“The life stage of widowhood is understudied and underserved.” We tend to agree with this quote from a Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study entitled Widowhood and Money: Resiliency, Responsibility, and Empowerment. Most widows want and need help with their finances, but understandably many have difficulty dealing with practical matters at this point, let alone focusing on the impending financial implications. They find themselves thrown from relative security into an extremely vulnerable position, alone. This is the reason we have chosen to spotlight this “life stage” and offer support and encouragement in rebuilding their futures.
The study goes on to say that there are 20 million American women currently who have been widowed, with only 5 million of those having re-partnered. And, each year 1.4 million American women become widowed and are 2.5 times more likely than men to lose a spouse.
This is a staggering number of underserved women who are seeking financial assistance for their future. Even though most women do manage money at some point in their life, the results of this survey noted that more than half of widows surveyed stated that they were not prepared to take over finances. Further, according to a non-profit Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), half of widows experience a household income decline of 50% or more after the death of their spouse.
These statistics are real concerns for many who have either experienced a spouse’s death or have a close association with a woman who has. Kathleen Rehl, noted speaker and author for widowhood, lists three stages to this “life stage” called Widowhood – Grief, Growth and Grace. Hopefully over time, the widow will begin to stabilize and rebuild, the Grace stage. At this point, widows need help in searching and obtaining an experienced and trusted fiduciary. They have been forced into complex financial matters and forced to make decisions on their own. However, with the right fee-only Certified Financial Planner™ professional, one they feel comfortable with and can understand, the confidence gained from this relationship can sustain them through this most difficult time. These professionals can help them see the “bigger picture” financially and it’s in this atmosphere that, hopefully, healing can gain momentum.
We would also like to encourage making financial matters “part of your marriage”. Sometimes, that is easier said than done. Disagreements and divides can be daunting and many married couples avoid having money discussions just because it is a touchy subject. But financial worries can be cut in half for widows who have planned ahead, according to our referenced survey. Thirty-six percent of widows who were involved in financial planning stated that they were not concerned about being able to support themselves. By contrast, 64% of the widows surveyed did worry about this.
Grieving is very important after the loss of a spouse and gaining the necessary expertise is essential to recovery and going forward. Widows need to know that there is experienced, reliable and trustworthy fiduciary guidance for their future that will help build courage and hope for them and their loved ones.
Have a safe and happy July 4th weekend!