When lifestyles change

Doug Horn

Occasionally, changes in our life requires more change in order to regain a sense of balance or security. I am speaking of those who lose their spouse, especially those who are retired when this occurs.

Whether they have been married a few years or a few decades, the impact on the surviving spouse can be momentous. This is a time no one wants to go through, but we realize it will happen to our parents, friends and perhaps ourselves. Whether the loss is due to disability and nursing home stay, divorce or death, the impact to the surviving spouse may be significant.

During a recent visit with a new client, she shared some of the things she had done when she lost her husband a few years earlier. During our conversation, I realized the amount of change she incurred could have been overwhelming, but for her to once again have a sense of security, she had to take additional steps.

For most couples who have lived together for many years, and in some cases decades, they have created a division of duties that has worked for many years. One of the first steps is to list all of those things the spouse was doing and how that many impact the lifestyle and the budget. It is not always possible for the healthy/surviving spouse to take on all of these duties or responsibilities. Thus, assistance from children or professionals may be appropriate. Professionals can assist with the annual tax return preparation and investment management if the spouse lacks the interest or expertise to handle these tasks. Next, a determination must occur to understand the changes in finances. If a death is involved, there may be changes and perhaps significant in the future income of the surviving spouse. Thus, it is necessary to understand the changes in the budget and whether distributions from the estate will have any impact.

For a surviving spouse, there may be a few services that could be taken that will provide important benefits or a sense of security. Adding an alarm system to the home may be one of those 'peace-of-mind' services. The lifeline or similar alert service can also provide peace-of-mind in the event of an unexpected medical event. While some may believe everyone already has a cell phone, I realize many retirees do not. Adding a cell phone so the senior is rarely out of touch with others is also a great safety measure. It may not be used to make everyday calls, as long as they have it with them when they travel, dealing with an auto emergency should be less traumatic.

Becoming organized is another tool that will not only help the senior, but the children at the time both parents are deceased. There are several home organization kits that can be purchased or listing everything in a notebook can work just as well. The list should include all active insurance policies and the agent for each policy. The banks where each account is located as well as all investment accounts. Since many investment accounts only send annual statements, there is a possibility a move and change of address filing may not catch every active account. If these are held through an advisor, they should have a list of all the accounts. If they are self managed, having them on the list will be necessary to avoid potentially losing touch with the account.

Making sure health care and financial powers of attorney are current and that copies have been provided to the appropriate professionals and offices will also simplify matters when they are needed.

I am certain many of my readers can provide additional tips on things a surviving spouse can and should do. I would welcome hearing from you and adding your recommendations to my list so I can better serve assistance to those I work with.

For assistance with this or insurance, estate planning, and investment management contact me at Quality Financial Concepts or one of the other Certified Financial Planners in our area. To continue a personal quest for education, you can also view our learning center on our website, www.goqfc.com. There you will find articles on a variety of topics, on-line seminars, calculators, as well as a host of other free tools.

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