Becoming a billionaire overnight isn't as great as it sounds

It’s easy to think of the first thing we’d buy if we won the $1.5 billion national Powerball lottery.

What’s not as easy to visualise are the burdens that come with becoming a billionaire overnight.

In an article for Fusion, Felix Salmon discusses the Facebook co-founders, who became “dynastically wealthy” in their 20s:

The Facebook co-founders, then, are in largely uncharted territory when it comes to making these multi-billion-dollar decisions. They do have one interesting thing in common: they have all gotten married, and their spouses are intimately involved in their philanthropy.

That makes sense, since being incredibly rich can also be very lonely, and it’s great to have someone you love at your side, supporting you in what you do and helping to take some of the burden off your shoulders. (And yes, before you start snarking, it is a burden. Imagine being able to save thousands of lives by writing a single check, and then not doing that.)

Sudden wealth can lead to more problems than loneliness, warns Robert Pagliarini, author of “The Sudden Wealth Solution” and who has spent 20 years working with sudden wealth recipients.

“We are used to having structure in our day. We get up, go to work, look forward to the weekends. We have challenges and goals we are pursuing,” he tells Business Insider.

“Sudden wealth can flip all of this on its head. When we have more money than we could ever spend, most people quit their job — but the job provides many of us with structure, a sense of purpose, and a great deal of our social interaction. Remove this and it leaves a big void.”

It’s important to remember that money does not solve every problem, nor does it equate to happiness.

As Robert Williams, a professor of health sciences and gambling studies at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, told Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz, perhaps the biggest problem with modern lotteries is how they portray the effects of winning.

“They deceptively convey the notion that life will improve,” he says, when in fact, “we adapt to our material gains.”

“In other words, while you might be happy for the first few months after you hit the jackpot, eventually that elation will wear off and you’ll have new concerns, like the stock market,” Lebowitz writes.

That doesn’t mean sudden wealth is always a problem. While a cash windfall can turn into a nightmare overnight if you let it, “it can also be an opportunity to re-shape your life and to help family, friends, and your community,” emphasises Pagliarini.

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