Getting an inheritance, even a small one, offers financial opportunities and risks. Don't blow it, most experts say. But how, since being named a beneficiary is a rare event in most of our lives?
Drawing on an interview with financial adviser Jason Flurry, Bankrate.com writer Judy Martel says many people jump into risky investments with inherited money - a move that could sweep away a windfall. "Many heirs don't know how to handle a windfall and end up no better off than they were before," Martel writes. "Constructing a portfolio that generates passive income is the slow-and-steady approach that will lead to financial independence, but it's a step most people miss," her post says. "To achieve stability and income growth, you'll need to mix together stocks and fixed-income investments. . . . 'It's kind of a get-rich-slow plan, but it works,' " Martel writes, quoting Flurry, who also notes that, "So many people take unnecessary risks."
Handling an inheritance is the subject of this post at ConsumerReports.org. It starts with advice to "park the cash" and don't touch it for a while. "Don't put it in your existing checking account because that will make it too easy to spend," it says. After the novelty wears off - several months, perhaps - let your plan begin with paying off high-interest debt, building an emergency fund, and investing in retirement savings, such as a Roth IRA. Once the mundane financial housekeeping is done, says the post, "feel free to buy yourself something nice or take a vacation."
"Do nothing" with a small inheritance, at least at first, confirms this post at Demensne.info, a site that describes itself as being about "topics that concern homeowners." For setting up an emergency fund, the article describes how to "build a CD ladder." Instead of keeping cash in savings accounts that earn little or no interest, buy certificates of deposit that will mature at different intervals - a system that keeps money safe, but ensures some money always will be "available for contingencies, but not for squandering."
Inheriting an IRA can be tricky. If you have an IRA, 401(k), or similar retirement account, it's important to name a beneficiary to avoid inheritance taxes on those funds. But beneficiaries can trip up in quite a number of ways that trigger taxes on inherited IRAs. Jane Bryant Quinn has an article at aarp.org that describes how to avoid mistakes. Young widows and widowers, for example, need to retitle such a gift as an "inherited IRA" or they'll owe penalties for withdrawals made before age 591/2, Quinn writes. This retitling can preserve an IRA's tax-deferred earning power for several generations.