Your New Normal – Early Steps for the Newly Widowed

by Laura Chiesman

Here at our wealth services firm in Satellite Beach, FL – Melbourne/Brevard, I usually meet people for the first time during a period of transition when they are looking for advice and help with financial complexities and decision-making. Sometimes they are contemplating a happy change such as retirement, starting a new business or sending children to college. Planning for these types of life events is very exciting and can be a lot of fun.

Another transition that often causes someone to look for advice is being recently widowed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Current Population Survey, just under 25 percent of those age 65 and older are widowed – approximately 35 percent of women in this age group compared to approximately 11 percent of men.

In my experience, most families have a division of labor. It’s not efficient or practical to split all areas of responsibility down the middle, so we divide and conquer. This works well but when one spouse is no longer here the learning curve can be steep for the other. This is particularly true regarding finances and many will need help and guidance on these issues.

We know the statistics and have friends and family who have gone through this but it is still hard to be prepared when the time comes. It is common, and reasonable, to experience high levels of uncertainty and anxiety just when so many important decisions must be made. There can be seemingly endless lists of tasks to complete and some are very time sensitive. There are quite a few resources available – here’s a link to a helpful checklist.

Information overload is common and the phone calls and emails will be rolling in. Remembering who you’ve spoken to and what’s next can be a challenge. I have found a few easy steps that can bring some calm and order in the early days. Systems and lists are good!

Names and Numbers: Begin to write down names and phone numbers of people you need to talk to – examples are your attorney, financial advisor, family and friends.

Phone log: List the date, who you talked to and what you discussed. You might also write down what your next step is on this topic or with that person. This doesn’t have to be fancy or high-tech; a sheet of paper or a notebook near your phone is a great tool.

Filing system: You will need, and will be asked for, certain documents during this transition. Sometimes you’ll be asked for the same document over and over, so a temporary filing system will be very helpful and save a lot of time and frustration spent searching. Even just a box to store incoming mail and necessary documents that you pull from other files would be a good start. From there set up files for insurance, tax forms, estate documents and anything else that you want to be able to find when someone asks you for yet another piece of paper!

These steps and the first few months of being on your own are the beginning of a new normal. Whether you were the spouse who handled the family finances or not, your financial life and responsibilities have changed. For those who were not regularly involved in financial and investment decisions this can be a challenging time and it can also be looked at as a new opportunity. It is important to work with professionals who you trust and who are willing, and happy, to spend time with you and answer questions about the next best steps for your very individual situation.

If you are in the middle of such a transition, or if you are a couple who want to plan and prepare ahead, please feel welcome to contact a WealthCoach™ here at our wealth services firm in Satellite Beach, FL – Melbourne/Brevard for a conversation to explore how we can help! We can be reached at 321.773.7773.