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Help Figuring Out Your Finances for Widows

If you need help figuring out your finances because you’re a widow, these three tips and five common money personalities will help.  Figuring out your financial situation after a spouse dies is difficult — and may be the last thing you want to deal with! But, it has to be done.

Here’s what money expert Pam Stearns says about money issues after your husband dies:

“Some women feel they’re not ‘smart enough’ to understand financial issues. They’ve never known a woman who handled money nor had a female mentor who was financially literate. All of their financial role models were men and they are intimidated by that. And, some women feel it’s not sexy or feminine to be financially literate.”

For help figuring out your finances for widows, read Suddenly Single: Money Skills for Divorces and Widows (Wiley Personal Finance Solutions).

And, here are Stearns’ tips for sorting out your money issues after your spouse dies…

Help Figuring Out Your Finances for Widows

1. Talk to someone you trust. Seek out someone with whom you feel safe, secure and comfortable to discuss your financial situation.  Find someone who will listen, and isn’t trying to tell you what to do with your money or sell you something.

2. Be good to yourself. You’re probably going through probably the most difficult time of your life.  Try to have a “must do” list and a “can wait” list for priorities.  When you’re ready, start slowly learning about your finances.  Your financial confidence will grow, and you’ll find it easier to make decisions and look at your options.  In due time, it actually becomes fun and exciting!

3. Read good books for widows. I recommend Transitions by William Bridges and Money Scripts by Rick Kahler. If you don’t feel ready to deal with money issues, you might find Tips for Grieving Widows and Widowers helpful.

5 Common Widow Money “Personalities”

Knowing what you think about money will help you figure out your finances. Widows often fall into one of these “widow personalities” when it comes to understanding finances after a husband dies:

Sleeping Beauty – “My prince charming will come and will take care of everything for me.  I don’t need to worry about anything.”

Alice in Wonderland – “I am so confused and nothing makes sense to me. I am living in a fantasy land. I want to help and rescue people.  Let me give them all my money.”

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – “I just can’t make up my mind.  This bed is too soft yet this one is too hard.  I need to research everything yet can never decide on anything.”

Wonder Woman – “Everything is going to be just fine.  I can handle it all.  I don’t feel any pain or confusion.  I’ll get through this.”

Bag Lady – “I just know I’m going to end up on the streets with no money, no friends and no family. I will be all alone one day.”  (Actually, most widows at some point or another have this fear – hopefully this fear is just for a short period of time.

A “Financial Feelings” Survey:

How do you feel about your:

  • Ability to meet your financial needs
  • Income from job and/or retirement sources
  • Spending habits
  • Level of debt currently carried
  • Level and quality of insurance protection
  • Current investment choices and understanding of them
  • Estate plan
  • Charitable giving
  • Current level of financial literacy
  • Professional relationships with advisors

A “Money Autobiography” Questionnaire:

  • What is your happiest time with money? Your unhappiest?
  • How did your family communicate (or not) about money?
  • How did you relate to money as a child? As a teenager?  As an adult?
  • Will you inherit money?  How will this make you feel?
  • Do you worry about your future?
  • Do you feel guilty about prosperity?
  • What has changed since your husband’s death?

This survey and questionnaire will help you figure out your feelings about and relationship with money, which will help you figure out your finances.

To learn more, read Setting Financial Goals – 5 Tips for Goal Planning and Finances.

Stearns founded Navigating Wealth specially to help women through major life transitions (loss of spouse, divorce, job changes, etc.).  She blends interior wealth (feelings, values, goals, fears, etc.) with external wealth (cash flow, investments, taxes, etc.) for a comprehensive holistic understanding of true wealth.


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2 thoughts on “Help Figuring Out Your Finances for Widows”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Bruce,

    I totally agree! As a wife, I know very little about our household money accounts and budget. But my husband knows how to cook and do laundry…so I’m definitely not holding up my end of the deal.

    I’m just hoping my husband outlives me, so I don’t have to worry about finances after he passes away 😉

  2. This article is a good reminder that as husbands we need to be sure our families know how to take care of themselves in case we are not around. It is like teaching you kids (or husbands) to cook or do laundry. Keep accounts up to date and available to your spouse, keep a budget a share it and always keep a cash reserve (an emergency fund) in case things go horribly wrong. A line of credit may not be accessible.