My Grandparents Gifted Me $30K. I Have No Debt. I Don’t Know What to Do

A clock face appears on the face of Benjamin Franklin's portrait on a one hundred dollar bill.
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Dear Penny,

I recently received a $30,000 check from my grandparents as an early inheritance. Don't panic: They're both still alive. They gifted it to me for tax purposes. Ever since I received the check, I've just been staring at it. I don't know what to do with it.

I've never seen this much money in my life. You always think, “If only I had thousands of dollars to spend, pay off debt, etc.” And here I am, unable to deposit it — unsure of where to even deposit it. Because here's the thing: I'm a firm believer in working hard and living within your means. It feels weird to have something handed to me so effortlessly. I almost feel guilty about it.

I want to spend it on something big, something that'd make them proud — like a house. But I'm not ready for that move yet. I don't have any debt, and I don't need the money right now. It feels like a silly question to ask, but what should I do with it? Am I insane for feeling the way I do?


Inherited Confusion

Dear Inherited Confusion,

I’ll admit it — I’m a little jealous. I, too, have always thought about what I could do with just a few thousand extra dollars. And now, here you are: staring at a check, afraid you’ll choose the wrong option.

But you need to deposit the check sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the power of compound interest. Let’s say you want to take some time to think about what to do with your windfall. If you put $30,000 in a high-yield savings account earning 1.9% APY (trust me, they exist), you’ll accrue an extra $570 in just one year.

Once you have the cash tucked away safely, it’s time to start thinking strategically. Consider meeting with a fee-only financial planner who can help you consider your long-term options. Look for a financial adviser who offers a la carte services or hourly rates, so you can focus on your most pressing issue: taking care of this new nest egg.

A financial planner won’t tell you how to spend your money, but they will help you figure out the best way to care for it while you’re deciding. If you choose to put that cash toward your retirement (which would be a very good option, I have to say), their recommendations will vary from their advice for planning a trip around the world or saving for a house.

Have you considered asking your grandparents if they have a preference for how you spend the money?

Years after my grandfather died, I learned that he had left money behind for each of his granddaughters’ weddings. My father passed it to me via a neatly written check, and I started chipping away at the total as I planned my wedding. When the engagement ended abruptly, I got most of my deposits back.

Then I was staring at that amount in my savings, and I was racked with guilt. I wasn’t getting married. I didn’t deserve this. But when I asked my father what to do with the money, we came to the agreement that I should put it toward my student loans. There was nothing fairy tale about making that payment, but it lifted a weight, and I knew it was a genuine family blessing.

You don’t need to feel guilty for receiving a generous gift. You may think you don’t need it because your finances are in order, but this gift gives you the opportunity to get ahead in a way that fits your goals and values. This is your chance to decide what you want and act with confidence. But you don’t have to figure it all out today.

Have a tricky money question? Write to Dear Penny and you might see your question answered in an upcoming column.

Lisa Rowan is a personal finance expert and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, and the voice behind Dear Penny.