People often think if they just made a little more money — or a lot more money — their financial troubles would go away.
It doesn’t happen that way for a lot of folks.
“Instead of finding themselves in the lap of luxury, 70 percent of people who come into sudden money are broke within a few years,” writes Ilana Polyak of CNBC about a National Endowment for Financial Education finding. “Many even end up cursing their windfalls.”
Why can’t people manage a sudden windfall, whether it’s from a lottery winning, inheritance, lump sum pension or insurance payout?
Polyak asked Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute, which, as its name suggests, helps people and the professionals who work with them handle a windfall.
According to Bradley, Polyak writes, “people get used to their own level of wealth. Suddenly they don’t have the same limitations they had before, but many don’t realize they still do have limitations.”
If you are coming into big money, you have to slow your roll.
“Most people want to start spending their money right away, and their list of desires is long,” writes Polyak. “Delaying major life-altering decisions, such as moving or quitting a job, can put the brakes on impulsive behaviors.”
If you’ve got a big payday ahead, read the story. And deal with your issues. If you have deep-rooted problems, more money won’t solve them.
Don’t try this at home
I hear from a lot of broke adults. And often they say to me, “I wish my parents had taught me about money.”
“Other people have the power to influence children greatly, but parents or primary caregivers are important teachers, and this is also true about money,” writes Sienna Beard for Personal Finance Cheat Sheet.
Beard has a great list of the top five bad ways to teach kids about money.
Here are two:
— Money doesn’t grow on trees so don’t joke and say it does or repeat any of the other little white lies we think are cute. Just don’t lie about money, Beard says. “As kids get older, don’t lie and tell your kids that you don’t have money to buy cookies, or a movie ticket, and then turn around and purchase a new television.”
— Stop envying what others have in front of your children. “If they hear you constantly coveting other [people’s] things, they will probably copy that same attitude. They also won’t learn to be content with what they have, even if you tell them that they should be,” Beard writes.
Color of Money question of the week
What money mistakes have you made with your children that you wish you could take back? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Don’t Try this At Home” in the subject line. Please include your full name, city and state.
Your roof may be your top retirement expense
A Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of 1,011 investors who have $10,000 or more in savings and investments, found that nearly half of the investors (46 percent) are worried they will outlive their retirement savings, Nanci Hellmich of USA Today reported recently.
So for last week’s Color of Money question I asked: Are you afraid you won’t have enough money saved for retirement?
“I paid off my mortgage early in my retirement from federal employment,” wrote Joan from Sarasota, Fla. “I was one of the many for whom my standard tax deduction was greater than home loan interest deduction. I own a condo, and it gives me pleasure to not have the expense of the mortgage, to have saved years of interest payments, and, in case I need to move into alternative housing for health reasons, it is good to know I don’t need to worry if I have to sell condo for less than I paid for it.”
One 65-year-old reader is worried she will outlive her money. She wrote: “I’m a single, retired high school teacher who had a great job in a private school — great in every respect except money. I have $500,000 in net worth, which includes $110,000 in a house that’s mortgage-free, a 10-year-old car, $5,000 in an emergency account, and the remainder invested. I get $1,200 a month in Social Security and withdraw another $1,500 monthly from my investment account. I also take a lump sum of $3,000 each January to pay my property taxes. I try to live simply, but it’s a constant struggle to know ‘when to hold, when to fold’ in terms of my wants vs. needs. I am taking more than the recommended 4 percent of my invested savings each year, and I worry about that. I also worry about the unexpected catastrophe or another long downturn in the economy. But overall, I live well and happily. My little house is paid off, and that decision and investment has brought great peace of mind to me. I also try to prioritize maintenance and repairs. If I get in a crunch down the road, perhaps in 15 or 20 years, my emergency plan is to take out a reverse mortgage on my house.”
Speaking of reverse mortgages. I’ve written about them lately.
In last week’s e-letter, I wrote about a Washington Post feature asking what you thought about Social Security, which of course plays a big part in many people’s retirement plans and whether they will outlive their money.
“You really hit a nerve with me on the Social Security issue,” wrote Steve Brodeur of Boston. “I’m on track to retire in 10 years — wait, I mean 12 years. Well, hopefully in 13 years. I’m both disgusted and terrified about what’s going to happen when the Social Security Trust Fund runs dry. After the past few years of fighting and incompetence in Congress, we can’t expect any action on the Social Security front for years to come. Perhaps by the 2028 elections, there will be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth as the great reckoning draws near. My reaction now is to work as long as I can, because either way — cutting benefits or raising taxes (or both) — I see it coming out of my pocket for the rest of my life.”
This comment should give you pause.
“My wife and I have $2.5 million in savings (we’re 60), and I’m still worried about having enough,” wrote Jim from Indianapolis..
Finally, I like the perspective from Lloyd Douglas of Greensboro, N.C. He wrote: “I’m not afraid that I won’t have enough money saved for retirement. Life can throw you curves, so one never really knows. I think the best one can do is take prudent steps along the way and hope for the best.”
Live online chat canceled
My live discussion for today is canceled, but join me next week at noon ET for a chat about your personal finances.
If you missed my chat last week here’s the transcript. My guest was Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, author of “The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After 50: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions,” which was the Color of Money Book Club selection for last month. Here’s my review of the book.
Stephanie Eldridge contributed to this report.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.