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Money Management

How to Handle a Sudden Windfall

What do you do when a big sack of cash falls in your lap?

I don’t think anyone (except perhaps for someone really narcissistic) ever expects a massive windfall of money to materialize in their life out of nowhere. Heck, the most I’ve ever won on a scratch ticket is fifteen bucks. But sometimes, the universe simply aligns in your favor; your long-lost uncle bequeaths you his vast fortune, you land the gigantic slots at Vegas, you find an ancient collectible in your basement, or some other random happenstance that results in you suddenly becoming a whole lot wealthier.

Because no one expects to suddenly be rolling in cash, to have that much suddenly dropped in your lap can cause your brain to short out, clouding your judgement. Your first instinct may be to start living that Scrooge McDuck lifestyle, but that should be your last option. Before that, you should take that money and put it to practical use. Do you have any debts that need to be settled? Pay ’em off. Are any vital devices in your life like your car, computer, or home appliances on their last legs? Replace ’em. Is there anything important you weren’t previously able to afford like a medical procedure? Now you can do it.

Once the important stuff is settled, then you need to decide whether to save or invest. You should talk to an accountant (you could probably afford to hire a good one anyway) to get some advice on good savings and retirement accounts, or promising ideas on investing. Ideally, you should do both; set a big chunk of money aside for either an emergency or later in life, and put another big chunk to work for you on the market. Just to remember to also verify how much you’ll have to pay in taxes on that sudden windfall and set aside an appropriate amount for later. Even good fortune ain’t free.

If you’ve got any money left over after all that, then you can go ahead and indulge yourself a bit. A new couch and TV, perhaps, or tickets to that show you’ve been wanting to see. As long as you don’t spend all of it, you can splurge a little bit.

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