Looking to the Future as a Widow

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

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.

Financial Advice after Losing a Spouse

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

After the funeral is over and everyone has returned home you are faced with the overwhelming task of getting your financial affairs in order.  It’s natural to feel disinterested, distracted and confused with all the decisions that need to be made.  Over the next few years you may feel like you are in a fog and you may have trouble concentrating. During the first couple years be easy on yourself and avoid making any major decisions.  You may be approached by a lot of people trying to give you advice and sell you products, avoid any major changes or decision for at least a year.  Don’t buy or sell a house or make major decisions on where you want to live, avoid any major changes to your investments and avoid making any significant gifts to charity or family members at this time.  Be aware of salespeople who use scare tactics to coax you into making decisions before you are ready.  Take it slow, give yourself time to grieve.   In a few years you may have a completely different perspective on how you want to proceed. 

There are some things that need to be done right away.  Initially it is important to be sure you have enough liquidity to cover your living expenses.  Start by getting organized – if you have always handled the household finances you know what bills need to be paid and where all of your assets are.  If not review all of your current bills and go through the credit card statement and check register to get handle on bills that will need to be paid.  Pull together all of your financial statements to understand your current situation.  Evaluate you current income situation to be sure you have enough money to cover your expenses.

Relatively soon you will want to apply for any benefits for which you may be entitled.  This may include Social Security, Veterans Benefits, Life Insurance or a Pension.   If you spouse was working, be sure to contact their employer to apply for any unpaid wages or survivor benefits.  This is also a good time to make sure you have adequate health insurance.  You should also contact your home and auto insurance company to make sure your coverage is intact.

At this point you may want to assemble a financial support team to help you through this difficult time.  Depending on the complexity of your situation, it may be helpful to hire an Estate Planning Attorney, a Certified Public Account and a fee-only Certified Financial Planner to help you settle the estate, file tax returns, retitle assets and eventually develop of financial plan.  Ask friends and colleagues to recommend and help you select trusted professionals.

Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits is Worth the Effort

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

There are a myriad of different Social Security options available to widows and widowers.  If you have lost a spouse, it is worthwhile to take the time required to fully understand your Social Security benefits. As a widow or widower, you have the choice of taking Social Security based on your own work record, or Social Security based on the work record of your spouse (survivor benefits).  You are eligible for 100% of your deceased spouse’s basic benefit, at full retirement age.  Reduced benefits are available as early as age 60, and if you are disabled, benefits can begin at 50.  The full retirement age is 66 if you were born between 1945 and 1956, and gradually increases up to 67 if you were born between 1957 and 1960.  The normal retirement age for everyone born after 1960 is 67.

If you started taking Social Security on your own record, before the loss of your spouse, call Social Security to see if you can receive more in the form of survivor benefits.  One nice feature of Social Security survivor’s benefits is the option to begin taking benefits based on your own earnings record, and later switch to survivors benefits.  Conversely, you can begin taking survivor’s benefits and later switch to benefits based on your own work record.   Unlike standard spousal benefits, you can switch even if you started taking benefits prior to reaching full retirement age.

Generally, you cannot get survivor’s benefits if you remarry before age 60.  After age 60, remarriage does not impact your benefits.  Additionally, at age 62 you are eligible to get benefits based on your new spouses benefits.  You may have the choice between benefits based on your own work record, benefits based on the work record of your deceased spouse, or benefits based on the work record of your current spouse.  Unfortunately, you have to choose from one of these options.  If other family members are entitled to survivor’s benefits, there is a limit to the total amount that can be paid to a family.

 If you receive a pension from a federal, state, or local government job where you did not pay Social Security, your survivor’s benefits may be reduced.    Your Social Security benefits will be reduced by two thirds of your government pension.  Additionally, if you collect Social Security based on your own work record, and you receive a pension from a job where you did not pay Social Security, your benefit may be reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision. Be sure to discuss this with your Social Security representative before you file for benefits.

Social Security survivor’s benefit can be very complex; please take the time to fully understand your options.  Before filing for Social Security, research the options available to you at www.socialsecurity.gov and meet with a Social Security representative to fully understand your choices.

First Financial Steps for Widows

 

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

If you have recently lost a spouse you may not have the energy or the interest to address the financial issues that need to be dealt with.  Experiencing such a tragic loss is emotionally exhausting.   It’s hard to focus on financial issues, but you have a nagging fear that important issues aren’t being addressed.  This can cause tremendous stress.  Find ways to simplify, organize, and prioritize activities that must be addressed immediately and postpone those that can wait.  Be easy on yourself, it is normal to feel like you are in a fog.  This will begin to clear in about a year, but you may still be fuzzy for about three years.  Take things one day at a time and move at your own pace.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into making decisions before your head is clear and you are ready to move forward.

Your first step should be to get organized.   You may not be quite ready to tackle the urgent paperwork, but you want to be sure that nothing is lost.  Create three in-boxes to separate all incoming correspondence by bills and urgent paperwork, personal correspondence, and non-urgent paperwork.  You should also start pulling together important documents including  wills and trusts, investment and bank statements, insurance policies, deeds and titles, tax returns, loan documents, your marriage certificate, and  20 copies of the death certificate. 

Your next step is to be sure you have the funds to cover immediate cash flow needs.  Review your current bills, credit card statements, and checking account to determine what your monthly expenses have been.  Compare this to your current cash position and income sources to be sure you have enough money to cover expenses over the next six months.  At this time your focus should be on short term spending requirements.   Be sure to pay current bills, but use caution with bills that seem suspicious or that may have been paid already.

Once your short term cash flow needs are covered, do a full inventory of assets, liabilities and benefits available to you.  This will be needed to settle the estate and to provide you with information on your long term financial situation.   Apply for life insurance, Social Security, and pension benefits that you may be entitled to.  You should also contact insurance providers to be sure you are adequately covered.

Hire an attorney to help you settle the estate.  An attorney can help you with your appointment as the personal representative and walk you through the activities required to settle the estate. 

Avoid making any major decisions for at least two years, and do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions before you are ready.  Most opportunities will still be there when you are ready to make a decision.   Beware!  There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing out there preying on recent widows.

The Importance of Planning for Widowhood

 

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

According to the Administration on Aging, in 2010 there were four times as many widows as widowers. Over half of all women over 75 live alone, and one third of all women who become widows are under the age of 65.   About one third of all women who reach 65 are likely to live to 90.  Twenty seven percent of unmarried women, between ages 65 and 69, are poor compared to only 7% for all married women.  Women frequently have erratic work experience, due to family obligations, resulting in lower pensions than men.   Only about one third of all women will receive a pension in comparison to about two thirds of all men.  

These are just a few statistics indicating why it is crucial for women to plan ahead for the uncomfortable, but very real possibility of becoming a widow.  Many couples spend years planning for retirement together, but avoid planning for the possibility of living alone.  Couples need to develop a plan that addresses issues that must be dealt with upon the death of a spouse, as well as a plan for long term financial security for the surviving spouse. 

Start by working with an Estate Planning Attorney, whom you both feel comfortable with, to draft your wills and powers of attorney.  Part of this process should include reviewing the beneficiary designations on all of your retirement accounts and insurance policies to be sure they are consistent with your estate planning goals.  This is also a good time to discuss end of life preferences with one another.

The next step is to organize your finances and ensure that you both know what you have, where you have it, and how it can be accessed.  Take an active role in managing your finances.  If you are uncomfortable or don’t understand your finances, do some reading, take some classes or ask your planner to help you better understand your financial situation.   If you decide to work with a financial planner, take the time to select someone with whom you have complete trust and confidence – someone you can rely on as a trusted resource, should you become a widow.

Ensure that you have adequate emergency reserves to cover funeral expenses and living expenses for several months while the estate is settled.   The loss of a spouse is extremely difficult and you don’t need money worries on top of the tremendous emotional hardship you will be experiencing.

Incorporate the possibility of losing a spouse in your long term financial planning.  Run retirement scenarios and develop a plan that meets your goals together and on your own.  Review and understand survivor benefits associated with Social Security and Employer Pension Plans.  If your projected cash flow falls below your expenses, consider purchasing term life insurance or developing contingency plans to reduce your expenses. 

Embracing the Future on Your Own

 

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Losing a spouse completely changes your life, and it’s important to take the time you need to grieve and heal.  The sadness may never go away and you’ll always miss your husband, but after two or three years you may be ready to look toward the future.  Before the loss of your husband, the two of you made plans; these plans may no longer be the best course of action for you.  It is common to feel an obligation to follow the plans you developed together, that you would somehow betray your husband’s memory to follow a different course.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  Your situation has completely changed and you may have a whole new perspective on things.   Plans that worked for the two of you, together, may no longer be practical for you.  Without even realizing it, you may have been striving to fulfill your husband’s dream rather than your own.   It’s time to follow your own path and build a future that supports your new hopes and dreams.  This article makes reference to widows but it can also be helpful to widowers.

Start by reflecting on your personal values; think about what and who is important to you and what you enjoy doing.  What type of lifestyle do you want to lead and where do you want to live.   Take out a piece more info

of paper and fill it with goals and ideas on things you would like to accomplish.  Let your mind wander, don’t evaluate, just brainstorm ideas.  Now go back and contemplate this list and formulate about five to ten realistic goals to be achieved in the next year or so.  Prioritize these goals and identify some action steps to be taken.

Now it’s time to review your financial situation with respect to your goals.  Many of your goals may be financially oriented.  Start reviewing your current cash flow, identify and tabulate your expenses, and compare them to your income.  Are your expenses in line with your goals, or do you need to change the way you spend money.   At the very least, make sure your expenses don’t exceed your income and put aside an emergency fund equal to at least three months of expenses.  I also encourage you to save at least 10% of your annual gross income.

Once your current financial situation is secure, develop a financial plan for the future.  Are there any major changes needed to achieve your long term goals?  Do you want to live in a different city or do you want to sell your home and buy something with less maintenance?  Do you need to rearrange your spending habits or make some changes in your career?  As you plan for the future, make sure you are saving and investing enough to cover retirement expenses.  Be sure to incorporate some fun and adventure into your plans!

Pitfalls in Taking Early Social Security

Jane M. Young CFP, EA

 

You can begin taking Social Security at age 62 but there are some disadvantages to starting before your normal retirement age.   The decision on when to start taking Social Security is dependent on your unique set of circumstances.  Generally, if you plan to keep working, if you can cover your current expenses and if you are reasonably healthy you will be better off taking Social Security on or after your normal retirement age.  Your normal retirement age can be found on your annual statement or by going to www.socialsecurity.gov and searching for normal retirement age.

Taking Social Security early will result in a reduced benefit.  Your benefits will be reduced based on the number of months you receive Social Security before your normal retirement age.    For example if your normal retirement age is 66, the approximate reduction in benefits at age 62 is 25%, at 63 is 20%, at 64 is 13.3% and at 65 is 6.7%.  If you were born after 1960 and you start taking benefits at age 62 your maximum reduction in benefits will be around 30%.

On the other hand, if you decide to take Social Security after your normal retirement age, you may receive a larger benefit.  Do not wait to take your Social Security beyond age 70 because there is no additional increase in the benefit after 70.  Taking Social Security after your normal retirement age is generally most beneficial for those who expect to live beyond their average life expectancy.  If you plan to keep working, taking Social Security early may be especially tricky.  If you take benefits before your normal retirement age and earn over a certain level, the Social Security Administration withholds part of your benefit.   In 2012 Social Security will withhold $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings above $14,640 and $1 in benefits for every $3 of earnings above $38,880.  However, all is not lost, after you reach full retirement age your benefit is recalculated to give you credit for the benefits that were withheld as a result of earning above the exempt amount. 

Another potential downfall to taking Social Security early, especially if you are working or have other forms of income, is paying federal income tax on your benefit.  If you wait to take Social Security at your normal retirement age, your income may be lower and a smaller portion of your benefit may be taxable.  If you file a joint return and you have combined income (adjusted gross income, plus ½ of Social Security and tax exempt interest) of between $32,000 and $44,000 you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefit.  If your combined income is over $44,000 you may have to pay taxes on up to 85% of your benefit. 

The decision on when to take Social Security can be very complicated and these are just a few of the many factors that should be taken into consideration.

 

 

 

Financial Guidance for Widows in Transition

 
A workshop from the heart for women who are widowed

or anticipate becoming a widow in the future . . .

or those with a widowed friend or family member

 Friday, August 3, 2012 from 9:30am – 11:30am 

at Bethany Lutheran Church

4500 E. Hampton Avenue

Cherry Hills Village, 80113

OR 

  Friday, August 3, 2012 from 2:00 – 4:00 PM
 
at First Lutheran Church

1515 N. Cascade Avenue

Colorado Springs, 80907

 There is no charge to attendees, but advance registration is required.
Call 1-800-579-9496 or email Bob.kuehner@lfsrm.org

 Join us for a special presentation by Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP®, award winning author and speaker. She presents practical information in an engaging and entertaining manner, along with issues of the heart. The workshop is open to all . . . although it’s especially designed for women. So, bring your gal friends for an enjoyable morning out together.

   Kathleen’s world changed forever when her husband died. From personal grief experiences, her life purpose evolved-helping widows to feel more secure, enlightened and empowered about their financial matters. She is passionate about assisting her “widowed sisters” take control of their financial future.

 Dr. Rehl is a leading authority on the subject of widows and their financial issues. She is frequently invited to give presentations across the country on this topic.

 She and her book, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows, have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, AARP Bulletin, U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Reports, Investment News, Bottom Line and many others. The guidebook has received 10 national and international awards.

 To devote more time to writing and speaking, Kathleen closed her practice to new clients some time ago. She was previously named as one of the country’s 100 Great Financial Planners by Mutual Funds Magazine.

 Please be our guest for this educational and enlightening workshop!

 This event is a sponsored gift to the community from
 Jane M. Young, CFP with Pinnacle Financial Concepts, Inc.
   

 (719)260-9800

www.MoneyWiseWidow.com

 
   
 

Financial Words of Wisdom from Widows for Widows

Jane M. Young, CFP, EA


I have met with numerous widows over the last few years to get a better understanding of what they are experiencing and to learn how I can best support and assist them.   Below I have shared some of the most meaningful and consistent messages and comments I heard from these brave women.  I hope this is helpful to both men and women who have recently lost a spouse and family members of someone who has recently lost a spouse.

  • Avoid making major decisions during the first year.  I think I heard this from everyone I spoke with and it is very wise advice.
  • Be obsessively selfish, after the loss of a spouse it is especially important to focus on you and physically take care of yourself.  Later, once you are feeling better you can help others.
  • Grief is very sneaky, one moment you feel fine then it sneaks up on you.  Expect some irrational behavior.
  • Be easy on yourself, it is normal for grief to last three years.  The fog will begin to clear after the first year but things will still be fuzzy for up to three years.  This can be difficult because friends and family expect you to heal more quickly than is realistic.  Everyone grieves differently but three years is very normal.
  • During the first year you feel like you’re operating in a fog, it is easy to forget key dates.  You frequently feel lost and confused and forget how to do things.
  • Grief can consume hours and hours of your day.  It’s hard to focus and get things done.  There is very little energy to learn new things.  It’s normal to feel apathetic.
  • The loss of a spouse is a huge tragedy in your life.  Everyone else seems so focused on themselves. Try not to get upset at others who go on with their own lives as if nothing has happened.  They are busy and they don’t want to open themselves to the pain.
  • It’s very important to take the time to select a trusted team of professionals.  Your team should include an attorney, financial planner and an accountant, if your financial planner does not prepare taxes.
  • Being a new widow can be very scary, it is scary to be alone.  You have a tremendous need for encouragement and acknowledgement that you are making progress.  Try to spend time with positive and supportive friends and family.
  • It’s hard to shift from making plans and setting goals together to making plans and setting goals on your own.  You don’t have to do everything the way you had planned with your spouse.  You need to set your own course and reach for new hopes and dreams.

 

10 Financial Planning Tips to Start 2012

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Jane M. Young, CFP, EA

 

1. Dream – Take a few minutes to look at the big picture and think about what you want from life. How do you want to live, what do you want to do and how do you want to spend your time. Successful businesses have vision statements and strategic plans. Create your own personal vision statement and strategic plan.

2. Set Goals – What are your goals for the coming year? Start by brainstorming – fill a page by listing all the goals that come to mind. Think about different facets of your life such as family, career, education, finance, health and so forth. Review your list and prioritize three or four goals to focus on in the coming year.

3. Evaluate Your Current Situation – What did you spend and what did you earn last year? What was necessary and what was discretionary? Did you spend in a purposeful manner and do your expenses support your goals and strategic plan. How much did you save or invest in a retirement plan? Can you increase this in 2012? If you are like most of us, a category is needed for “I have no clue”.

4. Track Spending and Address Problem Areas – If you aren’t sure where you spent all that discretionary cash, track your expenses for a month or two. It can be very enlightening – Yikes! Identify a few problem areas where you can cut spending and really place some focus. Identify the actions you will take to cut spending in these areas. Set weekly limits and come up with creative alternatives to save you money.

5. Evaluate Your Career – Are you doing what you really want? Are you being paid what you are worth? Have you become too comfortable that you are settling for safe and familiar? Could you earn more or work in a more rewarding position if you took the time to look? Are you current in your field or do you need to take some refresher courses? Do you know what it will take to get a promotion or a better job? In this volatile job market you need to keep your skills current, to nurture your network and to maintain a current resume.

6. Maintain an Emergency Fund – Start or maintain an emergency fund equal to at least four months of expenses, including the current month. This should be completely liquid in a checking, savings or money market account.

7. Pay Off Debt – Establish a plan to pay off all of your credit card debt. Once this is paid off establish a plan to start paying off personal debt and student loans.

8. Save 10-15% of your income (take advantage of employee Benefits) – You need to save at least 10-15% of your income to provide a buffer against tough financial times and to invest for retirement. At a very minimum, you need to contribute up to the amount your employer will match. Additionally, be sure to take advantage of flex benefits or employee stock purchase plans that may be offered by your employer.

9. Maintain a Well Diversified Portfolio – Maintain a well-diversified portfolio that provides you with the best return for your risk tolerance, your investment goals and your investment time horizon. Be sure to re-balance your portfolio on an annual basis. Avoid over reacting to short term swings in the market with money that is invested for the long term.

10. Don’t Pay Too Much Income Tax – Avoid paying too much income tax. Get organized and keep good records to be sure you are maximizing your deductions. Make tax wise investment decisions, harvest tax losses and maximize the use of tax deferred investment vehicles. Donate unwanted items to charity – be sure to document your donations with a receipt.

Four Financial Tips For Widows

U.S. News and World Report – The Best Life
Comment By Philip Moeller

Posted: September 14, 2009

The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, this week helps widows plan for their financial future while avoiding mistakes others have made. “My dear husband recently passed away,” a Boomerater member writes. “For 40 years he handled our finances and I’m lost without him. I want to make sure our savings last so that I have financial security. My husband was a wonderful handyman who could fix anything and he did most of the yard work. I am considering selling the house and moving to a retirement community. Also, I work full time, but am thinking of retiring or changing to a less demanding job. There are so many decisions to make, where do I start?” Here is what other members said:

Take your time—don’t make rash decisions. It may seem impossible to consider a normal future right now, but you will be amazed at how much strength you have. Please do not make any changes right away. Learn what you can about your finances and keep the bills up to date. But don’t make major life changes like retiring or moving in a rush. A great place to start to put things in perspective is a Web site run by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. They have a retirement calculator to help you know how much you will need to live, resources for estate and retirement planning, details about types of survivor benefits and Social Security, pensions, etc. Another good site is operated by the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, and focuses on women’s financial independence. Just having a place to start was a big help for me when my husband died.

Get help to develop a realistic plan. Take some time off from work if you can but I wouldn’t recommend changing jobs or moving right now. Don’t worry about fixing things around the house—most of that can wait. When the time is right, you’ll want to create a plan for your finances that suits you. It may mean you change jobs or move to a new home. To create a plan, you take stock of where you are now and look at your income and your living expenses. If you’re living on less than what you’re making—great! Otherwise you’ll need to scale back. Then, look at what sources of income you’ll have when you retire. This may include Social Security, pensions and other retirement accounts, as well as savings. A financial planner can help you estimate future medical expenses, determine when to start collecting Social Security, and when to withdraw from various retirement accounts. The National Association for Personal Financial Planners and the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors are two organizations whose members offer fee-only planning. It might make sense to contact a member near you to set up a financial review that could give you peace of mind now and a guide to help for full planning later when you’re ready to take that step.

Beware of Scams! Shortly after my dad died my mother was the target of a terrible scam by a con artist who preyed on widows. He called her, identifying himself as on officer of the court, and told her she had missed her assigned jury duty. When she said she didn’t know anything about it he treated her horribly, saying she was obviously trying to get out of her civic duty. When she became upset, he told her he would try to have the warrant for her arrest cancelled but would need her full legal name, date of birth and Social Security number. She gave it to him and now is a victim of identity theft. What a mess! Don’t give money or personal information to ANYONE.

Don’t turn your financial future over to your children. It is a big mistake to let your kids take over your finances. Count on them for emotional support, but not financial advice. My sister turned all financial decisions over to her son, who had no expertise. He made unwise investments and she also ended up paying more in taxes than she would have with a qualified financial adviser.

Read other member suggestions or add your own comment about financial planning for widows. Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers, with local directories to help you find everything from an Atlanta financial advisor to Texas assisted living. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to Boomerater.com and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.

To U.S. and World Report Site:

http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-best-life/2009/09/14/four-financial-tips-for-widows.html

The Possibility of Becoming a Widow Should be Part of Every Married Woman’s Financial Plan

Jane M. Young CFP, EA

I know this is a subject we don’t want to think about but the reality is most wives will out live their husbands. We plot and we plan all kinds of cash flow scenarios for couples to live happily ever after until they fall gently asleep in each others arms at age 100. That would be nice but life isn’t quite so predictable. Therefore as a wife, you should plan to out live your husband. This includes being ready to handle all of the arrangements and paperwork that must be handled upon death as well as long term planning for your financial needs. Below is a list of issues that should be addressed before you become a widow.

 • Select an Estate Planning Attorney who you trust and are comfortable with to draft a will and help you through the process of settling your husband’s estate.
• Draft a will and a Health Power of Attorney.
• Discuss end of life plans with each other.
• Review the beneficiary designations on IRAs, 401ks, and life insurance policies.
• Organize your financial papers so you know what you have, where you have it and who your contact is.
• Take an active role in managing your finances.
• If you are uncomfortable with finances, take some classes and read some books to educate yourself.
• If you choose to work with a Financial Planner take the time to select someone who you trust and feel comfortable with – especially when you are alone. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors provides some good guidelines on selecting a financial planner at www.Napfa.org.
• Run some retirement planning scenarios as a widow – will you have enough money to cover your expenses if you husband predeceases you? Are you still entitled to his pension or will you receive a decreased payout?
• Does your cash flow fall short of what you need? Consider buying some term life insurance? Consider adjusting your work situation to save more money?
• What happens if one of you needs long term care? Can you cover the expense or should you consider long term care insurance?
• What happens to your health insurance when your husband dies? How much time do you have to secure health insurance in your name?   Are you entitled to Cobra?
• Establish credit in your name, get your own credit card.
• Do you have adequate emergency reserves to cover funeral expenses and several months of expenses?

The loss of a spouse is extremely difficult. Most widows feel like they are in fog for the first year. The last thing on your mind will be money but some issues will need to be addressed. Make it easier on yourself and plan ahead.