Financial Advice for Suddenly Single Women

September 1, 2009 Peppered with light illustrations to match its compassionate, uplifting tone, Now That He's Gone is an effective life coaching tool for any woman who has experienced a loss. Throughout her career Beverly has been an asset to single women who turned to her for financial advice after the loss of their husbands. She wrote Now That He's Gone to comfort and advise widowed and divorced women.

Beverly also attends to a woman's emotional needs, which she believes, is the harder part of their recovery, by sharing her own personal post-divorce story as well as amazing tales from her clients who reconstructed their happiness after losing a spouse.

Beverly is a financial advisor and the president of JBT Financial, LLC, a financial services corporation. She holds an MBA in finance and is a registered broker and member of AIG Advisor Group. She has some advice for "Suddenly Single" women:

The "Bag Lady" Syndrome

"In my practice, I've encountered a surprisingly common fear, even among wealthy widows and divorcees," Beverly says. "They fear that they will run out of money and wind up being a 'bag lady.' Why is that? I'm sure the reasons vary from one person to another, but I believe this fear is largely the result of messages they received, probably from their parents when they were little girls." These messages went something like this, she says: "You need a man to take care of you, to support and protect you. Without a man, you won't be financially sufficient in your old age." Women can be empowered and educated to realize that they can take care of themselves, and will be OK, she adds.

The Three Most Important Questions to Ask About Your Money

1. Do you know what you have?

This seems like a condescending, almost insulting question, but you'd be surprised at how many women have only the vaguest idea what their money is invested in, or even how much money they have. And answering this question can often take more time than you would think.

2. Where is it?

This also sounds like a question that's just too simple. But the answer might be quite complicated. For instance, in years past most investors in stocks and bonds took physical custody of the actual certificates and kept them at home in a lockbox or in a safe deposit box at the bank. If they get lost or thrown away, you might never be able to get the money these certificates are worth. So look carefully through every file and drawer and strongbox. If you see a piece of paper with a fancy border, hand onto it. It could be worth something, maybe a lot.

3. Why do you have it?

This might be the most difficult question to answer because it involves looking at the present in light of your long-term goals for the future. When you man is gone, it's almost 100 percent certain that your financial goals will change, as will the investment strategies that were employed to pursue them. At least some of what you own will no longer be appropriate or even make sense for you to keep. That's why we have to ask the "why" question about everything you own.

Building a New Community

The loss of community can be devastating, especially if you were highly social and active as a couple. Often women lose friends or don't want to be the third wheel when out with other couples. This loss is not final, however. You can - and in fact, I say you must - build a new community for yourself. And it's never too early to start.

I suggest you start with other single women who share the same experience you're having. That is, they've gone through or are still going through the loss of their man. Such women know how you feel. They've weathered the storms of emotions you're trying to navigate through, and they've survived to help you and other women survive too.

Build a Support Team

Choose Your Professional Advisors Carefully

Having the support of friends and family is great, but these people can only help in limited ways. At some point, you are probably going to need the help and advice of professionals. The most important of these, at least in the beginning, are an attorney, a therapist or counselor, and a financial advisor.

Choosing an Attorney

Selecting an attorney is extremely important at this time of your life. You may need one to address the legal issues faced by newly-single women.

Choosing a Counselor

I'm not going to suggest that just because you've lost your mate and are going through a rough time emotionally, you need to see a therapist. You may or may not need one. A support group or the loving attention of friends and family might be all the help you need.

Choosing a Financial Advisor

The first big mistake is to automatically keep doing business with the same advisor you did when you and your man were together. I'm not saying that you should switch. I'm saying that you should not assume that your current advisor is necessarily the best for you just because he was doing what you man considered satisfactory.

Have "Gratitude" for Your Life

When your whole life has been turned upside down, when you've experienced a huge loss, when you're hurting like never before-the last thing you're likely to feel is gratitude. And the last words you want to say are "Thank you". Yet that's exactly what I'm going to suggest, and there are plenty of good reasons for it.

At a time like this, when you're feeling alone and vulnerable, you're probably not feeling very powerful. If you've recently become a widow, you're experiencing the loss of strength and stability your husband provided. Even if you've been an independent, self-sufficient woman, the truth is, the efforts of two people are almost always more powerful than one.

If you ended your marriage willingly, you might be feeling liberated, but probably not empowered. Divorce is rarely an empowering experience. After the conflict, the dividing of property and the (usually) huge expense, most women feel drained, sapped of strength and in need of recovery.

Into this mix of disempowering emotions, I advise women to inject the feeling of gratitude. Why? For starters gratitude is a positive emotion. It impels you to focus, not on what you don't have (the negatives) but on what you do have. This, in itself can, and usually does, make a woman feel more powerful, more abundant, more blessed.

Regardless of what your personal circumstances might look like, there are a number of things you can be grateful for at this moment:

  • You have come through a major loss and are still here.
  • You can read and learn (you're doing that now).
  • There are any number of places you can go to for advice.
  • Many sources of advice and support are free or inexpensive.
  • You live in a society in which women can make it on their own.
  • You have the opportunity to improve your financial situation.
  • Local, state and federal governments all offer support to those in need.
  • That's a pretty good list right there. I'm sure you could add to it. In fact, it would be an empowering experience to take out paper and pen and write down any other thing you can feel grateful for.

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