What would you do with an extra $100,000?

What would you do if you got an unexpected windfall of $100,000? Would you run right out and spend it as fast as you could? Would you save it for a rainy day? Would you do a little bit of both? Would you give it away?

Unfortunately, I've seen many people squander their windfalls. They feel like they owe it to themselves to "treat" themselves to some nice things, and before they know it, their money is gone.

What does $100,000 get you these days? Well suppose it's an inheritance on which you don't have to pay taxes. Stop and figure out how long $100,000 would last you if you weren't working and you were fairly conservative with your money. That helps put things into perspective.

My best advice is to sit down and figure out a strategy for the money before you start spending. It's a little hard to un-spend the money, so you want to take into account any savings goals and debt pay down that you're working on.
SmartMoney has some ideas for your windfall, including investing in real estate, giving to charity, making a career change, and doing home improvements. I'm most interested in the idea of a career change. As a small business owner, I know how hard it is to start a business and work through the financial ups and downs. A windfall might be the perfect opportunity to start that business and have some money in the bank for the hard times.

When it comes right down to it, if I got a $100,000 gift, I'd probably do a "little bit of everything" with it. I'd use some to buy myself a gift. I'd pay down some debt. I'd put some in savings. And the rest I'd invest and try to grow. Wouldn't it be fun to have the burden of deciding what to do with $100,000?

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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