They lost a spouse but recovered: 5 financial stories of women

When you have just lost your spouse, you may be facing the loss of your life partner, your partner, and your best friend. It can be an overwhelming time and it may be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel on a day when you may feel better and brighter about your emotional and financial future.

In times like these, it can be comforting to hear from women who have been there and come to the other side.

Each year, women who lose a spouse can start over, move beyond the immediate and uncertain consequences of this period and start living a new life. Here’s a look at how five of Francis Financial’s clients managed to get back on track after losing their partners.


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Sandy’s Story: Creating Memories in a New Home

Sandy contacted us when her husband Mike, of 42 years, passed away. During her marriage, Sandy didn’t worry about her finances. Mike was a successful real estate investor in New York City and the couple enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. They lived in a row house on the Upper East Side, where they raised their three grown children.

When we met with Sandy, she had decided to sell her town house, as she didn’t want to have to handle the necessary maintenance or be forced to think about the painful memories of Mike’s illness. She wanted to stay in her neighborhood so that she could continue her daily walks in Central Park with friends and enjoy the family environment.

Francis Financial has created a comprehensive financial plan detailing how Sandy could move into a high-end rental apartment on her own block, with all the amenities she’ll need as she grows up. We’ve also built a custom portfolio that generates so much income and growth that Sandy doesn’t have to draw on capital. She is also happy to be able to leave money for her children and grandchildren, which Mike also wanted. Sandy has a better understanding of money than she does and she feels financially more secure than ever.


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Madeline’s Story: Feeling reassured that she’ll be fine

Madeline contacted us after her husband, Tim, passed away. Madeline was a nurse and Tim was a finance director for an insurance company. They were able to amass a good deal of savings because they were always very careful about money. Madeline grew up very poor and was obsessed with memories of shutting down their utilities and uncertainty about where they would live next. Understandably, money is extremely important to Madeline because she gives her a sense of security.

Madeline enjoyed managing the family budget during her wedding and it gave her peace of mind knowing the balance of dollars in and out. However, Madeline left the investment portion of her finances to her Tim. Tim worked in the financial field and really enjoyed researching stocks and bonds. He sat down with Madeline a few times a year to go through all the details, but actually investing wasn’t something that really excited Madeline. Investing was risky, and deep in her mind Madeline always feared that they might lose everything in the market, and she would find herself in the same place she was when she was a child. She felt it was best not to think about it and leave it in Tim’s capable hands.

Madeline was referred to us by her son because she could tell that Madeline was extremely worried about money and this, in addition to the loss of Tim, was starting to affect her health. We met with Madeline and her son and heard Madeline talk about her fears of losing her money in the market. Francis Financial wrote a full written analysis of her financial situation which detailed her expenses, income and assets up to the age of 100. We were able to work backwards to figure out how much money she needed her to live the rest of her life and how much her money she would need to earn in the stock market.

Madeline was extremely relieved to know that she didn’t need to take a lot of risks in her investment portfolio. Because her lifestyle was so frugal, she could live with the security of her social security and nursing pension, on her own. She could tap into her wallet for special expenses like taking her grandchildren on a trip to the Grand Canyon, which she planned to do the following year. It was comforting for Madeline to know that no matter what, she would be financially secure and she had a team to ensure her financial health for the rest of her life.


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Beth’s story: discovering that she won’t have to work forever

Beth’s plan was to retire early from a job she no longer liked, but that dream shattered when Keith suddenly died. What was even more heartbreaking was that Keith was in the middle of the underwriting process to purchase a large life insurance policy that would insure Beth’s financial future if he died. Despite many reminders from Beth and the life insurance agent, Keith was never able to complete the process and the new life insurance policy was not issued. Although Beth received life insurance proceeds from Keith’s small workplace policy, the money wasn’t enough to make up for Keith’s income, and now Beth is not only grieving the loss of her husband, but she is also facing the disappointment of having to continue working in a career she doesn’t like.

Understandably, Beth was shocked when she came to Francis Financial. We quickly made several expert fiscal moves with the retirement accounts she received from Keith and built a portfolio to offer maximum return to reduce the number of years Beth has to keep working. She also advised her to sell an unprofitable rental property, bringing Beth just two years from being able to quit her job and start the retirement she was looking forward to.

Beth’s story is painful in many ways, but she is moving forward and starting to build her new life. She’s looking to move to a warm spot after her retirement, escape the snow, and use her vacation time to investigate the perfect tropical home for herself.


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Lily’s Story: Keeping her family’s dream home

Lily never expected to be such a young widow. Her husband, Mike, was only 43 when he died in a car accident, leaving her alone with their 3-year-old twins. Mike’s death was the worst time she could think of. They had just bought their dream farm, built in the 1800s, which required a significant amount of repairs and maintenance. Mike loved doing these DIY projects. Although the house needed so much work, Lily was reluctant to sell it. Mike and Lily searched for years and felt this was the perfect home to raise the girls in, as it had a huge yard next to a nature reserve, was located in a large school district and only 4 miles from her parents.

Understandably, Lily had a lot of questions when she came to talk to us. Should she have returned to work and, if so, when did she? Could she afford to cover the house maintenance herself? And most importantly, what kind of life could she offer girls? Could Lily still afford to save on the boys’ college funds? Could she send them to summer camp when they were a little older?

Lily’s top priority was making sure the girls didn’t have to sacrifice themselves due to their father’s death, as it would be hard enough growing up without a father. Lily wanted to work with a financial advisor who could show her all the different scenarios she was thinking about and guide her to the ones that would make her and the girls the safest financially. Lily also knew her life was going to change and she wanted to make sure she had a team that could be with her every step of the way and make changes to her financial plan and investment portfolio to support her.

We have worked with Lily for the past six years since Mike’s death and she is extremely confident in her financial future. She and the girls still live on that beautiful farm and we have designated part of the life insurance proceeds to finish the projects and get them to an easy-to-maintain place. Lily is back at work, but not before spending another year at home with the girls after Mike’s death. Her career revival was well-timed with when the girls started full-time school.

Lily is also saving money in the children’s 529 college savings plan and we have invested it for big gains, to maximize these dollars. Lily is adding money to her employer’s 401 (k) retirement plan and receives a generous match every year on her contributions. Finally, we have transferred some of the life insurance money into an account that will be used for special expenses for the girls, such as summer camp. Lily knows that Mike would like girls to take care of themselves this way.


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The bottom line for those who need help

For many widows, losing a spouse means starting at “ground zero” when it comes to understanding family finances. If you weren’t part of financial conversations and decisions before, diving in now can be difficult. There are a lot of moving parts in your life right now, but it’s important to find the time to get to a better, more authorized place with your money.

To get started, gather your team of trusted professionals who can help you get to a better and safer place, emotionally and financially. Yes, hiring a certified financial planner is a great first step.

“Friends and family can offer advice based on their own experiences or what they have heard from others,” according to trust and heritage attorney Britt Burner, Esq., Of Burner Law. “Unsolicited advice, even if well-intentioned, can actually add to the stress and confusion.

“Now is the time to surround yourself with a team you trust to understand your legal and financial positions and educate yourself about your options as you embark on this new phase of life.”

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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