Handling an unexpected windfall

Handling an unexpected windfall

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By Jonathan S. Kuttin

A surprise payday isn’t as much of a long shot as many may think. It can come in a number of forms — a larger bonus than you were expecting, an inheritance, selling a business, a legal settlement, or maybe even the lottery. While you can’t count on a sudden windfall, there are dozens of scenarios that could result in a life-changing influx of money. Here are five tips for making the most of your good fortune:

Don’t make any sudden moves. Your mind may be spinning with all the things you could buy with your new-found wealth. You might even entertain thoughts about quitting your job. But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to act impulsively or carelessly, and squander a financial blessing. Take it slow and savor the sensation of financial freedom. Give yourself the benefit of thinking through the implications of your unexpected windfall from every angle.

Talk to a tax professional. Consulting with an accountant is an opportunity to manage tax concerns on your windfall and make sure you pay what you need to. You’ll gain peace of mind knowing what you owe and writing a check to take care of it. A visit with tax professional also will give you a better grasp of how much you’ll have left over for your own use.

Retire your debt. If you carry a large credit card balance or have outstanding loans, you’re throwing away money on interest each month. Paying down or paying off these obligations will help you save in the long run and remove a bill or two from your monthly budget. You may not want to pay off your house, however, since there can be significant advantage from the mortgage tax deduction. Be sure to consult with your tax advisor before you make the decision.

Save, spend, share. With moderation as your guide, consider how you will divide your riches across these three possibilities. That is, save some so you can strengthen your financial foundation. Spend some, as long as you refrain from anything too outlandish. And share some to support the people and things you care about most—because you can.

Reevaluate your financial goal. An unexpected windfall may provide you with an opportunity to take additional steps toward your financial or investment goals. You could use it to boost your retirement accounts or add to an education savings plan for your kids. Perhaps there’s a certain charity that you’re passionate about and want to give to. Whatever the situation, an extraordinary financial windfall may change your financial goals completely.

Meet with a financial advisor. An experienced financial professional can help you step back and look at the big financial picture. With this insight, you can decide how to manage your windfall in ways that help you meet your specific goals and dreams.

Jonathan S. Kuttin, CRPC, AAMS, RFC, CRPS, CAS, AWMA, CMFC, is a private wealth advisor specializing in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies, and has been in practice for 19 years.