bigmoneypicAdmit it: you’ve fantasized on occasion about what you would do if you won the World Series of Poker, or Megabucks, or heck, even the Publisher’s Clearinghouse, haven’t you? Sure, we all have. But we hear story after story of people who actually have won big bucks, and somehow can’t figure out how to hold onto it; Sharon Tirabassi,  age 35, is such a person. Let us explore her cautionary tale.

Powerball Winner

It was 2004 when Tirabassi, then a single mom who had just kicked the welfare habit and proudly landed a job as a personal care provider, bought the winning Canadian lottery ticket in Hamilton, Ontario.  She took home a check for $10,569,000.10 (Canadian), and somehow, just shy of ten years later, she’s back riding buses with the little people, working part-time and renting housing. What?

Spent

Turns out it’s surprisingly easy to blow through ten million, at least if you have no financial advisor and no concept that even a lot of money has a bottom to it. Tirabassi never even kept track of what she was spending, but spend she did, by her own account, on a “big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties, exotics trips, handouts to family, [and] loans to friends.” Okay, we get it, but ten million?

Tirabassi says she divided it among family members, giving a million outright to her parents, and $1.75 million divided among her four siblings. She was free and generous with everyone she knew, buying homes and renting them out to friends at low rates, or simply paying others’ rent, even offering loans for business ventures and bail. Wait, bail? Houston, we might see the problem.

She didn’t deny herself either; Tirabassi indulged in all the predictable fantasies, including vacations in Cancun, Florida, Vegas, California and the Caribbean, not to mention fancy cars, including a Hummer and custom Cadillac Escalade.

Wake Up Call

To her credit, Tirabassi and a newly acquired post-win husband did slam on the brakes before they blew through every cent; when they realized they had “just” $750,000 of their fortune left, they set it aside in a trust for their combined six kids, which they will inherit when they each turn 26.  Meanwhile, she is stoic about her rags to riches to sort of rags again story, saying “all of that other stuff was fun in the beginning, now it’s like…back to life.”