Recently Widowed: First Steps

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If you were recently widowed, you are likely feeling a lot of emotions and may be overwhelmed by the prospects of managing things on your own.  While this is completely normal, it can make the practical aspects of a loved one's passing feel like too much to even think about. When thinking about making important and possibly irreversible financial decisions during this time of crisis you might consider talking to a financial advisor.

Working with a Certified Financial TransitionistSM can make all the difference in getting you through this painful time. These are the first steps you should take to begin working through this journey.

Declare a Decision-Free Zone while you sort through the emotions that inevitably accompany life-changing events. Your thoughts and feelings on what you want your life to look like often changes with space and time. Give yourself the gift of time and space to make sound financial and life decisions for the long term.

Determine a time-line for all of the decisions that you’ll eventually need to make. There are always things that must be done “Now”, things that will need to be done “Soon”, and things that can wait until “Later”.  Often large financial decisions, such as housing can be put on the Soon and Later list relieving the pressure and allowing you to focus on what’s most important.

Work through what-if scenarios. This is a process you and your financial planner can use to explore your ideas and goals, testing financial possibilities and long-term consequences. Scenario testing helps you to figure out what your range should be for what to spend immediately; whether to pay off outstanding debts in a lump sum or gradually; whether any changes in your lifestyle will be necessary to live within your income; and how you will finance your retirement. Your financial planner will guide you in developing your financial goals and educate you about your options.
The most immediate task on your Now list is to make sure that you have enough income and cash to cover expenses for the first several months. Next is to review/discover assets owned by you and your spouse jointly and individually. These may include stocks, bonds, checking and savings accounts, business interests, insurance, Social Security, retirement and pension plans (from most recent and past employers), real estate, and real property such as boats and automobiles. Bank and brokerage statements, canceled checks, tax returns, and even homeowner’s insurance lists of itemized valuables may lead you to assets you weren’t aware of. Allow your financial planner to help you with this, as the stress of grief often leads to compromised cognitive abilities, and this is a critical job that needs to be done thoroughly.

If you would like to learn more about Northstar's commitment to helping those who are in financial transitions, contact Robin Young at