After baseball and bargain shopping, it's the American pastime: fantasizing about that big payday.
It might be winning the lottery, getting an inheritance from a long-forgotten oil-baron relative or becoming the next infomercial success story, but most of us have indulged in the same daydream: imagining how untold millions could make us thinner and happier, with a fuller head of hair and perfect relationships.
But the reality of sudden riches is usually quite different, says Holly Isdale, the managing director at Bessemer Trust, a money management company for the wealthy.
"The reality of this money is so overwhelming, and the decisions you make can cost you millions of dollars or ruin your children," Isdale says. "It is the small things that can be more debilitating than the big financial decisions. Money has such a big impact on how we define ourselves that coming into a lot of it can really rock your world."
In an effort to better understand exactly how worlds get rocked, we spoke to four people who came into sudden wealth and learned about the darker side of big dough. Though most of us won't be selling our Internet startups for millions of dollars, these stories offer lessons about money -- and people -- that can apply in all tax brackets.
John Ferber, entrepreneur
Windfall: $60 million in 2004, at age 30
In 1998, Ferber and his brother Scott started Advertising.com, which connects online publishers with advertisers. In 2004, the Baltimore natives sold the venture to America Online in a highly publicized deal.
First big purchases: four homes, including a woodland cabin and Florida beachfront property, plus cars, cars, cars -- among them a Ford GT40, a Range Rover, a Bentley, a Lotus and a 1975 Trans Am.
Reality check: "In some ways it was fantastic, but people treat you differently. Some people were like, 'Congratulations!' But most people wanted us to invest in their companies. One of my board members told me, 'The more the company grows, the more you are going to feel alone.' . . . That was true. If I'm hanging out with my friends who are successful Internet entrepreneurs, we talk about things we buy and places we go, but if I'm hanging out with other people sometimes I feel guilty if things come out of my mouth that sound like I'm bragging. I got a lot of animosity and paranoia -- not from my closest friends but from the second tier of friends and those who worked for me.
"When I meet people, one of the first questions they ask is, 'How do you know if a girl likes you for you and not your money?' I'd be foolish to tell you I'm not more sexually attractive to girls now. You can read about me on the Internet; I drive a flashy car. My big problem at the end of the day is that you can't separate money from everything else. It is all a part of who I am."