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: My ‘man of steel’ partner provides for me and my daughter. I’m about to receive an $800K settlement. How should I spend it?

Dear Quentin,

I am a 40-year-old woman with a 14-year-old child. I have been happily “common-law” married to my man of steel for almost six years now.

He’s 18 years older and he’s a wonderful man. He has provided a house for me and my daughter, and purchased a new vehicle for me. This one has air conditioning!

I was working at a grocery store and living with my mother when we met. He was ending his miserable 30-year marriage during our first year together. 

Meanwhile, he also has paid for many things for me. I’ve had some pretty extensive dental work throughout the years, and he even funded a trip for me and my daughter alone to go to New York. 

I always intended to pay him back with my tax refund, but it never came. He paid for the attorney I needed to acquire child support and full custody of my daughter.

I don’t really have anything to my name to speak of — except the $600 a month I get for child support. That mostly pays for my daughter’s braces and a dermatologist.

‘I want to pay my partner back. But I also would like to remodel and update our house.’

I was in an 18-wheeler accident about a year and a half ago. The time for settlement is drawing near, and the expected settlement will be worth anywhere up to $800,000.

This is more money than I’ve ever seen in my life. It scares me. While I plan on having major dental work again, that is really the only thing for which I have committed to using my settlement money.

I want to pay my partner back. But I also would like to remodel and update our house. Of course, it’s his house and he paid cash for it so there is no monthly mortgage.

In four years, once my daughter graduates high school, I dream of selling this house and building my dream house in the country.

I’m at a crossroads as to what to do with this settlement money so it will last. I would like to pay for college for my daughter, and also make a wise investment in our current and future homes. 

Unsettled in Texas

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Unsettled,

You’ve come a long way in your life — and you’re barely halfway there. After lawyers’ fees are deducted from your settlement, you will have a better idea of the road ahead.

I applaud you for wanting to repay your partner for all he has given you, and I understand your excitement and pride in being able to make him whole for that expense. But I urge you to stop short of investing money in his home, if you are not married and his name alone is on the deed. If you decide to invest in real estate with your partner, it should be 50/50.

I agree that putting money aside for your daughter’s education, setting up a 529 savings plan, and exploring further education for yourself should be top priorities. This settlement will hopefully give you choices about how you want to spend your time outside of being a partner and a mother, and afford you new opportunities for your own professional growth. 

You will want to invest a portion of your settlement. The No. 1 rule is to diversify between both equity asset classes and sectors, and between stocks, bonds and commodities. An adviser will help you protect against volatility by, for example, investing in gold and other precious metals. Exchange-traded funds will allow you to invest in all three.

This settlement will hopefully give you choices about how you want to spend your time outside of being a partner and a mother, and afford you new opportunities for your own professional growth. 

Enlist the help of a financial adviser, but tread carefully and trust your gut. Do not hand over vast sums of money on the back of big promises, and don’t allow anyone to coax you out of your comfort zone with dollar signs. You never have to say yes to anything, now or in the future. Know how an adviser you choose to work with makes fees on commission or not.

As Kevin R. Keller, the CEO of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, noted on MarketWatch: It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the market’s daily fluctuations and their impact on your investments. A professionally managed portfolio with an experienced adviser who can diversify your risk is a good way to pursue your financial goals.”

He also cautions rookie investors to be wary of advice on social media: “An effective investing strategy may require a significant dedication of time, the right temperament and the right training. Becoming an expert in this area can take months or even years. This is challenging for anyone, especially if you’re a first-time investor with a full-time job.”

This money is your first taste of financial independence, and it will be overwhelming. But sometimes the best thing to do — for the first few months, at least — is nothing. Live with the money for a while, as you would with a new house before buying furniture. See how it feels, and then begin to figure out how you can improve your life in small ways.

You have a lot of gratitude for your partner’s help, and you rightly feel empowered about being able to pay your way — but emotions and personal finance don’t mix. 

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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