Maybe you unexpectedly inherited money from a relative, got really lucky in the lottery, sold off a valuable stock, or received a big court settlement. In any case, you have a sudden influx of cash and want to make the most out of it instead of wasting it. Here are four really smart things to do with a windfall:
Set Aside Emergency Savings
If you don't already have a good chunk of savings set aside for an emergency, receiving a windfall is a great opportunity to do so. Many experts now recommend that you aim for at least nine months' worth of savings, in case of long-term unemployment or other unexpected life events. If you've been living paycheck to paycheck a windfall is a great chance to build the security of a financial cushion.
Pay Down High Interest Debt
In addition to savings, unexpected money is a good opportunity to pay down high interest debt. Things like credit cards and car loans with high interest end up costing you much more than the original balance in the long run if you only make the minimum monthly payments. Even paying off just one high interest account to eliminate a monthly bill can give you some financial breathing room.
Consider the "Three Bucket" Approach
If you already have your emergency savings and high interest debt situations under control, that doesn't mean you should blow through your windfall. Instead, take the "three bucket" approach which allows you to be responsible while having a bit of fun with your money as well.
Dividing your extra money roughly in thirds, put one third in the savings bucket (your regular savings account), place the next third in an investment bucket (investing in something slightly riskier than a savings account but with a potentially bigger reward, like stocks and bonds), and the third can go in the fun bucket ( a vacation, shopping, doing something generous for friends and family, etc).
Hire a Financial Advisor
The most important thing you can do with an unexpected windfall is to consult with a financial advisor. They will help you make decisions that grow your money and pay down your debt the fastest, while steering you away from unwise investments or other bad financial choices. Financial advisors use their expertise of the market and personal finance to help guide your unique situation in a way that will help you make the most of your windfall.
By following these tips, you can responsibly enjoy your unexpected windfall without any guilt.