Whether it is expected or unforeseen, receiving an inheritance can be life-changing. Regrettably, it’s not always in a good way. That’s because the reality is that many folks struggle to preserve what they’ve inherited in such a way that enhances their life over both the near and long term.
In fact, the track record for Americans is pretty abysmal. Only two-thirds manage to increase their wealth after receiving an inheritance, and nearly 90% of families manage to waste it entirely when it passes to the next generation.
Much of this can be attributed to two factors: (1) the heirs’ unwillingness or inability to act responsibly and/or (2) a lack of true understanding about what it means to be a steward of the family’s legacy. The latter tends to happen when family members lack a shared vision and purpose for their legacies. But almost always, it really comes down to poor decision-making and money mismanagement.
Inheriting money should be a blessing, not a curse. But it takes the right perspective and the willingness to manage it with a clear purpose to get right. An inheritance that is honored and preserved provides the potential to change you and your family’s financial trajectory (and that of your heirs, as well).
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of five things you can do to protect your inheritance and enhance your life so your family’s legacy is put to purposeful use.
1) Take a Step Back. Pause. Reflect.
There’s no rush in deciding what to do with your inheritance. It will be perfectly safe sitting in a zero-risk money market account while you take the time to evaluate your next steps thoroughly. While you might be tempted to make some moves right away, we encourage you to wait until you’ve consulted with your advisory team before you start dispersing the funds.
Primarily, this is because major money moves should never be made in isolation, but in the context of your overall financial picture. You need to see how the implications of your decisions could or will affect the other financial areas of your life. There may be better options for the allocation of your funds you aren’t aware of, or tax implications for your decisions that could come back and cost you. Making strategic decisions will be imperative in preserving and maximizing what you’ve inherited.
2) Build Your Dream Advisory Team.
Managing personal finances can be complex, and receiving a large sum all at once can magnify the complexities and implications of your decisions, especially regarding taxes and the estate.
Not only will you need an investment strategy based on your family’s goals, priorities, and risk profile., you’ll also need to consider the increased risk exposure you could have and how to protect against it. All of these considerations, and more, need to be integrated into a comprehensive financial plan that will optimize the value of your legacy.
To build your dream financial advisory team, you’ll need to enlist the help of the following professionals: a financial advisor, a tax professional (preferably a CPA), and an estate attorney. Your financial advisor, or team of advisors, can then guide the other members of the team to make the planning and tax decisions that are best for you and your circumstances.
3) Clearly Define Your Life Ambitions.
Getting clear on what you’d like your life to look life is critical before you start spending. Plus, this is the fun part. You get to dream big and decide how you’ll align your resources with what matters to you most. Maybe it’s retiring early, fully funding your children’s’ college funds, or even investing in real estate. Have you always wanted to start a business? Travel more often. Buy a vacation home. Perhaps be able to work remotely doing something you’re passionate about. The way to get there is with the right planning performed up front.
Plus, we have found that the people with no clear vision or purpose for how they want to use their money tend to waste it on the “pursuit of more,” which ultimately brings no lasting fulfillment and leads to a lot of personal and financial disappointment. But people who set clearly defined goals that align with the purpose they see in their life are able to make smarter decisions about their money. They have clarity and conviction about how they want things to turn out, and put the plans in place to get them there.
At the end of the day, clarity on your big picture helps to streamline your financial plans and investment decisions. Any decision, strategy, or investment option that doesn’t get you closer to your goal should be eliminated.
4) Addressing Immediate Priorities.
We know you are likely anxious to cross some financial to-dos off your list. Depending on your circumstances, there may be some things you can do right now to enhance your financial position while checking off some financial planning boxes. Remember, any financial decision you make should be made in consultation with your advisory team based on your long-term goals. So, if you are unsure, always err on the side of caution and wait until you have sought the appropriate counsel.
- Pay off Smaller, High-Interest Debts
If you have the capacity to pay off smaller, high-interest consumer debts that will improve your cash flow, it may make sense to handle these sooner rather than later. Student loans would be the next in line of priorities, but depending on the amount, you may want to consult with your financial advisor before selling equity positions to reconcile these debts. You need to weigh the relative merits of your desired outcome with the realities of the decision to see what makes the most sense for your long-term financial security.
- Bolster Your Emergency Fund
Increase your emergency fund to make sure it can be used for unexpected expenses, such as major medical bills, home or car repairs, or to cover living expenses for up to six months if you lose your income to a job loss or disability.
5) Bigger Picture Goals to Consider
- Funding Your Children’s College Education
If the funds are available, this would be an essential box to check off your financial plan. It can be far less expensive to pre-fund your children’s education while they’re young, and if you can do it with a lump sum investment, you can set it and forget it. Your financial planner can help you determine how much to invest now to cover educational expenses and the best vehicle to use.
- Funding Your Retirement
Depending on how large your inheritance is, if you have enough to pre-fund your retirement, it would be another critical box to check. Allocating a portion of your assets to secure your retirement will give you the confidence to freely allocate your other assets to pursue other goals. Again, your financial planner can help you calculate your income needs in retirement and guide you in developing an appropriate investment strategy.
6) Honor the Legacy
To honor the legacy bequeathed to you, you must become its steward, ensuring that it will benefit both you and future generations. Your success in accomplishing that will rely primarily on the decisions you make and how well you prepare the next generation for their eventual job as stewards after your passing.
Work with your estate attorney to develop a plan designed to preserve your estate and maximize it for your heirs. Include your children in any discussions having to do with your family’s vision and purpose for the legacy, as well as the values and attitudes about money you want to instill in your children.
Most people who bequeath a large sum of money want to know that it will benefit future generations. After all, that’s what leaving a legacy is all about.
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At Platt Wealth Management, we know that life is about so much more than accumulated wealth and that real, impactful financial planning starts with what you want most out of life. That’s why our mission is to provide the financial expertise our clients need to think through and achieve the dreams they never thought possible. If this sounds like the financial advisory relationship you’re looking for, we encourage you to reach out and schedule your complimentary appointment with our team today. Or you can call the office directly @ 619-255-9554. We look forward to meeting you.
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