Financial Focus: Financial tips for widows and widowers

Published 3:54 pm Thursday, June 27, 2024

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By Marc Trantham


Losing a spouse is one of the most painful experiences anyone can have. Unfortunately, widows and widowers have to deal with more than just the emotional trauma — they also must consider a range of financial issues. If you’ve recently been widowed, what financial moves should you consider?

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For starters, don’t rush into any major decisions. If you’re still in the grieving process, you are unlikely to be in the best shape to make significant choices affecting your finances and your life.

But once you feel ready to look at your situation objectively and make appropriate choices, consider the following steps:

• Review your finances. Look at your entire financial picture — your assets, investments, debts and income. If you and your spouse had communicated well about your finances, and you shared decisions, you hopefully won’t encounter any big surprises. But if your spouse was the partner who mostly handled financial matters, you may need to get up to speed quickly on what you have and what you owe. And if your spouse had provided a large amount of your household income, you will also need to determine what changes you may need to make to your lifestyle.

• Address insurance issues. If you will receive a death benefit from your spouse’s insurance policy, what will you do with the money? It may prove helpful in funding your own retirement or meeting other financial goals. But you’ll also want to be clear about what other beneficiaries, such as your children, might receive. And while you’re looking at insurance, you also might want to look at your own policies — do you need to change beneficiaries?

• Review your Social Security options. If you are at least 60 and you were married at least nine months, you may be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits. (If you remarry before age 60, you typically cannot receive survivor benefits, but you can reinstate them if this subsequent marriage ends.) The amount of your survivor’s benefits depends on your age and the age of your deceased spouse. You can’t claim your deceased spouse’s benefits along with your own retirement benefits, so if you qualify for survivor and retirement benefits, you’ll receive the larger amount. Depending on your situation, you might come out ahead by delaying your retirement benefits, giving them the chance to grow, while you accept survivor benefits. For

more details on receiving Social Security benefits, visit the Social Security Administration’s website at

• Review your estate plans. The death of a spouse can certainly affect your family’s estate plans. So, it’s a good idea to review these plans to see what changes, if any, need to be made. When conducting this review, you’ll benefit from working with an estate-planning professional.

Finally, keep in mind that you don’t have to go it alone during this difficult time. If you’re already working with a financial professional, they can help. If you aren’t currently working with one, now might be the time to start. By looking at your finances and your family situation holistically, a financial professional can provide guidance that can help ease the stress you are naturally feeling.

Few events are as sad as losing a spouse. But when you feel ready, start taking the steps necessary to continue forward on your life’s journey.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC.