Coming into a huge, unexpected windfall — like if you win the lottery or score big on a game show — can be life-changing. The influx of money could allow you to do things you've only ever dreamed of, like taking an exotic vacation or paying off all your debt.
But winning big can also come with some unforeseen drawbacks, according to Tomorrow Rodriguez, a "Deal or No Deal" contestant who won $1 million in 2008.
As the second-ever $1 million winner in the United States, Rodriguez, who appeared as part of the show's "Million Dollar Mission " series, says she felt "blessed" after choosing the winning briefcase. But after the show ended and the mania died down, she didn't like to discuss her good fortune.
"I don't talk about it," she says, "even when people want to … I still don't talk about it." That's mostly because of the way her relationships changed with some close family members and friends after the show.
"The worst part of winning a million dollars is sometimes you find out the people closest to you treat you a little different," she says. "They say you've changed," but "it's not that you've changed — they've changed when they can't get what they want."
What they want, oftentimes, is money. "It hurt my feelings" to find that out, Rodriguez says, because "I want people just to get to know me. I don't want anyone to think, like, I'm bragging," or for people to come into her life only because she's wealthier.
For that reason, many financial experts recommend staying quiet. "While you might want to shout this life-changing news from the rooftops," Rich Ramassini, a certified financial planner and director of strategy and sales performance at PNC Investments, tells CNBC Make It, limit your confidantes to only a few.
"Money can change, disrupt or end relationships. It can also lead to you hearing from relatives or friends you never knew existed," he says.
Of course, keeping quiet isn't always easy, especially if you've triumphed on national television.
Jason Kurland, a partner at law-firm Rivkin Radler, says that, if you can't contain your identity, you should consider taking a hiatus from social media before you collect your winnings.
"The media will try to find as many pictures possible, and social media is the first place to look. You want to make sure there's as little personal information out there, like your phone number or address. "
If you need to, spend time away from home, too. "Being out of town for a few days can help," he says. "In this 24-hour news cycle, the interest in a winner will hopefully disappear after a few days. If you can avoid being around for a week, you might be able to escape the initial exposure."
A lot of good, of course, can come from your windfall. Before being picked as a contestant for the show, for example, Rodriguez says she was living paycheck to paycheck. She isn't anymore.
"Oh, gosh. My student loans were close to, like, $100,000," she says. As part of military life, Rodriguez and her husband moved often, which meant changing schools and starting over.
"First, I was in Maine, going to college, and then I transferred out of Maine" to The University of Texas at San Antonio, and from there she went "over into Colorado." And "every time we change duty stations … you have to start different programs and lose credits. It just piles up, you know?"
So, when it came to the possibility of winning on "Deal or No Deal," Rodriguez says she didn't even think about getting rich. "I just thought, 'If I could go home with the amount I need to pay those bills off, and a little bit more, then I'm good.'"
And that's exactly what happened.
Rodriguez says she's used her winnings to pay off her loans, donate to causes within her community, stash away funds to support her daughter's dream of attending medical school and travel more with her family. She also says she's begun saving and investing.
And while Rodriguez is more financially comfortable now, she says she still keeps a budget and is cognizant about the way she spends. "We're still doing pretty well. We're still reaping the blessings," she says, but "I'm still conscious. I'm still safe. I have a Plan A, B, a back-up and an extra job."
She realizes now, she says, that "If I want to buy it, I can buy it. But I won't. That's frivolous spending. "
Rodriguez, who works with at-risk youth at the University of Texas at Austin and will be featured on the premiere of "Deal or No Deal: Back in Business," has a simple piece of advice for those who may win a game show or otherwise come into a huge windfall: Get help.
Money experts agree. "The first thing to do is contact a financial planner and an accountant, " says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at consumer financial company Bankrate. "Don't quit your job or make any big decisions. That can wait until the dust settles."
A planner can help you prioritize your needs, create a budget and advise you about the tax obligations related to your winnings and how they may affect your planning.
"Think of this person as the quarterback of your advisory team," Ramassini says. "He or she will review your new financial situation and help you establish goals for spending, saving, giving and investing, " and determine how to allocate the remainder to meet your financial needs.
Once you've checked those boxes and are able to manage your money responsibly, there's one last thing you shouldn't forget to do, Rodriguez says: "Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your winnings. Enjoy every bit of it."
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Video by Helen Zhao