We talk a lot about what happens when life happens and your plan gets thrown out the window. All the goals, the dreams, and hours spent thinking about your future, completely worthless now. But what do you do? If you’ve read my book: Strong Woman Stronger Assets, you might remember a chapter just on your reactions. 10% of your life is planning and 90% of it is reacting, so your reaction is everything in the end. Isn’t it?
You can take the crappy circumstance thrown at you and let it dictate the next chapter of your life or you can be at peace with it and move on! So what will it be? Stay stuck or move on to bigger and better goals.
This reactive mindset mentality was brought up during a meeting with a new woman, who was recently widowed. She had some amazing advice that I knew I needed to share with others, and it can be used in any instance where your world is shaken up. Her 2 rules were:
- Stand up, always stand up each and every day. It will help you build strength again.
- Get out of your house for 2 hours each day. At home, you are constantly reminded of the loved one you lost, the husband you used to have, the pet who used to run up to you whenever you came in the door. It is comforting and part of the process to be home, but you also need to escape those memories at least once during your day. And it isn’t just those memories, it is also your mind going over it and over it again and again. By getting out of your house, you are also getting out of your mind. So go to a park and let your mind just be, focus on your breathing, how the sun feels on your skin, the sound of the wind through the leaves. Go for a walk and focus on each step you take. Get your nails done and embrace the simple job of someone massaging your fingers. Get out for at least 2 hours each day, any less and it won’t work. If you stay out too long, you will be rushing back to get home, so start with just 2 hours, 120 minutes.
There is never a handbook on how to deal with grief because everyone deals with it differently. It is about finding what works for you. And everyone’s situation is different, so what worked for your sister won’t work for you. But to try and help, here is a few tips to get you started to put your financial life back in order after a death.
- Start collecting all statements that are mailed to the deceased’s house. You need to start putting together the missing pieces.
- Look at paystubs, bank accounts, and credit cards to see where money is flowing from and to. Is money going to an IRA, an investment account, another bank account? The paystub will show any direct deposits for an investment account along with a health savings account or retirement plan such as a 401(k). The bank and credit card statements will show where the utilities are being paid from and to what company.
- Want to make sure you found all the credit cards? Call for the deceased’s credit report and you will see all credit card transactions. Also make sure they are all correct too!
- Meet with an estate attorney to see what is a part of the estate and what is left out of it. While at the attorneys office, draft a new will, power of attorney, and living will for yourself.
- Update all beneficiaries for retirement plans, life insurance, and such after your will is done.
- If you lost a spouse, transfer all joint assets into your name to help protect them from creditors.
- Depending on whether you need to create an estate or not, you might have to file a tax return for the estate and also for the decedent. Make sure to meet with an accountant to get this taken care of.
- Call an organizer to help sort out your loved one’s belongings. They have great ideas on how to organize, donate, and keep certain items.
- Start seeing a therapist to help you sort out your own mind and properly grieve.
- There is never a better time to get in control over your money especially if your spouse was the one who handled it all before. Meet with an advisor because you will now have new goals and dreams. Make sure your assets are doing the most they can for your goals and get confident with your new plan.
You might have noticed a trend with my tips, and my best advice is to take advantage of others to help. Embrace your family and friends during this time to either be there to simply listen to you or bring over pizza and a bottle of wine. And utilize the professionals instead of trying to do it on your own. Deaths are hard enough without having to deal with a financial mess on top of it. Even a simple estate can take over a year to close, so bring in the big guns. And it makes sure you aren’t missing a thing!
Here I will make it simple: call an estate attorney, accountant, advisor, and possibly a therapist when needed. Don’t know any, let’s talk.
Jessica Weaver, CFP®, CDFA™, CFS®