Elder orphans: Losing your spouse & your money
There are 15 million people in the U.S. who have lost a spouse. The Census Bureau reports the average age a wife becomes a widow is 59 and the fact that half of those widows outlive their husbands by 15 to 30 years can leave many women without the money they need to survive. However, financial planning now could save you later.
“We were married 45 years,” said Carol Storey, who can barely remember a time without Ed. As you could imagine, losing him was hard. “At 46, he had prostate cancer and he fought it for 22 years,” said Storey. Edward’s death was not sudden. Carol had time to prepare. “I always paid the bills. I was always fairly good with money,” said Storey.
But not all women are as well-prepared as Carol was. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when is it going to happen,” said Jeannette Bajalia, Financial Planner, and President and Founder of Woman’s Worth. And when it happens? “All of a sudden they’re going, ‘Wow! There’s really not much left for me,’” said Bajalia.
The three main expenses for women are housing, transportation, and healthcare. “Men typically marry their long-term care. Women will take care of their husbands till the end,” said Bajalia. And 70 percent of nursing home residents are women. Financial planner Jeannette Bajalia says know where your money is and how to get to it. Create an income plan from your retirement savings and work with a financial planner to figure out how you will fund long-term health care. “It’s never too late. It’s never too early to start planning for the future,” said Bajalia.
After losing a spouse, it’s important to not rush into any money decisions right away. Hold off until your mind is clear. Get an objective review of your finances, without involving family members. Also, don’t be a purse for others. Do not give out inheritance early or help children pay off debts at this time. And make housing decisions very carefully. Moving in with your children may seem like a safe idea at the time but leaving your friends and community can send you into depression.