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Financial Decisions: Learning to Survive after Losing a Spouse

By Lucille Rosetti of The Bereaved.

Losing a spouse is a heart-wrenching experience, but it’s one that is a reality for 50 percent of every lifelong union. The survivor is often left with decisions to make that were never made solo before. Some of these decisions include where to live and how to spend money. If you find yourself in a position to help an elderly family member as they learn to navigate this uncharted territory, keep reading. In the following few paragraphs, we will offer practical advice to help your loved one avoid making common financial mistakes.

Money and Grief: A Bad Combination

Grief is a powerful emotion that can easily lead to clouded judgment. One of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to help them take care of immediate needs, such as funeral expenses and paying bills. A few weeks after the death, they should be encouraged to evaluate their household and personal expenses. Fidelity Investments points out that there will be dozens of decisions following the spouse’s death; all of their financial assets and liabilities should be identified. This will make it easier to manage their financial situation moving forward.

If your loved one is currently employed, encourage them to take some time off, but remind them not to make a career decision they may regret. Many individuals find that the routine of going to work each day helps them transition back into their lives. Further, as State Farm explains, working during retirement can provide financial stability. Until the estate is settled and their financial situation fully understood, the senior may benefit from collecting a paycheck.

Throughout the grieving process, your loved one may decide to move. While a lifestyle change may be exactly what they need, it may not be financially advantageous. If emotions allow, help them find a way to stay in their current home, especially if money is tight. There are many pros and cons that come along with a change of scenery after bereavement. However, it’s not a decision that should be made without careful consideration and ample planning.

Getting Help

Money management isn’t easy, especially for seniors who’ve never had to do so before. HomeAdvisor recommends finding a financial planner to help, which is especially beneficial for seniors with a sizable investment portfolio. A financial planner will make informed decisions that can help them remain financially independent.

Other help that may be necessary after the death of the spouse includes housekeeping, transportation, and, depending on the health of the survivor, assistance with daily living activities. Unfortunately, these long-term care needs are often not covered under the Canada Health Act and may be additional expenses.

Avoiding Scams

One of the worst things that can happen to a person in the midst of grief is to become a target. Unfortunately, this happens more often than we would like to believe. In 2017, one Ontario widow was bilked out of her entire life savings in what’s been dubbed a “romance scam.” Other issues to watch out for are people requesting payment on an item the deceased supposedly ordered prior to their death, or individuals claiming they are charged with settling a debt.

Warn your loved one about the possibility, and caution them against giving out their personal information to anyone with whom they do not make initial contact. AJC.com offers more information on financial scams that target the elderly and notes that the best thing you can do is to stay involved in their lives as much as possible.

Losing a spouse is never easy, and the grief can make your loved one jump into irrational decisions or, worse, become a target. Help them get past the emotional cloudiness until they are able to make personal and financial decisions with purpose and clarity.

February 02, 2019 by

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