skip to main content

How Do Millionaires Go Broke?

Written by
Carly Rae Zent
Carly Marie is a content marketing specialist from Florida who covers personal finance. Through her writing, she strives to educate and connect with readers.
Read time: 5 min
Updated on November 2, 2023
young woman with glasses with her hands up asking how do millionaires go broke?
Poor budget choices and failure to follow basic financial principles can send even the richest people with a high net worth into debt.

Millionaires have more money than most of us can imagine. To put into perspective $1 million equates to 588 months, or 49 years, of the average rent price in America.

For the 57% of Americans who have less than $1,000 in savings for an emergency, it’s inconceivable what it would be like to have so much money.

So, how does someone who has at least $1 million dollars just go broke?

Everyone Needs a Budget

$1 million may sound like an everlasting amount of money, but it is, in fact, finite. Even $1 billion does come to an end at some point. Having a large net worth does not guarantee security, a good credit score, or long-lasting happiness.

If millionaires wish to use their money wisely they need to create a budget. Of course, many of them may hire financial planners instead of using free spreadsheet software to work out where their money should go. However, the same principle applies: decide how to spend your money before you make purchases.

Just as non-millionaires can be impulsive and fail to track their expenses, millionaires are also capable of making this budgeting mistake. People are people, and they make emotional decisions. If a millionaire doesn’t budget properly and starts spending on personal chefs, expensive cars, and other luxury amenities, they may quickly run out of money. Sometimes millionaires, especially new millionaires, feel they have so much money that they lose perspective on what they can afford.

According to a CNBC report, 65% of NBA players file for bankruptcy five years after retirement. Analyzers theorize it is because it is common for athletes to come from middle-class or low-income families. Therefore, they don’t likely have the financial literacy to spend their millions responsibly or have a good perspective on the limitations of their funds.

While the NBA is working to instill financial literacy in their players, this can be a lesson for anyone. Budgeting is important. If unexpected money comes your way, take a moment to decide the wisest way to spend it instead of celebrating by buying everyone in the bar a drink.

They Lost Their Primary Stream of Income

If millionaires rely on one primary stream of income, and that stream fails them, then they are in a position to go broke. This happens to millionaires the same way it happens to us. If you only have one job or your household has only one breadwinner, then it can be devastating to lose that job. It’s the same for millionaires but on a much larger scale. If their financial planner didn’t anticipate the loss of income, they may not have enough money to pay off debts or maintain their lifestyle.

The truth is this: Those with the most money usually try to maintain multiple streams of income. In fact, according to research by CPA and finance author Thomas C. Corley, 65% of self-made millionaires had three income streams.

The wealthy who put all their eggs in one basket can find their earnings pulled out from under them if that business sours. For example, Patricia Kluge, a billionaire heiress who invested her cash reserves in her own Vineyard business. When the housing market crashed, the Vineyard dropped in value. Kluge auctioned off all her fine jewelry, but it wasn’t enough to save her from taking huge hits to her net worth and file for bankruptcy.

The average person can learn from this. While you might not need multiple jobs, it’s smart to diversify where your earnings originate in order to protect yourself in case something happens to one of those streams. People only have limited control over the success of their money sources. Additionally, keeping an eye on the job market and maintaining skills that can apply in multiple industries can make a difference for you in case you lose a job or your field loses relevancy. You probably don’t want to have only highly specialized skills that won’t make you appealing to anybody but your own company.

Bad Investments

Just as risky as it is to have only one stream of income, it’s equally risky to put a lot of money you own in one investment, or multiple risky investments, since you can lose a lot of money quickly.

The ability to make wise investment choices is good for anyone. When you invest in something, it’s important to ask yourself questions like:

  • What are the risks of this investment?
  • How safe is this investment?
  • How does the investment work?
  • Am I willing to maintain the investment?
  • When will the investment pay off?

Millionaires Lose Money the Same Way We Do

While it may be harder for millionaires to accidentally lose all their money, the truth is, finances come down to the same principles whether you have $100 in your bank account or $100 million. You have to budget, spend responsibly, make sure you have reliable income, and be smart about investments. And of course, abide by the law.

Please note the below article contains links to external sites outside of OppU and Opportunity Financial, LLC.  These sources, while vetted, are not affiliated with OppU. If you click on any of the links you will be sent to an external site with different terms and conditions that may differ from OppU’s policies. We recommend you do your own research before engaging in any products or services listed below. OppU is not a subject matter expert, nor does it assume responsibility if you decide to engage with any of these products or services.

California Residents, view the California Disclosures and Privacy Policy for info on what we collect about you.