Follow TV Tropes


Riches to Rags

Go To
"Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're all drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal"
Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

We're all familiar with the story of the young man or woman with absolutely nothing who worked hard to make enough money to open that business, and now have it all. The overall tale behind Bill Gates's rise to multi-billionaire is one of these; he started building computers in his garage (although his family was wealthy), and now has one of the largest computer empires in the world.

This trope is the exact opposite of that; it's the story of someone who used to have everything and now finds themselves with nothing.

A recurring motif is the idea of a rich, idle plutocrat who spent their life coasting on their wealth learning the value of hard work and to empathize with those who aren't born with silver spoons in their mouths. Other times, especially when the formerly rich person was particularly unsympathetic, their wealth will be taken away as a form of punishment for their arrogance (compare Future Loser).


It may also happen by choice. If Aristocrats Are Evil, except for a good member of the rich family, this guy may decide to cut ties with his family, even if that means to give up the high-class lifestyle (this is more likely if they discover that the family wealth comes from some evil activity, such as crime). In an inversion of the classic Uptown Girl story, the guy may leave with a poor girl and embrace a new simpler life without unneeded luxuries.

If the character is from the bluest in hue of bloods, they may be an Impoverished Patrician. If the character continues on as they did when they were rich, they may be a Princess in Rags. If the character stops being an Alpha Bitch and is revealed to be insecure or to have other sympathetic traits that make the audience like her, this might be a Fallen Princess. It might be a result of A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted, and/or Never Win the Lottery if the character is (well, was) Nouveau Riche. The Great Depression took this to its Logical Extreme. In the "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc, the first half of the story will depict the protagonist rising to power, and the second half will depict this trope.



    open/close all folders 

  • An old Discover Card commercial depicts a fictional Hair Metal band called Danger Kitty (played by Steel Panther) achieving fame and fortune in the year 1983, only to be completely broke a year later because they couldn't control their spending. The end of the commercial shows one of the band members working in a hot dog stand and reveals that their comeback attempt involved them playing a bar mitzvah.
  • A series of Dutch commercials for the mobile telecommunication company Telfort star a former millionaire who lost his entire fortune and has been forced to move from his villa to a small apartment, but at least, thanks to Telfort, he can still afford the same quality of internet and telephone services he used to have.
  • This Coca-Cola super bowl commercial featuring The Simpsons depicts Mr. Burns going broke and forced to sell everything (including Smithers). His happiness returns after Apu shares a bottle of Coca-Cola with him.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Candy Candy: This is Louisa's "punishment" in the Boarding School arc.
  • In Fly Me to the Moon, Tsukasa grows up in a Big Fancy House with at least two maids. She ends up marrying a middle school graduate who's gone into the workforce and lives in a small apartment.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Shirogane's father used to be the CEO and at least partial owner of a company, but it was stolen from him by the Shinomiya family and he was left with a(n either figurative or literal) 500 million yen of debt. He hasn't held down a permanent job for a long time by the time the series starts.
  • One Piece:
    • In Trafalgar Law's flashback scenes, he began as a sweet little boy who came from a wealthy, reputable family of doctors, used to live in a castle-like home, and wore tailor-made suits. By the time he was 10, he was forced to crawl among dead bodies as a fugitive after the Flevance tragedy eliminated his hometown, before he decided to encounter the Donquixote Pirates at the dumpster to become one of their flunkies.
    • Happened to Doflamingo twice:
      • He was the son of a very aristocratic family belonging to the World Nobles, but then his father decided to take off the group. Things went From Bad to Worse in few days and became his Start of Darkness.
      • During the story itself, before the Straw Hats came along he managed to at least regain some form of wealth though Black Market brokering, weapons trading, becoming a Warlord for the World Government, and forcefully taking over the Kingdom of Dressrosa, which he claims was his ancestors' anyway before they left for Mariejois with the other World Nobles. While still peeved at the World Nobles for refusing to give him back his title just to spite his father for leaving them, he was content to at least still be partial royalty with his pirate crew... but all the people he likewise screwed over just to get that position eventually put a plan into motion to expose his criminal activity. While not going completely flawless, they succeeded and ultimately in the ensuing fights that followed, Doflamingo's crew was defeated and Doflamingo himself was K.O'd by Luffy. His title of Warlord was stripped, his kingdom back in rightful benevolent hands, and Doflamingo now considered nothing more than a dangerous pirate sent to Impel Down.
  • In Silver Plan To Redo From JK, Sayuri's family lost their wealth due to the collapse of Japan's economic bubble, which revealed a political scandal of Sayuri's grandfather and in turn ruined the business of Sayuri's father (who committed suicide). Sayuri herself became homeless, even having to scavenge rubbish to find food.
  • Three Leaves, Three Colors: Youko Nishikawa was a rich girl until her mother died and her father's business went bankrupt. She is now living in Perpetual Poverty, to the point where she only eats bread crusts and mayonnaise for lunch.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: This happens to Komatsu Saburou Naotaka in the middle of a cruel local war in medieval Japan. His land had lost soundly, his retainers and supporters had all been slain in front of him, and Naotaka himself was badly wounded and all alone. Then he meets an odd kid named Enki, who turns out to be a Kirin, a mythological beast who chooses and advises the rulers of another world, and he had just seen that Naotaka is the only one who can become the leader of the Kingdom of En.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle: Lux and Airi are the last survivors of the Old Arcadia Empire, and suffered two separate instances of this. While the Empire was still around, their maternal grandfather Wade criticised the emperor's policies, resulting in his imprisonment (and death in prison) and his descendants being thrown out of the palace (where they were subject to attacks by vengeful citizens). Then the Empire was overthrown (with Lux playing a key role in this) but Lux and Airi were still seen as criminals for being part of the former royal family. They were released but with a debt equal to a fifth of the national budget. Lux has to work all sorts of odd jobs for the citizens to gradually pay off the debt, while Airi is allowed to live in relative comfort (and also pays off the debt with her own work) but as a hostage to keep Lux in line.
  • Implied with Mitsuki Yano's family in Yuri is My Job!. In Chapter 6, which takes place while Mitsuki and Hime are in elementary school, Mitsuki's family lives in a Big Fancy House with a maid, which amazes Hime. In Chapter 27, which takes place in the present day (while Hime and Mitsuki are high schoolers), Hime visits Mitsuki at a small apartment. Hime is mildly surprised that Mitsuki is living in such a place, but doesn't ask Mitsuki about it.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics (2015): Forsythe is the son of the richest family in Riverdale. His father was scammed into losing all their money in an issue involving a water bottling company. After that, Forsythe went from being one of the coolest kids in town to a laughingstock. He was given the nickname "Jughead" after the company his dad was scammed by.
  • In Battle, Kate came from a well-off family, who would have opposed her marriage to a working-class man like Charley had it not for the death of her fiance and shortage of eligible bachelors due to the war. Unfortunately, the Great Depression in the 1930s hadn't made their new life easier.
  • At the beginning of Get Jiro!, Bob and Rose are two of the most powerful people in L.A., running bourgeois cooking empires with nothing on their minds but their hatred for each other. By the end, the both of them are forced to flee the city with nothing but each other for company, the only food available being street-vendor fish tacos.
  • Iznogoud: When "The Unlucky Diamond" opens, the diamond's current owner was once a rich man, but after being given the cursed diamond for refusing to give food to a magician disguised as a beggar, he lost his house, his family, his money, everything. After he palms off the diamond on Iznogoud (who plans to give the jewel to the Caliph, only to discover it is a Clingy MacGuffin), his fortunes are restored almost immediately — as is his original haughty, "I've done my good deed for the day!" personality.
  • The Krypton Chronicles miniseries reveals it happened to the distant ancestors of Superman and Supergirl: the House of El had ruled the continent of Urrika for twenty generations until Hyr-El was overthrown by his tyrannical brother Vad-El. Vad-El's family branch died out one generation later during the Great Deluge, and although Hyr-El's sons survived, their descendants eked out a living by gathering algae for several generations. Some Els would later reach prominence, but their House never got to rule anything again.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck:
    • After the McDuck were driven out of their castle, Seafoam McDuck lost the family's fortune because of the disastrous sinking of a trading ship. (Reference to The Horseradish Story (1953), where Seafoam had put his own fortune as a guarantee that the ship's cargo would reach its destination.)
    • In The Master of the Mississippi, Scrooge temporarily manages a lucrative business, before the Beagle Boys manage to ruin him. Scrooge now only has his family heirlooms and a few dollars to his name.
  • In The Power Of Shazam, Sivana goes from being a wealthy businessman to a criminal pauper, thanks to Captain Marvel.
  • Robin (1993): While the Drakes don't make it to outright poverty after several financial gambles on Jack's part leave them bankrupt, they do lose their mansion in Bristol Township and have to move into their very nice flat in Gotham and change their lifestyle a bit and Jack reacts like he's lost everything, barricading himself from his son and wife while contemplating suicide over the loss.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Maid Maleen": The titular princess becomes a homeless wanderer when her kingdom is destroyed. She and her servant wander from one village to another, living off nettle leaves, until they get hired as scullery maids.
  • In "The Nix in the Mill-Pond", the poor miller is a formerly wealthy man who fell on hard times.
    Once upon a time there was a miller. He lived contentedly with his wife. They had money and land, and their prosperity increased from year to year. But misfortune comes overnight. Just as their wealth had increased, so did it decrease from year to year, until finally the miller scarcely owned even the mill where he lived.
  • In Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth's "King Goldenlocks", the prince finds work as a gardener's assistant after fleeing his country.
  • The Dutch folk tale about the Lady of Stavoren tells of the ruler of the namesake port city, who had grown very wealthy from trade and desired to be even richer. She sent a captain to bring the most precious thing in the world to her, and when he came back with a hold full of wheat (under the reasoning that, as it can feed the hungry, it is the most valuable thing in the world), she had it thrown into the sea in a fit of rage. The harbor of Stavoren silted up shortly after in punishment for her greed, cutting off trade to the city, causing it to begin its descent into the minor village it is today and driving its lady to destitution, forcing her to live out her days begging for bread in the street.

    Fan Works 
  • After That Fateful Night: Prince Blueblood offends Nightmare Moon with his behavior in the royal court, and is stripped of his title and has his estate confiscated by the government. He protests this and approaches the queen, getting himself sent to the dungeons until he agrees to become a civil servant.
  • Boop the Snoot for Critical Damage!: The Schnee family after Hyperion takes over Wunderwinter. While they're no longer wealthy, Willow was able to steal multiple syringes of Insta-Youth, which she plans to sell so she can make enough to start a new life with her children.
  • A Gamer In South Blue: Jack accumulated a small fortune that would last him for about ten years through the first dozen chapters. It all gets wiped out when he pours it into repairing Kivuruk from Kid's attack; he doesn't mind the funds going to a worthy cause, but it does mean he's got more bounty hunting to do.
  • The Gentle Art of Making Enemies: Played with. When Weiss's father disowns her, she loses her status as the heiress to the Schnee Dust Company and all the financial security that comes with it. She panics about this but then remembers that she still has her trust fund, and has really only been bumped down a few notches from "obscenely wealthy" to "very wealthy".
  • The Ice Behind Bars: After having had enough of the king's abusive treatment of her and their daughters, the queen decides it would be better to live among thieves than with her husband in a castle.
  • In Incarnation of Legends, Haruhime is part of the incredibly influential Sanjouno family that is at the center of politics in the Far East. But her independent streak and desire to leave her Gilded Cage and one day meet Bell again leads her father to cast her out and disown her. It stings, but it's also freeing, as she heads to Hachiman for both shelter and the opportunity to train and head to Orario.
  • The Karma of Lies: After his father is exposed as Hawkmoth, Adrien finds his family's fortunes fading fast. Especially after he dips into the Agreste emergency fund account in front of Lila, giving her a chance to memorize the passcodes and help herself. While the family still has plenty of wealth, he can't access any of it, and his new legal guardian isn't willing to provide the same level of luxury he's familiar with. He specifically complains that his new apartment is smaller than his old room's closet.
  • The Last Lion of House Reyne: After miraculously fleeing from House Lannister's retribution for their attempted rebellion, the Reynes are cut off from their wealth, land, and titles and forced to live in hiding as members of the peasant class.
  • In The Masks we Wear (JiggleWigs), Ursa and her two children are forced into exile after an attempted Ruling Family Massacre. They live in the Earth Kingdom as simple nonbender civilians.
  • Of Elder Scrolls and Huntsmen: Dragon Rose: Weiss Schnee, the heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, learns that all of her Lien is absolutely worthless in Skyrim. As a result, she begins acting... well, more like a typical Skyrim player, to tell the truth. She doesn't go around stealing from people's homes, but she does ensure that whatever tombs and bandit camps they go through are thoroughly looted. She actually cries Tears of Joy upon becoming rich again.
  • Perfect Diamond World: Elsa and Anna run off together and go from royalty to normal middle-class civilians.
  • Strange New World: Haru gives up her life of luxury and comfort when she ditches her Arranged Marriage to Sugimura to join the Phantom Thieves. She doesn't mind it though, as her old life was absolutely miserable, and her fiance was an abusive Jerkass.
  • It's implied that Bruno's Fortune Teller job in where the dandylions play can just barely keep him and Mirabel afloat, a far-cry from Familia Madrigal's arguably modest affluence. With that said, they seem comfortable enough with what little they have, Bruno managing to get her a high-quality education through sheer luck.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars: Doc Hudson prior to the movie. He used to be one of the most famous racing cars in the world, but following a life-threatening crash, he was replaced by a rookie and faded to obscurity. Nowadays, he's but a humble mayor/doctor/judge to the equally obscure town of Radiator Springs.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Bolt: Bolt and Penny. After Bolt returns home and comes to the rescue when Penny gets trapped in a fire on set of the Show Within a Show they star in, they quit the show and move to the country to live a more simple life.
    • The Emperor's New Groove: Emperor Kuzco, by virtue of a Baleful Polymorph which leaves his subjects unable to recognize him, goes from the ruler of an empire to a llama nobody spares a second glance to.
  • Shark Tale: Oscar at the end . After gaining riches due to a misunderstanding, he admits the truth in the climax and forsakes all his wealth.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ana: Rafa is financially destitute at the beginning, having fallen from success as a car salesman into debt.
  • Arthur (1981): The Idle Rich hero deliberately risks this trope by falling in love with a working-class woman even though his inheritance hinges on an Arranged Marriage. They get a Surprisingly Happy Ending, but the sequel Arthur 2: On the Rocks sees the trope take hold at last due to the meddling of the vengeful father of the jilted fiance. While his sweetheart is able to get by, Arthur himself cannot because the vengeful father sabotages all of his attempts to find work. Luckily, he manages to earn a happy ending.
  • Até que a Sorte nos Separe ("Til Luck Do Us Part") has a guy who won the lottery 15 years prior finding out his fortune is basically gone after years of Conspicuous Consumption. To make it worse, he has to hide it from his wife with a penchant for spending... and who finds out that is pregnant.
  • Avengers: Endgame has the Asgardian survivors. From living in a magical paradise with golden palaces to making a living fishing and dwelling in a town of crude shacks in Northern Europe, it's a major step down for Thor and others. Though for the likes of Valkyrie and Sakaaran exiles like Korg and Miek, it's a trade-up from living in a garbage planet. Not surprisingly, those three seem to be the most settled and sorted of New Asgard denizens.
  • Blue Jasmine: Flashbacks show the protagonist living a life of luxury—Upper East Side penthouse/brownstone, lavish summers in the Hamptons, black tie charity events, etc. Her life now? Sleeping on the couch in her sister's apartment which is above a grocery store and working as a receptionist in a dentist's office, all because her financier husband turned out to be a fraud.
  • Cinderella Man opens by showing Jim Braddock with his life in good order: He's got a steady and glamorous job as a boxer, a nice house in the suburbs, and a beautiful family. Then The Great Depression hits, and when we see Braddock next he and his family are living in a dingy slum, he and his wife are faced with the possibility of sending their children away in order to pay rent, and the only work he can get is occasionally unloading shipments at the docks (since a broken hand forced him to give up on boxing).
  • The Dark Knight Rises. Wayne Enterprises is no longer profitable after Bruce canned a high-risk project and Bruce himself goes bankrupt when the villains gamble away all of his assets on the stock market. Due to the chaos of Gotham's isolation and Bruce's apparent death, the lost money is never recovered.
  • Doctor Strange (2016) starts off this way. Rich and successful neurosurgeon Stephen Strange suffers from extensive nerve damage in his hands when his car crashes off a cliff, causing them to shake uncontrollably. He loses his job, blows all of his money on experimental treatments that don't work, leaving him with nothing after only a few months. When he gets cornered by a group of muggers, the only thing he can offer them is his watch.
  • The Hobbit: Thorin was once a prince of a very wealthy and powerful dwarven kingdom but after Smaug invaded Erebor, he and his people were driven out and he was forced to work menial, dead-end jobs to survive.
  • The Jerk goes the full circle from Rags to Riches back to rags. Navin Johnson invents a grip handle for glasses that becomes all the rage, amassing him a fortune. A fortune he loses when his company is sued after it's discovered the handle causes people to go permanently cross-eyed. Luckily for him, he sent money home to his father to support his family. His father invested the money and it becomes a Rags-to-Riches-to-Rags story.
  • Life Stinks is a comedy about a billionaire who, as a bet, agrees to live as a hobo in a particular slum for a month. Then his lawyers and business rival destroy all record of the bet and steal his company out from under him.
  • Maid to Order (1987) explores this with a spoiled rich girl stripped of her wealth and identity by a Fairy Godmother, forced to work as a maid in a rich household and learn the value of hard work.
  • McLintock!: The Warrens' backstory. When Dev Warren's father died, he left his wife Louise penniless and his son had to drop out of Perdue.
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home: Norman Osborn is pulled from a universe where he's a billionaire into one where Oscorp doesn't even exist and stumbles his way into F.E.A.S.T. seeking refuge. Add in his mental issues from the Goblin persona corroding his sanity and the second-hand jacket and hoodie he's given to cover his lurid battle armor, and he comes across more like any other homeless person May helps daily. It's hard not to feel immensely sorry for him.
  • Trading Places does this twice:
  • The White Sister starts off with the aristocratic heroine losing her fortune after her father dies and her jealous half-sister burns the will.

  • In L'Assomoir, Gervaise, after becoming rich from her laundry, becomes poor because of excessive expenses.
  • Bazil Broketail: Evander used to be a prince, but now is a fugitive trying to find a new place for himself in the world.
  • Esperanza Rising: Esperanza starts out living a luxurious life on her family's ranch. Then she loses everything and is forced to live and work on a farm camp for migrant workers, which she has difficulty adjusting to.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: As Dumbledore reveals to Harry, the House of Gaunt, whose last members in the family would become Voldemort's relatives with his birth, suffers from this. The family was formerly wealthy and respected, but their thriftless spending, desire to maintain their pureblood status, and liking for grandeur meant that their bank accounts drained quickly. The last members of the family were reduced to living in a tiny, filthy shack near a Muggle settlement, with only two valuable heirlooms remaining to call their own.
  • In Ruslan and Ludmila, it happens by the character's own wish. Khan Ratmir leaves his title and riches behind and chooses to live as a simple fisherman.
  • Sister Carrie: Over the course of the novel, the rich and socially elite George W. Hurstwood gradually loses his status, his money, falls into gambling, and finally becomes homeless and commits suicide.
  • Talion: Revenant: Nolan's ancestors, apparently. He's descended from a prince who went into exile and had a family, while his descendants ended up being peasants.
  • Wicked: Elphaba, Nessarose, and Shell's mother Melena was a blue blood who gave it all away to live in poverty with her preacher husband, Frexspar.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 2 Broke Girls: Caroline is the daughter of a Bernie Madoff Expy. She used to live in a mansion, have fancy clothes, and owned a horse. At the start of the series, she has no money and is homeless. But she still has a horse.
  • Arrested Development: The Bluths go this way in the series' first episode. Mitch Hurwitz even pitched the show as "a riches-to-rags family".
  • Arrowverse:
    • Tommy Merlyn is thrown when his father, Malcolm, cuts him off, thinking it's the best way to get Tommy to grow up, forcing Tommy (who loves a rich playboy life) to adapt.
    • Oliver Queen, also a billionaire, loses his wealth and his family's company, thanks to Slade Wilson's revenge.
    • Ray Palmer starts out as a well-known tech billionaire. He ends up leaving Palmer Tech to join the Legends, putting Felicity in charge of the company. She ends up spending more time focusing on Team Arrow and nearly runs the company into the ground. The board votes her out. When Ray comes back in Season 3, he's no longer the golden boy and is forced to work for a second-rate start-up, whose boss is about half his age and couldn't care less about Ray's inventions, if they're not phone apps.
  • The Big House is a short-lived sitcom starring Kevin Hart. The main character is a rich kid from Malibu who has to move in with his working-class relatives in Philadelphia after his father is arrested for embezzlement.
  • In Bones, Hodgins is hacked by Pelant and is forced to choose between saving his family fortune or saving a school for girls in the Middle East from a UAV strike. He chooses to save the school. Later on, Angela manages to find most of his money. He asks her to give it away to charity since he's already used to his new lifestyle and doesn't want to change it. It ends up getting zigzagged later when he patents an invention and gets kind of rich again. Nothing really changes though, just as before.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Cordelia when her father is busted for tax evasion.
    • Angelus never had trouble maintaining a nice pad, expensive clothes, or box theater seats. ("I just ate the people who had 'em.") Once cursed and jilted by Darla, he spent years as a homeless bum living on rats.
  • Doctor Who: In "Planet of the Dead", Lady Christina claims that she stole the Cup of Athelstan because her father invested the family fortune in the Icelandic banks and lost everything. The Doctor doesn't buy it, pointing out that, if she's just after money, she would have robbed a bank.
    • It's hinted that after being defeated by the Doctor and Rose in "The End Of The World", Lady Cassandra ends up losing most of her fortune in order to maintain her expensive life support and getting a psychograft machine. Because of this she has a huge grudge against the Doctor and Rose in "New Earth", having to rely on her last servant, Chip just to make it by stealing medicine. It makes the plot point about her using the psychograft in order to possess Rose's body all the more hilarious since Rose comes from a much more humble background when compared to her. She does it anyway in order to get revenge on Rose and live on in a pure human body. Although despite being disgusted about it at first, she changes her mind quickly after checking out the merchandise, so it isn't a complete loss for the lady, who keeps her haughty behavior.
  • Downton Abbey: There's an unusual version of this with Sybil, who is forced to give up her privileged life as a noble's daughter when she marries Branson, the former chauffeur. However, she actually welcomes the change, as she is a Rebellious Lady who disliked the lifestyle of fashion, gossip, paying calls, and being waited on hand-and-foot. She also had previous experience working as a nurse during the war and learning how to cook from the servants. And it helps that Branson gets a job as a journalist, she happily returns to being a nurse and her father gives her a little money, meaning it's not so much riches to 'rags' as Not-Rich-But-Just-Comfortable-Enough-To-Get-By. But her happiness about taking up a normal life definitely gives an interesting twist to this trope.
    Mary: But you don't regret it?
    Sybil: No, never.
  • Firefly: The Tam siblings, River and Simon, were the heirs of an extremely wealthy family, with flashbacks showing them playing in a mansion as their father watched from near a hearth. When River was forcibly indoctrinated into an Alliance Super Soldier experiment, Simon blew his personal fortune in his bids to rescue her. When he finally succeeded in rescuing River, the Alliance locked him out of the Tams' bank accounts as he and his sister became fugitives, eventually settling as crew members of the dingy Serenity.
  • Game of Thrones: By the end of the War of the Five Kings, the gold mines of the Westerlands had run dry three years prior. The Lannisters had gone through a lot of effort in order to keep that secret, mostly by taking a tremendous amount of loans from the Iron Bank and depending on their new partners the Tyrells to foot half the bill for their own Royal wedding.
  • The 2021 Christmas special of Ghosts (UK) reveals Grande Dame Fanny’s backstory to be this. Her formerly-wealthy family’s insurmountable debt resulted in marrying her off to the Button family.
  • Hannah Montana: The final season revolves around Miley's double life becoming a problem and her ultimately deciding to retire from superstardom for good, but not before revealing her secret identity to the world.
  • The Highlander episode "Unusual Suspects" mainly dealt with Duncan trying to solve the "murder" of his friend, Hugh Fitzcairn (being an Immortal, Fitz wasn't really dead). Fitz was wealthy in this episode and was in the middle of planning to relocate and start a new life by investing heavily in the American stock market. After his "murder" was solved it was his mortal wife in this episode, Juliette, Duncan informs him that the US stock market crashed, leaving him broke.
  • iCarly (2021): Carly's new best friend Harper is this. Her family used to be wealthy, but ended up losing everything. She's working a minimum wage job at Skybucks coffee shop while trying to pursue a career in fashion.
  • The Love Boat: A few times:
    • Julie is surprised to find the young Greek youth she once sponsored, Gregori (Lorenzo Lamas) is now a rich tycoon. He spends the episode wooing her with Julie tempted to quit the ship. Before she can, Gregori breaks it to her that a bad business deal has wiped out his entire conglomerate virtually overnight. Julie finds him later with his sole remaining asset of a small fishing boat. To her surprise, Gregori is in good spirits, admitting that he was never comfortable being so rich and is looking forward to the challenge of starting over again.
    • At least one episode has a wife going on a wild shopping spree which freaks out her husband as this cruise was to break it to her they're now broke.
    • Subverted in one episode. A couple take a trip with the man gloating on them having won a fortune in a sweepstake. The money soon goes to his head as he turns into an arrogant figure who ignores his wife. He's rocked when a telegram informs him there was a mistake and they didn't win. Humbled, he admits to his wife how terrible he was and that she's the most important thing in his life. At which point, she reveals she sent the telegram to teach him a lesson so they are still rich but the man able to handle it better.
  • Mad Men: This happens to Pete Campbell's family. The Campbells were Blue Bloods who used to own half of Upper Manhattan, until Pete's father squandered their fortune. Which is why Pete has to work at Sterling Cooper, and marry Trudy, whose family is Nouveau Riche, but much wealthier.
  • On The Middle, Axel is annoyed at girlfriend Lexi always paying for everything, including a posh meal. At the meal, Lexi receives a birthday card from her parents where her dad says that when he hit 21, his parents cut him off and it turned him into a better person. He does the same and Lexi is rocked but Axel takes up "teaching" her how to handle life as a poor person.
  • Narcos:
    • During the height of his power, Escobar's organization is bringing in $70 million a day, making him one of the richest men in the world. By the end, however, he is hiding in decrepit safe houses with a single henchman for company.
    • Rafa, Don Neto, and Miguel Angel create the biggest drug trafficking organization in the world, but by the end of the series all have lost everything and are imprisoned.
  • Odd Mom Out:
    • Played with when a Ponzi scheme costs several of the ultra-rich in Manhattan millions. Keeping with the show's sarcastic tone, many of these people are still incredibly wealthy but consider falling into a slightly lower tax bracket to be the same as poverty. For example, one man goes to a grief counselor for his yacht while a woman seriously compares having to decide which property to sell off to Sophie's Choice. It's mentioned that hospitals in New York are now filled with people suffering burns and cuts from having to make their own meals for the first time.
    • Played straight with main character Jill's mother-in-law who invested nearly everything in this fund and now has to live with Jill and her family (and clearly no idea how to handle a life without servants).
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Morgan spends her first season and a half as a spacy gal who always relies on her rich parents and freely spends money. Sabrina and Roxie are annoyed when Morgan goes on a shopping spree rather than pay her share of the rent but Morgan assures her she'll do so with her monthly allowance. When a thick envelope comes in, Morgan laughs that her father is saving time and just giving her cash. But when she opens it, she finds a mountain of bills and receipts inside. There's also a note from her dad saying he's sick and tired of Morgan spending without consequence and is cutting her off. Needless to say, Sabrina has to resort to some magical "humble pie" to get Morgan to realize she needs to get a job and actually take care of herself at last.
  • Schitt's Creek focuses on an ultra-rich family ruined by a bad deal and a cheating accountant. They lose almost everything and have to move to the small town they bought years ago as a joke and handle being without the wealth they're used to.
    • While the rest of the family adapt (mostly) to the status, as late as the sixth season, Alexis still can't grasp how, say, a regular airplane flight is not a first-class experience:
      Stevie: Why are you wearing high heels on a plane?
      Alexis: Oh, I'm not wearing them on the plane, they'll bring me slippers.
      Stevie: When's the last time you flew coach?
      Alexis: Huh?
  • Silvana Sin Lana is a telenovela about an upper-class woman named Silvana who is forced to move to the suburbs with her mother and daughters after her husband gets into trouble with the law and runs off.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: London in an episode where her father makes a bad investment. As typical of show, she gains it back at the end of the episode.
  • That '70s Show: While she never goes completely broke, Jackie is forced to give up her spoiled princess lifestyle when her father is imprisoned for embezzlement and his accounts are frozen. With her mother traveling the world, Jackie ends up living with Donna.
  • On True Blood, when vampires reveal themselves to the world, they fail to prepare for one huge reaction: The IRS to go after them for decades of unreported income and unpaid taxes. It's revealed that Sophie-Ann has lost much of her fortune because of this and is driven to sell the V drug to keep up her lavish lifestyle.

  • The Rolling Stones song "Playing with Fire:"
    Your old man took her diamonds / And tiaras, by the score / Now she gets her kicks in Stepney / Not in Knightsbridge anymore
  • This is a common plot in opera, where the fall usually comes about as a punishment for women sleeping around. Examples include La Traviata and Manon (in the latter, the woman starts out as a commoner and becomes a rich mistress of a noble, but then falls toward poverty again when she cheats on the noble with her true love).
  • Van Halen in "As Is":
    Yesterday I was a bum and broke.
    Today I am a star and broke.
    In this town that's called progress,
    That's how we do biz.
  • Europe's 2012-album, "Bag of Bones", opens with a song titled "Riches To Rags", basically talking about how they've gone from being hugely successful, due in no small part to "The Final Countdown", to practically being an upcoming band again, at least financially.
  • The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" has a rich aristocrat left penniless after a visit by the taxman
    The taxman's taken all my dough
    And left me in this stately home
    And I can't even sail my yacht
    He's taken everything I've got
    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible, Jesus is spoken of as being rich, having all things He could ever want in Heaven, but as Paul the Apostle says in 2nd Corinthians "for your sakes became poor", having descended from Heaven in the form of man to live in relative poverty as a laborer "so that through His poverty you might become rich", being wealthy in the true riches of Heaven and having everything a believer would ever need to fulfill every need and even more for the sake of being generous givers.
  • Classical Mythology has Jason, who was hailed as a hero and earned a lot of riches after his quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece with the Argonauts. Then he made some really dumb mistakes, chiefly dumping his wife Medea, who proceeded to destroy everything Jason attained in one swift blow, from riches to even future family, and the Gods thought that it was Jason's fault to get callous and ungrateful, thus the celebrated hero was reduced into a beggar who eventually died on the rubble of his ruined old ship while reminiscing his past glory days.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Downplayed with Barbra Dixon and her family. They're still well-off, but they don't boast nearly the same amount of money that they used to have when the Dixons turned Oldport into a boom town.
    • Destiny's father used to be a homeless man who came into money after meeting his wife and publishing a best-selling novel. However, their finances dropped again after Destiny was born, and the family has since fallen on hard times. They're now one of the few lower-class families in Oldport, and Destiny frequently takes on part-time jobs to support them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mutant Chronicles: "Rags" is a bit excessive, but otherwise quite adequately describes the fall of House Feldhausen. The Feldhausens were one of the most powerful families in Bauhaus, to the point that they were on the cusp of forcing the Bernheims, Sagliellis, Richthausens, and Romanovs to recognise them as a fifth Elector House, something completely unprecedented in Bauhaus history. Then the old count died, and his twin sons Viktor and Otto immediately began fighting over who was the true heir. The internecine conflict dangerously drained the house's resources, and, to top it all off, Viktor refused to recognize his defeat and fall in line, but instead took the followers and resources he could muster and defected to Imperial. Where there once was a proud house capable of shaking the bedrock of power in the Solar System, there are now two minor and relatively unimportant noble families, at constant seething yet explosive loggerheads.
  • One of the more commonly recurring characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! card art is Goblin of Greed. In his first appearance, he's a noveau-riche jerk who tosses coins on the ground to watch beggars pick them up. In his next appearance, he's shown to have lost all his money and is depicted as begging for coins in an Ironic Echo of his first appearance. Most other cards depicting him show his many desperate attempts to get his money back, usually by stealing and hawking valuable items.

  • In King Lear, the eponymous Lear goes from King to a mad beggar wandering the streets of his own kingdom in a few short scenes.
  • Les Misérables:
    • Although the Thenardiers aren't too wealthy to begin with, somewhere between selling Cosette to Valjean and the "present day" of 1832, they fall hard into poverty, being essentially reduced to begging (and thievery). This is especially apparent in Eponine, who in one scene has attention called to her nice clothing (especially compared to Cosette's literal rags), and in the next is wearing something not unlike what the impoverished Cosette was wearing earlier.
    • Fantine undergoes a minor riches-to-rags story as part of her Trauma Conga Line. One day she's working in a factory to help her daughter, the next she's selling her body (not only through prostitution but also through literally selling her hair and teeth).

    Video Games 
  • Darkest Dungeon: Tie-in comics reveal this about a few characters:
    • The Grave Robber was a noblewoman who found herself in massive debts, and pilfered valuables from her family's graves to pay them.
    • The Leper was once a royal king or prince who chose to exile himself from his homeland to partner up with the other heroes after contracting leprosy.
  • Dead by Daylight: One of the Survivors, Jake Park, fled from the pressure of his high-class upbringing to live as a hermit in the woods.
  • In Disco Elysium, you can meet a homeless storyteller, who goes by the name Idiot Doom Spiral. If you ask him how he ended up homeless, he will tell that he once was a billionaire named George who ran a successful tech company, but thanks to a series of dumb, seemingly minor, and easily rectifiable mistakes, which started with him losing the keys to his apartment while going out for a jog one evening, which from there escalated into him losing his girlfriend, and then finally his company. After this, he apparently just gave up and sank into homelessness. You can in turn point out that it seems like there is a gap in his story between the points of getting locked out of his apartment, getting locked out of his office, and ending up living on the street years later, but Spiral just sort of brushes it off.
  • Dragon Age II:
    • Hawke's backstory: the Amell family, of whom Hawke's mother, Leandra, is a member of, was wealthy and influential in the city-state of Kirkwall before Hawke's uncle Gamlen gambled away the money when he became patriarch since Leandra left for Ferelden. Upon returning to Kirkwall, Leandra and her children were impoverished refugees who had to rely on the begrudging goodwill of Gamlen and money Hawke made in the city's Wretched Hive to survive before a Deep Roads expedition made Hawke enough money to move on up in Kirkwall society.
    • Gamlen himself wasted all of his money chasing after a legendary artifact that could predict market fluctuations (and find spare cash on dead foes), his family left him, and he lives in a clay hovel for the rest of the game. And then his daughter turns up in Act III with the artifact. You can take your inheritance (which is the most valuable item she owns compared to her low-level gear) and disgust her, or persuade her to reconcile with her father but lose the artifact for good.
    • The first game does this with the Human Noble origin (in which the death of their family and their conscription into the Grey Wardens causes them to be much poorer), the Dwarven noble origin (in which they are disowned due to circumstances beyond their control), and the Human Mage origin (the human mage being a part of the aforementioned Amell family, who cannot ever inherit their titles due to being a mage) — depending on how you play the game, however, they can all earn back their wealth and status and then some.
  • Dragon Quest V: Prince Harry was a spoiled, obnoxious prince until he was kidnapped by Ladja and sold into slavery.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem Awakening, Maribelle and Ricken's supports reveal that this is the case for Ricken's noble household. Downplayed, because while Ricken's household did lose status and wealth, they're definitely not in "rags".
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
      • Mercedes was born to a noble family in the Empire, but her house fell. Her mother married into another noble house, but the two of them were forced to leave after realizing that the head of House Bartels only wanted a Crest-bearing heir. The two of them lived in a church in the Kingdom until a merchant adopted Mercedes. Mercedes is fine with being a commoner, and has no desire to return to the nobility.
      • This trope can happen to certain noble students depending on their allegiances, the story route chosen and whoever they're paired with at the end of the game. At the end of the game, some of them will renounce their noble titles for other pursuits, or to marry their spouse of choice.
  • Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life This can occur in Special Edition and Harvest Moon DS if you marry Lumina. She goes from being living in a mansion with her rich grandmother to living down the road as a farmer's wife. You can become wealthy if you are a good enough farmer but the game still treats it as this.
  • Killer Instinct: In the 2013 reboot, Tyler-John "T.J Combo" Garrett was a celebrity millionaire boxer who used secret Ultratech cybernetic implants to improve his punching power. When his cheating was caught out, he was left disgraced and lost everything he had. Now he's back in the tournament, no implants this time, to restore his honour.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, there's a rich man and a poor man, both of whose daughters (named Mila and Maggie respectively) have been kidnapped by the Big Bad. You rescue the daughters about halfway through the game, and the rich man gives his fortune to the pirates who took the credit for their rescue, while the poor man makes his fortune selling rare necklaces his daughter brings home.
  • Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven deconstructs this trope. At the game's final epilogue, Tommy explains that it's great to find a balance in things. Because the person who wants it all risks losing absolutely everything while the person who wants nothing will get exactly that. Likewise, come Mafia II, the main protagonist, Vito, has always fancied moving up in the mafia world and finally got everything he wanted.... only to finally lose it all after his house is torched by the O'Neill gang.
  • In Psychonauts2 the Big Bad thinks he's an example of this and is scheming to get back his former lifestyle. In truth he's still living quite well, but he's so used to a ridiculously high living standard (eating caviar by the bucketful) that going down to "just" a high living standard (eating caviar from cans) is unbearable to him.
  • Zoe of Road 96 comes from a very wealthy background, the perks of being the daughter of the Minister Of Oil. Now she's a broke runaway like all the other teens running for the border. Though she's actually happier on the road.
  • In Thief: The Dark Project, Garrett meets a strange man named Raoul. Once the wealthy owner of the local opera house, Raoul took to living in the sewers after losing ownership of the opera house.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Because of the events of the second game, the Lodge of Sorceresses has been disbanded and most of them have gone into hiding. Triss Merigold has gone from being the court advisor to King Foltest of Temeria to leading an Underground Railroad from a seedy ramshackle apartment in a bad corner of Novigrad, hiding from the city witch hunters. Keira Metz is similarly left posing as a common village white witch in the countryside outside the city (and being Keira Metz, she hates every minute of it).

    Visual Novels 
  • Cinderella Phenomenon: Princess Lucette Britton goes from riches to rags after a witch casts a curse on her that causes most people to forget that she is the Crown Princess of Angielle. As a result, she spends most of the story as a commoner.

  • Devil Number 4: Happens to Number 4 after breaking the rules to protect Hanna.
  • Freefall: Mr. Kornada, following his boneheaded attempt to subvert a patch program into a robot-lobotomizing Final Solution purely for personal gain, is tried and found guilty. His cash assets started at twelve million credits; the Mayor sentences him to an eleven million fine and seals the remaining million in a trust fund Kornada can't touch until he completes the second half of his punishment — a thousand days of working at a Cricket Burger. Only days in which his evaluation exceeds "Average" will count towards the goal, by the by.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Västerström family underwent such an episode some time before the story started. Getting that status back by selling precious Old World books on the black market was the motivation behind Torbjörn organizing the expedition, while the same episode caused Emil to discover that his expensive private tutors actually hadn't educated him that well, causing him to drop out of academia and join the military.

    Web Original 
  • In The Grossery Gang webseries, Stinky used to be a wealthy Grossery back when he was much younger, but lost it all, along with his girlfriend, when he was swindled by his former best friend. He attempts to warn the newly rich Ricardo of the risky ventures he's taking, but he only gets brushed off. Stinky would later regain his fortune via Ricardo losing his by putting all of his stock in lotto tickets that get lost or destroyed...with the remaining winning one landing in Stinky's reach.
  • Thrilling Adventure Hour: In "Down in Moonshine Holler", after falling in love with a hobo woman, features, millionaire Jasper Manorlodge renounces his riches and becomes hobo Banjo Bindlestuff to try and find his Hobo Princess.
  • Whateley Universe: When Ayla Goodkind was first disowned by his family for being a mutant, he was forced to live with his equally blackballed sister Gracie (who had been his brother Greg before coming out as Transgender); the shock of middle-class realities were crushing to him, and left a mark on him even after they managed to wrest a portion of his due inheritance from the family (a mere $300 million, which at first seemed a mere pittance to him compared to the billions he was raised to expect). Ayla's brief brush with poverty is best summed up in his own words:
    I spent my whole life being groomed to be... Well, something I can never do now. I had a couple weeks of living in someone's basement and eating Hamburger Helper, and it just about killed me.

    Western Animation 
  • As Told by Ginger: The Series Finale features the Griplings losing their fortune when Mr. Gripling is arrested for insider trading.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Southern Water Tribe, Katara and Sokka included, suffered this in the backstory, courtesy of the Fire Nation. In "The Puppetmaster", it is revealed that the Southern Water Tribe used to be a thriving metropolis, on par with its northern counterpart, with people living in a city of igloos. After the Fire Nation attacked, it took and locked away all Waterbenders it could find, dealing a significant setback on the tribe's morale. A century following the invasion, the tribe's main settlement is nothing more than a couple of tents and an igloo located on a small corner of the shore. The only inhabitants are women, kids, and a single male teenager who provides the tribe's last line of defense. After the war ends, its fortunes begin to reverse; by the events of The Legend of Korra, it is back as a metropolis again.
    • In Season 2, Zuko and Iroh turn from members of the Fire Nation's royal family to fugitives who live from town to town. Sure, before then, they were disgraced, but finances were not a problem and they still maintained a Fire Nation ship alongside its entourage. Afterwards, they travel on foot.
    • The Fire Lords Ozai and Azula become this trope after the series finale. Ozai goes from "Phoenix Lord" and ruthless overlord to non-bending has-been locked away in prison and likely to spend the rest of his days there. Azula, on the other hand, is a straight-up Fallen Princess. She begins a princess who lived a luxurious lifestyle when not in combat, having what she thought was "friends" and a competent, calculating brain that could topple a nation; but by series' end, she's lost her friends, her mind, and even her former title and she's been cut off from her former title and wealth.
  • The Boondocks: "Bitches to Rags" is all about Thugnificent going through this after several unwise moves on his part sink his singing career. This in turn leads to the loss of his wealth to debt collectors. Unlike most examples, he never regains his fortune and is forced to take a minimum wage job to survive. He doesn't really seem too broken up about it, though.
  • Doug: One episode features Bebe losing her fortune.
  • Frisky Dingo: Zander Crews in the opening episodes of the second season — he's gone from the head of a company with billions of dollars to living in a refrigerator box. At least until he remembers to regain the check from Killface.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • The events of Weirdmageddon have Pacifica Northwest separated from her family for an extended time, forcing her to fight with Stan and the others who make it to the Mystery Shack. By the time Dipper and Mabel meet her again, she's a literal Princess in Rags (she's wearing a potato sack).
    • The Northwest family in general ends up losing most of their fortune due to a bad investment that Pacifica's dad made during the Weirdmageddon—it's a downplayed example, because they're still fairly wealthy in the end (just not nearly as wealthy as they were before). Pacifica and her parents were forced to sell their mansion home to stay afloat—ironically, McGucket, the town's local hobo, is the one to buy their house due to regaining his smarts and selling his technology.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • The episode "Rhonda Goes Broke". One of the strongest examples of Status Quo Is God in the series.
    • The Jungle Movie. As it's implied to take place in the late 1990s/early 2000s, cellphones have become so much more mainstream and affordable that Big Bob's Beepers (the beeper emporium that Helga's dad owned and operated) has gone under, forcing Helga and her family to give up their house and move into the store itself. Helga and her best friend, Phoebe, both lampshade this.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: Miles Duntcheck at the end of "The Haunted Sonata" once it's revealed his famous ancestor stole the sonata that gave their family Royalties Heir status. It's mentioned the loss of the fortune drove him insane.
  • Popeye: An Al Brodax cartoon has Wimpy go through this. He inherits a fortune and wagers it all against Popeye in a boxing match. Wimpy is assured to win his wager since he's the referee. But after seeing Popeye get KO'd (through his own machinations), Wimpy doesn't have the heart to count his old pal out, so he gives Popeye some spinach, Popeye knocks out his opponent, and Wimpy loses his fortune.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): "Poorbucks" has this happen to Princess Morbucks when a bad investment tanks her family's stock and she's forced to stay with the girls while her father "lays low". She regains it at the end by stealing Blossom's lemonade recipe and turning it into a franchise. Though at the least showed she did have some good in her by calling off her attack on the girls once she got her money back and keeping the present Blossom made for her.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?": When Homer visits his Long Lost Brother Herb, who is the head of a Detroit car company, Homer ruins Herb by designing a terrible car. A later episode has him regain his fortune (with the help of an investment from Homer). In another episode, when Homer and Marge decided to seek tutors in case they don't live long enough to see all their children reach adulthood, it's revealed Herb went broke again.
    • In one of the episodes with Herb, the inventor of New Coke is living on the street with the homeless.
    • "The Old Man and the Lisa": Mr. Burns loses his entire wealth, his power plant and his mansion in a series of bad investments — which he could have avoided if his accountants weren't too scared of him to contradict him — and has to build back his fortune from scratch, starting with collecting cans.
      Kent Brockman: Excuse me, Mr. Burns, now that you're completely ruined, how do you feel?
      Burns: Excellent. I'm on my way back to the top! I've turned these cans into can-dos!
      Brockman: Well, you smell terrible — good luck to you, sir.
    • Brenda of the Lifetime TV movie "From Homemaker to Homeless". She later went to Harvard Medical School — as a cadaver.
    • Krusty the Clown is a multimillionaire celebrity, but lawsuits, multiple alimonies, gambling losses, drug use, and ridiculously expensive tastes leave him in continual danger of becoming this.
    • Rainier Wolfcastle lost so much money with three divorces (in three months) he's forced to hold a Garage Sale at his Big Fancy House.
  • The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat: The episode "Bet a Billion Bill" featured a gambler named Billy. He was wealthy and lucky until a black cat (Felix) crossed his path. In "Viva Lost Wages", Billy stole Felix's magic bag and used it as a charm to regain his fortune. Once Felix recovered the bag, it didn't take long before Billy returned to the poorhouse.

    Real Life 
  • Mike Tyson had earned over $300 million during his career as a boxer but had to file for bankruptcy, thanks to his colourful variety of debts including $13.4 million to the IRS and a $9 million divorce settlement to his ex-wife, Monica Turner. From 1995 to 1997, he spent $9 million in legal fees, $230,000 on pagers and cellphones, and $410,000 on a birthday party. In June 2002, he owed $8,100 to care for his tigers and $65,000 for limos.
  • This also happened to MC Hammer. During the late-1980s and early-1990s, he was one of the most successful rappers on the planet (as well as being the first rapper to achieve mainstream popularity), but by the mid-1990s the public had grown bored of Hammer's upbeat, poppy rap style. Combined with the large amounts of money he was spending on friends and family, he eventually found himself $13 million in debt. In 1996 he declared bankruptcy. Since then he has unsuccessfully attempted a few times to revive his music career but has mainly been working as a Christian minister.
  • Hip-hop producer Scott Storch was once worth $70 million, blowing his fortune on cocaine, celebrity girlfriends, a mansion, a yacht, jewelry, and private jets. He allegedly spent $30 million in a six-month period alone. Soon afterwards, Storch went to rehab and was later charged for grand theft auto and failing to pay child support. Storch's mansion was later repossessed, and he filed for bankruptcy in June 2015, with only $3,600 in assets (cash, clothes, and a watch).
  • This often happens to former nobility and royalty as the result of a revolution.
    • For example, the French royal family after they were imprisoned during The Reign of Terror. The Jacobins running the prison basically did everything they could to make them as uncomfortable as possible and humiliate them.
    • After the Russian Revolution, this happened to Czar Nicholas Romanov and his family, as well as the entire aristocracy and capitalist class.
    • Puyi went through frequent and dramatic changes of fortune during his life. When he was only two he became emperor of China. Four years later he was forced to abdicate (well, his aunt abdicated on his behalf, since a six-year-old was obviously unable to make that decision himself). At the age of eleven he was restored to the throne for all of twelve days before the republican army crushed his supporters' rebellion. For the next seven years he lived in the Forbidden City. Then he was driven out by an invading warlord and made the fatal decision to seek refuge with the Japanese. In 1931 they invaded China and made Puyi their Puppet King in Manchuria. After the war ended he was taken prisoner by the Soviets, who handed him back to the Chinese, who imprisoned him as a war criminal. He was released ten years later and spent the rest of his life as a commoner.
  • This often happens to people who win lotteries. Lotto winners often come from middle- or lower-class backgrounds and have no experience managing large amounts of money. As a result, many of them do not regulate their spending and end up broke (or worse, millions of dollars in debt) within a few years; if they're at least careful about their spending, there's still always the possibility of being hit repeatedly with lawsuits (usually meritless, but taking even one to court can take giant bites out of even the most substantial of fortunes, making settlements the more viable option by a long shot; this, unfortunately, only serves to embolden parasitic people). Shady accountants are another thing that can bring them down; while they will eventually get caught when a discrepancy gets noticed somewhere, they can funnel immense amounts of money away over a long period of time and cause tons of other problems.
  • An alarmingly high number of professional athletes, despite making millions during their careers, have found themselves broke less than ten years after retirement, be it due to alimony/child support, failed business ventures, shady accountants, or excessive lifestyles catching up to them, or the onset of medical conditions caused by the injuries sustained while they were still playing.
  • British football team Leeds United endured this in the mid-2000s. After being Champions League semifinalists in 2001, they failed to make the next two tournaments, losing out to Liverpool and Newcastle respectively. After the second instance, the huge loans taken out to finance the transfer fees and player wages caught up with them. Their loans had been dependent on Champions League football every season. They were relegated in 2004 after going into administration. In 2007, they went into administration again and were relegated to the third tier of English football. Thankfully for them, this turned around once they got more financially sound ownership, and eventually they returned to the Premier League with a warm welcome in 2020.
  • This blog post describe how Suburbia families' lifestyles went down when the value of their house, which they used as collateral in equity, went down with the housing crisis.
  • In the early 1970s, Terry-Thomas was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. But by the early 1980s, his medical expenses grew so high that he was forced to sell his estate and many assets to pay for his treatments and moved into affordable housing. By 1989, his plight was so dire that fellow comedians Jack Douglas and Richard Hope-Hawkins organized a benefit concert to help him. With its proceeds, Terry was able to move into a nursing home, where he died in January 1990.
  • This can happen to entire countries.
    • Haiti was considered the most lucrative of all New World colonies until the late 1700s. France could cut its losses of North American colonies in the Seven Years War and sustain itself on the sugar plantations of Haiti alone. It was run by a tiny class of white and mixed-race slave-owners who could lord it over the slaves on the sugarcane and coffee plantations. Then came two decades of near-constant war that ended with an independent Haiti and (at least nominally) free blacks — the first time in history a slave rebellion resulted in an independent Republic led by former slaves, but France imposed huge reparations on the newly independent nation, pushing it into economic problems it never fully escaped from.
    • Argentina on the other hand was considered among the richest countries on Earth in the late 19th century and it was about as desirable a place to emigrate to as the US from the standpoint of many Europeans. However, a mixture of corruption, incapable politicians, and bad luck led to Argentina declaring bankruptcy in the late 20th century. Argentina is once again modestly wealthy, but nowhere near the position in the world it enjoyed during its heyday (to the point its economy has been overshadowed by neighbor Brazil, and also Mexico in a Latin American standpoint). Now basically dollarized as of 2020 because the peso is useless.
    • India was once among the richest nations of the world with several Indian states having more gold than anyone imagined a single place could store. The likes of Marco Polo who came all the way to South India was agog at the wealth of the Tamil Kingdoms. Until the 1700s, India had a monopoly on the Diamond Trade, the crown jewels of every Crown in Europe came from the diamonds of Indian mines and Indian spices and textiles were highly prized and it maintained lucrative trade with Europe from the Roman Empire onwards. Two centuries of colonialism followed by post-independent malaise, Indians are far from being among the wealthiest nations in the world (though it is among the world's growing economic powers) and is famous around the world for massive poverty (as evidenced by the success of films like Slumdog Millionaire), corruption, and high mortality rates. Its educated urban middle class emigrates in large numbers to serve in Western countries leading to a Brain Drain with India struggling to make its exports match its imports, a situation that is entirely the reverse of its economic condition in the early 1700s.
    • China was legendary for its wealth and riches. Its porcelain products had long commanded envy and high demand by the Europeans who devoted a great deal of time and effort to copy and reverse engineer it. The Chinese government had a distinct policy of a tribute system whereby all who wanted to treat with the Emperor had to submit to be its vassal, a system followed by Dutch traders who came earlier. The English, having greater demand for Chinese products and wanting preferential treatment refused to play along, and responded negatively to the fact that the Chinese didn't think they had anything that interested them: China was among the richest countries in the world, it had a very efficient agricultural sector, a large population, and produced goods like silk or tea that the whole world wanted. The only thing the Europeans could give in exchange was silver and gold. The British, or rather the East India Company, instead formed the world's first, and largest and most successful, drug cartel, by producing opium cheaply in India and thus reduce the trade deficit. China of course wanted to stop this for several obvious reasons, but when they did in the Opium Wars, it was the beginning of a Shocking Defeat Legacy of unequal treaties and colonization of coastal cities into spheres of influence, much looting and violence that saw the destruction of several villages, Monumental Damage and widespread looting that ended with China losing to Japan, ending with No More Emperors and China seen as an ungovernable backwater nobody needed to care about, and giving the Chinese a strong desire to get back on top and turn the tables. This has turned around quite a bit in the last half-century or so.
    • Japan is a downplayed example. It's still one of the richest countries in the world, having the world's third largest GDP, the fourth highest GDP per capita in Asia, and serving as a world center of finances, manufacturing, and technology. However, during the late 20th century, it was near the top of the world and seriously rivaled the United States as a global superpower. A combination of a bubble economy, an aging population, and fast-surging rivals in China and South Korea (both of which had spent most of the 20th century in one crisis after another, leaving Japan as the undisputed winner in terms of economic development in Asia) left Japan as a shadow of its former self. No educated person would think Japan as a weak country even today, but it is no longer a contender for "top superpower of the world".
    • Nauru. It used to have a very lucrative phosphate industry, which, combined with the small population of less than ten thousand people, made it one of the richest countries in the world (in 1970, it had a higher GDP per capita than Italy and Japan. No, seriously.) and the second richest in Oceania, after Australia. However, some Nauruans invested the money in wasteful foreign investment, while others didn't know what to do with it (since after all, the country literally consists of one tiny island in the middle of the Pacific) and ended up spending it on frivolous things, like theater. Eventually, the phosphate ran out and along it the steady amount of cash, leaving behind a mined-out, scarred island unsuitable for farming, forcing the country to import most goods overseas. In the span of a decade, Nauru was bankrupted.
    • Venezuela. Once the most prosperous country in South America, now bankrupt thanks to rampant oil spending and corruption.
  • Robert Morris was a merchant and investor whose name was synonymous with 'wealth' during the final years of Colonial America. When the Revolutionary war came about, he took on a managerial role of the rebel army's resources, earning the unofficial title of "Financier of the Revolution". After the war, Morris, who was poised to become one of the wealthiest men in the world, engaged in aggressive land speculation, passing up on urban properties that would become central business districts to buy vast stretches of wilderness that would remain vast stretches of wilderness. His finances collapsed and his resulting stint in prison became a national embarrassment.
  • H. P. Lovecraft was born into a family of wealth in Rhode Island, but by the time he entered high school, much of that wealth was gone. Starting with his father's (possibly syphilis-related) psychotic break, followed by the death of his maternal grandfather, who was the provider of most of the wealth on his mother's side of the family, the family businesses fell apart. They had to leave their large Rhode Island home and eventually moved into a small duplex. Lovecraft would later remark that this was the darkest point in his lifenote .
  • Burt Reynolds filed for Charter 11 Bankruptcy in 1996, due in part to an extravagant lifestyle, a divorce from Loni Anderson, and failed investments in some Florida restaurant chains. He emerged from bankruptcy two years later.
  • In Billie Holiday's final years, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with US$0.70 in the bank and $750 ($6,446 in 2018 dollars), which was a tabloid fee, on her person.
  • Jim Davidson filed for bankruptcy in 2006, having failed to keep up payments on a £1.4 million back tax bill that he had reduced to £700,000. In 2003, after a meeting with the Inland Revenue, he claimed he spent £10,000 a week on back taxes, commission to agents, maintenance and school fees, and a £2.2 million mortgage. He spent so much money on his four divorces, that he joked that the reason he's with his current wife is that he can't afford another divorce.
  • Gary Glitter declared bankruptcy twice, in 1977 and the 1990s, over unpaid taxes. He claimed this was because "someone didn't fill in the right forms". This ended up being the least of his legal problems, although he no longer has to worry about having enough money to live on in retirement.
  • Corey Haim nearly went broke after he pulled out of the film Paradise Bar in 1996. He was sued by Lloyd's of London for $375,000 for failing to disclose his drug addiction as a pre-existing medical condition on the insurance form. Haim filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 1997. He ended up living back home with his mother. He died with very little money, and his mother initially announced that the cost of his funeral would be covered by public funds provided by the city of Toronto as is customary in destitute cases.
  • Fatty Arbuckle's career was ruined by a scandalous murder trial, even though he was found innocent. At the time of his acquittal, Arbuckle owed over $700,000 (equivalent to approximately $10,500,000 in 2018 dollars) in legal fees to his attorneys for the three criminal trials, and he was forced to sell his house and all of his cars to pay some of the debt.
  • Irish snooker player Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, once worth £4 million, died penniless and living on a £200-a-week disability allowance.
  • Paul Catterole of S Club 7 declared bankruptcy in 2014 and was reduced to selling his Brit Awards on Ebay, saying "there are bills to pay". When he appeared as a guest on Loose Women, he thanked the producers for giving him a shirt to wear. His bandmate Jo O'Meara appeared on Celebrity Big Brother because she was in danger of having her house repossessed.
  • Abz Love of Five also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother because he was reduced to living with his aunt and later put his Brit Awards up on Ebay.
  • Kerry Katona of Atomic Kitten was declared bankrupt at the High Court in London in 2008 after failing to pay the final £82,000 of a £417,000 tax bill. After losing her Iceland contract, her magazine column, and her MTV shows, Katona suffered further financial setbacks. In December 2009, she received a repossession order on her £1.5 million home, having not paid her mortgage in months.
    • In 2013, she filed for bankruptcy at County Court in Wigan.
  • Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays and Black Grape lost most of his money in the late nineties due to school fees, legal issues and other things.
    • His bandmate Bez was declared bankrupt twice in 2005 and 2008. He appeared as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother for this very reason.
  • When Bela Lugosi died, he was in such dire financial status that Frank Sinatra quietly paid for his funeral.
  • When English comedian Freddie Starr died, he'd lost most of his money fighting legal actions in his final years, and he was reported as living in constrained financial circumstances in Spain in exile from creditors back in England. His family were without the funds needed to cover the costs of repatriating his body home for a funeral until an undertaker's firm from the city of Sheffield charitably paid for the repatriation and funeral service.
  • Following Evel Knievel's conviction for assault in 1977, he lost most marketing endorsements and deals, including Harley-Davidson and Ideal Toys. With no income from jumping or sponsorship, he was eventually declared bankrupt. He spent much of the 1980s in obscurity before making a comeback in the 1990s.
  • Isaac Hayes experienced a decline in record sales in 1976. He and his wife were forced into bankruptcy in 1976, as they owed over $6 million. By the end of the bankruptcy proceedings in 1977, Hayes had lost his home, much of his personal property, and the rights to all future royalties earned from the music he had written, performed, and produced. He did manage to bounce back the next year.
  • Comedian Rod Hull of Emu fame filed for bankruptcy in 1994 due to the cost of renovating his mansion and an unpaid tax bill.
  • Football legend George Best was made bankrupt twice due to his celebrity lifestyle. Crippling alcoholism didn't help, either.
  • Brendan Fraser went broke in the 2010s when he was unable to make alimony and child support payments. Thanks to surgeries for all the injuries he sustained doing action films, he was no longer getting the plum roles, which contributed to his financial woes.
  • British ski-jumper Michael Edwards aka Eddie the Eagle declared bankruptcy in 1992, claiming that a trust fund for his earnings was not set up properly.
  • 50 Cent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 due to various legal issues.
  • In 2012, Eike Batista was listed by Forbes magazine as the 7th richest person in the world, net worth of US$35 billion. In 2014, he had a negative net worth, as all his companies turned out to be overvalued in especulation (such as drilling operation which had claimed would pump 750,000 barrels of oil a day, and was delivering 15,000).
  • Elizabeth Holmes was a rising star — a woman who dropped out of college to found biotech firm Theranos that could analyze blood with a pinprick, becoming a billionaire at the age of 30. She graced the covers of Fortune, Forbes, and even Time. She loved to wear black turtleneck sweaters as a Shout-Out to her idol Steve Jobs. She had a net worth of $4.5 billion at its peak. Then it all came crashing down in a series of lawsuits by government agencies, regulators, and insurance companies when evidence of systematic fraud surfaced. Her worth was revised to "nothing" by Forbes. As of October 2019, her lawyers are suing her — in their words — "given Ms. Holmes’s current financial situation, Cooley has no expectation that Ms. Holmes will ever pay it for its services as her counsel.”
  • English glamour model and media personality Katie Price aka Jordan filed for bankruptcy in 2019 due to various debts.
  • Samuel Brannan, an American newspaper mogul and Gold Rush-era California's first millionaire, lost half of his money to divorce and drank away the other half. By the time he died, he managed to quit drinking and pay off all his debts but didn't have enough money to pay for his own funeral.
  • Abbott and Costello got hit by the IRS demanding back taxes in the late fifties, forcing them to sell their homes and most of their assets, including the rights to most of their films.
  • Peter Wyngarde was declared bankrupt in 1982 and again in 1988. An obituary reported that he lived partly on social security benefits.
  • In his last days, Dennis Wilson was homeless and living a nomadic life.
  • A tragic example was Francesca Hilton, the only child of Hilton Hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor. As summarized in a story about her after her death at 67, she "was raised attending celebrity parties, living in mansions, earning blue ribbons in horse-riding competitions, and jet-setting to Paris, Rome, and other fashionable cities." After her father's death in 1979, she was left with a relatively small inheritance, and bounced around in several entertainment careers that never took off. In her last eight years, she was flat broke and alternated between living in slummy apartments and out of her car.
  • Desi Arnaz went through this as a child. He grew up in a very wealthy family (one of his grandfathers was an executive of Bacardi Distillers) and his father was at one time the Mayor of Santiago de Cuba. The family ended up on the wrong side of The Cuban Revolution of 1933, their property was seized and his father jailed. After a few months, the family was able to move to Miami, where his father started a small tile business.
  • Terry-Thomas had a career decline by The '80s, which wasn't helped when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. By 1983, with his medical bills at £40,000 a year, he and his wife sold their dream house in Spain and moved into the small cottage once owned by his former wife, which she left to him in her will. By 1987, they could no longer afford to live in Spain and moved back to London, where they lived in a series of rented properties before ending up in a three-room, unfurnished charity flat, where they lived with financial assistance from the Actors' Benevolent Fund. In 1989, the acting community was so shocked at the state he was living in, that a charity concert was held in his honor. The money raised allowed him to move out of his charity flat and into Busbridge Hall nursing home in Godalming, Surrey, where he lived out his remaining years.