Q: My husband, who recently passed away, took care of our family health insurance, car insurance, finances, taxes, last wills and so much more. When I experienced health emergencies throughout my marriage, such as breaking my hip and later being diagnosed with cancer, my husband was always there as my caregiver.
I’ve been struggling since his death, and I have no children or immediate family to turn to for help. I need help understanding how to manage my own finances and all other affairs that my husband once managed. What steps should I take to learn how to create an individualized management plan for myself and take control over my life?
A: Whether a stay-at-home provider or a working woman, many women leave all of the family financial responsibilities to their spouse. If you can relate to this, you’re not alone. The world has changed so much over the past 25 years and the whole dynamic of family planning has changed with it. Sadly, many women over the age of 40 continue to let their spouses manage their financial, educational, banking, insurance and other estate planning matters. Such reliance exposes women and their families to uncertainty should an unexpected loss of a spouse occur.
Ladies, it is time to wake up, become engaged and realize who you really are.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women today control 70 percent of the total personal wealth in the U.S., comprise 47 percent of all U.S. workers and account for 38 percent of the self employed. While this may be good news for women, there is also a 75 percent chance that they will become widows at some point in their lives.
Unbelievably, the average age that a woman becomes a widow is 55, so you can guess who will also be most likely be the caregiver for an ill spouse. Women are three times more likely than men to become caregivers. This illustrates the importance of knowing how to manage all family affairs without relying on a spouse.
The first step in removing reliance is to encourage your spouse to teach you how to assist in preparation and management of all family matters. Don’t wait until he becomes ill or passes away. The next step is to reach out to a professional with experience in family assets management and estate planning who can act as your adviser, such as an attorney, financial advisor or accountant.
Now, not later, is the time for you to become more involved in protecting your family’s financial future. Remember, women control or own the majority of the wealth of our nation. But having control and ownership without having the knowledge to manage wealth could be a recipe for disaster.