It is not pleasant to think about, but there is a decent chance that most women will live at least part of their lives as widows. According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data, women are four times more likely to outlive a spouse than are men. With this in mind, a recent Forbes.com article (“When Two Become One: Financial Planning For Life As A Single Woman,” October 2014) provides tips for how you can ready yourself for this difficult time.


It is important that you understand the types of decisions you’ll have to make after the death of your spouse. These will be related to how you will manage the proceeds of the life insurance death benefit, as well as determining if any changes need to be made to withdrawals from your retirement accounts. As this will undoubtedly be a very emotional and grief-filled time, you should identify someone in advance who can assist you with making these decisions.


TIAA-CREF can help you prepare. Organization is the key: Get all of your records together now—insurance policies, account numbers, wills, etc.—and update them regularly. It’s a good idea to give notarized copies to your adult children and keep the originals in a safety deposit box at the bank—with the exception of your original will, which should be kept by the local registrar of wills or your attorney.


Professional guidance can be helpful in easing your burden during an already difficult time. Consider working with an estate attorney to help you with details such as ensuring proper titling of assets, minimizing taxes and making sure that wishes are clearly outlined. It is also important to make sure you have enough insurance, including life, health, long-term care and disability. Make sure you feel comfortable managing your finances. While your husband may make the financial decisions now, you will be charged with adjusting your goals after his death. Consider scheduling a consultation with a financial advisor. You and your spouse should attend the consultations together, and an advisor can help you continue to reach your long-term goals.


Planning ahead for the possibility of widowhood is tough to think about, but will lessen your load if or when the time comes.

Are you a widow or widower? How would you recommend others prepare?