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6 Financial Tips for Widows in the Age of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Finding Financial Help for Widows

As of February 2020, the US Census Bureau reports that 8.7% of American women and 2.6% of American men are widowed. As the population ages and the coronavirus pandemic puts families and couples at risk, there is an urgent need for emotional and financial help for widows and widowers. Let these six financial tips for widows be your jumping off place.

If you were recently widowed, you are likely feeling a range of emotions and are overwhelmed by the prospect of managing things on your own. Advice for recent widows will range from person to person, but the tax, estate and financial implications of this very big life change can crush the sense of competence in even the most educated and organized person. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by just thinking about the practical aspects of a loved one’s passing.

Here are 6 important financial tips for widows working through this journey:

1. Declare a Proactive Time-Out on Big Decisions.

The best initial advice for recent widows who are struggling is this: your thoughts and feelings on what you want your life to look like are going to change over time. Give yourself the gift of space and time to make sound financial and life decisions for the long term.

By giving yourself some time, you are less likely to make rash decisions based on your heightened emotional state. Don’t make major changes to your career or living situation until you have taken the time to assess your situation with more mental clarity or to speak to a professional.

2. Determine a Timeline for All of Your Decisions

There are always things that must be done “Now,” things that will need to be done “Soon,” and things that can wait until “Later.” Often, large financial decisions, such as housing can be put on the Soon or Later lists, relieving the pressure and allowing you to focus on what’s most important.

3. Focus on Your “Now” List

The most immediate task on your Now list should be to make sure that you have enough resources to cover your expenses for the first several months, including funeral costs.

Any advice for recent widows should include guidance for dealing with other time-sensitive tax, insurance and financial items that will need to be inventoried and addressed. Urgent bills, loan payments and social security or life insurance benefits should be dealt with now, but switching your investments or changing your estate plan can be dealt with later.

Ask for help if you need to stay on track. By focusing only on your Now list first, decisions can be made more quickly, and you can bolster your confidence and sense of financial well-being.

4. Practice Self Care

It’s easy to push your needs aside when so much is thrown at you, especially if you are caring for young children or others. Grief affects your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, seek the comfort of other family and friends and keep up with your regular checkups. Plan for giving your feelings space, and schedule time each day to take care of yourself.

5. Work Through “What-If” Scenarios

This is a process where you explore your ideas and goals, testing financial possibilities and long-term consequences. There are no perfect financial tips for widows, but a financial planner can guide you in developing your financial goals and educate you about your options. Scenario-testing helps you do the following:

  • Figure out your spending range.
  • Determine whether changes in your lifestyle are required.
  • Decide whether to pay off outstanding debts.
  • Strategize how you will finance your retirement.

Give yourself time for your emotions to resolve. With time, you’ll regain the energy and clarity needed to carefully plan for your future.

6. Seek Help from Professionals

The best advice for recent widows is to seek help to work through the process of grief. During this time of crisis, professional help can ease your stress. On a personal level, grief counseling is critical. You might also consider working with a Certified Financial Transitionist who specializes in helping widows or individuals in other types of transition. Or, if possible, seek advice from a financial advisor who can offer financial help for widows in the form of asset allocation and portfolio management.The stress of grief often leads to compromised cognitive abilities, and managing your finances is a critical job that needs to be done thoroughly. Many times widows find themselves alone in their grief with no other widows around who would understand what they are going through. The right help can make all the difference in getting you through this painful time.

[Editor’s Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to read Coronavirus (COVID-19), Your Business & Your Money: A Financial Resources Guide and attend the following webinars: The Legal & Tax Aspect of Investing: Asset Protection, Estate Planning, and Tax Efficiency and All About Asset Allocation. This is an updated version of an article originally published on December 18, 2017.]

©All Rights Reserved. May, 2020.  DailyDAC™, LLC d/b/a/ Financial Poise™

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About Robin Young

Robin is the president and owner of Northstar Financial Planning, a fee-only wealth management firm providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management. Our all-women team is dedicated to enriching clients lives by helping them use their money to achieve their life, family and legacy goals.

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