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Get Rich Quick: True Tales of Overnight Millionaires - Sandy Stein - 1 of 4

This story was updated on September 20, 2010.

It's everyone's dream: Win the lottery! Sell your company for millions! Invent Beanie Babies and move to Fiji! In truth, though, instant millionaires don't quite get the joy ride they are hoping for. There may be a giddy rush of success, but the new money can also cause an enormous amount of anxiety.

In fact, when we interviewed some of the suddenly wealthy — a former flight attendant whose side business took off, a cancer survivor who won a medical malpractice judgment, a factory worker who won the lottery — we found a thread of caution running through all their responses.

Read on to see their stories.

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The Inventor

  • Name: Sandy Stein
  • Age: 59
  • Location: West Hills, Calif.
  • Source of wealth: The former flight attendant created a product that helps people find their lost keys

How did you get rich? I invented Finders Key Purse about 6 years ago. In our first year of business we sold over 1 million items, bringing in more than $4 million! It’s six years later and each year our numbers go up a little bit.

What did you buy? I bought a new Lexus convertible and paid cash for it and didn’t even get a deal! I just took it right off the lot. I went on many trips and enjoyed plays, musicals, and concerts — as many as I wanted to see without feeling guilty. I even took my staff to Las Vegas for the weekend to celebrate our fifth anniversary.

Smartest thing you spent it on? A team of lawyers who have been protecting my patent from all the copycats who think it’s OK to steal my idea.

Dumbest thing you spent it on? Paying full retail for my car. I have never done that before, nor will I ever do it again!

What are you doing now? I quit in 2005, after 35 years [as a flight attendant]. Now I am in the office five days a week, going to trade shows, and figuring out how to make more sales and solidify a spot in the marketplace.

Advice to others? It is fun to share your wealth with your community and friends. It is fun to spend the money on things you normally would not have spent it on, when you had limited funds. But it is even more fun to invest it wisely so that you don’t have to worry what home your son is going to put you in as you get older.

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