Recently Widowed: First Steps
If you were recently widowed, you are likely feeling numb, empty and as if nothing matters. While this is completely normal, you should not be making important and possibly irreversible financial decisions during this time of crisis.
Working with a Certified Financial TransitionistSM can make all the difference in getting through this painful time without making financial decisions you may later regret. 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. The weeks and months after your spouse's death are hardly the time to make hasty or potentially irreversible decisions.
- 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".
- 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.