The premise of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" is that if a contestant correctly answers several questions of approximately increasing difficulty, s/he will become a millionaire.

However, even if they correctly answer the $1,000,000 question, they still have to pay taxes on that (which is quite a lot), and 3/4 of the money comes in equal installments over 20 years, an annuity (which, if Powerball figures are a guide, have an initial cash value of about half the payments' total). Source: Official rules.

However, it is possible that some contestant came into the show with enough assets saved up so that a prize check put their total balance up over $1MM.

Are there documented instances of the show actually making someone a millionaire?

To clarify, the question refers primarily to the US version of the show.

  • 5
    Can you please clarify: are you asking only about the U.S. version, or all versions internationally? The rules are different for each country. Some countries don't have to pay tax, and the payment is a single lump sum. e.g.: Under Australian law, cash prizes from competitions are not taxable, and the payment is a single payment of $1 million. Thus an Australian winner is, at least for a short time, an actual millionaire. – Tim Jun 8 '17 at 20:09


From wikipedia:

The $500,000 and $1,000,000 prizes were initially lump-sum payments, but were changed to annuities in September 2002 when the series moved to syndication. Contestants winning either of these prizes receive $250,000 thirty days after their show broadcasts and the remainder paid in equal annual payments. The $500,000 prize consists of $25,000 per year for 10 years, while the $1,000,000 prize consists of $37,500 per year for 20 years.

In January 2001, when no contestant had won $1 million in any show that aired over a period of five months, the top prize was then changed from a flat $1 million to an accumulating jackpot that increased by $10,000 for each episode where the top prize was not won. On April 10, 2001, Kevin Olmstead correctly answered the final question and won $2,180,000, making him the biggest winner in television history at the time.


Addition sources are required to know if the Olmstead was officially title a millionaire and how his winning were paid out. You'd have to be in a pretty high tax bracket though for the payout to put you in the millionaire category.

  • Here is a 1:58 version, and here: is a two-part part one [9:00] / part two [8:33] version of the winning event. I must say I like the faster pace of TV shows from 16 years ago. Hopefully this doesn't need to be removed. – i336_ Jun 9 '17 at 0:21
  • For reference the videos are titled "Kevin Olmstead's $2.18 Million Dollar Question - Who Wants to be a Millionaire [Classic Format]", "1/2 Kevin Olmstead on Millionaire", and "2/2 Kevin Olmstead on Millionaire". – i336_ Jun 9 '17 at 0:22
  • 1
    "was officially title[d] a millionaire" Who is it that gives out these official titles? – user1118321 Jan 19 '18 at 6:05

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