Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery or inheriting a large sum of money? Most have. But, riches that easily fall into your hands can quickly slip through your fingers. A study found that 1/3 of the people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years.

For example, I knew a girl that grew up in a modest household. Thanks to her frugal mother, she inherited over $1 million as a teenager. But a lifestyle filled with luxury and bad investments drained her fortune and financially, she ended up back where she started. Maureen O’Conner married the founder of Jack in the Box. His passing left her with an inheritance valued at over $50 million. But a series of unfortunate events left her destitute. Over the next decade, millennials are expected to inherit $68 trillion. While the actual amount will vary wildly, the average inheritance will run about $177,000.

“Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow,” according to the Book of Proverbs. While a windfall need not be viewed as ‘dishonest money,’ the wisdom from Proverbs serves as a warning that a sudden inflow of cash can quickly disappear if there’s not proper planning.

There are other ways you might come into a large sum all at once. The sale of a property, the settlement of a lawsuit, a year-end bonus, and yes, a winning lottery ticket can create unexpected riches that can enhance your overall well-being–or turn into an unexpected nightmare.

How Should You Manage and Sustain this New Money?

The advice we provide is always dependent on your specific goals and circumstances. What we recommend to one isn’t always the counsel we provide to someone else. But there are time-tested financial principles that are the foundation of the advice we provide. The steps below are general but are based on long-term data and our experience.

  1. First things first: don’t do anything. That’s right, do nothing. Place the funds in a safe short-term account such as a money market or savings account. This reduces the temptation to make a big purchase that you may come to regret. It will also give you the time and space to develop a sound financial plan that meets shorter term and longer-term needs and goals.

  1. Get help. We are always available for your questions and ideas. We’ll assist you in making any adjustments that incorporate the windfall into your financial plan and plug any shortfalls. We also suggest a tax advisor, who will help you navigate the tax code and estimate any taxes due. Further, an estate planning attorney will help you create or adjust your estate plan should anything happen to you.

  1. Pay down or pay off debt. As you develop a plan, consider paying down debt. Do you have credit card debt? Are some of your loans at high rates? If so, consider wiping out that debt. You’ll feel an enormous sense of satisfaction eliminating burdensome liabilities. If you would like assistance in determining the order in which debts should be paid, our advisors can help.

  1. In the same vein, bulk up your emergency fund. It’s a great idea to knock out debt, but cash reserves are an important component of your financial foundation, too. We typically recommend three to six months of living expenses that is easy to access.

  1. Let’s visit your retirement. Are you on track to comfortably retire? According to the Federal Reserve, only half of American families have a retirement account. Making sure that you have enough for retirement is one of the pillars of a sound financial plan. If possible, max out your IRA or 401(k). The earlier you contribute, the greater the power of compounded growth, but it’s never too late to start. If you have children, college savings plans are an ideal way to help them pay for the cost of higher education.

  1. Tax time. Did you sell a large property that will incur a capital gain? What are the federal and local taxes that might be due? A conversation with your tax advisor is in order so that you can set aside funds to pay the government. Getting caught flat-footed at tax time is something you want to avoid.

  1. Support causes that are important to you. Your windfall gives you the freedom to help others. It may also decrease your tax liability. Consider giving directly or through a donor-advised fund. However, be leery of friends or family members that warm to you after your newfound wealth or those that present business ideas to you. Having a trusted team of advisors can help you weigh the pros and cons of offers that suddenly come your way.

  2. Take care of yourself. There is nothing wrong with spending a little bit of money on yourself. Earmark some of your windfall for fun. It may be a short vacation getaway or a few toys that enhance the enjoyment of your hobby. Just be careful you don’t turn one small expenditure into a series of splurges that whittle away at your windfall.