Why do wives leave their husband’s financial planner when they are widowed? Maybe because he never paid any attention to her while her husband was alive! All too often, the wife is marginalized in the conversations about money. It is assumed she is not interested, she does not want to be involved, and she would not understand it anyway.
How then do we rationalize the terror and the abandonment she feels when no one is there to take care of the money issues?
Perhaps we need to start slowly and make the process more inclusive while her husband is still alive.
Ask her what she thinks about the goals and the plans that are being made for retirement, ask her about her wishes when it comes to what kind of a life she would envision if her husband were not alive – would she want to continue to live in the house they shared, or would she want to downsize to a low-maintenance condo type of home, would she want to move to be closer to their children? How does she feel about gifts to their children and grandchildren? None of these questions require a knowledge of personal finances or speaking a language of stocks and bonds and internal rates of return in order to answer them.
Women work well when in a relationship with someone, she knows and can trust the person giving her the advice. She is not interested in abdicating all responsibility to someone she barely recognizes at church or someone her husband plays golf with.
It’s time we acknowledged the end result of the planning done by men with men. Usually you have a widow. And although she is still under the strain of dealing with the enormous grief and loss, she still has a brain. Let her exercise it while she can think straight before it feels like mush.
If you are a man who has a spouse who will be left with this state of affairs, please consider including your spouse in the conversations and meetings you have with your advisor. And please don’t tell him to “dumb it down.” Considering more than 70% of widows leave their husband’s advisors, it would be a good idea to include her in the process now.