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For What It’s Worth: Windfall

By Joel Dresang

Accumulating wealth requires solid values such as discipline, patience and balance.

But reaping a big bundle in a hurry often comes as the result of a windfall.

A windfall is a sudden – usually surprising – gain from circumstances largely beyond one’s control.

How to handle a financial windfall, a Money Talk Video from Isabelle Wiemero
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The expression “windfall” dates back to medieval England.

In those days, commoners were forbidden to chop down trees for fuel. They could, however, burn branches and twigs blown down by the wind. So if they needed firewood, they’d have to gather up what the wind had caused to fall.

With all the interest nowadays in wind power as an energy source, it’s curious that back 500 years ago, the British already were relying on the wind so they could heat their homes and cook their meals.

For What It’s Worth is an occasional look at the meanings and origins of words and expressions investors may encounter.

Joel Dresang is vice president of communications at Landaas & Company.

(initially posted January 18, 2011; updated September 28, 2016)

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