I am a woman working in an industry historically dominated by men. Although the industry is evolving and more women are choosing careers in finance, I am still woefully outnumbered. This fact helped to shape my focus when working with clients and influences my client base.
Several years ago I invited a small group of my clients to gather as a focus group to help me better understand their experiences. The group represented a variety of age groups with one shared commonality; all were women who became unexpectedly single, either because of the death of their husband or due to divorce. The women I invited to participate had successfully navigated through the grieving process and had reinvented their new normal.
The purpose of the focus group was to determine what had made them successful; what were their most difficult challenges, what would they do differently if they could go back in time, and what would be their advice to women just beginning this journey.
Most Difficult Challenges
Learning to live alone
Not letting well meaning family or friends insert themselves and railroad them into decisions
Finding professional advisors (attorney, accountant, financial planner, etc) who they could trust and understand
Buying or servicing a car
What Would They Do Differently
Participate more in the investment and planning process. Most had never attended meetings or met “their husband’s financial advisor” – find one you trust and will work with your family collaboratively. They all said understanding their investments and financial plan brought security and peace of mind.
Be more prepared. Universally they wished they had gathered and organized more effectively. Online credentials, investment statements, insurance and estate documents were scattered near and far.
The widows would have retired earlier/asked their husbands to do the same and spent more time together!
Do not make any major decisions in the first year.
Be kind to yourself, it takes time to heal and time to gain the confidence and desire to build a new life alone.
Find one or two trusted advisors; having someone to bounce ideas off of who will always keep your best interest in the forefront is invaluable – family, friend, or professional you know and trust.
Use your network of family and friends to refer you to competent and trustworthy professionals. Interview several and bring a companion to the meeting for a second opinion.
Stay active and get involved in your community.
The group as a whole reached a consensus on their answers.In sum, they were relieved to have help unraveling all the details.Several had not sought financial advice for over two years, and they lived in constant fear during those years. It is important to find the strength to gain the knowledge to take control of your financial security! Planning for the unexpected sooner rather than later will make life’s journeys easier to navigate.