What to do with Lots of Money

So you didn’t win millions in the big lottery, but then neither did several million other people who during the last week poured enough money into the prize pool for retailers to notice a dip in their sales.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t ever get lucky. Every week, some Kiwis receive large inheritances or relationship property settlements or find themselves with large amounts of cash after selling a farm or a business.

Suddenly having a large amount of money doesn’t mean, however, that all your worries are over; your worries are just different from the ones you had before. Large sums of money create fear and uncertainty that stem from a number of different factors: lack of knowledge about the options that are available for spending it or investing it; not knowing how to choose the best option; not knowing who to trust for advice, and worry about losing the money through taking risks.

For some people, these fears and worries are so overpowering that the money either never leaves the bank or it all gets spent.

The first thing to do when you suddenly get a large sum of money is to pay off your debts. It’s great to be able to spend some too, but most of what you have left should be put to one side in the bank for a while.

When money has come unexpectedly, emotions go into turmoil and that’s not a good time to be making decisions.

Spend several months thinking not about what you could do with the money, but about what the important things are to you in life. Money is what enables us to get what we want out of life, whether that is helping our children, helping the community, having interesting and enjoyable experiences, living in a comfortable environment, or enjoying our retirement.

Once you have established what is important about money to you, you can then allocate part of your fortune to each of the items on your list. Inevitably, you will need to prioritise, as you will soon find that even a large sum may not be enough!

There are many pitfalls to be aware of that could lead to unexpected legal or tax consequences. To start with, there is the issue of gift duty. While it is most people’s desire to share their wealth with family members, giving a total of more than $27,000 in any one year to one or more people, even family members, will trigger gift duty.

Be aware too, that any gift you make to someone in a relationship can become relationship property, so that if the relationship ends, it may be divided between the two partners.

One way around this problem is to draw up a loan agreement with the person receiving the money for an interest free loan, repayable on demand. In your will you can specify that the loan is to forgiven.

Donating money to a registered charity is not only free of gift duty, but you can claim a tax rebate for your donations.

Other issues to consider are whether to establish a family trust to protect your wealth, and ways of investing your money so that you don’t pay more income tax than what you need to.

The recent financial crisis has shown that the risks of investing are not always apparent. For all these reasons it is important to find someone you can trust who can advise you and act as a sounding board. Ideally, this should be a person who is knowledgeable about money, but it can also be a trusted friend who can help you get expert advice.