The Financial Therapist: Dealing with the unexpected issues with inheritance

In partnership with NatWest

Posted by for Money

Stylist’s financial therapy series tackles real issues from women about their financial matters. Each week sees a new issue discussed with a financial expert to destigmatise the way we talk about money  - this week it’s dealing with the mixed emotions and options that come with coming into money…

The problem

“I don’t know what to do with my unexpected inheritance and my feelings around it” - Amie-Jo Locke, 37, commissioning editor, is dealing with working out how best to use an unexpected inheritance alongside grieving for her father

“My dad died unexpectedly last year. We had a fantastic relationship and I miss him every day.

He didn’t leave a will, so I had to go through probate (where you’re granted legal ownership of the deceased’s estate and everything in it) to gain access to his private pensions, bank accounts and his house (which has just been sold). 

Dealing with these legalities while processing my grief has been incredibly challenging, but it’s also meant I now have a large sum of money sitting in my account. 

Having previously lived hand-to-mouth with zero savings, this unexpected affluence feels very strange. I would love to make this sum of money work the best it can for me.

I’ve always paid my way, whether that’s driving lessons as a teenager or through university. 

I hated asking my parents for money. I remember they once had to bail me out when I spent too much on a credit card at university and I was devastated. 

I’ve also never asked for a pay rise in my life, which is crazy. But I don’t feel comfortable asking for money.

I’m embarrassed by this lump sum. I feel guilty every time I spend anything, like everyone is watching me. 

When I first got the pension account, I booked a yoga retreat to Sri Lanka and was constantly justifying it to myself. It’s so strange to go from having no money to suddenly having it and ironically, I now feel like I worry about money even more.

I need advice. I never dreamt I’d be able to own a home and now that’s a very real option. 

The idea of a place where I can put my dad’s rocking chair feels nice, but it’s a huge decision and I’m scared of being tied to anything. 

While I’m figuring this out, do I put this money into a high interest account. Or do I invest some of it? I don’t know where to start. Help!

The tips

“Understanding that you’re completely deserving of this money and that there’s no perfect way to spend it is important” - Bari Tessler is a financial therapist and author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness 

“I’m so sorry to hear that your father passed away unexpectedly. While grief is different for everyone, it can take a long time to work through, so please give yourself the space you need. 

You may have had to postpone some of the grief during that time to deal with all the practical issues and it’s impressive that you were able to do that.

It’s a big shift to go from living hand-to-mouth with no savings to having a large sum of money in your bank account. 

There may be a lot of big emotions and probably some uncomfortable energy. And, while it’s different for everyone, sadness, guilt, confusion and shame are some of the emotions that will come up in this situation and around money in general.

Many people who suddenly inherit question their worth. Why did I receive this money? I don’t deserve this? 

They worry about whether they will be good stewards of this money. 

They may also feel guilty about having it (when friends are struggling or in different financial situations) and may feel hypervigilant about using it. 

There’s a lot to unpack here, so ensure you treat yourself with kindness.

When you’ve been given a gift of money, it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of your own personal money story (your beliefs, history and patterns around money). 

You’ve already spoken about needing to be independent from an early age and how asking for money has always been challenging. Independence is good, but not being willing to ask for support or being able to negotiate a raise can be detrimental. 

Is it because you don’t want to rely on others? Because you don’t believe in your value/self-worth? Understanding that you’re completely deserving of this money is important.

It’s usually wise to wait six months to a full year before doing anything big with the funds. 

As someone who hadn’t previously spent a lot of time thinking about their financial future (this isn’t unusual; it can be very common in people who don’t believe in themselves enough or are scared of failure), deciding how to use this money might be particularly difficult for you. 

Seeking the advice of a financial consultant is crucial, as is taking it slowly and understanding there is no ‘perfect way’ to spend money.

Give yourself some time to sort through your emotions and come up with a working plan that allows you to honour your father and the gift he has left you.

For more support around financial issues, join A Woman’s Worth Collective - a space created by Stylist and NatWest for women to talk to each other and experts about what they can be doing to improve their financial wellbeing - with no judgements or biases. 

NatWest is the bank that believes ‘we are what we do’. Whatever your financial needs, they’ll do all they can to help keep your relationship with money healthy.

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