Tag Archives: widowed

When Being Widowed is a Relief

In the seminars I used to give about financial intimacy in marriage, some women confessed to social taboos they had never even shared with their friends. For example, one woman said” the nicest thing my husband did for me was die and save me the trouble of divorcing him.” Or the caregiver wife who admitted ‘he’s taking too long to die”. I remember also the financially abused wives who paid for the seminar in cash because they were afraid to write a check or put the seminar cost on their credit cards.

The stories we tell ourselves about why we do the things we do keep us from having to face some uncomfortable truths about ourselves. I did it too.

Like so many women I’ve met, my marriage had a public face and a private face. It endured because of protective fictions on my part that ate away at me slowly but steadily. Those fictions enabled the relationship to function.

It wasn’t until after I was widowed that I could admit to myself how relieved I was to be free of the financial risks and pressures I felt during our marriage. These years of being on my own have allowed me to live without the distorting filter of my husband’s preferences and dreams.

I was lucky; I had prepared financially to be a widow. If I had not taken the steps I write about in my book, I would never have recovered financially or emotionally from the burden of his death. I would never have forgiven him for risking my future safety to achieve his dreams. Protective fictions would have kept me from admitting that widowhood has given me a chance to live my own life.


Financial Vulnerability in Marriage

It’s counterintuitive to think about divorce when you marry. Few women do. Without thinking of the consequences of letting our husband manage our money, we set ourselves up for financial vulnerability. We trust him to be making financial choices that will benefit us both.

Sometimes he does.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  Most of the time, he’s not thinking of his future without us.

Money is never about money. It’s about what we fear and what we want, what we learned from our family, and how comfortable we feel discussing a touchy subject with our mate. It’s about power and leverage – who has it, how is it used, who is affected by it. It’s about the working dynamics of a relationship. A marriage can’t function without  the ability to talk about money.

Unfortunately, if we’re not participating in the marital finances, we don’t find out how vulnerable we are until a crisis of widowhood or divorce changes our life.  Not being able to talk about money comfortably, either before or during marriage, makes women financially vulnerable and resentful.

Here are six questions to answer for yourself before you’re slammed with a crisis:

Am I participating in financial decisions with my husband?

Do I understand our marital finances?

What do I need financially to feel secure?

How would I manage if I were widowed or divorced?

Do I sign documents without understanding them?

Do I know the location of all our financial records?

There are many more questions and answers in my book. The information can help make you financially intimate and feeling safe.


From Wife to Widow in a Second

Could you become one of the women in the statistics listed below? Absolutely. I was.

Demographers estimate that 1.25 million women will be widowed annually by 2040.

The average age a woman is widowed is 56.

There are currently 11.3 million widows and 2.6 million widowers.

700,000 women are widowed every year.

80% of women live longer than their husband

The average widow outlives her husband by 14 years.

Nearly 50% of women over 65 and 32% over 55 are widows.

Source: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-13.pdf

I became a widow in a second when my husband died in an accident. That’s why I’m so passionate about wanting you to understand everything about your money before a crisis hits you.

Is your husband handling your marital finances? You need to get involved, participate, understand the whole financial picture. If you’re caught in the statistical profile, not knowing about your money will make life even harder for you. Here’s what you should do right now:

Explain to your husband that you’re worried about how you would cope on your own if something happened to him. (Show him the statistics I listed above.)

Tell your husband how much you appreciate everything he does for you and your life together. This is vitally important. You want his cooperation, not a confrontation. You don’t want him to feel you don’t trust him. It’s not about trust – you’re looking for information and participation.

Review your entire financial picture- everything you own, everything you owe. Know where your husband keeps the financial records, how to access them and what they mean! Be sure the information is up-to-date.

Make sure your husband has sufficient life insurance with you as the beneficiary. CONFIRM THAT THE PREMIUM PAYMENTS ARE PAID ON TIME! If even one payment is late, that will cancel the policy.

Draw up a will, a revocable trust with you as executor and trustee and the powers of attorney for health care and financial decisions. Get the help of a legal professional to make sure you’re doing it right. If you miss even one thing, that might invalidate all of them.

Don’t count on anyone else to take care of these things for you. No one has a higher stake in understanding your money than you do!


Widowhood and Divorce Biggest Stressors

You may have suspected it. The SRRS confirms it.
Stress correlates directly and measurably with the chance of getting sick. 

Developed by Dr. Thomas Holmes at the University of Washington State Medical School, the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) assigns rankings to life changing events. Death of a spouse and divorce rank at the top of the list.

Combined with the other factors on the chart that are natural companions to widowhood, the combined score of a widow catapults off the charts.

Divorce typically doesn’t happen without warning.  Not so for widowhood. Within the space of a heartbeat, you can be widowed. A plane or car crash. A fall from a ladder. A boating or skiing accident. A heart attack. Your world turns upside down. Your social status changes; your family pressures increase. Financial pressures can push your nervous system beyond your ability to cope.

For the first time in your life, you may now be faced with financial decisions. Your husband may have wanted you to be involved in the marital finances, but you let him do it, saying you were too busy or not interested.

Perhaps you were married to an optimist who refused to face his mortality, who told you not to worry, that nothing would happen to him. You may have been worried sick (metaphors do apply here) about how you would cope on your own if something happened to your husband, but you never took any action to make sure you had the financial information you now need.

In short, you may be totally unaware of what you’re facing as you now have to manage things on your own.
Ultimately, the only thing you can control is to plan for the things you can’t control.  If you’re not familiar with the finances in your family, not just the household budget, but all the marital finances, get involved.

If I were your husband, and I loved you, I’d nag you to participate and understand the finances. After all the hard work we did, I’d hate to see you blow it all after I’m gone.