A 2013 survey raised some serious questions about the financial stability of the average widow. The loss of a spouse leaves you vulnerable and in pain at a time of your life when you need to be at your sharpest. Tying up the financial affairs of your partner while creating a fresh monetary foundation for yourself is challenging to say the least, while only 30% of widows play a primary role in their financial planning and investment choices before they lose their partners. This means many women must learn how to handle income taxes, social security benefits, investments and other critical financial skills. With a little help, you will create a path towards financial independence and security.

1) Don't be intimidated by the social security system 

Even in today's evolved world, women are often condescended to in the finance sector, and with the Social Security Handbook containing 2, 728 rules about benefits, it's easy to be scared away from accessing your late spouses' records. If you're 60 years or older and haven't remarried, you might be eligible for benefits as a widow. The online application might make the process easier for you.

2) Do track down all of your spouse's investment, bank, and credit union accounts

Funerals are expensive, and estates can take a year or more to settle, so you will need to access money immediately.

  • Your spouse might have listed all their accounts on a financial program like Google's Inactive Account Manager.
  • If you can't track the accounts digitally, read your husband's letter of instruction. This may contain a life insurance policy that you're a beneficiary of.
  • Contact local banks to find out if your husband kept a safe deposit box
  • Former employers may offer a wealth of information
  • Government assisted site, missingmoney.com, will lift unclaimed property and assets.

3) Don't leave bank accounts untended

Bank accounts in your spouse's name may have monthly debit orders that need to be stopped. Some women choose to retitle those accounts, while others close the accounts down entirely. Whatever your choice, go through the attached checkbooks, banking profiles, bills, loans, and expenses. These items will need to be separated according to whether they're owned by you, your spouse, or held jointly. Let creditors know the accounts held solely by your spouse are in probate. This will need to be done within a month so that your credit report remains squeaky clean.

Paris image women and hope widowhood

4) Do review your financial history ~ change beneficiaries

You're likely to have named your spouse as a beneficiary of your estate plan. This designation will need to be changed. Much of your financial future will be built on your spouse's financial history, so you'll need to review their financial and legal documents to establish a strategy for using them effectively. Your own life insurance policies and pension will need to be integrated into your long-term financial strategy. Make sure they meet your current needs.                                       

5) Do think long-term

It's unwise to make any life changes as a widow in emotional flux, but at the same time, you will need to eventually make choices about estate planning and insurance. Your investment strategy should be re-evaluated. Losing a spouse is among the most traumatic life events, so it's best to engage a trusted advisor to help you to manage your financial affairs. A financial planner, CPA, and attorney will help you to draft a temporary plan of action, which you can use until you're feeling stable enough to consider your long-term investment portfolio.

6) Do use a financial advisor who listens to you

Use a financial advisor who can help you clarify and align your values, dreams, and goals with your financial opportunities.  The most helpful financial advisors take time to listen to their clients, and The Wall Street Journal claims that it's those who serve women female clientele in isolation who understand best how to serve widows empathetically. Bring a trusted friend to meetings to help define your needs. Your sessions with your planner should inspire you to become empowered to design a lifestyle that suits you uniquely, not only to meet your financial goals but exceed them.

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