Financial Planning
June 18, 2024

How to Manage Sudden Wealth

Stewart Willis
PRESIDENT & HIGH NET WORTH ADVISOR

Sudden wealth is a life-altering event that can turn your world upside down in an instant. Whether it's from winning the lottery, selling a successful business, or inheriting a substantial sum, a financial windfall demands careful navigation.

Excitement and fear often clash, creating a whirlwind of emotions that can be overwhelming. However, it's crucial to approach this situation with a level head and a strategic mindset. This blog will explain the concept of sudden wealth syndrome and how to manage sudden wealth.

What Is Sudden Wealth Syndrome?

Coming into a large sum of money unexpectedly, through lottery winnings, inheritance, or business deals, can be disorienting yet exhilarating. This "sudden wealth syndrome" may seem an unqualified blessing, but it can trigger unexpected psychological and emotional issues.

Sudden wealth syndrome describes the stress, confusion, and anxiety that can accompany the acquisition of a large amount of money in a short period. This syndrome is not a medical or psychological diagnosis.

However, it is a term used by some therapists and financial advisors to describe the turmoil that can follow a financial windfall. It is advisable to seek professional help if you need to.

Individuals with sudden wealth syndrome might exhibit several symptoms that can affect their mental health and hinder decision-making abilities:

  • Stress: Managing substantial assets can be mentally challenging for those inexperienced with making smart financial choices.
  • Anxiety: The rapid acquisition of new wealth can lead to anxiety and constant worry about losing it just as quickly.
  • Identity Crisis: Integrating new wealth into one's self-concept can be challenging, leading some to question their identity and values.
  • Guilt/Shame: Sudden wealth recipients may feel guilty, particularly if the money stems from an inheritance or a source tied to death, loss or change.
  • Social Isolation: Wealth can create a barrier, real or perceived, separating the recipient from their previous social circle, potentially leading to loneliness and isolation.

What to Do with a Windfall

Receiving a large sum of money unexpectedly can be transformative, presenting opportunities and challenges. If you’re confused about what to do with a lot of money, then these steps should help:

1. Avoid Impulse Purchases

Sudden wealth is a double-edged sword that can elevate your life or lead you to regret. There is the temptation to splurge on extravagant items. It’s essential to take some time and avoid making irrational decisions.

Allow time to adjust to your new financial status, and let the initial shock subside. This period of reflection will prevent you from making hasty choices that you might later regret. Remember, wealth is not merely about accumulating possessions.

2. Make a Clear Financial Plan

This is often the beginning stage of how to manage sudden wealth. Start by figuring out what you want your money to do for you. Do you want to save for retirement, buy a house, or travel?

It would help if you had both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals could be paying off debt or saving for a new car within a year. Long-term goals include saving for retirement or funding your children’s education. Keep your goals realistic and clear.

3. Work with Professionals

Managing a large sum of money requires expertise across several fields. Getting a team with a trusted financial advisor who can help you understand your new wealth and plan for its long-term management is advisable.

Look for someone with experience in dealing with high-net-worth clients. An accountant can assist with tax planning, ensuring you comply with tax obligations while taking advantage of legal tax strategies. A lawyer will help protect your assets. They can assist with estate planning, drawing up wills, and establishing trusts, if necessary.

senior couple relaxing on the side of sailboat

4. Evaluate Your Financial Situation

Take a comprehensive look at your financial landscape before you decide what to do with a large sum of money. This includes understanding your current assets, debts, and potential future needs. Assessing your financial situation thoroughly aids in making informed decisions about using and investing your wealth.

With the help of your financial advisor, develop a financial plan that reflects your goals, values, and priorities. This plan should address both short-term needs and long-term ambitions, providing a roadmap for your financial future.

5. Establish an Emergency Fund

Before committing to any substantial investments, you should prioritize an emergency fund. This is a simple, readily accessible financial reserve, equivalent to at least six to twelve months’ living expenses. The primary purpose of this emergency fund is to be a buffer if you need access to liquid cash. A financial cushion can insulate you from detrimental unexpected events, ensuring that your long-term investment strategies remain intact and uncompromised.

6. Review and Adjust Your Goals

Your life can change, and so can your financial needs. To manage your sudden wealth effectively, you should update your financial plan often. Whether it's the joyous arrival of a new family member or a career transition, these pivotal moments demand a proactive approach to updating your financial plan.

Failing to adapt your strategy to align with your current circumstances can lead to missed opportunities or unnecessary risks. A comprehensive financial plan is not a one-time exercise; it's a living document that requires regular revisiting and fine-tuning. By staying vigilant and making timely adjustments, you can ensure that your wealth works optimally to support your evolving goals and lifestyle.

7. Avoid Emotional Investments

To manage sudden wealth, you need to consider how to invest your money wisely to maximize growth. Stocks, bonds, and real estate are common choices, but each carries risks and rewards that demand careful consideration.

Many individuals fall prey to emotional decision-making when it comes to investments. Those who suddenly acquire wealth may become overly risk-averse, prematurely withdrawing from potentially lucrative opportunities out of fear of losing their newfound fortune.

On the other hand, some individuals may hold onto underperforming investments, driven by the fear of missing out on future gains. It's important to approach your investments with a clear mind and a rational perspective, not swayed by the emotional impulses that often lead to costly errors. Remember, successful investing is about spending time in the market, not trying to time the market.

Embark on a Secure Financial Journey

If you're unsure, don't hesitate to seek guidance from a financial advisor who can provide expert counsel tailored to your situation. The team at Asset Preservation Wealth and Tax are fiduciaries with your best interest at heart.

Talk to a trusted financial planner today!

Stewart Willis is the founder and president of Asset Preservation Wealth & Tax, a financial planning firm in Phoenix, Arizona. Investment advisory services offered through Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser.

The commentary on this blog reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the author, Stewart Willis, providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC (“Foundations”), an SEC registered investment adviser or performance returns of any Foundations client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment, legal or tax advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Personal investment advice can only be rendered after the engagement of Foundations for services, execution of required documentation, including receipt of required disclosures. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Foundations manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Any statistical data or information obtained from or prepared by third party sources that Foundations deems reliable but in no way does Foundations guarantee the accuracy or completeness. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Any past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Foundations and its advisors are properly licensed or exempted. For more information, please go to https://adviserinfo.sec.gov and search by our firm name or by our CRD # 175083.

Alternative/Private investments are often complex, speculative and illiquid investment vehicles that are not suitable for all investors and are typically only available to accredited investors who meet certain minimum financial requirements. Alternative Investments often engage in leverage and other investment practices that are extremely speculative and involve a high degree of risk. Such practices may increase the volatility of performance and the risk of investment loss, including the loss of the entire amount that is invested. They are, therefore, intended for experienced and sophisticated long-term investors who also have the financial wherewithal to accept such risks.

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