Guidance for Widows

A Note from Marguerita: There’s no denying that the loss of a spouse is one of the most painful and stressful life experiences. Whether you are a retiree in the prime of your golden years or younger woman with a family to provide for, widowhood requires financial guidance and professional understanding.

While more women are involved in their family’s long-term finances, many seniors are part of a generation less likely to be involved in retirement planning and investments. This can make the difficult experience of losing a spouse even harder.

Whatever your situation, here are some simple things you can do to get started: 

  • Do your best to gather information about your financial accounts (bank accounts, investments accounts, Social Security benefits, insurances, loans, credit cards, etc.)
  • Organize the necessary information about those accounts in one place and review them together (names of the financial institutions where accounts are held, passwords, contact information for any account representatives or agents, etc.)
  • Access your Social Security statement online:

Keep in mind: 

  • Federal pension law requires company and union pension plans to provide a joint and survivor benefit option. The right to the joint and survivor pension benefit can only be given up if the wife gives her permission in writing.
  • When selecting a pension benefit, consider the options carefully. The joint and survivor annuity offers a smaller monthly payment than other pension benefit options; however, for women who expect to depend on their husband’s pension as a source of income throughout their longer lives, this is generally a better option. Without the joint and survivor benefit, all pension payments will stop once the husband dies.
  • Different rules apply to certain other retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s. Death benefits from a 401(k) are generally paid out in a lump sum, which can be rolled over—tax-free—into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

Stay tuned for more articles to help guide widows through this tough time.