Losing a spouse is hard enough... but when financial confidence is lost as well, feelings of worry and instability can seem overwhelming. 2016 research in the Journal of Financial Service Professionals indicates that working with a wealth advisor after the passing of a loved one significantly improves widows' sense of financial confidence and well-being.
In this, part one of a two-part series, we'll explore the financial issues that affect the more-than 12 million widowed women in the U.S. We'll also share wealth management solutions that can help boost widows' financial confidence and discuss the benefits of strategic financial planning, both before and after losing a loved one.
Would Widows Benefit from Wealth Management Solutions?
Widows comprise one of the fastest-growing demographics in the U.S., with about a million women becoming widowed each year. There's a dearth of research on the status of widows' financial knowledge and financial well-being, despite the fact that:
- 70 percent of married women in the Baby Boomer generation will become widowed;
- 80 percent of women die single, while 80 percent of men married;
- The average age wives are widowed is 59.4, with another 15+ years left on their own; and
- Many women dual inherit, receiving money from both their parents and their deceased spouse.
Add in one more fact — that 70 percent of women stop working with an investment professional after their spouse dies — and it's easy to see why the topic of widows and financial planning deserves more attention. These statistics mean that, generally speaking, a majority of widows lose financial planning advice from both an investment professional and their spouse. But despite this situation's prevalence, not much research exists. Let's dig deeper into what we know about widows and financial planning.
An Unmet Need: Comprehensive Wealth Management
A 2010 article by Brian Korb, Ph.D., found that widows often feel financially incapable, leading to increased anxiety and stress around financial decision-making. Korb concluded that the solution lies in financial education — and that financial advisors are in an ideal position to improve widows' financial confidence and knowledge, thanks to advisors' specific experience, background and education.
Korb also suggested that many investment firms don't have the necessary systems in place to meet widows' needs. This may be due to factors such as:
- A male-dominated financial industry that lacks focus on widows' specific needs
- Investment professionals who are trained in offering technical financial advice, but lack training in the personal side of financial planning, especially when a client may be grieving the loss of a spouse
In many cases, the issue boils down to a lack of confidence when it comes to financial planning and emotionally driven financial decision-making, which (as we've written about before on this blog) isn't always the most effective way to determine financial strategies. Asking the following questions can help to evaluate financial confidence and formulate a strategy to address problem areas:
- How does your current sense of financial confidence compare to your financial confidence before the death of their spouse?
- How did you manage finances as a couple?
- Who or what influences your financial decisions?
- Do you have enough money to meet your saving and spending needs?
- What are your overall financial goals?
- Do you have an estate plan in place?
- Do your financial actions and plan reflect your personal values and goals?
- What type of relationship do you have with financial and investment professionals?
- What would improve your confidence?
In part two of this series, we'll delve deeper into the ways wealth advisors can help widows improve their financial confidence.