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  • Writer's pictureWill Grant

Sudden Wealth Advice: How to Manage a Sudden Wealth Increase

Updated: 6 days ago

Sudden wealth can be a life-changing event that brings both excitement and anxiety. 


Whether from an inheritance, the sale of a business, an initial public offering (IPO), lottery winnings, a legal settlement, or any other source, receiving a large sum of money can significantly alter your financial landscape. As a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Wealth Advisor with over a decade of experience in wealth management, I understand the complexities and emotions involved in managing newfound wealth. 


In this blog post, I'll share some guiding principles to help you navigate this unique financial journey with confidence and foresight. 




how to manage sudden wealth title card



The Challenge of Managing Sudden Wealth


Sudden wealth can be overwhelming and hard to manage. 


You might face pressure from friends or family for money that you don’t know how to navigate. You want to do the right thing, but you’re not sure what that is. Plus, keeping track of all your new assets can be tricky.


It's easy to spend too much too fast.


Finally, who can you trust? 


In this post, we’ll provide sudden wealth advice that holds true for almost everyone who finds themself managing a windfall. However, this post is no substitute for speaking with a financial advisor and putting together a professional team. 



Sudden Wealth Advice for the Emotional Side of Suddenly Increasing Your Net Worth


Gaining a lot of money quickly can feel exciting but scary. 


You might worry about losing your wealth or making mistakes. It's normal to feel unsure about how to handle everything. Even if you’ve been managing your personal finances effectively for years, getting a large sum of money can feel like a lot of pressure. 


You may now wish to provide financial support to family members or loved ones. But perhaps you're not sure how to do that. You may feel deeply out of your financial comfort zone as you handle these larger sums of money.


While expanding your financial education is critical when dealing with increased wealth, it's also important to take your time and get help from the right people. 


We’ve written an article about why working with a fiduciary is so essential which we recommend anyone with sudden wealth read because it will help you seect the right financial advisor. In addition, it may be smart to speak with a financial coach as well as make an appointment with a fiduciary financial advisor.


In brief, a fiduciary financial advisor is legally obligated to act in your best interest. You don’t have to worry about their motivation because they’re working towards the same goal as you.



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Table of Contents




3 Steps to Take When You Suddenly Have a Lot More Money


Keep your new wealth safe by being careful at first. 


Try not to make any snap decisions or spend a large sum of money without giving yourself time to thinking it over. Build a team of professionals like a fiduciary financial advisor, accountant, and lawyer. They can help you make smart decisions with your money and prevent excess taxation. 


Don't rush; take time to think about your choices.


1 - Secure Your Assets in the Short-Term


While this article is not a substitute for speaking with a financial advisor, here are some tips to ensure you keep your assets safe in the short term:


  • Place your money in secure, low-risk accounts to preserve your initial wealth. 

  • Review all your financial accounts to ensure that they’re secure.

  • Update your insurance policies to cover your new asset levels. 

  • Set up a fund for unforeseen emergencies or immediate needs.


2 - Assemble a Team of Financial Professionals to Guide You 


FIDUCIARY FINANCIAL ADVISOR

Hire a fiduciary financial advisor who will create a financial plan for you based on your exact situation, your needs, and your goals. 


Based on your situation, you can invest a portion or all of the money so the money doesn’t just sit in a bank account. The reason you’ll likely want to invest some or all of your sudden wealth is because inflation acts as a wealth diminisher.


Think of inflation as another form of tax. 


If you leave large amounts of money in cash, then the money loses value each year due to inflation. Instead, if you work with a fiduciary financial advisor who will be legally obligated to act in your best interest, they’ll get your money working for you. 


Your money will be invested based on your risk tolerance and goals. This way, your money is active. 


CPA

In addition to working with a fiduciary financial advisor, you’ll likely want to get a certified accountant (CPA) and a tax attorney.


TAX ATTORNEY

A tax attorney can guide you in managing the tax implications of sudden wealth effectively.


A CPA can help to maintain accurate financial records and reports. Meanwhile, a trusted estate planner can help in future-proofing your wealth and legacy.


Often, a good financial advisor can point you in the right direction and refer you to other professionals who may be able to help you.


3 - Avoid Hasty Decisions


Take time to understand the impact of any financial decision on your long-term wealth. 


And resist the urge to make large purchases or investments impulsively. Regularly consult with your financial team before finalizing major financial moves. Patience ensures well-thought-out decisions, reducing the risk of costly mistakes.



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team meeting


Avoid Tax and Legal Issues


Learn about taxes that may come about to your new wealth to avoid future problems. 


Yes, learning about tax can be tedious. But tax is often your most significant expense when you have a lot of money. Keep this in mind, and try to find a good accountant sooner rather than later. They’ll help you navigate this and make sure you don’t get an unexpected tax hit.


Understand the Tax Liabilities Associated with Sudden Wealth


Identify all tax liabilities to prepare for any potential financial impacts. Awareness of tax obligations prevents surprises during tax season.


These are some of the potential tax liabilities and regulations that can come with sudden wealth:


  • Income Taxes

  • Capital Gains Taxes

  • Estate or Inheritance Taxes

  • Gift Taxes

  • State and Local Taxes

  • Property Taxes

  • Investment Taxes

  • Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

  • International Taxation

  • Retirement Account Taxes

  • Sales Taxes

  • Charitable Contribution Regulations


Depending on the source of your sudden wealth, you may be responsible for one or many of these taxes. How much tax you pay will also depend on which state you’re living in and what that state’s tax laws are.



Strategies to Minimize Tax Legally


The key is to understand the array of tools at your disposal. 


One effective strategy is to invest in tax-advantaged accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s, which not only defer taxes but also contribute to your retirement savings. Charitable contributions are another avenue, offering significant deductions while supporting causes you care about. 


Exploring investment options that yield tax-efficient returns, such as municipal bonds, can also be wise. Always consult with a tax professional to tailor these strategies to your unique financial situation, ensuring you leverage your windfall effectively without crossing legal boundaries.


Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some options that you can review with your financial advisor and accountant:


  1. Maximize contributions to traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, or Roth IRAs to reduce taxable income and grow savings tax-free.

  2. Invest in an HSA to pay for medical expenses with pre-tax dollars, reducing your taxable income.

  3. Contribute to a 529 plan to save for education expenses with tax-free growth and withdrawals for qualified expenses.

  4. Sell investments at a loss to offset capital gains in your portfolio, reducing your taxable income.

  5. Make charitable contributions, including donating appreciated securities, to receive a tax deduction and potentially avoid capital gains taxes.

  6. Purchase municipal bonds to earn tax-exempt interest income, particularly beneficial for those in higher tax brackets.

  7. Utilize annual gift tax exclusions and lifetime estate tax exemptions to transfer wealth tax-efficiently to heirs or charities.

  8. For high earners, participate in deferred compensation plans to delay income taxes on a portion of your salary.

  9. Invest in real estate and take advantage of deductions like mortgage interest, property taxes, and depreciation.

  10. Establish trusts to manage how your wealth is distributed and potentially reduce estate taxes.



Invest in real estate


Avoid Common Pitfalls and IRS Red Flags


Receiving sudden wealth can lead to financial missteps and IRS scrutiny if not managed wisely. 


To navigate this landscape, first prioritize setting aside funds for potential taxes to avoid underpayment penalties. Engage in consistent record-keeping and report all income, including windfalls, to preclude audit triggers. 


Avoid the temptation of aggressive tax avoidance schemes; these can attract unwanted IRS attention. Consider consulting a tax professional to navigate complex tax laws and take advantage of legal tax-saving strategies. 


Furthermore, resist impulsive spending or investment decisions. Establishing a solid financial plan can protect your newfound wealth and ensure long-term financial security while minimizing IRS concerns.


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Preserve Your Wealth


Asset Preservation Strategies


Asset preservation is paramount for individuals experiencing sudden wealth, ensuring long-term security and confidence. 


Establishing a solid foundation involves diversifying investments to mitigate risk across various asset classes. Consider forming trusts, not only for estate planning but also for shielding assets from potential lawsuits and creditors. 


Real estate investments may be structured within limited liability companies (LLCs) to separate personal liability from investment risk. Additionally, maintaining adequate insurance coverage can offer another layer of protection against unforeseen claims. 


Engage with a team of financial, legal, and tax professionals to tailor these strategies to your unique situation, safeguarding your assets effectively.


Insurance and Risk Management


Insurance and risk management are critical components of safeguarding sudden wealth. 


Comprehensive coverage goes beyond basic needs, addressing potential vulnerabilities. High net worth individuals should consider various insurance options to ensure that they are covered.


Life insurance can secure financial stability for dependents, while disability insurance protects against income loss due to illness or injury. For tangible assets like art or real estate, specialized insurance policies ensure their value is protected against damage or theft. 


Collaborating with a trustworthy insurance professional can help you ensure tailored coverage that aligns with your wealth management plan, ensuring a holistic approach to preserving your assets and reducing financial risks.



Financial Planning Strategies for Sudden Wealth


Create a Financial Plan for Your New Level of Wealth


Adapting to newfound wealth demands a comprehensive financial plan. 


Start by setting clear, achievable goals. Diversify investments to mitigate risks and optimize returns. Prioritize tax efficiency, and don't overlook estate planning to ensure your legacy. 


Finally, work with professionals—financial advisors, tax specialists, and legal counsel—to tailor a strategy that aligns with your vision, securing your financial future while accommodating your lifestyle and philanthropic aspirations.


Budgeting and Cash Flow Management to Maintain a Sustainable Lifestyle


Effective budgeting and cash flow management are crucial for maintaining a sustainable lifestyle after a windfall. 


It’s easy to end up with a lifestyle that eats through all the wealth you’ve just attained. Track income and expenses and set realistic spending limits while allocating funds for savings and investments. Following the 50-30-20 rule can be helpful. This financial planning rule allocates 50% of your income to fixed expenses, 30% to fun spending, and 20% to saving and investing. 


If your windfall is sufficient to live off the interest of the invested assets, using the 50-30-20 rule will allow you to easily create and manage your budget. 



woman budgeting


Investment Strategies for Wealth Preservation


For wealth preservation, diversify investments across asset classes, including stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternative investments, to spread risk. 


Focus on long-term growth, considering tax-efficient vehicles like municipal bonds and index funds. Regularly review and adjust your portfolio in consultation with a financial advisor to align with market changes and personal financial goals, ensuring your wealth withstands the test of time.



Estate Planning and Wealth Transfer Considerations


Estate planning and wealth transfer are essential for ensuring your legacy and wealth efficiently pass to the next generation while minimizing tax implications. 


Consider these four strategies:


1 - Use Trusts for Protection

Trusts can safeguard assets from creditors and reduce estate taxes, providing controlled wealth distribution.


2 - Get Life Insurance

A life insurance policy can offer liquidity for estate taxes and debts, ensuring your assets are preserved for your heirs.


3 - Consider Annual Gifting

Take advantage of annual tax-exempt gifting limits to gradually transfer wealth and decrease the taxable estate.


4 - Update Your Plan

Regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect changes in your life circumstances and laws.


Consulting with estate planning professionals is crucial to tailor these strategies to your specific situation.



family


Philanthropy & Charitable Giving


Benefits of Charitable Giving and Philanthropy from a Tax and Feel-Good Perspective


Charitable giving and philanthropy offer profound benefits, both emotionally and financially. 


From a tax perspective, donations can significantly reduce your taxable income through deductions, optimizing your financial strategy. Moreover, contributing to causes you care about fosters a deep sense of fulfillment, strengthening connections with communities and supporting meaningful change. 


Engaging in philanthropy reflects a commitment to social responsibility, enhancing your personal legacy while providing tangible support to those in need making a positive impact that resonates beyond financial gains.


Benefits of Setting Up Trusts or Foundations


Setting up trusts or foundations offers strategic benefits for wealth management and philanthropy. 


Trusts provide flexibility in asset distribution, enhance privacy, and reduce estate taxes, while foundations enable ongoing charitable giving, fostering a family legacy of social responsibility. Both structures offer potential tax advantages, allowing for more efficient wealth transfer and impactful philanthropy.




Maintain Emotional and Financial Balance and Confidence


How to Deal with Relationships and Social Pressure When You Have Increased Wealth


Navigating relationships and social pressure after gaining wealth requires clear boundaries and open communication. 


Prioritize relationships that value you beyond your financial status. Consider creating a structured approach to requests for financial assistance, emphasizing your philanthropic strategy. Engage in social circles that share your values and interests, fostering genuine connections and mutual respect.


Benefits of Seeking Emotional Support from a Coach or Therapist


Seeking emotional support from a coach or therapist offers profound benefits, especially during significant life changes like sudden wealth. 


It provides a safe space to explore feelings, manage stress, and develop coping strategies. This support helps in making thoughtful decisions, enhancing personal growth, and maintaining mental well-being amidst new challenges and opportunities. 


You’ve probably seen the ads for the online platform Better Help. This may be a good option for anyone who has experienced sudden wealth and needs some emotional support. 


Why Working with a Fiduciary Is Critical


Working with a fiduciary is critical because they are legally bound to act in your best interest.


Why does this matter? It ensures advice and financial strategies are tailored to your goals without conflicts of interest. Fiduciaries prioritize your financial welfare, offering transparency and trust in managing your assets, which is essential for long-term financial security.



Protect Yourself from Financial Predators


Sudden wealth can make you a target for scams and fraud. Protect yourself by:


1 - Verify Information: Always confirm the legitimacy of requests for money or personal information.


2 - Secure Communications: Use secure, encrypted channels for discussing financial matters.


3 - Educate Yourself: Stay informed about common scams and fraud tactics.


4 - Professional Advice: Consult with financial advisors before making significant financial decisions.


5 - Monitor Accounts: Regularly review bank and investment accounts for unauthorized transactions.


6 - Protect Personal Information: Shred sensitive documents and use strong, unique passwords for online accounts.


7 - Suspicious Activity Reports: Immediately report any suspicious activity to financial institutions and relevant authorities.


8 - Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off, it likely is. Pause and investigate further.



Common Scams that Target People with Sudden Wealth or High Net Worth


People with significant wealth often find themselves targeted by sophisticated scammers. 


Here are some common scams aimed at the affluent:


Investment Scams 

These promise high returns with little to no risk, often involving complex strategies or unregistered securities.


Phishing Attacks

Attempting to steal personal or financial information through fake emails or websites masquerading as legitimate institutions.


Ponzi Schemes 

Using money from new investors to pay returns to earlier investors creates the illusion of a profitable business.


Art and Antique Frauds 

Selling counterfeit or overvalued items to unsuspecting collectors seeking to diversify their investments.


Charity Scams 

Exploiting generosity by soliciting donations for fake charitable causes.


Real Estate Scams 

Offering fraudulent or misleading real estate investment opportunities, often involving properties that are overvalued or don't exist.


Blackmail and Extortion 

Threatening to reveal sensitive or damaging information unless a large sum of money is paid.


Romance Scams 

Building a fake romantic relationship and eventually convincing the victim to transfer money under false pretenses.


Legal Settlement Scams 

Posing as lawyers or legal officials, claiming the wealthy individual needs to pay money to settle a lawsuit or legal issue.


Loan Scams 

Approaching wealthy individuals with fake loan offers requiring an upfront fee with the promise of access to large amounts of capital.


Awareness and skepticism are key defenses against these types of scams. It's crucial to verify the legitimacy of any investment, donation, or request for personal information, no matter how credible it may seem.



laptop and notebook


Common Questions about Sudden Wealth


What should I do if I suddenly become rich?


If you suddenly become rich, you should create a financial plan, consult with professionals like a financial advisor, tax expert, and lawyer, and prioritize saving and investing wisely.



What is the problem with sudden wealth?


The problem with sudden wealth is it can overwhelm, leading to poor financial decisions, increased stress, and strained relationships.


How do you manage sudden wealth syndrome?


To manage sudden wealth syndrome, seek professional financial and psychological advice, establish a support system, and take time to adjust and plan strategically.


What are mental accounts within the context of becoming suddenly wealthy?


"Mental accounts" in the context of sudden wealth refer to the psychological compartments or categories that individuals create in their minds to organize and manage their finances. 


When someone experiences a windfall or sudden increase in wealth, they may unconsciously allocate this money into different "mental accounts" based on its perceived purpose or source.


This concept is rooted in Behavioral Finance, particularly in the theory of Mental Accounting developed by economist Richard H. Thaler. These mental accounts can influence how people perceive and spend their money.


The concept of mental accounting can lead to both positive and negative financial behaviors. 


On the positive side, it can help individuals organize their finances and plan for different goals. However, it can also lead to irrational spending and investment decisions if the perceived differences between accounts lead to suboptimal allocation of resources.


For instance, someone might treat money in a "splurging account" as less important or valuable than money in a "savings account," leading to excessive spending that could have been saved or invested more wisely.


Should I give money to family members if I come into a big sum of money?


When considering giving money to family after a windfall, consult a financial advisor, understand tax implications, and consider your financial plan.


Set clear boundaries for gifts or loans to avoid misunderstandings. Focus on sustainability and whether your support empowers or creates dependency. Reflect on personal values and relationships.


Do I need an investment advisor if I'm suddenly wealthy?


Yes, an investment advisor can be crucial when you're suddenly wealthy.


They provide personalized investment strategies, help manage wealth to pursue financial goals, and navigate tax implications.


Their expertise seeks to ensure your wealth grows sustainably, aligns with your financial objectives, and helps avoid common pitfalls of sudden wealth management.


What are the basics of personal finance every suddenly wealthy person should know?


Suddenly wealthy individuals should grasp budgeting, emergency funds, debt management, investment basics, tax planning, and estate planning.


Understanding these fundamentals helps in maintaining wealth, avoiding overspending, and ensuring long-term financial security. It’s also wise to consult professionals for tailored advice and wealth management strategies.


Should I work with an estate attorney if I become suddenly wealthy?


Yes, working with an estate attorney is advisable if you suddenly become wealthy.


They can assist in estate planning, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes, help minimize estate taxes, and navigate legal complexities. This ensures your wealth is preserved and efficiently passed on to your beneficiaries.



Next Steps


Schedule a call with a fiduciary financial advisor and wealth advisor to ensure your finances are fully optimized.





Will Grant enjoys empowering people to make informed decisions and seeing the positive impact his guidance can have on their lives.

About the Author

William Grant

Will Grant enjoys empowering people to make informed decisions and seeing the positive impact his guidance can have on their lives. Prior to joining 360, he spent seven years serving hundreds of clients at a boutique RIA focused on healthcare executives with equity compensation and then at a large, independent RIA. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Miami University and holds his Series 7 and 63 licenses through LPL Financial and his 65 license through 360 Financial.




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The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.


Investing involves risk including loss of principal.  No strategy assures success or protects against loss.


Municipal bonds are subject to availability and change in price. They are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Municipal bonds are federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply. If sold prior to maturity, capital gains tax could apply.


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