6 Millionaires Who Lost It All, but Came Back

Dorothy Hamill
Getty Images

By Andrea N. Browne

Just because you've attained wealth doesn't mean you'll keep it. In 2011, the number of millionaire households in the U.S. dropped by nearly 2.5% (from 5,263,000 in 2010 to 5,134,000 in 2011), according to The Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm.

Even the richest of the rich aren't immune from sudden -- and complete -- plunges in net worth. The big names we've rounded up here, from Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill to financial businessman Bill Bartmann, all filed for bankruptcy at one point, falling into the same money-draining traps that can cost us all: poor budgeting, loose spending habits, failed business ventures, even extending too much financial support to friends and family. They've managed to rebuild their professional and financial lives.

Here's how they did it.

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KIPLINGER EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this slideshow included a slide, based on a respected news source, reporting that the musician Elton John had filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Although that claim circulates widely on the Web, we have since learned that it is false. Elton John has not filed for bankruptcy. We regret the error. Kiplinger attempted to contact all of the people mentioned for an interview; however, some declined to comment.

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When my father died 28 years ago, he was a millionaire. He left my mother everything.
Mom was very kind to her granddaughter and to me. She bought a nice home where she lived with my step-father(She remarried after my father died). They went on trips.
Fast forward to 2013 when my mother was in a nursing home for a month. She died.
And all her money was gone. She never gambled, never did drugs, didn't make any bad decisions really.
But she went through the money in 28 years.
She had pre-paid her funeral.
I paid for my daughter and grandson to fly in for the funeral, paid for their hotel and my own.
But, my mother had been good to us and I am glad the money had been there to pay for her care.
She died just as her money ran out.
Rest in peace, Mom(1921-2013).

April 30 2013 at 8:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom Harrell

GEEZ how about the Poor Schmuck who Worked and saved for the last 40 years only to see his or her Nestegg get eaten up by the HYENAS in Wall Street ?------------------Glorify the Millionaires for their Riches to Rags (back) to Riches sad Plots in life but don't forget that most of them were Responsible for the Derivatives and Bundles and Bail-Outs and BS that brought Everybody ELSE down.

April 28 2013 at 9:20 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I hear people almost every day who complain about the 1% and how they are broke.
Then, if you look at their checkbook it's a disaster. They don't cut their own hair (you can do this by obtaining an electric comb from Hammacher-Schlemmer model KC-76683 1-800-543-3368).
They throw out tons (literally) of trash - you pay for everything that is in your trash. Their garage is full of junk they will never use - sometimes as much as $30,000.00 worth of everything including Home Shopping Network junk. They drive vehicles valued many times over what they actually need.
They pay to belong to health clubs, but don't even own a bicycle. They pay interest on everything.

April 28 2013 at 6:30 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alfredschrader's comment
Tom Harrell

CONgratulations.. You have it ALL figured out------don't you ? ?
Why, if EVERYBODY lived like YOU we would ALL be RICH and FAMOUS and all of our TOILETS would smell like ROSES--------What a Freaking JOKE.

April 28 2013 at 9:33 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Tom Harrell's comment

If you're happy with your sloth life, then suck it up and quit whining. You sound jealous and weak minded. Blowing your paycheck on weed and beer will get you nowhere. Dems. what the deal is, dem. Don't be so weak, dem. Yes, repubs have work ethic and know if you want more, you need to work more. Chump.

April 28 2013 at 2:14 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down

Make sure you run out next week to your mailbox for that govt check. Wouldn't want to lose it.


April 28 2013 at 3:35 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

You have to watch how information is given. A household is approximatley 2.5 people. Even a child is considered a millionaire using this term. If an individual in a household has 1 million in net worth then all the persons in that household are counted as millionaires if using the term "household". I am pointing out that thier are a lot less rich people than these figures suggest.
A report by Fidelity Investments claims only about one percent of individuals in america hold at least one million in investable assets. The number is about 3 million out of 315 million persons. So just over a million and a half households are at millionaire status.
It is not easy acquiring wealth. To all those people that think you can fake it till you make it, well if only one percent are actually comfortable or better, and they probably didn't fake it, do you think that plan will work? Learn to make your money work for you. Stop paying interest your entire life and recieve it. Step One is YOU HAVE TO SAVE SOME OF IT. Step Two is invest it. Step Three is profit for you not the banks. Without step one you are lost. Or I should say you lost.
Everyone you know is broke and you need to keep up with them, Why?. Let me know how that works out for you when you are no longer able to provide for yourself. Reverse mortgages only richen the banks more.
I am very comfortable and drive a 12 year old cargo van for daily transportation. Strangers think I don't have two nickels and it doesn't bother me. I have no need to impress strangers. I know what the truth is. PS I do have other vehicles, mostly classic muscle cars and bikes. But if any strangers ask about them I just say yeah it looks good but its really just a heap almost worthless. One needs to protect ones self and living paycheck to paycheck is a step in the wrong direction. Good luck!

April 27 2013 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to marcamada's comment

money and the love of it are evil. Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. Good luck to you too.

April 28 2013 at 2:55 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rfirefly3's comment

No, it's the love of it that's evil. I know someone who stole it from his mom, then brags about how well off he is. Not the money's fault, if he had earned it like his older brother did who by the way never talks about it. The other one goes around telling us about his $50,000 swimming pool and boat he bought. See the difference?


April 28 2013 at 3:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

Yes, the figures can be skewed depending on what numbers are used to measure net worth.. In fact, "invest-able assets" is a very loose measure of "income producing assets", one may own. Got to love the Cargo Van, I drive a 7 year old white Chevy work truck (no power anything, rubber floor mats, no CD, etc)., but I do have a few classic toys (been a decent investment too). Most car guys, know what a daily driver is for. Our 2 kids always thought we were not that well off (compared to their friends) until they got to college (no student loans needed, etc) and after I bought our 4th student rental house, all cash in 2 years after the first kid started school, they quickly figured out what is "show" and what is "real". And both of them now live like that (i.e. A young doctor that drives an '08 Cobalt and rides her bike to work when she can).

April 28 2013 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I enjoyed reading about people who were millionaires & then Lost It. They came back in the proper way. I try to help people to join a brokerage firm & have done it 21 times w/o any responses in the right direction. I got my Store Mgr. to call his brokerage firm & I recd. a free trade. I love the SEC & continue to watch it everyday & re-invest my dividends & let my stocks grow. I also invested in Corporate Bonds & do very well. TU for asking me for a comment as I am a helper & a sharer.

April 27 2013 at 3:14 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply