The Truth About Winning A Million Dollars On Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Americans were first introduced to ABC’s game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? back in August 1999, when the British hit made its way stateside (via CNN). While we now know the show has been wildly successful, the team at ABC didn’t have high hopes back then. In fact, producer Michael P. Davies was one of the only people who truly believed in the show from the beginning — and he even hinged his entire career on the show’s success.

Davies explained to CNN that he even walked away from an offer to be a programming executive at ABC, choosing to launch Millionaire instead. “I had staked everything on it. I loved my job with ABC. I just felt compelled to do this.”

The original series ran from 1999 to June 2002, and according to Gold Derby, during that time only nine people had been awarded the coveted prize of one million dollars. The show was rebooted in September 2002 with Meredith Vieira in the host’s chair, and as of November 2020, only thirteen people have won in total (via Gold Derby).

What happens when you win big on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

So what really happens when you win the big prize on Millionaire? For starters, winners in the United States are taxed at around 40 percent of the total, which means they actually walk away with 60% of the final prize. Still, that’s no small chunk of change!

John Carpenter was the first person to ever win one million dollars on the American version of the show. Ten years after his 2009 win, he sat down for an interview with the New Haven Register and surprised many by telling the paper that his life wasn’t that different. For starters, he was never technically a millionaire even though he won. “I wasn’t a millionaire a second after I won the money because I had to pay taxes on it.”

Carpenter also chose to keep his job at the Internal Revenue Service, and told the paper his winnings weren’t enough to quit. “It’s not enough money, especially living around here, to just drop out and have fun and not do anything. It’s not like (major league) ball player money. It’s a lot of money. It makes things more comfortable than they would be. But it’s not like what it used to mean when you said $1 million.” So if you’re thinking about applying for the show to win big, just keep in mind you won’t be rolling in a million dollars, even if you do hit the jackpot.

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