Women & Finances: Moving Beyond the LossSubmitted by Brian Gaffney on October 31st, 2019
Women & Finances: Moving Beyond the Loss
The loss of a significant other can offer an opportunity to learn about financial empowerment.
There are few events in life as devastating as losing the person who knows you best, and with whom you have spent years or even decades in a relationship. You may be more stressed than ever before—in your adult life, the death of a spouse ranks higher than all other stressors.1
As a widow, you are facing the most difficult emotional challenges in the days immediately after your loss. And if you’re older, you are more likely facing symptoms of depression as you grieve.2 And, on top of all the emotional and social issues you must face, there are also significant financial steps that should be taken as soon as possible, especially if you were not the financial decision-maker in your relationship. Luckily, there are reliable resources and professionals who can help you through this difficult time.
Become the Family CFO
Only 38% of women categorize themselves as the “Chief Financial Officer” in their families.3 For widows who have not previously been in charge of financial decisions, your first step is to locate all of your family’s financial assets in order to get a clear picture of your financial status. Remember that it is okay to ask for help from loved ones or call your financial professional. Start with bank accounts and safety deposit boxes, retirement accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies, Social Security benefits, and any real estate. If you and your spouse did not have a trusted financial professional, now may be a good time to find one so that he or she may be able to help.
After you get a clear picture of your financial resources, the next step is to figure out how your income will operate within that financial framework. This step will be particularly important if you weren’t the primary breadwinner, or were not working. The good news is that women today are confident about their ability to generate affluence. In fact, one study notes that women become more financially savvy as they approach the possibility of widowhood.3
Know What You Want
You may need to redefine what you want out of your life now—and what you want your life to look like in the future—then make a plan to work toward what you want to achieve. Retirement planning begins with a fresh review of your goals, income, and expenses.
Don’t be hasty with your financial decisions. Depending on your current needs and future plans, your financial portfolio may or may not need to shift. In most cases, your family’s financial portfolio is already set on a path to achieve the goals you and your spouse were working toward together. If you decide those goals—including where and when you want to retire—haven’t significantly changed, you’ll just need to make sure you’re still on track.
Let Experts Help
51% percent of women feel that they need to become experts in order to talk with financial professionals.3 This is simply not the case. Financial professionals use their expertise to help you work toward financial independence or financial stability based on conversations about your life and what you want out of it. And, if you have financial questions, they can answer them.
After the loss of a spouse, ask a financial professional these five questions.
Top 5 Financial Questions Widows Should Ask
- How can I access my spouse’s financial accounts if I don’t have usernames and passwords?
- Will I need to change my budget and lifestyle now that I’ve lost my spouse?
- How will my spouse’s life insurance policy, pension plan or other financial accounts impact my future?
- Will mu Social Security benefits change?
- Do I need to update my estate plans?