Wes in ‘The Street’: How to Handle Your Big Inheritance Elegantly

You dream of your long-forgotten rich uncle dying and leaving you a fortune. What if you really do get a lucrative windfall?

The baby boom generation (born from 1946-65) stands to inherit a total of some $8.4 trillion in the coming years, according to a study by Metlife. Market swings and plunges in property values continue to whittle that estimate, yet “two-thirds of boomer households will receive some inheritance,” the study says, “with a median amount of $64,000.”

Nearly one in three (30%) of pre-boomers, born between 1930 and 1945, also expect to get an inheritance. More than one in seven (15%) of those folks are expected to collect more than $100,000 after the funeral.

Inheritances come at the (usually) terrible cost of losing someone important to you, and any significant inheritance, much like hitting a lottery jackpot, cuts two ways. Properly managed financially, an inheritance changes life for the better. Poorly managed, it can slip through your hands and lead to heartbreak. Here’s how to ensure that any windfall you inherit lasts as a blessing:

Be patient. When emotions subside and your head clears, remember you’re under no deadline to figure out what to do with the money.

You may feel you must do something as quickly as possible, whether to invest the money,buy a car or pay off debt, among the many possibilities. Such solid and financially wise ideas can wait for three, six or even 12 months while you develop your overall plan.

Secure the services of trusted financial planners and tax professionals before you even see the check. Remember, the taxman doesn’t always arrive from Washington: Many states tax recipients of inheritances.

Make a plan. Inheritances call for investing, not spending. Live your daily life as though you didn’t get a dime. Meanwhile, start mapping how to allocate the money as you might allocate or diversify investments in a portfolio:

  • Eliminate debt — provided you don’t simply set the stage to rack up more debt — and start with debt carrying the highest interest rates.
  • Add to your emergency fund of six months’ expenses.
  • Save for higher education with such vehicles as a 529 plan.
  • Allocate money for investing yearly maximums in retirement accounts. For this year, for example, your contribution maxes out at $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older) for individual retirement accounts. This maximum may well rise in the future.

Read the full article on The Street

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