Jean Chatzky
Large sums of unexpected money can come from a variety of sources, whether it's a legal settlement, insurance claim, inheritance…or even a lottery prize. According to Susan Bradley, that money can often bring problems, from feelings of guilt and fear to familial conflicts and reckless spending. Jean talks with Susan, a financial planner and founder of the Sudden Money Institute, about the best ways to manage a large financial windfall.

Susan says the first step is to establish a decision-free zone: Decide to not make any nonessential decisions for as long as it takes you to feel comfortable with the money you've been given. "What we're looking for is a sense of feeling grounded again," she says. To that end, do not quit your job, buy a mansion or make any financial commitments to anyone until you're ready.

During this time, Susan says you should consider hiring a financial consultant, as well as a professional organizer and wellness expert to help you make sound decisions and cope with stress. The biggest mistake people make is neglecting to see the big picture and the ripple effect their decisions can have on their entire life, both emotionally and financially.

Once you've progressed to the point where you're able to make some decisions, Susan says it's probably okay to splurge on yourself just a little. "There's usually room for that, and it's a good thing," she says. If Susan were handed a million dollars, she says she would donate 10 percent to charity, share a portion with her family, pay off her mortgage and invest in her long-term retirement fund.