Insights + Resources

When a Windfall Comes Your Way

Feb 21, 2020

Bingo sweepstakes windfall ball lottery
What do you do with big money

Getting rich quick can be liberating, but it can also be frustrating. A sudden wealth windfall can help you address retirement saving or college funding anxieties, and it may also allow you to live and work on your terms. On the other hand, you’ll pay more taxes, attract more attention, and maybe even contend with jealousy or envy. You may also deal with grief or stress, as a lump sum may be linked to a death, a divorce, or a pension payout decision.

Windfalls don’t always lead to happy endings. Take the example of Alex and Rhoda Toth, a Florida couple down to their last $25 who hit a lottery jackpot of roughly $13 million in the 1990s. Their feel-good story ended badly: by 2006, they were bankrupt and facing tax fraud charges. Or Janite Lee, who won $18 million in the Illinois Lottery. Just eight years later, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; she had $700 to her name and owed $2.5 million to creditors.1

Windfalls don’t necessarily breed “old money” either. Without a long-range vision, one generation’s wealth may not transfer to the next. As Fast Company notes, the wealth built by one generation fails to migrate to the next 70% of the time, and two generations later, it is gone 90% of the time.2

What are some wise steps to take when you receive a windfall? What might you do to keep that money in your life and your family for years to come?

Keep quiet, if you can. If you aren’t in the spotlight, don’t step into it. Who really needs to know about your newfound wealth besides you and your immediate family? The Internal Revenue Service, the financial professionals you consult or hire, and your attorney. The list needn’t be much longer.

What if you don’t have the opportunity to keep quiet? Winning a lottery prize, selling your company, signing a multiyear deal – when your wealth is publicized, expect friends and strangers to come knocking at your door. Be fair, firm, and friendly – and avoid handling the requests on your own. One generous handout may risk opening the floodgate to others. Let your financial team review appeals for loans, business proposals, and pipe dreams.

Yes, your team. If big money comes your way, you need skilled professionals in your corner: a tax professional, an attorney, and a wealth manager. Ideally, your tax professional is a Certified Public Accountant and tax advisor, your lawyer is an estate planning attorney, and your wealth manager pays attention to tax efficiency.

Think in stages. When a big lump sum enhances your financial standing, you need to think about the immediate future, the near future, and the decades ahead. Many people celebrate their good fortune when they receive a sudden windfall and live in the moment, only to wonder years later where that moment went.

In the immediate future, an infusion of wealth may give you some tax dilemmas; it may also require you to reconsider existing beneficiary designations on IRAs, retirement plans, and investment accounts and insurance policies. A will, a trust, or an existing estate plan may need revisiting. Resist the temptation to try and grow the newly acquired wealth quickly through aggressive investing.

Now, how about the next few years? Think about what financial independence (or greater financial freedom) means to you. How do you want to spend your time? Should you continue in your present career? Should you stick with your business, or sell or transfer ownership? What kinds of near-term possibilities could this open for you? What are the concrete financial steps that could help you defer or reduce taxes in the next few years? How can risk be sensibly managed as some or all the assets are invested?

Looking further ahead, tax efficiency can potentially make an enormous difference for that lump sum windfall. You may end up with considerably more money (or considerably less) decades from now due to asset location and other tax factors.

Think about doing nothing for a while. Nothing financially momentous, that is. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sudden, impulsive moves with sudden wealth can backfire.

Welcome the positive financial changes, but don’t change yourself. Remaining true to your morals, ethics, and beliefs will help you stay grounded. Turning to a suite of professionals including a trusted financial advisor, tax consultant, and estate lawyer who know how to capably guide that wealth is just as vital.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

More Insights

Sep 23, 2020

When it comes to retirement, some women face obstacles that can make saving for retirement a challenge. Women typically earn less than their male counterparts and often take time out of the workforce to care for children or other family members. Added to the fact that women typically live longer than men, retirement money for … Continue reading “Women Facing and Conquering Retirement Challenges”

Sep 21, 2020

Football is back, which means Summer is coming to a close, days will get shorter, and sweaters will soon be in play. This year, there was no pre-season, so professional football started in September, which coincidentally, is a perennial month for stock market volatility.1

Sep 18, 2020

Roth IRA Conversion decisions have attracted retirement savers since their introduction in 1998. They offer the potential for tax-free retirement income, provided Internal Revenue Service rules are followed.

Sep 16, 2020

The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision streamlined tax and estate strategizing for married LGBTQ+ couples. If you are filing a joint tax return for this year or thinking about updating estate strategies, here are some important things to remember.

Sep 14, 2020

How much does extended care cost, and how do you arrange it when it is needed? The average person might have difficulty answering those two questions, for the answers are not widely known. For clarification, here are some facts to dispel some myths.

Insights + Resources >