Learning how to get financial help and deal with money problems after your husband dies is the last thing you want to think about! But, it’s important to start taking small steps and start managing your financial debt.
“Some women feel they’re not ‘smart enough’ to understand financial issues after a spouse dies,” says money expert Pam Stearns. “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.”
Below, Pam shares her tips for dealing with debt after your husband dies. First, though, let me say how sorry I am for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you. Grieving your husband’s death is hard – and trying to overcome fear of not having enough money is an extra burden. It’s not a light load to bear, and there aren’t any easy answers.
The most important thing is to get help dealing with with all the information that’s coming at you. There’s alot of information and stuff flying at you right now, not to mention the grief of losing your husband. Try not to walk forward alone. Find a trusted friend or family member to help you through this.
And remember: even if your husband was the financial manager and chief bill payer of the family, you can still learn how to take care of your money. It’s not too late, no matter how old you are! But don’t try to deal with your financial debt alone — and don’t ask just one person for money advice.
Here are Pam’s general tips for dealing with financial debt after a husband’s death. This isn’t personal advice, and it won’t answer your specific questions about credit card debt, mortgage payments, business debt, or other times of financial situations.
A “Future Finances” List
To get advice about your specific situation, you need to talk to a financial advisor or lawyer. Don’t rely on the internet for financial advice. And never, ever give money to anyone online or over the phone!
Start thinking about your:
- Ability to meet your financial needs
- Income from job and/or retirement sources
- Spending habits
- Level of financial 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 financial advisers
Try to balance your financial considerations with your emotional and spiritual needs. You may feel overwhelmed with pain and sorrow; take time to find help grieving your husband’s death.
1. Be gentle with yourself, especially if the finances are new to you
Losing a husband is one of the biggest heartbreaks in life. The grief of a spouse’s death never goes away, and it may feel impossible to deal with financial debt when you just want your husband back.
Ask your trusted friend to help you create “must do” list for the priorities you need to deal with immediately. Create a “can wait” list for less-important financial and household matters. When you’re ready, start slowly learning about your finances, how to deal with debt, and how to get the financial help you need. Your financial confidence will grow with time, and you’ll find it easier to make decisions and look at your options.
2. Talk to more than one financial advisor about the debt
Seek a lawyer or financial advisor who is “vetted” or recommended by someone you know and trust. Ask your friends and family members for potential money managers or advisors. Be bold! Ask your pastor, neighbors and community members who they trust with their money, mortgages, and other types of debt.
Find a financial expert who will listen to you, who doesn’t try to tell you what to do with your money. If you think you need to hire a specialized financial planner or even a real estate agent, ask your friends and family for recommendations. Don’t make any decisions about your debt or financial situation until you’ve had time to think.
3. Don’t isolate yourself after your husband’s death
It’s normal to feel lonely and alone when your spouse dies. Learning how to get through the day when you’re a grieving widow is a huge life adjustment – debt or no debt.
Find an in-person or even an online grief support group for survivors. Consider a widows’ support group. Don’t isolate yourself. Try to reach out and spend time with people. It will make mourning your loss a little easier — and you may find help with your financial debt as well.
A “Money Autobiography” Questionnaire
Some financial experts say that the first step to dealing with financial debt – especially after your husband dies – is to learn what type of “money personality” you have. These questions will help you think about money on different levels:
- 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?
Take time to think about your money beliefs, spending and saving habits, and even the reasons for your debt. This can help you gain control of your finances.
If you need money – and a job – read Help Finding Part Time Jobs for Seniors and Retirees.
5 Common “Money Personalities” After a Husband’s Death
Pam shared the most common money personalities of many women. She says knowing what you think about money will help you figure out your finances and deal with debt.
Widows often fall into one of these money personalities:
- 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 about how to deal with financial debt! This checking account is too soft yet that savings account 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 deal with the money problems. I don’t feel any pain or confusion about my husband’s death or financial debt. I’ll get through this, I don’t need anybody’s help.”
- 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.”
If you see yourself in one of Pam’s money personalities, you may need to re-evaluate your position. Talk it through with your trusted friend, and see if you can work your way back to reality.
How are you doing – and what do you think about these tips for dealing with debt after your husband’s death? Your comments are welcome below! I can’t give financial advice, but you may find it helpful to share your story and situation.
For more financial tips, read 7 Money Mistakes Women Keep Making – and How to Stop.