Getting rich is the dream of many people. When your sudden wealth becomes a reality, you need to be ready for the new responsibilities and challenges. As someone experienced in helping my clients manage their sudden wealth, I want to share some of my experience.
Your sudden windfall can come from many different sources – receiving an Inheritance, winning the lottery, selling your business or a real estate property, signing a new sport or music contract, royalties from a bestselling book or a hit song, or selling shares after your company finally goes public. Whatever the source is, your life is about to change. Being rich brings a unique level of issues. Your new wealth can have a variety of financial, legal and core repercussions to your life.
Avoid making any immediate changes to your life
Don’t make big and hasty changes to your lifestyle. I recommend that you wait at least six months. Let the big news sink in your mind. Let things settle down before quitting your job, moving to another city or making a large purchase. Keep it quiet. The next six month will give you a chance to reassess your life, control your emotions and set your priorities.
Figure out what you own
This is the moment you have been waiting for all your life. You are probably very excited, and you deserve it. There are tons of things you want to do with your money. But before you do anything. Take a deep breath. Figure out exactly what you own. Gather all necessary information about your assets. Maybe your sudden windfall is in cash. However, your new wealth could be in real estate, land, stocks, art, gold, rare wines, luxury cars and so on. Not always your new fortunate can easily be converted into cash. Each wealth source is unique on its own and has specific legal and financial rules.
Build your team
Your financial life is about to become a lot more complicated. You will need a team of trusted experts who will help you navigate through these changes. Your financial team can help you understand your wealth. They watch your back and flag any blind spots. Talk to your team and figure what are your options.
Hire a CPA
You are rich. And that’s a great news for the IRS and your state. There is a very good chance you will pay more taxes that you ever imagined. Start assembling your financial team by hiring a reputable CPA who understands your situation and can steer you through the complex world of taxes. Each source of wealth has unique tax rules. Find out what rules apply to you.
Hire a financial advisor
Look for a trusted fiduciary financial advisor with experience managing sudden wealth. A fiduciary advisor will look after your best interest and guide you in your new journey. Talk to your new advisors about your personal and financial goals and how to reach them with the help of your new wealth.
Have a financial plan
Ask your advisor to craft a financial plan that is tailored to your unique situation, specific needs and financial objectives. Figure out how your sudden wealth can help you reach your goals – retire early, send your kids to college, buy a new house, become self-employed. The list is endless. Talk to your advisor about your risk tolerance. Many of my clients who earned a windfall have a low risk appetite. An important part of our conversation is how to reach their goals without taking on too much risk.
Protect your new wealth
You need to take steps to protect your sudden windfall. For a starter, try to keep
If your new money is sitting in your checking account, make sure you allocate it among several different banks and account types. Remember that FDIC insurance covers up to 250k per person per bank in each account category.
If you inherited real estate or art or some other type of physical property make sure to have solid Insurance to protect you from unexpected events.
In case you received stocks or other investments, speak to your financial advisor how to hedge them from market volatility and losing value.
Have an estate plan
No matter how well you plan, life can be unpredictable. Getting a windfall is a great opportunity to update your estate plan or craft a new one. The estate plan will protect your loved ones and ensure your legacy in the face of the unknown. If something happens to you, your fortune will be used and divided per your own wish. The alternative is going through a lengthy and expensive probate process that may not have the same outcome.
Pay off your debts
If you owe money, you have a chance to pay off your debts. Credit cards debts and any personal loans with high interest should be your priority. Your new wealth can help your live a debt-free life. This is one area where working with a financial advisor will make a big difference in your life.
Beware that many people who receive sudden windfall end up borrowing more money and sometimes filing for bankruptcy. Don’t be that person. You still need to live within your means.
Plan your taxes
Depending on the source of sudden wealth you may owe taxes to the IRS and your state either immediately or sometime in the near future. Don’t underestimate your tax bill. Your CPA and financial advisor should help you understand and prepare for your current and future tax bills.
Many lottery winners and former athletes file for bankruptcy due to poor spending habits, lending money to family and friends and money mismanagement. The fact that you are rich doesn’t mean that you can’t lose your money. You need to be responsible. Talk to your advisor about your monthly budget and what you can afford.
Making a donation is an excellent way to give back to the society and leave a legacy. If you have a charitable cause close to your heart, you make a difference. Often time, charitable contributions can be tax-deductible and lower your tax bill. Talk to your CPA and financial advisors how you can achieve that.
Sudden Wealth can come in all shapes and forms – cash, real estate, land, ongoing business, royalties, stocks, and many others. Even though it might not be completely unexpected, the way you feel about after the fact might be shocking to you. Don’t let your emotions get the worst of you. Getting windfall is a great life accomplishment. And you should make the best out of it. Work with your team of trusted professionals and build a long-term plan with milestones and objectives.
If you are expecting a windfall or recently received a sudden wealth, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or +925-448-9880.
You can also visit my Insights page where you can find helpful articles and resources on how to make better financial and investment decisions.
About the author:
Stoyan Panayotov, CFA, MBA is a fee-only financial advisor in Walnut Creek, CA, serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally. Babylon Wealth Management specializes in financial planning, retirement planning, and investment management for growing families and successful business owners.