Words of Advice for Widows

September 12, 2014 12:00 am

Christine H. Canapari, ChFC®

Senior Financial Advisor & Manager of Client Services

The death of a spouse may be one of the most difficult events and transitions a person will ever have to endure.  There are countless adjustments one will experience after such a loss occurs.  The transition becomes even more difficult when you need to assume responsibilities you were not accustomed to handling in the past.  For some, finances can be one of the most difficult tasks to manage because there are so many different aspects to consider.  On one hand, you have the household finances to consider such as paying your regular or monthly bills such as a mortgage, utilities, health and auto insurances and so on.  On the other hand, you have your retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401ks and maybe other investments like stocks and bonds to manage.  While this can all seem daunting especially during a trying time, here are some steps to take to help get your finances under control.

Organize Your Accounts
Try to put together a list of all of your accounts, both household and investment, and whose name is currently on each.  If your bills and statements come through the mail, you should be able to obtain that information from your most recent bills, invoices or account statements.  You may also be able to access your accounts electronically to compile this information.  Having one main list will allow you to prioritize who you will need to contact if changes need to be made to the account such as removing your spouse’s name or switching the account into your name.  As you analyze your investment accounts, you should take note of beneficiary designations that will more than likely need to be updated.  Second, you should list all of your current streams of income and determine if those will remain, change or be stopped. You will need to contact the Social Security Administration and pension companies if your spouse was collecting either or both.

Don’t Make Big Decisions
I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid making any major decisions right away.  Dealing with your loss will be a process, and you should not feel rushed or forced into making any decisions until you feel informed and ready to do so.  It is generally not imperative that you drastically change your investment allocation or sell your house or relocate.  It’s unfortunately all too common for widows to be told that they need to make decisions about their investments or life insurance proceeds right away.  They are sometimes incorrectly pressured into thinking that they need to do something with the money immediately.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Thought and time should go into making decisions about your investments that could affect you well into the future.  For example, sometimes assets will be needed to pay down or pay off debt or establish an emergency reserve so those funds should not be invested in products that charge fees to withdraw your money before a certain period has passed.  Once you have had time to get a handle on your household expenses and streams of income, then you can move on to the process of evaluating your investments and making any necessary changes.

Seek Professional Guidance
Dealing with financial matters during a time of loss may be overwhelming.  If you have a relationship with a financial advisor, it is likely that these items have been addressed previously, and they can help facilitate any required changes.    If, however, you don’t currently have a trusted advisor you may wish to seek the help of one now.  In my experience, most often the biggest financial concern for widows is whether they will have enough money to live on without their spouse.  By utilizing financial planning methods, an advisor can help answer this question and make recommendations.  Budgeting, cash flow strategies and investment management techniques can be implemented to help you achieve your goals.

What I have come to realize over the years while helping clients through these transitions is that each person handles the experience in their own way.  Although this time will be undoubtedly difficult, addressing these issues and assessing your personal needs will help bring you closer to a secure financial future.

Chrissy Canapari serves as Financial Advisor and Manager of Client Services at StrategicPoint Investment Advisors in Providence and East Greenwich. You can e-mail her at ccanapari@strategicpoint.com.

The information contained in this post is not intended as investment, tax or legal advice. StrategicPoint Investment Advisors assumes no responsibility for any action or inaction resulting from the contents herein. Chrissy’s opinions and comments expressed on this site are her own and may not accurately reflect those of the firm. Third party content does not reflect the view of the firm and is not reviewed for completeness or accuracy. It is provided for ease of reference.