9 Previously Wealthy Individuals Describe Life on a Strict Budget

Stories of financial ruin can be just as dramatic and heartbreaking as rags-to-riches stories. While we often celebrate stories of success and upward mobility, the reality of losing everything after achieving wealth can be a sobering counter-narrative that reflects the volatility and unpredictability of wealth. Today, we delve into the personal accounts of nine individuals who faced significant lifestyle changes after financial distress. These stories not only shed light on the practical challenges of adjusting to a tighter budget but also explore the deep emotional and psychological impact of such a dramatic change in circumstances.

Each story is unique and illustrates the different causes of financial decline – from bad investment decisions and economic downturns to family disputes and health crises. However, the common thread in all these stories is the resilience and resourcefulness shown by individuals in the face of adversity. Whether it’s learning to live on a budget, starting from scratch in the professional world, or redefining personal success and happiness, these accounts provide a multifaceted look at what it means to lose financial stability and how to deal with the aftermath.

History knows many examples of people who were able to rise from rags to riches. Unfortunately, there are also stories to the contrary. Even the richest can lose their wealth. And some of them even share their stories online.

We at Now I’ve Seen Everything has found out what it’s like to lose everything you have in a short period of time.


A friend of mine married a woman who was born a multi-millionaire. To say they were rich is an understatement. They only flew first or business class, got a new Porsche or Mercedes every year, and always lived in the best areas of Manhattan. They had a lot of money, but they didn’t work. After all, they never needed it. She received a monthly allowance from her family which I believe was around 700k to 1 million a year.

They lived this life for about 10 years. After that, they disagreed with the family and stopped receiving the allowance. But they are 50, have never worked, and have no professional skills, and on that amount, they have to pay rent (because they don’t own a home), pay all the bills, and above all, health insurance.

My friend’s wife told me that the biggest problem is that they don’t know how to live like this. She can’t imagine what it’s like to shop alone, and worse, to go to Walmart with a shopping list. And 6 months ago, the last time I saw them, I took them out for coffee at Starbucks, and that was the first time in over 15 years that they thanked me after I offered to pay for our breakfast. I wouldn’t dare say that the experience was humbling for them because they were always nice people, the difference is that they were nice people with a lot of money. © Jerry Strazzeri / Quora

We just bought a beautiful new house in a great part of town. Zero debt plus 6 numbers in the bank.

Then everything came crashing down… fast and HARD! The marriage fell apart almost overnight. And with that, I also lost my closest family – my brother and my mother. And at the same time, work let me go. My ex-husband wanted to keep all the property and didn’t want to divorce me.

Plus I now had to pay my very expensive divorce attorney. A few months later my job asked me to come back and I did. 45 pounds bigger and clearly depressed. Everyone at work was amazed.

Hardly anyone recognized me. Some naively asked if I was happy to be back. I replied, “It’s like attending your ex-boyfriend’s wedding and he’s marrying a supermodel.” © unknown author / Quora


I lost $3 million due to the crisis. I kept looking for work in my field but couldn’t find anything. I lost my confidence. A friend of mine owned several car washes. He offered me a job. I refused because I remembered my dad saying it was a humiliating job. But then I agreed when I didn’t have money for my niece’s birthday present.

As I was pulling into work on the 3rd day, I was pulled over by a girl I hired as an assistant 5 years ago – she was driving a brand-new Lexus. She smiled, jumped out of the car, ran over, and hugged me. She said I was a great boss. I should have died of shame. None of the many people I met thought I was a loser. Everyone respected me and the local paper even printed a story about my life. © Michael Aumock / Quora

A family member went from having millions of dollars and living in Beverly Hills to becoming a taxi driver. This is due to the loss of several million dollars due to bad investment decisions, wasteful spending, and several divorces. He can’t quite let go of his glorious past. In fact, he tells the taxi passengers about the villa he lives in.

For a moment he held out hope that he might

“turn things around” by betting on the right action.

Now he’s worried about how he’ll make ends meet when he can no longer drive a taxi. Out of embarrassment, he purposely lost contact with all his friends.

Going from rich to poor isn’t necessarily a death sentence – plenty of people have bounced back from bankruptcy. In fact, many have bounced back from their setbacks even stronger than before. Unfortunately, this relative of mine chose to blame his problems on everyone else instead of dealing with his predicament. Unfortunately, at the age of 68, time ran out. The lesson for me is to stay conservative in my investments, live within my means, and most importantly, DO NOT get divorced! © Jonathan Chen / Quora

I became a mortgage broker in 2003 and considered myself financially well off before the 2008 crash. Most of my savings disappeared after back surgery. Before I recovered, the mortgage business was dead. No savings, no work coming in, unable to close processed loans, no money coming in. My father died unexpectedly and I am consumed with grief. I am selling all my belongings so I can move out of my “foreclosure pending” house and have something to live on since no one is hiring at the time.

7 years later my bills are minimal and I live within a budget. I pay for everything in cash, including the car and equipment. In my lifelong interest in psychology, I went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree. I provide preventive care and cover all medical expenses. I don’t buy new, always second-hand. I buy disaster gear and turn it into something I adore far more than anything new. I’ve learned more about life and myself since I lost everything than I did 25 years ago. I feel grateful that circumstances happened the way they did for me to get to this place in time. © Kathy Nelson / Quora


You feel like the biggest idiot/loser in the world. It’s embarrassing, you don’t want to go out because you “know” everyone is laughing at you behind your back. You just want to hide and become a loner. For me, in both cases, the losses were sudden and huge. However, I have to admit that these events affected my third climb up the ladder, and here’s why. You will realize who your real friends are. You stop wasting money chasing multiple things at once and focus on what you do best.

I also don’t live a lavish lifestyle now, even though I make a lot more money than I ever did.

Are people laughing behind my back?

Of course yes. Depends on? No, because I know that with my previous lessons, the next time I have to climb out of a hole, it will be even easier because of the people (friends and family) I have surrounded myself with. © Louie Keen / Quora


When I had money, I had a good life. When I lost it all, life began to drain me. I had a decent apartment, a good wife, and enough money to take 4 vacations a year. But it all went down in 2000 when I trusted the wrong person to be the CEO of my company. He became greedy, started stealing money from the company, and stole until the company went under. I sunk my life savings into a new business venture that didn’t take off.

I had to survive by starting my own small business with no capital. My wife stood by me for the first few years without money, but after a while, she got impatient and divorced me. It’s like being in an accident where you end up partially paralyzed. I remember the line from Fight Club – “You don’t own your property – your property owns you.” © Nick Pendrell / Quora

The financial collapse destroyed both of my businesses – a 15+-year-old reliable marketing firm and a 5-year-old thriving web business. We went bankrupt before Christmas.

We had nowhere to move our things and we had nothing to pay the movers. We had to sell a lot of things to have money for food.

Then there is fear. What happens when something happens to the mini-van? We drive with it as little as possible. Of course, there is also shame. It’s less because we know the financial crisis was out of our control. And then there’s anger.

Did I mention I built 2 businesses? That I worked every waking hour for years and years? And that I’m 50 now, so the odds of saving enough for any kind of retirement get steeper every month? I’m probably at my worst now. © unknown author / Quora


I spent my childhood in a well-off family with an above-average income. As I got older, less money started coming in and before the economic crisis hit, my whole family went from hero to zero (the family business went bankrupt). And since everyone in my family never thought about not having to make as much money as they do right now, no one saved money. I went from never caring about a dime to eating the same huge pot of beans 5 days straight for 6 months, skipping all high school holidays, events, and most 18th birthday parties (because I couldn’t bring presents).

Let’s just say it was an eye-opening experience that I would never rewind or change. Now I’m 23, I have a steady job as a freelancer and I also have my own agency. Currently in the last months of paying off massive debts, my family has grown during this period and I am supporting my sister, father, and mother.

The stories shared by these nine individuals highlight the harsh realities and profound lessons of going from wealth to severe financial constraints. Each story is a testament to human resilience and adaptability in the face of economic downturns and personal hardships. From the harrowing experience of a young couple cut off from family wealth to the entrepreneurial spirit emerging from financial despair, these accounts show that while wealth can provide comfort, its absence can foster growth, introspection, and a newfound appreciation of life’s essentials.

The journeys described reveal not only the practical challenges of managing a tight budget but also delve into the emotional and social implications of such a dramatic shift in lifestyle. These individuals faced isolation, embarrassment, and reevaluation of personal relationships and values. But many also discovered a deeper sense of self, forged stronger relationships with those who stood by them through difficult times and learned the importance of frugality and strategic planning.

Ultimately, these stories serve as a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of material wealth and the enduring power of the human spirit. They encourage us to think about what is of real value in our lives and how we can remain resilient in the face of financial adversity. Whether it’s redefining success, embracing minimalism, or returning to the workforce with renewed vigor and purpose, each individual’s response to financial ruin offers insights and inspiration for navigating life’s unpredictable financial waters.

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