As an entrepreneur, one of the best things that can happen to you is for your company to do well and for you to make a killing selling your company or shares in your firm. However, newfound wealth can be difficult if you haven’t thought of what to do with it. Too many entrepreneurs are so focused on their next steps that if they suddenly find themselves with a windfall, the next steps can seem difficult. Without careful management, wealth that could last you the rest of your life could be burned through before you get a grasp on the situation. This doesn’t just come from splurging cash unnecessarily, it comes from not properly understanding taxation, wealth management fees and your own risk tolerance. If you’ve been lucky enough to make money from entrepreneurship, you owe it to yourself to be sensible with it.
Ringfence your cash while you decide what to do
The first thing you’ll need to do when you get a windfall of money is to make sure that it’s in a safe place. By all means – take a portion to have some fun with – but make sure you put the money you want to take care of in a safe account that you won’t accidentally eat up while you decide what to do with it. This will help to ward off any impulsive decisions that can hurt you in the long run, as well as give you the time you need to work out what you need to do next. This might be a good time to think of how you want to change the world – are there any projects or charities that you have always believed in and that need your help? Are there any causes not represented by a charity that you could help? Do you just want to make sure that your family is taken care of? Take your time to decide what you want to do while you enjoy the money you’ve put aside for fun.
Get taxes out of the way
You will probably need to pay some of your newfound money in taxes, so understand that a substantial amount will have to go to the government. At this stage, it’s a good idea to hire an accountant so they can help you to be as tax-efficient as possible and not have to pay any unnecessary tax that you would incur due to poor wealth management. The areas to look at include federal and state income taxes, capital gains tax and estate tax. Make sure you’ve thought of taxes before you start spending anything as you might not realize how much of your money has to go to the government.
Speak to someone you trust
Once you’ve worked out how much of your windfall you have available to preserve, i.e. your original sum minus taxes, debts and the chunk you take to have fun with, you should have a good idea of what you want to do with that money and your life. You should speak to a wealth advisor to help formulate a plan that includes retirement, inheritance and more. Seek the advice of an advisor that belongs to national advisory institutions or who has other qualifications like being a member of the President’s Club at Morgan Stanley. You should find one that you completely trust and feel comfortable with, as you may at one point have to speak to them about issues like divorce and death, as well as finding somebody who can both help you plan and invest money, without charging you high and exploitative rates.
They should be able to build you a portfolio that fits in with your life plan, whether that’s to have a certain amount to live off by retirement or whether that’s an investment to supplement your current lifestyle. Make sure you speak to them about diversifying your interests so in the event of a market crash you’re not left high and dry. You shouldn’t just approach a wealth manager to help you build a portfolio, but you should discuss the sort of portfolio that you want to build together. Some people have special needs, such as members of the Islamic community, who need to make investments in companies that align with Islamic philosophy. Apart from that, you might have certain ethical requirements like wanting to avoid tobacco or fossil fuels, which are requirements you need to discuss with your wealth manager.
You should also talk with them about how you can kill two birds with one stone and decrease your taxes by giving money to charity – whether that’s direct charitable giving to charity or a donor-advised fund. There are many vehicles that involve charitable giving, so explore them properly.
If you have previously used financial management techniques to save before you achieved success as an entrepreneur, you might want to go through your existing portfolio and gauge how your investment strategy has changed. You might now be able to solely live off your investments, in which case you can just look at the amount of money you need to live and structure your portfolio to let you achieve that. For example, if you’ve decided you can live on $100,000 a year and have $10 million to invest, you just need to invest into a portfolio that can safely deliver you regular after-tax returns of 1% per annum. You might want to opt for tax-free investments to help to reduce your tax burden.
Keep some under the proverbial mattress
You should also have an emergency fund stashed somewhere in case your wealth takes a hit due to a major market shock or other unforeseen occurrences. This emergency fund should be enough to cover your next 6 months of expenses. This doesn’t just have to be to maintain your lifestyle while you wait for markets to recover – you might need to have a major medical operation or divorce settlement at some point, in which case you’ll need easily accessible money.