Sharon Tirabassi: From Millionaire to Living Paycheque to Paycheque

Lottery Winner Sharon Tirabassi with ChequeIf you play the lottery, you’ve likely daydreamed about what you’d do if you won the jackpot. In that dream, it probably feels like you have an endless supply of cash. While many jackpot winners receive a huge windfall, the fact of the matter is that the cashflow will end eventually. Unfortunately, many winners don’t prepare for this eventuality—and many end up regretting it. That’s exactly what happened to lottery winner Sharon Tirabassi.


Sharon Tirabassi is a Canadian woman who came to recognition when she won a large lottery jackpot prize. Living in Hamilton, Ontario, at the time of the win, Tirabassi was raising her three children and living in a rented apartment. Tirabassi had a rough childhood, living in shelters during her teen years. In early 2004, just before her big win, Tirabassi had recently come off welfare and had started a job as a personal care provider, though she had no car to get her there.


Everything changed for Sharon Tirabassi on Easter weekend in April 2004, when she checked her Lotto Super 7 ticket and learned she had won the jackpot. The winning jackpot for the draw was an incredible $10.5 million. In total, Tirabassi received a cheque for $10,569,000.10, and she got to keep all of it, as winners do not have to claim lottery winnings as income and funds are not subject to a lottery tax in Canada.


Tirabassi was very generous with her stroke of luck and shared money with friends and family. Her first action with her windfall was to split the winnings among family: $1 million to her parents and another $1.75 million split between her four siblings. As is often the case with jackpot winners, Tirabassi was suddenly approached by many friends—new and old—when news of her win spread. She helped friends pay rent, loaned cash to a friend whose husband was in jail, and even gave some friends funds to start a business. Unfortunately, some of these friends were never heard from again, and many loans were never repaid.

However, when it comes to the money she lent to friends and family, Sharon only regrets the fractured relationships, not the money she gave away. While she now advises winners to be wary of such generosity, she also says that she was simply raised to help others who can’t help themselves, and couldn’t help but give money to friends and  family in need.

While much of Tirabassi’s fortune was spent on friends on family, she was also able to enjoy some luxuries herself. She loved taking all-expenses-paid trips, travelling to Cancun, California, Florida, Las Vegas, and the Caribbean (often with friends who she paid for). After marrying her husband, Vinny Tirabassi, in 2006, the couple bought a $515,000 house in Ancaster, Ontario, a quaint town within the city of Hamilton.

Sharon Tirabassi with Pimped Out CadillacIn the driveway, they had four vehicles: a Mustang, a Dodge Charger, a Hummer, and a custom Cadillac Escalade that cost over $200,000. The Cadillac had sound mixers and interior turntables that blasted music—a fact that Tirabassi’s neighbours hated. Tirabassi also bought several homes in Hamilton, which she then rented out at low-rates to low-income families.

By 2007, just three years after the win, Tirabassi had already blown through about half of her money. At that time, she was living off the interest from investments made with the remaining $5 million. Unfortunately, it was around that time that Vinny started getting into some trouble with the law, spending time in jail from 2007 to 2008, and then again in 2011. During Vinny’s first stay in jail, the couple lost the house in Ancaster. Sharon then moved to Hagersville, Ontario, before she and Vinny moved to Edmonton, Alberta, once he was released. Eventually, the couple settled again in Hamilton, but by that time most of the money from the big win was gone.


Lottery Loser Sharon Tirabassi NowAs of 2013, Sharon and Vinny were living in a rental apartment in downtown Hamilton with their six kids—three from Sharon’s previous relationships, and three that they had together. She is once again working as a part-time personal support worker, taking the bus to work. Though the couple still had the Cadillac at the time, it was in need of parts they couldn’t afford and was locked away in storage.

Despite the drastic change in circumstances, neither Sharon nor Vinny mind. They both grew up under similar circumstances, and had no problem readjusting to a more toned-down lifestyle. In fact, they both seem to think the money was more trouble than it was worth, considering how many friends they lost. Whatever remains of the money Sharon won is in a trust for her children, who will be able to access the money when they turn 26. Sharon says she is happier without the money than she ever was with it. While she had fun shopping for designer clothes and going on trips, she feels her life has more purpose now than it ever did when she was living large—a lesson that the rest of us can perhaps learn from.


While money can solve a lot of life’s problems, it often comes with issues of its own. For Sharon Tirabassi, a large windfall felt endless—right up until the moment it wasn’t and turned into the notorious lottery curse instead. Though she has found peace with her circumstances and the life she has lived, her story definitely offers some insight into the tough decisions lottery winners may make if they come into a large amount of money.

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