From riches to rags: 5 wealthy people who retired broke

When you're young, successful and living the highlife, it's easy to relegate retirement to the back of your mind and forego those voluntary super contributions that your parents encouraged you to make.

But, you never know what's waiting around the corner. When the unexpected strikes, will you have a tidy nest egg tucked away to secure the retirement you deserve? Or will you be left high and dry?

Here are five examples of once-rich people who ended up without a dollar to their name. Let their stories be a warning to you, and a reminder of just how important having a tidy superannuation kitty can be.

Thomas Jefferson

A founding father of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson was famous for authoring the Declaration of Independence and becoming the nation's third president. Perhaps he should have spent a bit more time authoring a good superannuation plan!

Jefferson is said to have lived an ostentatious life, and also inherited considerable debt from his father-in-law. Despite being born to a wealthy slave-owning family, he died in 1826 owing an estimated $107,000 to creditors – that translates to more than US$1 million today!

Elvis Presley

That's right baby, the king of rock and roll is another example of a once-wealthy celebrity who squandered his fortune. Despite making millions during his lifetime, Elvis was rumoured to be fast approaching bankruptcy when he passed away in 1977 at the age of 42.

A habit of making overly-generous purchases for friends and beautiful women, as well as a divorce in 1972, quickly depleted the funds of Memphis's favourite son. The Presley estate has since turned its fortunes around, however, generating an estimated $55 million in 2012, according to Forbes.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain – born Samuel Langhorne Clemens – is one of the most famous writers of all time, having authored such classic novels as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper. Despite the extreme popularity of his books at the time, Twain filed for bankruptcy in 1894 after a business partnership with his nephew Charles L. Webster went bad.

Twain's story is one that ended happily, as he was able to keep writing and lecturing into his 60s and eventually paid off his debts. However, unless you want to be working full time in your golden years, smart spending habits and a good superannuation plan are probably a better way to go.

George Best

George Best is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time, having played for both Manchester United and Northern Ireland during his career. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1968 and earned a tidy fortune thanks to sponsorship deals and endorsements.

Unfortunately, Best had an affinity for alcohol and living the high life. He struggled with financial problems after retiring from the beautiful game and died in 2005 after complications from a liver transplant. When asked what had become of his finances, Best once remarked: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered".

Most lottery winners

If you thought that hitting the jackpot and winning the lottery was the ticket to financial freedom and a happy retirement – think again. Over the years, we have consistently heard stories of lucky lottery winners who blew through their takings and ended up without a penny to their name.

For example, earlier this year reports emerged of a Canadian woman who won more than $10 million in the national lottery, but ended up giving most of it away to friends and family and splashing out on lavish trips and fancy houses. Goes to show that a good retirement plan will always trump relying on luck!

If you had $1m dollars left what would you spend it on?