When someone loses their life partner, it can feel like they are trapped in a fog while the world moves on without them.
With numerous responsibilities falling on the shoulders of the widow, it can be hard for even the most financially savvy widow to know what to do next.
The stress of the many tasks facing widows immediately after losing their spouse often leaves little time for personal and emotional healing. Financial tasks are often the most abundant and daunting. For many widows, regardless of their level of wealth, the question of how they’re going to pay the bills is the most pressing.
After completing the immediate action items (to learn more about these check out our blog post here), it is important to address the necessary income required to pay your bills.
Your first step is to estimate current and future expenses. Start by making a list of all the fixed expenses you currently pay each month. These are recurring payments that you will need to make each month. A sample list is provided below:
You should then take the time to estimate any of your variable expenses. These are the things you like to do and can vary from month to month. These include travel, credit card bills, charitable donations and gifts, and any money you may spend on yourself or your family for things such as dining or shopping. Once you have estimated your variable monthly costs, add them to your fixed monthly expenses to determine your total monthly expenses.
Next, you will want to determine your income. The loss of your spouse may impact this, so do your best to re-assess what your income looks like now. If you are still working or went back to work since you lost your spouse, determine how much you make in one month.
If you are retired, assess how much you are currently taking from your retirement accounts and how much you have saved.
Comparing your incoming cash flows to your monthly expenses will allow you to have a better understanding of your financial situation and help you discover possible additional income streams. A financial professional can help you understand your options and help you choose the best solution for your current situation.
Other Things to Note
You may also receive additional income if your spouse invested in life insurance to help protect you after they were gone. You can typically choose how you want to receive their insurance proceeds. The choice between a lump sum payout and monthly payments will be specific to you and your current financial needs.
You will also want to create a plan for receiving Social Security benefits. There are many options to choose from.
A widow is eligible for retirement at age 60, but if she opts to receive it at age 60, payments are reduced based on the number of months she is away from age 66.
If she waits until she is 66 to start receiving payments, she will be eligible for up to 100% of her monthly benefits.
If both spouses are 70 years old when one spouse passes, then the surviving spouse may consider switching to the survivor benefit if it is smaller than the spouse who passed.
Additionally, a surviving spouse can receive the lesser of the two benefits at age 62 (when she becomes eligible) and then switch to the higher benefit at age 66. This option prevents the larger benefit from being reduced.
Your spouse may have set up additional accounts for you to inherit such as an IRA. These are accounts that can provide additional income to you now if needed or continue to grow to provide a more stable future.
These tasks may seem daunting and planning for a future without the love of your life may seem impossible. As a widow, you have so much to worry about that you feel like you don’t have the time to worry about yourself. Setting up an appointment with a financial professional and creating a plan so you don’t have to worry about your current and future finances can take one thing off your plate and give you the time you need to grieve.
Please don’t hesitate to call us if you would like to set up a free consultation to discuss your financial future. We specialize in helping widows and we are proud to be the financial planners you can trust to help support and educate you after the loss of your spouse.
We have a very special offer for you. By clicking here, you can sign up to receive a completely free Thrive Package.
The Booklet Overcome the 7 Biggest Mistakes Widows Make When Planning Their Financial Future
The Book, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook For Widows
And a few surprises just for you.
For more advice or to get in touch with us, please call (716) 906-8121.