Q: I received a large settlement from a sexual harassment case and am still suffering emotionally from the incident and the trial. I don't know how to manage my finances or who my friends are anymore. I've given away money to a lot of people so far, but I know they talk badly about me behind my back. This was supposed to be my second chance at life. How do I learn to be a survivor, not a victim?
A: You're already a survivor. I want you to harness the strength it took to stand up for your rights to tackle this new phase of your life. As for the money, tuck it all away in a savings account for now. Do not spend, loan, or gift any of it to anyone for at least a year. Online banks such as EmigrantDirect.com and IGoBanking.com pay competitive yields. If the settlement was very large, I suggest opening a few accounts at different banks and keeping no more than $100,000 in each, because that's the typical maximum amount of FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) coverage customers are entitled to. The chances of a bank going out of business are extremely slim, but it's always a good idea to spread around major sums so every penny is backed by insurance.
You can also use this time to learn how to manage your money. Then, if you decide to hire a financial adviser to help you later on, you will have a sense of whether his or her recommendations are in your best interest. Without some fundamental knowledge, you're setting yourself up to be victimized, and you don't want to go down that road ever again.
My hope is that once the money is no longer your focus, you will take the time to figure out what you want from life. Don't let what others think or say get in your way; their actions reflect on them, not you. Every time you overhear something hurtful, I want you to do something kind for someone else. This will keep you focused on what money can create, not on what it can take away from you.