Whether you yourself are currently experiencing widowhood, or you know someone who is - I want to take a moment to acknowledge your strength. When you lose a lifelong partner, there are moments where it might feel numb, as though moving forward and creating a next-steps plan is outside of your capacity. That’s completely understandable.

Sometimes taking baby steps to protect yourself financially is the best approach. Biting off too much at once could become overwhelming, while not acting at all could be equally detrimental in the long-run. You can stay focused on three simple financial action-items to get started.

 

1. Take Your Time with Changes

It might be tempting to completely change your routine, goals, or living space right now. It’s important to take a step back and give yourself a bit of time before making any major life changes. Often, when we’re in the midst of grieving, change sounds like the perfect way to escape, improve, or push forward past the emotional pain.

However, as is the case with most aspects of your financial plan, impulse decisions don’t usually work in your favor. Taking a moment to think about any changes you’re thinking of making - like moving to a new part of the country, making a major purchase or paying off your mortgage - and discussing them with a trusted financial planner is your best course of action.

 2. Review Your Financial Obligations

Retitling bank and investment accounts, reaching out to creditors, moving utility accounts to your name, and canceling any payments (like a gym membership) in your spouse’s name are a handful of financial obligations you’re likely facing right now. You’ll likely also need to reach out to the credit bureaus to put a death notice on your spouse’s credit.

In most cases, financial institutions and other organizations will be more than willing to work with you to make this process easy. That being said, if this process is sapping your limited energy, enlist help. Having your kids, a close friend, or your advisor help to make the necessary phone calls can be a significant relief.

 3. Start Thinking Ahead

You’ll need a plan to protect your finances both right now and in the future. Part of your new plan may be a payout from your spouse’s life insurance, or Social Security survivor benefits. If you haven’t spoken with a financial advisor yet, now may be the right time to find someone you trust to help you build your financial future during this new phase of your life. Having an advisor on your side to support you through this major life change can relieve a lot of the financial pressure you may be feeling to handle everything alone. It can also help you to avoid any missteps that could affect your financial security.

At Wood Smith Advisors, we help women in all stages of their lives create unique financial plans that address their individual goals. We pride ourselves in being supportive, and walking with our clients through their journey at a pace that’s comfortable for them - especially during a transition into widowhood. If you need help with your finances right now, or just need someone to talk to, we encourage you to reach out. We’d love to support you in any way we can.

Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.

"Finance Made Simple" blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.

Three generations of women

In most cases, there’s a motivator beyond ourselves that keeps us on track to achieve financial success: our family. We want to make sure our spouse or partner, parents, kids, and grandkids are well taken care of. More than that, we want them to experience the financial freedom to chase their goals, and to achieve big, exciting things with their lives.

You might even have an estate plan in place that provides generously for your kids, grandkids, or great grandkids. But you know what they say about best laid plans of mice and men.

Raindrops

The last thing we want to think about after a loved one passes away is identity theft. No - I’m not talking about someone stealing your identity. I’m talking about someone stealing the identity of your recently deceased loved one.

It’s upsetting to think that someone out there would actively be taking advantage of vulnerable families who have just lost a spouse, a parent, or child. Unfortunately, it happens to approximately 800,000 people each year. Identity thieves troll through obituaries and Facebook notifications and strike quickly while grieving family members are still getting the deceased’s estate in order.

A financial advisor is a professional who helps you manage your finances and investments, teaches you about important options and aids you in making smart decisions toward your overall financial goals. But did you know that in order to maintain their license, your financial advisor must pass a rigorous national examination and complete ongoing educational requirements annually? Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs) and Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) must adhere to a strict code of ethics and work in the best interest of their clients, disclosing any conflicts of interest. These advisors must act as a fiduciary, and typically are paid solely from client fees and do not sell products. They truly value their relationship with you, the client.

If an elderly family member was experiencing financial abuse, would you know it? In 2016, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America completed a Safeguarding Our Seniors Study and found that 40 percent of seniors experience financial abuse more than once. Victims of elder financial abuse lose on average $36,000. Consumer Reports estimates that Americans lose up to $30 billion a year to elder financial abuse. Many of these crimes go unreported, because victims are ashamed or unable to speak up for themselves.

You’re scrolling through social media when you see an image of those big-eyes and sweet face that says “pick me!” Before you know it, you’re heading into the local animal shelter or breeder to find your newest family member. Those who know me know that I am a committed and incurable dog lover. We have a pack of four rescued dogs and one foster dog at this time, and can’t imagine life without them!  

Falling in love with a new pet is easy. They can provide a lot of joy to you and your family. However, making the decision to adopt a pet shouldn’t be taken lightly. While pet ownership is extremely rewarding, it is also a big responsibility both in time and resources. Here are some things you may want to consider prior to pet ownership.

Purchasing a new home at any stage in life brings up various financial considerations and opportunities, but for retirees considering buying a home, there are some extra things to think about.

Most people understand that becoming a victim of identity theft can lead to credit problems and financial woes, but there are many more ways identity theft can impact your life than you might realize. According to the 2016 Aftermath Study conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center, identity theft creates more than just financial problems; it can also negatively impact employment, housing, medical treatment, etc.

So, how many of you have run into the following issues? You established a money jar system for your kids to learn how to budget their allowance — only to realize you never remember to get cash out of the bank (because who uses cash these days?). You sit down to discuss financial responsibility and savings only to find them bored and itching to get back to playing Roblox or Minecraft on their device. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. So why not give the old school piggy-bank system a digital upgrade. Use an app to teach your child about financial responsibility.

Thinking about purchasing a home but worried you can’t afford it due to student loans? You aren’t alone. According to a study by American Student Assistance, “55 percent of student loan holders said their debt is causing them to put off homeownership.” Most of them believe their student debts would make purchasing a home impossible. The reality, however, is that owning a home is possible even with student debt. Here are some tips on how to purchase a home while still paying off student loans.

Estate planning is one of those topics that often makes people uncomfortable. Most of us don’t want to think about what’s going to happen after we die, or some of us feel like we don’t have enough assets to warrant needing an estate plan. The truth is everyone needs a plan. Your estate is comprised of everything you own — your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture and other personal possessions. So, no matter how modest your estate might be, you’ll still want to manage who receives each item and when they receive it. You’ll also want to include medical and financial directives so others know your wishes. Here are five simple components of an estate plan.

Many older adults will require long-term care at some point during their lives. Long-term care is defined as requiring assistance with at least two “activities of daily living” (eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, continence or transferring from a bed to a chair) that lasts at least 90 days, or a need for substantial assistance due to severe cognitive impairment. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “more than 6 million older Americans are thought to have a high need for long-term care. Yet fewer than 10 percent of older adults have purchased long-term care insurance because it’s expensive.” So how do you get long-term care without breaking the bank?

Trying to decide whether or not it makes sense for you or your partner to become a stay-at-home parent? We know this is not an easy decision to make for most families. While there are numerous benefits to having one parent stay home with the children, there are also financial adjustments that need to be taken into consideration. Families need to have a financial plan to help mitigate any financial challenges created by the loss of income. In order to help your family make the best decision, here are a few helpful steps you can take to help determine the financial feasibility of one parent staying at home.

The beginning of the new year is an excellent time to review your financial goals and set your resolutions. Financial resolutions can help you successfully reach your short- and long-term goals. Financial goals could include items like going on a fabulous vacation, purchasing a new home or increasing retirement savings.

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