Tell Your Beneficiaries About Your Accounts and Policies: Let them know how they will receive retirement assets and insurance benefits.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of widowhood is around 60. Women on
average live longer than men and most marry older men. When a spouse dies, financial
decisions have to be made, and that can be hard, especially for women who haven’t been
closely involved family finances. Getting back on your feet, and re-organizing your financial life
can also be rewarding. It can give widows a sense of control and confidence in managing their
future. As you take steps towards a new life, a financial advisor can provide guidance on all
there is to accomplish. A new level of engagement in your financial life may be required, and it
is important to take the time to educate yourself on what you need to tackle immediately and
what you need to be doing long term.
Understand what cash and expenses you currently have.
Make sure you have access to all of your accounts. Get a clear picture of reoccurring expenses
and outstanding financial obligations. There may be some expenses you can cancel such as gym
memberships, professional journal subscriptions and club and professional association
memberships. Often, these dues can be terminated without any further obligation in most
cases. Look into the values and placement of additional assets, such as stocks and retirement
Identify and pursue all available survivor benefits.
You may have financial benefits from life insurance policies, your spouse's employer or social
security. You will need to know what to expect, who to contact, and how to receive these
benefits. Notify the life insurance company to make a claim. You can reach out to the HR
department of your late spouse’s employer to learn about potential pensions and other
benefits. Ask about their accessibility and what’s involved in transferring them to you. If your
health insurance was provided through the employer, ask for details about the continuing
coverage and how you can move the policy. You may be eligible to receive social security
benefits from your late spouse’s accounts, in addition to your own, even if you are not yet at
full retirement age. If applicable, check into survivorship benefits available to the spouses of
Get expert advice.
Understanding your current state will allow you to get a better handle on long-term options.
To create a long-term plan thoroughly—especially if you haven’t been managing the family
finances during your marriage—you’ll probably need expert advice. Your financial advisor will
be able to help with creating a budget, planning for future expenses and managing your
investments. They can help you see an achievable vision of your future. Then you can begin
work on a feasible plan to realize that vision.
A good credential to look for in an advisor is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP). This
designation is a sign of extensive training and experience requirements and advisors with this
credential are held to rigorous ethical standards. When selecting an advisor, look for someone
with experiencing helping others in similar situations as yours, someone with whom you can
communicate, and an advisor who is transparent about the fees charged.
Be aware that transferring assets or withdrawing cash from your accounts without knowing the
legal, tax and strategic investing implications can cause financial problems down the road. It's
best to get advice first and act afterward. Your optimal financial plan may be a lot different than
that of your late husband. You are in a new stage of life that deserves assessment on its own.
The plan might have to include less risk, and if your spouse was still working, the plan will
include less income than you expected to have. Evaluating these elements is crucial for your
Tom Chancellor is a Certified Financial Planner Professional helping clients enhance their financial peace of mind. Tom spent 20 years as a marriage and family therapist and now incorporates resources from psychology, communications, and relationship studies in financial planning for people who experience life-changing events. Tom helps his clients and other financial professionals respond to life transitions such as divorce, death of a spouse, retirement, receipt of an inheritance and legal settlements. Contact Tom with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Securities offered through Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing, Inc. (“CAMAS”), 2001 Hwy 46, Ste. 506, Parsippany, NJ 07054,1-800-637-3211. Member FINRA/SIPC. Teak Tree Capital Management, LLC, is independent of CAMAS.