You’ve just come into a sudden windfall, maybe the lottery or an inheritance. Either way, you’re at a total loss for what to do next.
Take a deep breath and take stock of your options. You’re able to navigate this situation in a calm, orderly fashion. Just follow these steps.
What to do in the first few days
It’s OK to celebrate your lucky day — just keep the news to yourself.
When people come into a small fortune, they often become overwhelmed by the attention they draw. Long-lost friends and acquaintances from decades ago have a knack for showing up right when you acquire a lot of money.
This is precisely the time when you don’t want to be the center of attention. You’ll first want to square away professional help to keep from making unwise decisions.
Here’s what to do now:
- Sign your ticket. If you have a lottery ticket, sign the back of it and hide it. It doesn’t officially belong to you until you’ve given it your autographed.
- Don’t tell anyone outside of your partner. If you live in a state where lottery winners must be announced:
- Get off social media. Shut down accounts like Facebook and Twitter. With all the attention you’ll receive, you don’t want people invading your privacy by browsing through your photos or sending unsolicited messages.
- Be ready to leave town if necessary. Just as people will want to find you online, they’ll want to find you in person. It’s best to avoid any scrutiny while you get a professional team in place to help you manage your money.
Assemble a team of professionals
You’ll first want to speak to a trusts and estates attorney that specializes in such financial issues as large windfalls. Don’t just contact your local lawyer. Instead, search resources like Martindale or US News and World Report’s list of best law firms for a reputable attorney.
Take your time vetting your attorney. Later on, you’ll want them to sit in with you when you hire a financial adviser and an accountant. Your attorney will also help you create a trust — an entity that lets you claim your windfall without revealing your name.
After you’ve claimed the money
After you’ve collected your windfall and paid taxes on it, you can lay the foundation for a solid financial future. Here are a few wise things to do.
Get your money into your accounts
If you need to get your money back into a bank account internationally or send money to family overseas, compare international money transfer services that are best equipped to help you with a large transfer.
Work with your financial advisor to get your funds into your trust or bank account before you start spending it.
Pay off debts
The longer you hold onto debt, the more interest you’ll accrue over the long run. Now is the perfect time to pay off everything you owe: credit cards, student loans, mortgages and more. It’s a responsible first step that will save you money over time.
Put money into a rainy-day fund
You might be surprised by how many lottery winners end up broke. Whether through poor spending habits or plain bad luck, it’s easy to squander a large windfall. So plan accordingly and create a backup fund.
A rainy-day fund is typically stocked with six months’ worth of your salary. Since you’ve just received a large sum of money, you may instead want to put a percentage of the windfall into an emergency fund. To find the right amount to save, speak with your financial adviser.
Consider waiting awhile before doing anything else
Once you’ve accepted the money, paid off your debts and created an emergency fund, consider doing absolutely nothing. Your winnings aren’t going anywhere.
Many financial advisers recommend letting the excitement die down before taking any other actions.
For several months or even a year, consider living as you normally do. This will give you time to carefully plan out your next steps.
For example, work with your financial adviser to determine how much of your windfall you’ll give to family and friends. You may even consider hiring a psychologist to help you deal with the emotions that come with receiving a large sum of money.
What to do in the long term
Now that you’ve taken care of your short-term needs, your goal is to protect your windfall for the long term.
Create an investment strategy
Work with your financial adviser to assemble an investment strategy. This strategy should be consistent with your tolerance for risk.
To get your feet wet, you might first look at investments like short-term corporate bonds, US Treasury securities and short-term municipal bonds. These are considered relatively safe investments. Depending on the size of your windfall, you may generate a sizable income off of these “boring” investments alone.
After consulting with your financial adviser, you could expand your investment portfolio to include investments like stocks. Your financial adviser can help you create a portfolio with the right mix of stocks, bonds and other securities.
Start planning your estate
If all goes well, you’ll live the rest of your life without having to worry about money.
You’ll want your children and relatives to enjoy the same comfort, so begin the process of estate planning. In short, this means you’ll decide what happens to your assets when you pass away.
Work with your financial adviser, an estate planning attorney and a tax adviser to settle matters of your estate — preferably well in advance.