Guest Contributor

by Pat Brandenstein

Have you ever noticed after marriage couples seem to adapt to various divisions of labor? Often the man does the yard work, car repairs, and finances whereas the woman usually does the grocery shopping, house cleaning, and cooking (although I have known some men who are better cooks). After years of marriage, couples don’t think about these divisions of labor. They just do them.

This changes when someone experiences the death, divorce, desertion, or imprisonment of a spouse. All of a sudden, the person’s world is turned upside down and he or she has to assume all of the roles.

One of the most difficult and staggering roles for a recent widow can be handling finances—especially if her husband handled the household books. Surveys show that finances are either the first or second concern for widows. Currency and finance allow us to survive: buying groceries, paying off the house, putting gas in the car, etc.

A widow may suddenly find herself asking, “Am I going to have enough to live on without my husband’s income or his expertise in this area?” Typically, a widow or widower needs 80 percent of what they lived on as a couple. However, a widow’s income is about 63 percent of the couple’s income.

In addition, a widow or widower no longer has a spouse to discuss major financial decisions such as buying a car or going on an expensive vacation. All of a sudden, the individual is faced with making financial decisions alone.

One of the first things I offer to a widow or widower is don’t panic or fear. God is continually telling us: do not fear. In Isaiah, God becomes the husband of the widow and father of the fatherless.

In addition, most major financial decisions do not have to be made immediately. A widow may want to go to her bank, introduce herself to the branch manager, and share that she is a recent widow. This gives the widow a sense of control while alerting bank staff to the changing situation.

In her book “One Widow to Another”, Miriam Neff makes the following suggestions:

  • Don’t make any major decisions for a while
  • Start tracking all expenses
  • Pay bills promptly
  • Call Social Security to obtain survivor benefits
  • Find out how much you have in assets and liabilities
  • Organize all financial documents
  • Talk to other wise people about their choices, but make your own decisions
  • Reinvest your money
  • Maintain your budget
  • Reallocate investments as needed

Recent widows might consider hiring a certified financial counselor or certified public accountant to assist with financial responsibilities. They should not rely on relatives to assist with financial decisions—although relatives could be made aware of finances.

Unfortunately, it can be taboo in our society for people to talk about money. However, spouses should talk about their finances before one spouse dies. Widows and widowers should feel comfortable in seeking professional financial advice if they do not feel comfortable handling money alone. Jesus frequently talked about money and He wants us to use money in a responsible manner. Remember: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

If you are married and reading this article, I recommend sitting down with your spouse today to write down financial information such as passwords to accounts, banking information, broker information, etc. Anything dealing with finances should be known to both. That way there are no surprises and each of you is prepared to handle finances alone.

Pat Brandenstein is co-founder of Wings of Hope Widows Ministry, a 501(3) c with Chapters of Widows in Cheatham, Rutherford, and Franklin counties. Wings of Hope assists widows in forming chapters in their communities and churches in developing widowed persons ministries. For more information, contact Brandenstein at 931-636-4359 or brandensteinr@bellsouth.net. Webpage: wingsofhopewidowsministry.com, Facebook and Instagram: Wings of Hope Widows Ministry.