College Student with Inheritance

Dear Dave,

I'm currently a junior in college. I don't have any debt, and my school is paid for through scholarships. Next month, I'll receive an inheritance of almost $50,000. I don't want to blow it, but I don't know much about stocks, mutual funds, or investing, either. Do you have any advice?

Jessie

Dear Jessie,

Putting money into something you don't understand is the easiest way in the world to lose it all. I'm glad you're asking questions, and want to do the smart thing with the money that's coming your way. I've always said personal finance is 80 percent behavior and only 20 percent head knowledge. So, you don't need to change your major to finance to make this happen. However, you will have a $50,000 responsibility that you didn't have before.

For now, I think a simple savings account is fine. I'd park about $40,000 in there, and just forget about it for a while. Then, take $5,000 to set up an emergency fund. Put it in a good money market account with check writing privileges. After you've done these things, take the remaining $5,000 and use it just for you. Have some fun! After all, spending and having a good time is one of the great things you can do with money.

But here's something to think about once you've educated yourself on investing. If you move the original $40,000 you set aside into a good, growth stock mutual fund, you'll have millions sitting there waiting when you retire. Talk about being able to retire with dignity, and change your family tree!

-Dave

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