Sunday, December 16, 2012

5 Tips for Widows

Retirement advisors have seen many widows come through their doors to get educated about their finances. Often these women are dealing with their finances for the first time after going through the tragedy of losing their husband. At a recent event I noted some key advice which should be shared with widows dealing with their finances for the first time.
5 Tips for Widows
1. Organize Your Financial Documents
After losing a husband, money is probably not the first thing that pops into your mind, but it is an important consideration, especially since you will have to pay for a funeral and other expenses. Getting organized is something you can do even when you and your husband are healthy. Start by organizing your tax returns and making sure they are in a location where you will be able to easily find them. You should also collect any documentation related to benefits, 401(k)s, and life insurance. If your husband had benefits through his employer, make sure you know how to contact the person who handled those at his company. If your husband had a lawyer or accountant, make sure you know how to contact them as well. They can give you more information about benefits and investments you may not have known about. Having this information on hand and accessible will make it easier for you to deal with the financial difficulties of losing your husband.
2. Make a Strategy
You don't have to wait until the funeral to start thinking about how you will handle your finances. Although it may not be a pleasant topic, it's a good idea to start discussing your financial plans with your husband before he passes away. This is an important part of getting organized, and can help you obtain a lot of the information you will need to complete tip #1. As a couple, you can decide what direction you will go with your finances in the event of an untimely death. If your husband usually handles the family finances, he may already have a plan, and it will be good for you to discuss it with him to ensure you understand the steps that will need to be taken.
3. Talk to the Social Security Administration
If you don't, you may be missing out on your survivor benefits. You will also want to straighten out your Social Security benefit if both you and your husband were collecting. Your benefit will end up being a bit less than it was before, but the money will go further when it's only being spent on one person. Once you have this information, you can find out if your benefits will cover your expenses. If they don't, you will need to talk to a financial planner or other advisor who can help you restructure you money and make sure you can pay the bills.
4. Talk to a financial planner or other advisor
It's a good idea to talk to a financial planner or some other type of advisor, especially if you're not financially savvy. Just make sure the person you talk to is someone you can trust. While many planners and advisors charge a fee just to speak with them, you can find advisors who will be happy to help you get more information about how to handle your finances free of charge even if you are not a client. They can help you make the decisions that will provide you with a comfortable retirement, even after the passing of your husband.
5. Take Things Slow
When a loved one dies, the emotional trauma can sometimes cloud your judgment, making it more difficult to make financial decisions that could affect you for decades to come. It can be a good idea to give yourself some time to deal with your grief before making big financial decisions. While you can't put these decisions off forever, it's a good idea not to let your emotions dictate your actions.