Go At Your Own Pace

Do what is right for you – when you are ready. As a financial advisor to a person going through the shattering experience of losing the most important person in their life,  I consistently sense the surviving spouse’s feeling of being overwhelmed with worry over missing steps, deadlines or dates. After all, in most cases, it is their first time being faced with the processes and changes that follow. They are always relieved to find out that, in most cases, they have plenty of time to take care of all of the tasks ahead.

Often the death of a wife or a husband radically changes the world as you have learned to understand it. Everything changes—sleeping, cooking, eating, even watching television, are now very different once a spouse dies. On top of these basic everyday activities, the surviving spouse has to revisit their financial, legal and other matters. It can feel overwhelming – and confusing.

Most surviving spouses are women who often have even greater financial planning challenges. This is because women live longer than men (and tend to marry older men), have often experienced and earnings, investing and savings gap over our career and are more often the caregivers in the family when/if the need arose. Women are typically less involved in financial matters than men throughout their lives, which can leave them especially fragile and raw when going through all of the administrative and other tasks that must be addressed after losing a spouse. This is best remedied while both of the people in the couple are living – and able to actively participate in all financial matters, but often is not.

Of course, the person who was not involved in financial matters has a harder row to hoe when losing a spouse. There is a lot to be learned on what feels like a short curve. It is important to keep in mind that you do have time. Do not rush yourself or let others rush you. Research shows that women like to be educated. Take your time and learn the way you want to learn and as much as you need/want to feel comfortable. Stay involved and take advantage of the opportunities to ultimately feel more empowered through the experience. Slow people down when they are talking industry jargon. Encourage them to use illustrations that will make it easier for you to understand and reflect back on points discussed. Ask them to cover no more than three points in a meeting. Many family members, friends and/or advisors you encounter in the process will not understand or forget that you are struggling to get through the day and sometimes the hour. Slow them down to whatever pace you are comfortable maintaining at the time. When you learn more through the process, you will be thankful as it will help you navigate a new normal sooner and be able to better manage your life long-term.

You can find information about this and more on in a recent podcast, Supporting the Surviving Spouse, I created within a series of podcasts for women for the AICPA… Just remember that you set the course, going at your own pace, doing what’s right for you.

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Paula McMillan – Connect with Paula!

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