How to Invest a Windfall (from $10,000 to $100,000+)
How to Invest a Windfall (from $10,000 to $100,000+)

How to Invest a Windfall (from $10,000 to $100,000+)

If you've stumbled upon some unexpected cash, here's how you can invest your windfall to make the most of it.

Investing for My Kids

Investing for My Kids



Real Estate

Real Estate



If you're lucky enough to have a windfall land in your lap, you shouldn't start spending it any which way the wind blows. Whether you got this large, likely unexpected chunk of change from an inheritance, a salary bonus or a property sale, it's worth taking some time to consider how to make the most of it. 

While you may consider using the funds to pay off debt or bolster your emergency fund, often a good option for a windfall is to invest it. We cover how you can do so, whether your windfall is $10,000 or $100,000.

What should you do with a windfall?

As we mentioned, investing isn't your only option for your windfall, though it is a good one. However, it might not be the right one for you if you haven't yet adequately covered your financial basics. In that case, you might consider using your windfall to pay off high-interest debt or to build up your emergency fund if yours is looking a little meager.

You will also want to figure out the tax situation with your windfall, so you can ensure you're setting aside enough cash to cover your tax bill. Once your debts, savings and taxes are in order, you can think about investing what's left.

Figure out your goal for the windfall

If you're considering investing your windfall, it's important to define what your goal is. For instance, you may want to use your windfall to:

  • Pad your retirement savings
  • Use it for a house down payment
  • Save it for a child or other family member (for their college fund, for example)
  • Fund your career goals or a career change
  • Set it aside for other life events (a wedding, a big trip, a honeymoon, etc.)

Once you've identified your goal for your windfall, you will be able to determine your appropriate time horizon, or how soon you want the money back from your investments. This will help you determine which investments are right for your situation.

Questions to ask yourself before investing a windfall

Your goal isn't all you'll want to assess before investing your windfall. Here are some additional questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your risk tolerance? In other words, how much risk are you comfortable assuming with your investments? If you'll need the funds pretty soon or you know you can't stomach much uncertainty, you might want to dial down your risk level.
  • What is your time horizon? Your time horizon plays a big role in your investment decisions. A shorter time horizon generally means sticking to safer investments, as you'll have less time to recover from any market ups and downs.
  • What are your liquidity needs? Consider if you'll need quick access to the funds at any point, or if you're fine with the cash being untouchable. If you put your money in a long-term CD, for instance, you'll need to make sure you're fine without that money for years.
  • How much do you know about investing? It's also important to be realistic about your level of knowledge and skill when it comes to investing. Do you know enough to pick stocks or choose a profitable rental property on your own? There's no shame in turning to a professional for help.
  • What's your investing style? Your preferred investing style will also influence what's right for your portfolio, such as whether you prefer active versus passive investing. If you prefer to buy and hold your investments, consider more passive investments like index funds. On the other hand, if you're someone who is fine doing a lot of research and staying on top of your portfolio, you might consider a more active approach.

How to invest a $10,000+ windfall

If your windfall is in the $10,000+ range, here are some ideas for how you can invest it.

Put it in a retirement account

One solid option for your windfall is to stash the funds in your retirement account, whether that's a 401(k) or an IRA. Especially if you're not already contributing enough to max out your employer matching contribution on your employer-sponsored retirement plan, this can be a smart move, as it will allow you to take advantage of money that's yours for the taking. 

The more money you invest, the more compound interest can work its magic and increase the amount you'll have to sustain yourself when you're ready to retire. Keep in mind that if you're age 50 or over you can make catch-up contributions to add even a bit more to your golden year savings.

Invest in mutual funds, index funds, or ETFs

You could also choose to invest your windfall in mutual funds, index funds or ETFs. These investment options provide instant diversification, as you're getting exposure to a number of different securities through just one fund. As such, funds tend to carry less risk than, say, picking and choosing stocks. However, because these funds are generally designed to track the market rather than beat it, you might not see as great of returns as with other investment options.

Invest in individual stocks

If you're ready to do your research and want to earn better returns or even dividends, you could try your hand at investing in individual stocks. Just keep in mind that the risk is greater here, and you'll need to invest in many different individual stocks in order to add diversification to your portfolio. Still, stocks are relatively liquid, as they're easy to buy and sell.

Invest in real estate

Another option is to invest in real estate, which could add some diversification to your existing investment portfolio. Some ways to get started in this are through REITs, which let individuals invest in large-scale real estate, or real estate crowdfunding apps like Fundrise, which allow investors to pool their money to access the real estate market. 

Just make sure to be mindful of the level of risk involved, as well as your own liquidity needs. Non-traded REITs, for instance, are illiquid investments.



Real Estate

Put it in a college savings plan

If you have kids, it could be a good idea to use your windfall to start investing toward their college education. You could consider a 529 savings plan or another college savings alternative to do so. This will allow your savings to grow tax-deferred and hopefully take some of the sting out of covering college tuition down the road.

Invest in yourself

With your eyes on stocks, bonds and the like, you might have overlooked the possibility of investing in yourself. This could be a great option, especially if it will open up new career opportunities for you or lead to a salary boost. For instance, you could put the funds toward earning an advanced degree or a certification, or you could hire a career coach to help you map out where you want to go.

How to invest a $100,000+ windfall

If you're lucky enough to land a $100,000+ windfall, the investment options above are still available to you. However, with more cash, you have more money to put in larger investments or you can spread your money out across even more investment opportunities.

Buy a rental property

If you have the funds, you could consider investing in a rental property. A platform like Roofstock can match you up with single-family homes that are already occupied so you can avoid doing all the legwork of finding a viable property to buy and then looking for tenants. 

While rent payments can provide a form of passive income, keep in mind that owning a rental property isn't totally effort-free. You'll be responsible for making any repairs and dealing with any issues with the property. Rental property is also very illiquid.



Real Estate

Invest in commercial real estate

With more funds to invest, you'll have access to more real estate investment opportunities, such as commercial real estate. One way to invest in this is through a platform like CrowdStreet, which lets you invest in individual commercial real estate investment opportunities. You do have to make a minimum investment of $25,000 though, and this is another highly illiquid investment.



Real Estate

Invest in startups

Another spot to invest a portion of your windfall is startups. You could do so by becoming an angel investor or through pre-IPO startup investing. Just keep in mind that while the potential for payoff here could be big, it's also a huge risk to invest in something that's just getting off the ground. Not just anyone can jump into this either, as you'll usually need to be an accredited investor to do so.

Donate to charity

If your windfall is big enough, consider donating some of it. Not only will this be doing good for others, but it could also result in some tax benefits for you. The IRS allows you to claim a tax deduction on charitable donations made to qualifying organizations, which can reduce the amount of your taxable income.

Consider getting advice from a financial professional

Especially with extremely large windfalls, it's wise to get advice from a professional. They can help you run through your current financial situation and future goals to help you determine which steps to take in order to reach them. While you will pay a fee for their advice, it could help you create a more holistic strategy for investing your windfall, even if you just work with them once to create an updated financial plan that factors in your newly received wealth.