by Kathleen M. Rehl, PhD, CFP® Land O’Lakes, FL
The death of her husband is possibly the most devastating event a woman will ever experience. She may wonder, “Am I going to be able to make it on my own?” Perhaps she feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do next.
Widows are one of the fastest growing demographic groups:
• There are about 12 million widows in our country today
• The average age of widowhood is 56
• More than a quarter of women age 55 and older are widows; half of married women are
widowed by age 65, and that increases to almost two thirds at 75+
• 80% of baby boomer wives (born 1947 to 1964) will experience widowhood
• On average, only 7 of 100 widows remarry
• Most widows experience financial decline
My husband, best friend, soulmate, and business partner died of cancer in 2007. I felt like half of me was ripped off and thrown away at Tom’s death. Life changed dramatically. Yes, friends and family were there to support me, but my darling was gone forever.
During the first week after Tom’s death, I functioned in a daze. I cried a lot. Sleep was fitful at best. I couldn’t figure out which side of the bed to sleep on without his strong arms around me. I woke in the middle of many nights, certain his death was a dream. But the truth always crashed in. My dear husband would never walk through our front door again. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t concentrate. Where did I put my keys?
New widows often feel adrift and insecure. Some women describe this time as “being in a fog.” This is quite normal. A widow may experience these and other emotions during her grief and mourning:
numb . . . lost . . . emotionally drained . . . abandoned . . . paralyzed . . . lonely . . .
fragile . . . angry . . . weak . . . aimless . . . forgetful . . . . helpless . . . frightened. . . overwhelmed . . . disconnected . . . vulnerable . . . relieved . . . pained . . . guilty
Even though life seems chaotic, a new widow will need to start working on important actions after the funeral or memorial period. Because of this article’s limited space, the checklist here is only a summary of some items needing attention. (A more complete listing is available from your ACA planner.)
ü Begin to organize information
ü Work with an attorney and tax preparer
ü Review cash flow and liquidity needs
ü Collect benefits
ü Adjust health and other insurance coverage
ü Review assets and liabilities
ü Complete the estate settlement
ü Take care of yourself
ü In the future, move forward with new goals and your new life
ü Postpone major decisions during the first year when possible!
This article is written for recent widows or those anticipating widowhood in the near future… or those with a friend or family member whose husband has passed on. In a future article, you’ll learn how to avoid big mistakes made by some widows in transition. Especially during the early phases of widowhood, women are so very vunerable and may be easily taken advantage of.
Kathleen M. Rehl’s world changed forever when her husband and business partner died of cancer in 2007. Then five weeks later her widowed mother also passed. It was from her personal grief experiences that Kathleen’s life purpose evolved: helping other widows to be more self-confident, knowledgeable, and secure about their money matters. She is passionate about empowering her “widowed sisters” to take control. Her loss motivated Kathleen to publish Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows.
To further assist widows with their financial matters, Dr. Rehl partnered with her fellow ACA members to develop a network of qualified, ethical, fee-only financial planners who work with widows. To access this network, go to http://acaplanners.org/widowsguidebook/advisors.aspx. Copies of the guidebook can be ordered through this link: http://acaplanners.org/widowsguidebook.aspx.