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What do annual bonuses, winning the lottery, inheritances, and randomly finding a wad of cash have in common?

They all involve you coming into a large sum of money… quickly.

And they all force you to make a decision.

Tax refunds fall into this category sometimes. You should be giving the government the smallest interest-free loan possible, but many people get money back regardless. And remember that for everyone getting huge refunds, that might change for your 2018 taxes (the refund you get back in 2019), so be prepared for that. Don’t be dependent upon it.

What do you do with all this new-found wealth? Maybe you have some ideas. I have some ideas. Here are seven ideas…

1. Pay Off Debt

This is #1 for a reason. If you have consumer debt, do this one.

If your only debt is a mortgage, we’ll talk about that in a moment, but consumer debt should be your first goal.

The interest you’re paying on your debt is negating the interest you’re earning on your investments

Check out our free online guide to becoming debt-free here.

2. Create/Increase Your Emergency Fund

If your consumer debt is gone, congratulations! Now it’s time to save for a rainy day.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one. If it’s not big enough to provide six months of living expenses (assuming a minimal-spending lifestyle), then get it there.

This isn’t required before investing, but it’s a good idea, so you don’t have to worry about your investments being affected down the road.

3. Invest in Your Retirement

If your consumer debt is gone, and you have a fully funded emergency fund, it’s time to invest.

Max out your Roth IRA, and if you still have money left, max out your work retirement plan.

If you still have money left after that, you can either open a taxable account, or pick from another option below.

Check out our free online guide on investing here.

4. Pay Off/On Your Mortgage

Whether you have enough to pay off your mortgage in full, or simply make a large payment, this is a great option.

There are the naysayers, but sometimes it does actually make sense to pay off your mortgage early.

Check out these 3 powerful strategies to pay it off early, or try this approach if you’re not fully sold on the idea.

5. Take a Vacation

If you’re debt-free, fully funded for emergencies, and your retirement account is sitting pretty, take a vacation!

If you don’t already do this at least once a year, it’s an important habit to start.

We all need to get away. If you have the extra money to make it happen, go for it.

6. Give an Outrageous Amount

You can do this one at any point in the game.

It may be the best idea on this list, not just to be a good Samaritan, but for your finances.

You’ll be surprised at what this can do for you. It feels great to give large amounts; get ready to watch the blessings come in.

I feel like I should put the disclaimer about how you don’t give only to receive, but you will receive if you give, etc, etc., but you know all that.

Give with the right heart, and things will work out how they’re supposed to.

7. Fund Your Kid’s School

Start a 529 plan or other college savings plan, if you haven’t already.

Is it your responsibility, as a parent, to fund your children’s college? Of course not, but it’s nice.

A lump sum of money makes a great start to a healthy education fund.

“What Not to Do”

The quotation marks above are there because every “what to do with your money” article likes to have a “what not to do” section.

Here’s the deal, if you do any of the things I’ve listed above—all pretty common and obvious things—you won’t have to worry about “what not to do.”

You’re a responsible adult. You make your own decisions. Most financial situations, good or bad, exist because of the decisions you’ve made.

It’s time to start making the right decisions.

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