A financial windfall is a sudden and unexpected influx of money that can come from various sources, such as an inheritance, a lawsuit settlement, a business sale, a lottery win, or a stock market windfall. While receiving a windfall can be exciting and life-changing, it can also pose some challenges and risks. How you manage your newfound wealth can have a significant impact on your financial future and your happiness.
In this article, we will provide you with some tips and strategies on how to manage a financial windfall effectively and avoid some common pitfalls. Whether you are a high net worth individual, an entrepreneur, a tech employee, or a lottery winner, this guide will help you make the most of your sudden money.
Take a deep breath
The first thing you should do when you receive a financial windfall is to take a breath and resist the urge to make any hasty decisions. A sudden influx of money can trigger a range of emotions, such as joy, excitement, anxiety, guilt, or fear. These emotions can cloud your judgment and lead you to make impulsive choices that you may regret later.
Instead of rushing to spend or invest your money right away, take some time to process your situation and let the initial shock wear off. You may want to put your money in a safe and liquid account, such as a high-yield savings account or a money market fund, until you have a clear plan for how to use it. This will also give you some time to consult with professionals and do your research before making any major moves.
Seek professional help
Managing a financial windfall can be overwhelming and complicated, especially if you are not familiar with tax planning, estate planning, financial planning, or investing. That’s why it’s important to seek professional help from experts who have experience working with clients who have received large lump sums of money, or newfound money.
Some of the professionals you may want to consult with include:
- A certified public accountant (CPA) or a tax advisor who can help you understand the tax implications of your windfall and advise you on how to minimize your tax liability.
- An estate planning attorney who can help you create or update your will, living trust, appoint beneficiaries and trustees, power of attorney, health care directive, and other documents that protect your assets and your loved ones in case of death or incapacity.
- A certified financial planner (CFP) who can help you create a comprehensive financial plan that aligns with your short-term and long-term goals, risk tolerance, and values. A CFP can also help you budget, save, invest, pay off debt, plan for retirement, and manage your cash flow.
- A fiduciary financial advisor who can act in your best interest and provide unbiased advice on how to invest your money wisely and avoid scams or bad deals.
When choosing professionals to work with, make sure they are qualified, reputable, transparent, and trustworthy. You may want to ask for referrals from friends or family members who have had similar experiences or do some online research to find reviews and ratings. You may also want to interview several candidates before hiring them and ask them about their credentials, fees, services, and communication style.
Beware of long-lost friends
Another challenge that comes with receiving a financial windfall is dealing with requests for money from family members, friends, charities, or strangers. While it’s natural to want to share your good fortune with others and support causes that matter to you, you also need to be careful about who you give money to and how much.
If you are not careful, you may end up giving away more than you can afford or getting involved in conflicts or disputes over money. You may also attract unwanted attention from people who are only interested in your wealth and not in your well-being.
To avoid these problems, you may want to keep your windfall private as much as possible and limit the number of people who know about it. You may also want to set some boundaries and rules for yourself on how much money you are willing to give away and under what circumstances. For example, you may decide to only give money to close family members or friends who are in genuine need or have supported you in the past. You may also decide to only give money as a gift or a loan with clear terms and expectations.
Another option is to create a charitable trust or foundation that allows you to donate money to causes that align with your values and goals. This way, you can have more control over how your money is used and get some tax benefits as well.
Be clear about your goals
One of the most important steps in managing a financial windfall is be clear about your goals. A financial windfall can open up many possibilities and opportunities for you, but it can also create confusion and uncertainty. To make the best use of your money, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and why.
Your goals should reflect your values, priorities, and aspirations. They should also be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, instead of saying “I want to save more money”, you could say “I want to save $500,000 for a down payment on a house by the end of next year”.
- Paying off high-interest debt, such as credit cards or personal loans
- Building an emergency fund that covers at least six months of living expenses
- Saving for retirement in a tax-advantaged account, such as a 401(k) or an IRA
- Buying a home that suits your needs and budget
- Saving for a vacation or a dream trip
- Starting a business or pursuing a passion project
- Feeling financially secure and confident
To help you identify and prioritize your goals, you may want to use a worksheet or a tool that helps you list your goals, rank them by importance, and assign them a timeline and a cost. You may also want to review your goals regularly and adjust them as your circumstances change.
Reduce your debt
One of the smartest things you can do with your financial windfall is to pay off any debt that is costing you more than you are earning on your investments. This can help you save money on interest, improve your credit score, and free up cash flow for other purposes.
The best way to pay off debt depends on your situation and preferences. Some common methods include:
- The debt avalanche method: This involves paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, while making minimum payments on the rest. Once the first debt is paid off, you move on to the next highest interest rate debt, and so on. This can help you save the most money on interest and pay off your debt faster.
- The debt snowball method: This involves paying off the debt with the smallest balance first, while making minimum payments on the rest. Once the first debt is paid off, you move on to the next smallest balance debt, and so on. This can help you build momentum and motivation as you see your debts disappear one by one.
- The debt consolidation method: This involves taking out a new loan with a lower interest rate and using it to pay off multiple debts at once. This can help you simplify your payments, lower your interest rate, and reduce your monthly payment.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you have a realistic budget that allows you to pay off your debt without compromising your other financial goals or needs.
Invest for retirement
Another wise way to use your financial windfall is to invest it for your retirement. Retirement may seem far away, but the sooner you start saving and investing, the more time you have for your money to grow and compound.
There are various ways to invest for retirement, depending on your age, income, risk tolerance, and goals. Some of the most common options include:
- Employer-sponsored plans: These are retirement plans offered by employers that allow employees to contribute a portion of their pre-tax income to an investment account. The most common types are 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans. Some employers may also match some or all of your contributions up to a certain limit.
- Individual retirement accounts (IRAs): These are retirement accounts that you can open on your own at a bank or brokerage firm. There are two main types: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Traditional IRAs allow you to contribute pre-tax income and defer taxes until withdrawal. Roth IRAs allow you to contribute after-tax income and withdraw tax-free in retirement.
- Other investment accounts: These are accounts that are not specifically designed for retirement but can still help you grow your wealth over time. These include brokerage accounts, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks, bonds, real estate investment trusts (REITs), etc.
When investing for retirement, it’s important to diversify your portfolio across different asset classes, sectors, and regions. This can help you reduce your exposure to market volatility and enhance your returns over time.
- Strategic asset allocation: This involves setting and maintaining a target mix of assets based on your long-term objectives and risk profile. For example, you may decide to allocate 60% of your portfolio to stocks, 30% to bonds, and 10% to cash. You may then rebalance your portfolio periodically to keep it aligned with your target mix.
- Dynamic asset allocation: This involves adjusting your asset mix based on changing market conditions and economic trends. For example, you may increase your exposure to stocks when the market is bullish and decrease it when the market is bearish. You may also shift your assets among different sectors and regions based on their performance and outlook.
- Tactical asset allocation: This involves making short-term deviations from your strategic asset mix to take advantage of temporary market opportunities or anomalies. For example, you may temporarily overweight a certain asset class, sector, or region that is undervalued or has strong momentum. You may then revert to your strategic asset mix once the opportunity is gone or the anomaly is corrected.
- Core-satellite asset allocation: This involves combining a core portfolio of low-cost, diversified, and passive investments (such as index funds or ETFs) with a satellite portfolio of active and specialized investments (such as individual stocks or bonds, mutual funds, REITs, etc.). The core portfolio provides stability and broad exposure, while the satellite portfolio provides potential for higher returns and customization.
When choosing an asset allocation strategy, it’s important to consider your personal preferences, financial situation, and investment knowledge. You may also want to consult a financial planner or an investment advisor who can help you design a portfolio that suits your needs and goals.
Donate to charity
Another noble way to use your financial windfall is to donate some of it to charity. Giving to charity can not only help you support a cause that you care about, but also provide you with tax benefits, personal satisfaction, and social recognition.
There are many ways to donate to charity, depending on how much you want to give, how often you want to give, and how involved you want to be. Some of the most common ways include:
- Cash donations: These are the simplest and most common way of giving to charity. You can make a one-time or recurring donation to any charity of your choice using cash, check, credit card, or online payment. You can also deduct your cash donations from your taxable income up to a certain limit (usually 60% of your adjusted gross income).
- Non-cash donations: These are donations of goods or services that you own or provide. You can donate items such as clothing, furniture, books, electronics, vehicles, etc. to any charity that accepts them. You can also donate your time, skills, or expertise to any charity that needs them. You can deduct the fair market value of your non-cash donations from your taxable income up to a certain limit (usually 50% of your adjusted gross income).
- Planned giving: These are donations that are arranged in advance and take effect after your death or at a specified date. You can make a planned gift by naming a charity as a beneficiary in your will, trust, life insurance policy, retirement plan, or charitable gift annuity 7. You can also make a planned gift by creating a donor-advised fund, a pooled income fund, or a charitable remainder trust 8. Planned giving can help you reduce your estate taxes, increase your income, and leave a lasting legacy for your favorite charity.
Before you donate to any charity, make sure you do some research on its mission, vision, values, programs, impact, and financial accountability. You can use online tools such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or GiveWell to evaluate and compare different charities based on their ratings, reviews, and reports. You can also contact the charity directly and ask for more information or visit their website and social media platforms.
Donating to charity can be a rewarding and meaningful way to use your financial windfall. However, you should also be careful not to overdo it or neglect your own financial needs and goals. You should only donate what you can afford and what makes you happy. Remember that charity begins at home.
Invest in yourself
Finally, one of the best ways to use your financial windfall is to invest in yourself. Investing in yourself means spending money on things that can improve your personal or professional growth, such as education, skills, health, wellness, hobbies, passions, or relationships.
Investing in yourself can have many benefits for your future, such as:
- Increasing your knowledge and expertise
- Enhancing your career prospects and earning potential
- Boosting your confidence and self-esteem
- Improving your physical and mental health
- Expanding your network and social capital
- Enriching your life experiences and happiness
There are many ways to invest in yourself, depending on your interests, goals, and budget. Some of the most common ways include:
- Taking a course or degree: You can enroll in a course or degree that can help you learn something new, advance your career, or pursue your passion. You can choose from online or offline courses, formal or informal courses, academic or vocational courses, etc. You can also apply for scholarships or grants that can cover some or all of your tuition fees.
- Reading books or articles: You can buy or borrow books or articles that can teach you something valuable, inspire you, or entertain you. You can choose from fiction or non-fiction books, print or digital books, classic or contemporary books, etc. You can also join a book club or a reading group that can help you share your thoughts and opinions with other readers.
- Attending a seminar or workshop: You can attend a seminar or workshop that can help you acquire a new skill, improve an existing skill, or discover a new opportunity. You can choose from online or offline seminars, free or paid seminars, one-time or recurring seminars, etc. You can also network with other attendees and speakers who can offer you valuable advice or support.
- Hiring a coach or mentor: You can hire a coach or mentor who can help you achieve your personal or professional goals, overcome your challenges, or unlock your potential. You can choose from online or offline coaches, individual or group coaches, general or specialized coaches, etc. You can also seek feedback and guidance from your coach or mentor on a regular basis.
- Joining a club or organization: You can join a club or organization that can help you pursue your hobby, passion, or cause. You can choose from online or offline clubs, local or global clubs, casual or formal clubs, etc. You can also participate in the activities and events of your club or organization and make new friends who share your interests and values.
- Traveling to a new place: You can travel to a new place that can help you explore a different culture, learn a new language, or experience a new adventure. You can choose from domestic or international travel, solo or group travel, budget or luxury travel, etc. You can also document your travel memories and stories and share them with others.
Investing in yourself can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling ways to use your financial windfall. However, you should also be careful not to overspend or overcommit yourself. You should only invest in what you can afford and what makes you happy. Remember that you are your most valuable asset.
Receiving a financial windfall can be a life-changing event that can open up many possibilities for you. However, it can also be overwhelming and stressful if you don’t know how to use it wisely. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and a strategy for managing your money effectively.
In this post, we have discussed eight smart ways to use your financial windfall:
- Pay off your debts
- Build an emergency fund
- Save for retirement
- Save for other goals
- Invest in the stock market
- Donate to charity
- Invest in yourself
These are not the only ways to use your financial windfall, but they are some of the most common and recommended ones by financial experts and advisors. Of course, you don’t have to follow them exactly or in order. You can adapt them to your own situation and preferences.
The key is to find a balance between spending and saving, between enjoying and investing, between giving and receiving.
Remember that money is not everything, but it can help you achieve many things if you use it well. So don’t let your financial windfall go to waste. Make it work for you and your future. And a key resource in that direction is Kubera which simplifies asset, portfolio, and net worth tracking for you.
Kubera is a well-rounded, intuitive portfolio tracker for all of your bank accounts, brokerages, NFTs, crypto, DeFi, real estate, jewelry, cash, stocks, bonds, alternative investments and more. And it is the best tool to stay informed, and seamlessly manage all your wealth from a financial windfall.