Four tips for managing sudden riches

Without proper planning, it can leave you worse off than you were before

In Summary

• Such windfalls are rare, making it necessary to manage the money prudently

A man celebrates a financial windfall
A man celebrates a financial windfall

You may not have felt it at the time, but you’ve probably had a financial windfall in your life. Such windfalls are rare, making it necessary to manage the money prudently.

A financial windfall occurs when you receive a large amount of money, often unexpectedly. The money could be a gift from someone, a redundancy payment from an employer, an insurance payout or an inheritance. Money obtained from selling assets such as land, a car or a home may be considered a windfall.

The infrastructure-building spree of the past 20 years made some Kenyans very rich from land compensation. The betting craze created a few lucky winners, some getting as much as Sh200 million each in winnings.

There are tales of people whose lives were permanently transformed by an unexpected influx of money, as others wasted their windfall on luxuries. Without proper planning, a financial windfall can leave one in a worse state than they were before they got the money.

Findings published in Fortune magazine show that one-third of people who win millions from lotteries eventually go bankrupt. The average person who gets an inheritance or a large financial gift quickly loses half the money through excessive spending or poor investments.

“Lottery winners go broke for a variety of reasons, such as giving too much away, making bad investments, trusting the wrong people and being taken advantage of," the Lottery Office of Australia confirms in a statement. What, then, should one do if lucky enough to get a windfall?

1. KEEP IT QUIET: Tell only your family and trusted friends; otherwise, many other people will start making requests for your money. If you are employed, do not resign immediately as it may draw attention. Keep your life as normal as possible by avoiding extravagant spending as you plan for the future.

2. DON'T RUSH: Bill Keen, a wealth adviser, suggests not making any major decisions while you are still hot with excitement. "Give yourself some time to feel what you're feeling about this money so you can move through the next steps of this process with a cool head," Keen says. Talk with your spouse or a confidant. Consult professionals to help you make good financial decisions.

3. MAKE A SPENDING HABIT: With inputs from family and professionals, determine how you will spend the money. You should set aside a chunk of the money as long-term savings, that is, money to be invested for the distant future. You can spend the rest of your windfall on paying off debts, improving your home, paying medical bills and other expenses related to the family. If you have tax arrears, this would be a great opportunity to get in the good books of the tax collector.

4. DON'T FEEL GUILTY: A windfall may come after the loss of a loved one. This could be money from the deceased's employer, insurance policy or savings. Don't give away the money out of guilt. As with any other windfall, take time to process your thoughts before making plans for saving and spending.

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