One of my clients lost her husband about 15 years ago. This was also when she “lost” her financial advisor – actually, her husband’s financial advisor – because she was fed up with him. “He didn’t know me,” she said. “There was no personal relationship.”
I specialize in working with widows and divorced women, and I can tell you, this is not the first time I’ve heard this and it probably won’t be the last. Neither Hefren-Tillotson nor I would ever allow this to happen.
After she and I met, she was excited with our planning, consolidating everything, and the personal relationship we were developing. Ultimately, that is what she was looking for, and it made her happy. Even though it was a long 15 years for her, it was getting nudges from a close friend suggesting she work with somebody else that eventually paired us up.
How you surround yourself with others right after the loss of a loved one might be difficult, and I understand that. Surrounding yourself with those centers of influence, mostly friends, can ultimately push you in the right direction to move on.
Listening is Where it Starts
Possessing a higher level of empathy and listening skills is a must, because any woman who loses a spouse wants to talk about that person, and advisors like me must allow her to do that. Obviously, I hear all kinds of stories. I like to hear those stories too, because I’ll never have the opportunity to meet the person who was a major influence on my client’s life.
Another client I have talks about the vacations and trips they used to go on. She talks about his career, what he would have thought of the coronavirus right now, and where America is with everything that we’re seeing. It’s interesting to hear the thoughts and stories of loved ones that have passed on.
Saying the Right Things
In order to move on, she wants and needs to be safe; to be secure, and there is a certain way to speak with her, somewhat different than I normally would with someone else.
There is a certain pace I establish when asking specific or probing questions. I might take a lower tone, slowing it down a bit, and I might have to repeat things a couple of times. My job is to provide reassurance—to spend money, to not worry about having to get a job, or a second job now that he’s gone. We all need reassurance. However, above reassurance is providing the education.
Women find themselves in this newfound position, managing their finances for the first time, and it leaves them overwhelmed and confused. It’s a burden for them. So I truly think for widows, especially, or divorcees, however they get there, education makes it less intimidating and more comfortable when asking about family to understand her needs.
Building a Rapport
From what I have seen, divorced clients relate more to a female advisor, given everything that they’ve gone through. They’re really not all that different from widows and it doesn’t matter how they got there. Whether it’s a result of death or divorce, they still must manage their finances. But, often, they’re just too busy, especially career-oriented women.
I have a client who, when she came to me needing help, had an advisor with another firm. She wanted to separate from her husband’s finances, because, believe it or not, he was sending money to Nigeria! He was involved in a scam sending thousands of dollars to this girlfriend in Nigeria that he was convinced was in love with him. It was awful.
He depleted a lot of his finances. Luckily, my client kept hers separate. They ended up separating, and she came to me to transfer her money from the other firm. She wanted nothing more to do with them or him. Throughout the year, she and I were working together when she divorced him. She is so thankful for the money she has now after that going through that experience. She took the reins and embraced her finances herself.
You, too, Can Move On
There isn’t just one thing that divorced women or widowed women are afraid of. They all share the same concerns. Mostly, they are afraid they’re not going to be able to live the same comfortable lifestyle that they had gotten used to and once had.
They’re concerned they are going to run out of money. They’re concerned to even spend money or gift money. They don’t want to become the bag lady on the street or the “Walmart greeter” that we often hear about. So it’s that constant reassurance of where they are financially, and reassurance that they can afford this or that. They do not want to be a burden to their children either.
And Then, There’s Dating
The lady with the “scam” husband just started dating online – and he was a scammer! I don’t know if he was Nigerian or not, but after only two weeks of talking, he wanted to send her $50,000 of something for her to hold until he returned from Mexico. She said, “No way.”
Dating is often hard. Nobody could ever fill so-and-so’s shoes. And the children push too. They want to see Mom happy and often give a supportive nudge to get her back into the dating world. Usually, when I get involved, I find that some women feel like they can’t even keep track of where their keys are, much less enduring the dating rituals. They’re just so disoriented they can’t think straight. One lady told me she felt like a shell, her body was moving but there was nothing to the inside of her.
Normally, when they come to me, they don’t know where to start, where to go, or what to do next. It takes a while for women to find a new partner. But once they do, they have the normal zip, zest and energy about them.
Grief groups really help them to form friendships with others in similar positions. Having someone they can relate to and who is experiencing the same thing is comforting. I think it’s these grief groups that really help people and provide friendships. Maybe just suggesting, hey, why don’t you join us at dinner or something?
It’s harder these days, especially with coronavirus out there. If they do remarry, they have blended families, and it can get complicated. So it’s really a delicate balance and an emotional process. They want to do the right thing for their loved ones, their children, their beneficiaries, as well as their new husbands, and take care of their grandchildren too
My Best Advice
Never make immediate decisions following a loved one’s passing. You want to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind – but never overlook anything. Even though you may not be thinking straight, going through a grief and grieving process, try to surround yourself with others who can help you make those decisions when you cannot.
If you cannot, and you think it’s time to get help, or a second opinion on your finances, contact me at Hefren-Tillotson today. I would be glad to help.