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Grief and Financial Security

March 25th, 2016 by judytalks

Grief and Financial Security

Bereavement is a period of time in which grieving persons mourn the loss of a loved one. Ideally, the griever begins to rebuild his or her life and move forward. Letting go of that essential person is nearly impossible. Counting all the other losses takes some time.

When someone dies, there is often a change in the financial picture for survivors. A spouse, with or without children, may experience a considerable reduction in resources, especially if the spouse is female.

Recovery is hard enough. Moving on with diminished finances puts her and any dependents at risk.

The following article is one I wrote and posted on LinkedIn. It explains this critical and frightening situation.

 

Do You Know Where The Bones Are Buried?

What happens to the household income when someone dies? For as many as half of all widows, fifty percent of household income may be lost when a spouse dies.

At the same time their expenses only decrease by one-fourth to one-third. What happens to that household income? Where was it coming from and where did it go? Why are women so adversely affected by financial issues?  The fact is, when a man loses his wife, the financial situation is minimally affected.

The problem really starts much earlier. Work patterns of women are, first of all, considerably different from those of men. Full time work for many years isn’t the norm. Women may work part time, take time out for child care and/or caring for parents or other family members, and wages for women continue to lag behind pay for men. By the time they retire, their social security is less, and often there is no pension. Is it any wonder that of the 3.4 million elderly poor in America, 70 percent are women?

For a widow to avoid a serious drop in her circumstances, she needs to know where the bones are buried. This begins with educating women about earning, investing, and spending from a young age.

Older women usually have little knowledge of finances. And many younger women with careers prefer to leave the investment decisions to spouses or professional money managers. Busy with family and job responsibilities, they leave their future up to people who don’t consider the disparities in retirement benefits.

Couples may both retire at the same time, or not. But the wife’s social security benefits are almost always lower than the husband’s. Whatever they may collect when both are alive, if she survives him, she must choose whose benefit she receives – hers or his but not both. If she doesn’t receive a pension, or his doesn’t have survivor benefit checked, her resources may be slim.

Couples can begin to plan for her security while both are still working. Life insurance is a very good option, but many couples are underinsured. Updating to accommodate the rising cost of living is necessary, because if she is the survivor, her expenses will only decrease by one-fourth to one-third. Life insurance is not taxed and may be distributed in several ways.

When you purchase life insurance, make sure you know how it will be distributed – lump sum, quarterly, monthly, or checks you write for a specific amount until it’s gone. You may or may not have a choice.

If the deceased spouse had a long illness, the wife may have taken time off from her career to care for him. Expenses for the illness may also have decreased their investments. By the time she is alone, all of her resources – mental, physical, emotional, and financial are very low.

According to wife.org, one-third of widows are under sixty. Since widows can’t apply for social security until they are sixty, she will have to figure out how to pay the bills from what she earns and what she can take from other sources. If there are children still living at home, the financial problems can be severe.

I was widowed when I was fifty. As an author and educator, my involvement with the grieving community has taught me a great deal about death and the problems of survivors. The plight of widows in America is greater than that of other developed countries. What can we do – what can you do – to change this unacceptable situation, and provide women with the same financial security that men have?

It’s your future. Manage it well.

 

 

Remembrances

October 24th, 2015 by judytalks

Remembrances

The death of a loved one is accompanied by deep emotional pain, pain that can’t be dismissed. The longing to hold on to that irreplaceable person is profound, and letting go is unthinkable.

Amidst all of the practical things that must be done – notifying people, planning services, going over finances and legal issues – there is a desire to create a remembrance, a legacy that says this person’s life mattered.

A memorial or legacy can be accomplished in different ways, and you can have several if you wish. Often, a legacy is included in the settling of the estate. Honoring the life of the loved one may be done by giving a gift of money to an organization, college or university. Other means include the gift of a special collection, scholarship, garden, or a wing on a building. There may also be a monetary gift that is designated for a specific purpose, such as a charity for medical, educational, or civic projects.

Personal memorials are commonly done by individuals who send a donation to a foundation that researches an illness or disability associated with the deceased. All in all, remembering a person whose life touched yours in a deep and personal way helps the process of letting go.

It’s important for grievers to acknowledge the difficulty of the mourning period. It’s a time to actively assess the relationship that has ended, and determine how you wish to make a part or parts of your life rich and meaningful, despite your loss.

A remembrance may be a place of peace or an active, ongoing celebration that you can return to when you wish to renew your connection to that irreplaceable person.

Healing takes place by remembering, not forgetting.

Judy

 

No Time To Grieve A Survivor’s Guide To Loss And Healing

September 25th, 2015 by judytalks

No Time To Grieve A Survivor’s Guide To Loss And Healing

When a death occurs, it’s likely that the family has little information for solving the problems of grief and loss. The competing factors of emotional pain and practical responsibilities leave little time and energy for grievers to do the hard work of mourning their loss.

Death knocks on every door, often unexpectedly, and those who mourn are usually ill-prepared to cope. Fear, sadness and anxiety often become everyday emotions. Meanwhile, the responsibilities associated with handling an estate stare you in the face.

For those families who have experienced the death of a loved one, it becomes clear that there is certainly a need for death education in our society.

The important question to ask is whether you have in place what you would need to handle these responsibilities.

Legal matters before a death occurs include a do not resuscitate document, a living will, and an individual’s wishes for disposition of the body and final resting place. Handling the estate following the death has numerous considerations. A will, trust, military records, marriage/divorce papers, social security, and dependent children just to start. Finances include investments, pensions, property, cash flow, and taxes.

Those of us who have had such an event in our lives would have benefitted from a guide book that gave pertinent information and support as we struggled to manage every day. Had we known, we might have had paperwork in order, discussions completed, and a clear understanding of the emotional needs of the bereaved.

In our society death education usually comes after the fact, leaving survivors grasping at straws, and undermining the deep need to mourn completely and appropriately.

Resources abound for getting your affairs in order. Estate lawyers, community classes, and the internet all give pertinent information for you to consider. A good choice might be a thorough and relevant book that you can read and keep handy for reference from time to time. One that you can carry in purse or briefcase would be ideal.

The benefits of such an excellent reference book would begin with a comprehensive list of issues associated with bereavement. Deep grief affects every aspect of our being – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. There is pain, fatigue, confusion, and anger, as well as other feelings and considerations. Where to begin?

For now, let’s start with the first responsibility you face – services. In general, there are reviewals, funerals, memorial services, gatherings of mourners, or a combination of all or a few of these acknowledgements.

If you plan to get your affairs in order, you may wish to start researching the above named services for consideration. Whatever your age or situation, keep a notebook with your ideas and preferences listed. You may also want to confer with clergy, spiritual leaders, or family for insight and suggestions.

In the years I have been writing on this subject, preparation or lack thereof regarding death and loss has been a leading cause of either consternation or peace of mind for those who mourn.

Keep your references and notes in easy reach, knowing that whenever it is needed, you have made important choices.

My website: www.survive-strong.com

Amazon page: www.amazon.com/author/judystrong

I wish you well,

Judy

The Best Time to Get Your Affairs in Order

May 25th, 2014 by judytalks

As a survivor, I know that having everything in place is essential to handling an estate. My husband died intestate, meaning that he didn’t have a will. He also did not have a living will, a do not resuscitate (DNR), or funeral and/or burial wishes. I still had children living at home, a part-time job I loved, but that paid little, and a multitude of both emotional and practical responsibilities to manage.
When I published my first book, No Time to Grieve A Survivor’s Guide to Loss and Healing, I began to spread the word about the importance of having legal and financial affairs in place. I gave seminars that explained the problems I had encountered and encouraged my audience to get their ducks in a row, so to speak. Frequently, those in attendance who had experienced loss confirmed this fact. I heard stories from widows who had expected they would have security, enough money to live on, and funds to cover inflation. Unfortunately, many had to make major changes, sell a house, and downsize their life style because they had neglected to take care of the inevitable.
The best time to get your affairs in order is now, if you haven’t already done so, and do it together. Everyone thinks it’s something that can be done later, but because my husband had no will, I had to go to probate court. My husband was 59 when he died and, though it is sobering, these things happen all too often. Your loved ones need time and energy to deal with the emotional upheaval of loss. Compromising that energy with the hassle of legal and financial issues adds a burden that can be avoided. A funeral director once told me that the legal and financial issues the family face are overwhelming, and cause an enormous amount of stress.
Talk to your family, your legal counsel and financial planner, and get the documents you need to make this situation as smooth as possible. Then put the papers in a safe, but easy to access place and relax. Enjoy life. It’s part of what we’re here for.
I wish you well,
Judy

For my resources, please go to www.amazon.com/author/judystrong

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