Preparing for the Financial Reality of Widowhood

It’s a well-known fact that women outlive men. According to the National Center for Life Expectancy, women live an average of 81.1 years while men live an average of 76.1 years. Married women, therefore, can expect to live a full five years longer than their spouse.

What happens financially during the five years of widowhood? Many women will be in for a financial shock because they are not involved in their household finances during the time that they are married. Money can be a touchy subject for many couples especially for older generations where men have traditionally “provided for the family” and women stayed at home.

A survey by Merrill Lynch and Wave Age found that only 14% of women were making financial decisions by themselves before their spouse died. If your spouse died, would you know what to do? Would you know where to find important information about bank accounts? Would you be able to pay the bills? Would you be able to afford the care you might need when your own health fails?

If you are an older woman and you’re starting to ask these questions, these ten tips will help you prepare.

  • Find out everything you can about your financial situation while your spouse is still alive.
  • Talk to your spouse about money. How much do you have and where is it kept? Keep good records of all bank accounts and investments so you don’t lose track of your financial resources.
  • Become involved in financial decisions. Participate in paying the bills. Do you know what it takes to run your household each month? When bills are due? How are they being paid?
  • Visit the bank together. Make sure your name is on all accounts and you have access to everything you will need to manage on your own.
  • Attend seminars, read books, and do your own research to acquire financial skills. Don’t make the mistake of believing that you don’t need to know because your spouse handles everything.
  • Have a plan for what will happen if your spouse passes away.
  • Check beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and real estate.
  • Establish a team of reliable and trustworthy professionals that you will be able to turn to for advice if your spouse dies.
  • Don’t make any quick decisions while you’re grieving. Now is not the time to sell your home or cash in all your investments. Give yourself a full year before making any changes that will significantly impact your life.
  • Visit an estate planning attorney and get an up-to-date will and estate plan prepared. If you don’t already have an estate planning attorney, consider calling your local Life Care Planning Law Firm. The attorneys in these firms have extensive experience helping older adults plan for the financial realities of older adulthood. They can help you develop a plan to manage your finances as you age and help you develop a plan to pay for long-term care if you should need it in the future.

The bottom line: Don’t wait until you’re a widow to figure out what you need to know to manage your finances Many women will experience a decline in household income after the death of their spouse. If you take the right steps now, you can maintain your financial independence, no matter what the future may bring. You local Life Care Planning Law Firm can help. Find the one closest to you.