May 26, 2013
Losing a spouse completely changes your life, and it's important to take the time you need to grieve and heal. The sadness may never go away and you'll always miss your husband, but after two or three years, you may be ready to look toward the future.
Before the loss of your husband, the two of you made plans; these plans may no longer be the best course of action for you. It is common to feel an obligation to follow the plans you developed together, that you would somehow betray your husband's memory to follow a different course. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your situation has changed and you may have a whole new perspective on things. Plans that worked for the two of you, together, may no longer be practical for you.
Without even realizing it, you may have been striving to fulfill your husband's dream rather than your own. It's time to follow your own path and build a future that supports your new hopes and dreams. This column refers to widows but it also can be helpful to widowers.
Start by reflecting on your personal values; think about what and who is important to you and what you enjoy doing. What type of lifestyle do you want to lead and where do you want to live? Take out a piece of paper and fill it with goals and ideas on things you would like to accomplish. Let your mind wander - don't evaluate, just brainstorm ideas. Now go back and contemplate this list and formulate about five to 10 realistic goals to be achieved in the next year or so. Prioritize these goals and identify some action steps to be taken.
Now it's time to review your financial situation with respect to your goals. Many of your goals may be financially oriented. Start reviewing your current cash flow, identify and tabulate your expenses, and compare them to your income. Are your expenses in line with your goals or do you need to change the way you spend money? At the very least, make sure your expenses don't exceed your income and put aside an emergency fund equal to at least three months of expenses. I also encourage you to save at least 10 percent of your annual gross income.
Once your current financial situation is secure, develop a financial plan for the future. Are there any major changes needed to achieve your long-term goals? Do you want to live in a different city or do you want to sell your home and buy something with less maintenance? Do you need to rearrange your spending habits or make some changes in your career?
As you plan for the future, make sure you are saving and investing enough to cover retirement expenses. And be sure to incorporate some fun and adventure into your plans.
Email Certified Financial Planner Jane Young at Gazette@itsnotjustmoney.com.