Spend that windfall wisely (even if you didn't win the Powerball lottery)

Huge windfalls, like Wednesday's $580 million Powerball lottery drawing, get all the attention, but every day Americans get smaller surges of money – an annual bonus, for example, or a tax refund. You might be tempted to use it to pay off your credit card balances. Not so fast. There might be better ways to use it to improve your overall financial position. Here are five questions to ask yourself before you decide what to do with that windfall:

1. Do I have an emergency fund?

J Pat Carter/AP
A sign showing the new Powerball jackpot amount stands beside US 1 highway in Homestead, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Even if they don't win the Powerball jackpot, many Americans get sudden windfalls. Here are five questions to ask before you decide what to do with your windfall.

Since the odds of winning the Powerball lottery are ridiculously small, preparing for the unexpected should be high on everyone’s list of financial priorities. For example, if you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, you can use any windfall you receive, to set up an emergency fund for the unforeseen, such as a divorce or job loss. That fund should be large enough to cover all living expenses for at least three months; six or more is recommended. Without the reserve you would probably be paying those unexpected bills via credit cards, putting yourself deeper in the hole. When the emergency occurs, the current low zero percent teaser rates might no longer be available. So you might want to “invest” some of the windfall into this hedge against uncertainty.

1 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.