex-boyfriend had a friend who inherited a million dollars in cash and near-cash assets when his only parent died, and he was 20 years old. Now, you aren't just going to retire at 20 on a million bucks but it's a great way to pay for college, maybe buy a car and a down payment on a house, and save/invest the rest. Basically, it's a wonderful way to start your adult life and nearly ensure you'll be quite wealthy in your later years.
Did he do any of that? Nope. Bought himself a ridiculous luxury car, bought cars for his friends, bought wardrobes of designer clothes, threw huge parties repeatedly, etc. Ended up broke in two or three years and went back to waiting tables to make rent. Sad to see."
"A friend of mine is a direct decedent of a super-rich Spanish noble from Madrid. Essentially, this guy made so much money, nobody in the family needed to work for over a century.
But because nobody worked, there was no money added to the family fortune, and it slowly dwindled away. His dad got the last of it and used it to get a degree from a good university and is doing really well for himself."
"My dad didn't pay off the storage unit bill company so they lit all our family's stuff on fire. Later on, in life, my belongings were damaged in a basement flood in a new house. So all the things that gave me 'status' in my community and among my peers, gone. Completely gone.
Now I live off of hand-me-downs, or birthday presents, sometimes even Christmas gifts. I try to earn enough money to re-buy my own stuff, but I never make enough money after paying bills. I can spend on any of those things. So basically I will be broke for life unless I can snag a higher paying job. It's infuriating, I really enjoyed my rich life because back then I had more friends too. Maybe they were fake but at least I had people to talk to, not shunned by society.
People are cruel."
"My family used to be quite a rich and rather important family somewhere around Düsseldorf, back in the early 20th Century.
My Great grandfather and his brother were killed, either by looters or British or French soldiers in 1945 and my granddad and his brother inherited the company. Somewhere around in the 70s, there was a big fight between them. In the end, the company got sold and everything split up. In fact, there is an entire branch of my family that I have never met. Even now we refuse to talk.
Now even then, my grandfather was still fairly rich, but he had 4 kids so, you can imagine how that goes."
"Growing up, my best friend's family was extremely well-to-do. I'm talking running with the bulls in Spain, private jets to Aspen to ski kind of rich. My friend had every toy, gaming console, and cool piece of clothing imaginable.
Right before our senior year of high school, my friend's dad killed himself. Turns out he was cooking the books at his business as well as falsifying his taxes and the company was basically worth nothing. He was looking at 30 years in prison, so he just decided to end it all.
My best friend went from a 6,500 square foot mansion on the water to a 1,200 square foot condo with his mom and two siblings. He adjusted to being poor like the rest of us, and he is still my best friend."
"My wife's Aunt used to be rich. She was married to a brain surgeon who was also on the board of directors for all the local hospitals so pulling down two checks. She was a platinum member of a local casino and would send us and other family members coupons for all-inclusive weekend visits to the casino. You literally did not need to bring any money for anything. All food, drinks, gratuity, etc., were all taken care of.
Anyway, her husband had his medical license revoked for writing too many scripts for painkillers for her and other people and they both now live in Mexico somewhere."
"My sister would have been set for life. Her father died from cancer and she lost both her eyes to cancer at the age of six months. The way things were set up, she was going to be able to draw her father's social security for the rest of her life. So long as she never married and had a full ride to an all blind college. The dorm and everything would have paid for through scholarships. She was a really smart, straight-A student and she was going to be a court stenographer. So, this pay combined with social security may not have made her exactly rich, but she would have been extremely comfortable in life/close to rich.
A little white before she was supposed to leave for college, my parents found a note on the front door. It was from her new husband, she had run off and gotten eloped. He also discouraged her from going to college. The man was 20 years older than her, about a year or two older than my mother, who later admitted he wanted to marry my sister because she knew she'd be able to draw a disability check. So, not only did she lose her scholarships, but she also lost her father's social security before she even received the first check from it. And that man got her involved in a lot of narcotics. He was a man from the local church that basically manipulated my sister and did that thing that most abusers do by making the person they're targeting feel incredibly special and desirable. My sister, being only 18, I think 16-17 when they met, took the bait.
They divorced and she's clean now, had been for a few good years. But now has to live off her disability check and food stamps. She talks a lot about how she wished she had just gone off to college and it's sad to see how one bad choice changed everything. She really encourages her daughters to focus on education and was one of the driving forces that encouraged me to get my GED when I dropped out of high school."
"I had a job that paid $120,000 a year after working there for three years. My girlfriend of 10 years (who I was about to propose to) left me out of the blue. I had bought a ring. I saved up enough money to help with the wedding and even enough to put down on a decent condo for a starter home.
Anyway, after she left me, I fell into substances and heavy drinking and ended up losing my job. I ended up getting into an accident when driving after another night of drinking. I broke my back and shoulder blade in an ATV accident again, also while I was trashed. I am now held together by pins and needles. I can't do labor work anymore and now make minimum wage in the food industry. I lost three more jobs due to my addiction before I finally checked myself into rehab."
"My parents had built up a multi-million dollar company over a couple of decades before and during my early childhood. Around 2006, they separated and ran each other dry in court. Then the crash came, and bankrupted both of them and lost everything they put years into.
Recently after my mother’s parents passed away, she was able to take a portion of an investment account that built millions from her father's stock from working in the railroad industry. My father rebuilt his business from scratch repaired his credit and has grown it bigger than it ever was before. By the age of 21, I’ve witnessed my life go from rich to broke to wealthy. I am in a great position in life now for my age but work, plan, live, and learn like everything could be again gone in the blink of an eye."
"I was comfortably upper-middle-class. If I wanted to spend my birthday in Paris, I could, for example.
However, I was in a toxic marriage and had been out of the workforce for years raising my children. Once they were older, I got help for my depression and got out of the toxic marriage. At that time, I worked for a local newspaper and was able to put a down payment on a modest house for myself and the kids.
Then the housing market crashed. Then the print news market crashed. Then my ex-husband withheld child support. I had several VERY lean years while I built up my own business, and it was incredibly hard.
But you know what? I don't regret it at all. I came through to the other side a stronger, much happier person. I have a great relationship with my now-grown children and their children. My income isn't impressive, but I have what I need. I can stand on my own two feet and overcome adversity. Looking back, I wouldn't trade the experience of the last 15 years for anything."
"My parents and I were upper-middle class. It started with the Asian financial crisis in the late 90s, but at that time my parent still could manage money well. It went downhill after my parent (my dad, to be exact) decided to loan more money from the bank but he did not have enough credit, so he used the house we were in as a guaranteed. The bank wouldn't give him a pass because they need my mom (co-owner of the house) to sign the contract. My dad came back from the bank and coerced my mom to do it, and she did. They are both narcissists, abusive, and fought with each other a lot. My mom got tired of arguing, so she gave in.
Then before he could pay off all of the debt, he got cancer and died. As a result, my mom had to be the responsible one and pay for everything because she agreed to sign the contract. Then she refused to negotiate with the bank because to her, it is beneath her to beg. She 'thinks' she can find a way, but the interest rate just kept piling up and so now we don't have any money left. The whole thing happened not so long after my sister quit her job, got married, and moved to another country to becomes a housewife. So, no one in the family could make a monthly income to pay the bills.
Except for my sister. She later got another job, but she has her own family now, so it is not her responsibility to give all of her money to us. It's so weird to think of where we once were financially, and where we ended up."
"I was set to inherit a nice amount from my grandparents. Enough for college and a house. That was what my grandfather wanted for us all.
Well, the problem was my grandmother got a bit demented in her old age and gave a lot of it away. She was really taken advantage of by people around her. A lot of it went to charity, but we estimate about two million went to her groundskeeper and his wife. They actually did very little other than squeeze tons of money out of her for years, including after she went to assisted living and were no longer working for her.
After my mother took over the estate, we found out my grandmother had almost no money left. She went to some fancy assisted living which she should have had plenty of money for about six months. Then, she had to go to some Medicare roach motel where she rapidly declined in health and died. Before the move she was active and in fair health.
Crazy to see how things turned out."
"One of my ex-girlfriends is East German, and before the war, her family was very, very wealthy (something to do with radio transistors or other pieces that went into radios). Then once the Russians solidified their hold on E. Germany, they lost everything.
When I knew her, it was the early 2000's and her dad had just about given up using the courts to try and get back any of their holdings. The manufacturing plants had been seized by the Russians and then 'sold' to others, and my ex-girlfriend's family just couldn't afford to fight it legally.
They were able to reclaim two or three private residences (one was a huge manor house), but after 50+ years of soviet ownership, they were either derelict or just shells and the family didn't have the money to renovate or rebuild. I think they were sold for land value alone."
"My parents use to work for E-systems in Texas. They were both laid off when Raytheon bought them out so my stepfather started doing all kinds of weird side jobs money. These included things like welding artisan stuff, sandblasting, and some other things I forget. Well, the sandblasting slowly made money so they kept upping their game and re-investing.
Fast-forward about four years, and they are making a million profit by expanding the sandblasting to all kinds of blasting (soda, walnut, black beauty, glass bead), re-glazing windows, and minor concrete repair and I believe some power washing stuff. This fell in line at the time in Dallas when a lot of renovation was happening to the old warehouses that were being converted to trendy lofts.
Things were looking up for them; they bought Cadillacs and a 47-foot yacht on lake Texoma and our house was totally fixed up. Then, they got a job to do the Sears building. They put all their money into hiring a big enough crew to handle the job and buying more equipment. The story told to me was they should have made all the crew for that one job i-9 status instead of w-2, but didn't. While they were in the middle of the job, a lot of change orders came down the pipe. This delayed payment and somehow they messed up on paying taxes for employee wages. So all of a sudden, they had like a 90k bill due to the IRS when no cash flow was coming in. They juggled it for a bit and sold all the nice things, but in the end, they shut down the shop and we lost all of our money."
"Lost the family business in a lawsuit. I wasn't rich - I was in my mid 30's and the older generation (dad, uncle) kept a tight hold on the wealth but when it went down, it took everyone down with it. It was eleven years of legal battles with two trips to the state supreme court.
I eventually went back and got my MBA and went into an entirely new field. I'm doing okay, I guess, some lean times as a middle-class debt slave but it's finally getting better.
The moment I lost 'everything' was when we had won the appeal, but the state of South Carolina sent it back to the appellate court.
They basically said 'No, try again.'
The attorney fees and strain were too much and my brother, the company president at the time, laid me off."
"I was either nine or ten, but my family and I were very well off. We just bought a brand new, custom-ish home in the suburbs, two new cars, and summer vacations to Disneyland every year. We were doing great.
A few years had gone by, and my dad lost his job though. Even though we had enough saved to pay for bills for nine more months, we had to sell everything. We sold one of the cars, most of our belongings, and put everything that was of sentimental value in a storage unit. We then sold our house and moved across town to live with my grandparents. It didn’t really dawn on me then that we were homeless.
My dad didn’t have a job for a while but he got one and two years later we moved. As of today, this is the first time I’ve lived in a house with my own room since then. We aren’t nearly as well off as before.
There’s another looming threat of homelessness in our family and this time, we can’t live with any family members."
"My great-grandfather used to own land in the south of the UK. It was around 2,000 acres. When he died, he left the land to his two sons but they had a huge falling out over what to do with the land. My grandfather wanted to keep it and the other wanted to rid of it and to sell it as soon as he possibly could.
The argument between the two brothers got so bitter that they didn’t speak for years. But in the end, my grandfather ended up backing down and agreeing to sell the land to make amends with his brother. They sold all the land except for two one-acre plots to build their homes on. They got a good amount for it but not nearly enough to make them rich. This all happened in the early 1960s.
Recently, five acres of the land they used to own sold for just under $1 million. The developers named one of the streets in the development after my grandfather's family name."
"When my grandfather died, he left behind a sizable amount of money and assets. The bulk of it went into a trust with my Dad, aunts, and uncles designated as beneficiaries and my grandmother as trustee. My Dad and his siblings also received a cash payout in addition to getting an annual amount from the trust.
I won't go into figures, but we're not talking about a small pot of money here. EVERYBODY who got something should've been able to live the rest of their lives in comfort, if not in luxury. But somehow, my aunts and uncles managed to burn through their initial payout within a few years and - in spite of their yearly check - began pestering my grandmother non-stop to increase their payments. My grandmother stood her ground and refused, so her kids (minus my Dad) had to live within their not-inconsiderable means.
My grandmother died nearly two months ago. We found out not too long after that she appointed my Dad to manage her estate and the trust. She left nothing to her other kids (my aunts and uncles) and stopped the yearly payouts. However, my Dad's not the sort to abandon his brothers and sisters, so I'm pretty sure the trust will still support them.
So while my aunts and uncles aren't exactly penniless, they're also not going to be chartering private planes to fly around or spending God-knows-how-much on luxury garbage."
"My grandfather was a trust fund baby and the trust was worth more than what a normal person could go through in several lifetimes.
But my grandfather isn't a normal person, he was big in aviation and squandered the entire fortune on trying to make a commercially available flying car while simultaneously not understanding how a business is run or how these projects actually get engineered. Hundreds of millions of dollars and around 30 or so destroyed supercars later, and he has nothing to show for it. He's currently with a lady around his age who he gives $10,000 a month to live in a house he bought for her in Florida. I've met her and she might as well be a really expensive elderly lady of the night. Not trying to be mean just stating a very unfortunate fact, she clearly doesn't enjoy my grandfather and is just doing it for the money.
My parents are currently worth more than he is as solid middle-class people. It's honestly astounding how much he messed up."
"My family was wealthy or more precisely, my grandfather was wealthy. Somewhere in the mid seven figure range.
My grandfather started his own company and was making bank. He had three daughters and finally a son (my dad). My dad was a slacker through and through. My grandfather knew this but had advised all his kids to marry wealthy. My three aunt's married wealthy and all still live in that mid seven-figure lifestyle. My dad married my mom (a farmer) and had me and my siblings.
We immigrated to Canada and still made bank. Definitely loved comfortably up until my grandfather passed. Then my parents got divorced and my dad had custody of us. He left the country and took my two siblings with him. Dumped them in a boarding school and left me with relatives in Canada. At this point, my mom had already gone off and was doing her own thing. Many relationships and my dad had dried up all the inheritance with his lavish spending.
I'm talking straight out of a movie. He had girlfriends that he gifted vehicles, luxury clothes, etc to. Meanwhile, I started working at 16 so I could afford lunch because my relatives didn't care about me.
My dad has still told me to this day that I should engage with wealthy people and marry into wealth."
"My family moved to New Zealand from Ireland in the mid 1800s, settling on a small island near Auckland called Waiheke Island. As I understand it, at one point the family owned almost the entire thing, probably worth billions of dollars at least in today's money. They had some kind of business there, as I understand it they contributed construction supplies during the early days of Auckland's establishment.
Several generations passed, each with a vast amount of children and at some point, Waiheke island was sold to the state and the money went... well, somewhere. This was a long time ago, and the money was nothing compared to what it would be worth now. There were like 14 kids in my grandfather's generation, and it might have even been the generation before his that handled the sale, I'm not entirely sure.
As for where the money went, who knows? Certainly not to my branch of the family, who has largely been middle-class to poor as long as I've known. The only evidence my family was ever there is a small peninsula that bears our last name. And because of marriage and whatnot, I'm the last of my fork of the family that still bears the name."