Fox television's latest reality TV hit Joe Millionaire passes off an "average Joe" (in this case, a beefy heavy-equipment operator earning $19,000 a year) to a gaggle of ladies-in-waiting as a recent inheritor of $50 million.
The one-two punch line in Monday's season finale: Humble, modest Zora beat out the crisply sophisticated player Sarah; and after she down-to-earthedly accepts his proposal, the network made the sappy couple instant millionaires.
Back to reality, kids. What to do with the booty? Do nothing.
Nothing? That's right. Before you jump into the champagne-and-caviar life that's been ascribed to you, it's best to clear your head so you can think rationally, and Foolishly, about your newfound wealth. Here we present some advice for the nouveau riche twosome:
Celebrate. But, please, don't buy a new butt or blow a bundle on a Batmobile replica -- those trappings are so cliché. Still, go ahead and live a little. Pick a reasonable sum of money to blow and stick to an allotted amount. After the public ridicule you've endured, you deserve a little something.
Consult a pro. When life hands you a complicated money predicament, assemble a cadre of trusted advisors. Chances are the happy couple has heard from a few financial advisors who are more than willing to help them manage their new bundle. Before signing anything, here are 10 must-knows about finding a trusted pro. And remember -- it's your money, and ultimately your decision on how to handle it. Don't concede your rights as CEO of You to anyone.
Brace yourself for a tax hit. Meet your new pal -- Uncle Sam! When life (or network brass) hands you a fat, laser-printed check, The Man will be the first by your side to claim his due. Evan and Zora may feel like they won the lottery -- and the government may agree. Consult your pro. And don't bother trying to set up an off-shore tax dodge. You two are too high profile.
Have a heart-to-heart. Eight televised dates is not the ideal foundation for lasting love and the successful commingling of finances. (We'll see if you prove us wrong on Joe Millionaire: Five Years Later.) If you're going to make a go at true coupledom, a Couples Manifesto is a good start to building on happily-ever-after money communications.
Hunker down for the future. Chances are, you won't get another payday like this one -- at least one where you get to remain fully clothed. Remember, even Matlock suffered some lean years. It's time to start setting yourselves up for a sweet future.
Set aside a short-term stash. The advice for millionaires and their hourly wage minions is the same: Any money you need in the short term (five years or fewer) should not be in the stock market. It's too volatile. Sock away some savings in appropriate short-term accounts such as CDs or a money market account so you can draw on it in the near term without fear.
Think of your future. It may be hard to envision the day when you're (supposed to be) gray. However, now's the time to consider the power of your new fortune to grow over time. Planning for post-celebrity retirement requires just six easy steps. And don't forget to think of your family. After all, they did support you during your network heyday and will be on hand to spoon Jell-O into your mouth when you're in full-body traction after crashing your Batmobile.