So, this week, I wanted to give some tips that could help the people that need the help the most.
There is nothing more challenging in this life than losing a spouse. I have a real soft spot for women that not only are facing the emotional challenges of losing their husband, but also the financial pressures of having to plan alone. Of course, men who lose their wives also face tremendous challenges, but today we are going to discuss how women can best navigate the waters.
Be careful who you hire as a financial advisor.
Unfortunately, it has been my experience that some widows have been approached by aggressive salespeople. Widows may have large amounts of cash from life insurance policies and should use care in selecting advisors.
I’m not even suggesting that widows are getting scammed. I’m suggesting that they use care when entering into professional relationships so their best interests are protected.
So, what do you do? Ask around. Ask friends or other people you trusted who already have trusted advisors. Ask a lot of questions. Take your time. There does not need to be a rush. Don’t attend “free steak seminars.” Don’t be ashamed. Empower yourself.
Learn about social security benefits for widows.
This might be the most important step. Social security benefits, when done correctly, are extremely generous to widows. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to attend one of my social security workshops to learn more.
Filing incorrectly could cost you a significant amount in benefits.
Generally speaking, a widow should claim the survivor benefit as soon as possible and let her own benefit grow and defer until age 70. Then, she can switch to her own, for a potentially larger benefit check. If the husband possessed a much larger social security benefit, then the strategy is different. In that situation the widow should take her own benefit as soon as possible. Then consider switching to her husband’s survivor benefit at age 66.
Find educational resources that empower you.
If your spouse had done all of the financial planning, all of this can be especially scary. Like I said before, this is not a race.
You need to educate and empower yourself. Try not to watch too much financial news or listen to what others are saying on social media. Find resources that are trusted and helpful. Take a finance class. You may also want to hire a fiduciary, who can be an advocate, coach, and financial manager.
I can tell you from first-hand experience, it is not as complicated as you may think. It may feel scary or overwhelming now, but you can do this.
Don’t let yourself settle into a fear and a scarcity mentality.
Only 20% of retired widows live below the poverty level and the trends are headed in the right direction. In the 1970s over 50% of widows were living below the poverty line. You live in the most affluent country in the world, and hopefully in a community where people support each other.
Which brings me to my last point ….
Ask for help.
When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, the stress and strain was so intense that it was disorienting. It was difficult to make any choices, let alone life and death health decisions.
We felt so alone at first, like we were the only people who have ever gone through this. We made the decision to make our struggles public, in hope of encouraging others, and the result was shocking.
Help started coming from everywhere.
Mere acquaintances became the staunchest of allies. People we had never even met before offered meals, advice, comfort, babysitting, and friendship. It was remarkable and encouraging.
Sometimes, you don’t know the strength and size of your support network, until you really need it.