Odds are you won't win the lottery. But surprising sums can come from other, more likely sources -- a big tax refund, a re-enlistment bonus, or even a retention bonus. Next comes the decision about what to do with all of that cash. Whether it's $500, $5,000, or $100,000 -- like some special forces troops receive -- that if you've suddenly come into some money, these tips will help you spend it wisely:
1. Take it slow. You don't have to decide right away what to do with all of the money. Park it in a temporary and safe place like a savings account, money market fund, or certificate of deposit. Then promise yourself you'll postpone major decisions until you've had time to get over the shock of having more money.
2. Write down goals. List your priorities from most to least important. Do you need to pay off high-interest credit card balances' Are you ready to move into a better neighborhood? Is giving money to family a top concern? Name your goals and determine what you'll need and want to do first.
3. Treat yourself. While you shouldn't overdo any celebrating, financial planner Joseph Montanaro says it's OK to indulge a little. "A toy or two for yourself is fine, especially if it makes doing all the right things possible," he says.
4. Get expert advice. Sure, you may want to tell all of your friends about your good fortune. However, your time may be better spent with trusted advisors. Depending on the size of the bonus, tax, legal, and financial experts can help you avoid costly mistakes and about managing your assets. "It's critical to know when to seek advice," says Montanaro. "Sometimes the challenges [that are] unique to a large windfall call for professional advice."
5. Don't expect miracles. Money doesn't solve all of your problems, but it can make your life easier. Acquiring a lot of money doesn't mean you're going to live happily ever after. "A windfall may provide a financial jump start," Montanaro says, "so use this opportunity to make smart financial decisions."
USAA, a diversified financial services company, is the leading provider of competitively priced financial planning, insurance, investments, and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their families. Named by BusinessWeek in its March 5, 2007 issue as Customer Service Champion and recently ranked highest among financial services companies for customer advocacy in a Forrester Research survey, USAA provides convenient and accessible financial products to its more than 6 million members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit usaa.com.
Financial planning services provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency.