During the first few years of widowhood you need to take care of yourself and give yourself time to grieve. During this time it’s best to focus on issues that need immediate attention and avoid making long term financial decisions. Everyone’s timeframe is different, but after a few years you may be ready to start looking toward the future. Initially, this may be difficult and very emotional. It’s not unusual to take two steps forward and one step back. Take it slow and gradually start creating a plan for your future.
Before the loss of your husband, you set goals and dreams together. It’s very hard to let go of those dreams and start planning for a future on your own. Many widows feel they are betraying their husband by changing their plans. This is simply not true, now that your husband is gone your situation is different, and you need to chart a course that meets your new situation.
Start by identifying your values and what is truly import. Make a list of what you want and need in your life. It may help to evaluate different areas of your life and identify your needs and desires in different categories such as: family, health, social, faith, financial, community and continuing education. Using this information, set some broad goals to be achieved over the next five years as well as some long term goals. Some big decisions may come out of this process including where and how you want to live. Do you want to live in a new city, new house or maybe downsize to something easier to maintain? If you are still working, do you want to make some career changes? Do you want or need to go back to school? How do you want to spend your time and money over the next five years?
Once you have identified your goals, develop a financial plan that will enable you to put your plans into action. Your financial plan needs to provide a balance between your long term needs and your short term goals. Evaluate your current situation. Identify your current net worth, your current income and your current expenses. Are your expenses in alignment with your goals or do you need to make some adjustments? This is your opportunity to adjust your lifestyle and spending habits to support your goals.
In developing your financial plan, set aside funds for major expenses such as college tuition, a new vehicle or home maintenance. You should also consider paying off card debt and maintaining an emergency fund of at least four months of expenses. Do some planning to be sure you’re saving enough for retirement. If you are in retirement, ensure you have enough funds to cover your projected expenses throughout retirement. Finally, budget some money just for fun -to do some traveling or pursue some hobbies.