(This is the first article in a series devoted to unique financial situations women face.)
By Cheryl Wong
When you’re widowed, your financial situation changes immediately. Suddenly, all the financial decisions you and your spouse made as a couple must now be made by you as an individual.
If your spouse made most of the household financial decisions when he was alive, you may not be sure of what to do first or what your priorities should be. If you and your spouse had a Financial Advisor who advised you from your spouse standpoint, you may be starting to think about finding an Advisor that may be more in tune with your current needs and situation.
If you did not have a Financial Advisor when you were married, that might be the single most important reason to partner with one now. At this stage in your life, it’s important that you have a comprehensive picture of your current financial status and a strategy for growing and preserving your assets.
In seeking an Advisor that’s right for you, you’ll want a financial professional you feel 100% comfortable with because you will be sharing important and confidential information with them. Statistics show that 70% of women fire their male Advisors once their husband dies, and 90% of those women hire a female Advisor afterwards.
- Your Advisor should have experience working with widows and understand their needs. Your Advisor should have experience helping widows map out their financial future. Based on this experience, an Advisor should be able to talk about clients who have been in your same situation and explain what they did to reach satisfactory solutions to the financial challenges they faced.
- Trusting relationship. You should feel that you can trust your Advisor and comfortably confide in them. Your Advisor should ask lots of questions about how you are feeling, the life you envision, your family responsibilities, and what you are most concerned about. They should listen carefully to your answers and develop a full understanding of your goals whether it’s to retire, to financially assist your children or grandchildren or to support a favorite charity.
- Respect your decisions. Your Advisor should understand why you make certain decisions about your money and respect those decisions and wishes. Women, for example, often view money differently than men. They generally don’t try to accumulate money merely for the sake of accumulating. but instead want to acquire money so they can take care of themselves and their families, improve their lives, and feel stable and secure.
- Develop plans to help keep you financially secure and safe. Your Advisor should understand what financially security and safety means to you and design the appropriate financial plan and strategies for you. They should also be able to develop “backup plans” for you should an unexpected emergency like a health crisis or family emergency occur. Your Advisor should periodically review these plans with you, making any appropriate adjustments should your circumstances change.
- Explain financial information in plain English. You should feel comfortable with the information your Advisor gives you. Whether it’s helping you with goal setting, data gathering, analysis, recommendations, implementation or monitoring, your Advisor should be able to answer all of your questions so you fully understand what’s going on with your investments and your planning. Your Advisor should also always clearly explain risks involved for each investment. They should be able and eager to educate you about financial strategies and solutions, and point you to additional sources of information for further research.
Statistics show that once a woman is widowed, her household income may decline by as much as 37%. That makes it even more important that widows fully assess their financial situation as soon as they can so they can make financial decisions that are best for them and their loved ones. Partnering with a professional Financial Advisor could be that important first step.
Cheryl Wong is a Financial Advisor with CONCERT Wealth Management in San Jose, California. She specializes in advising women who are dealing with special life situations such as a divorce or the death of a spouse.