Soon after my book was published, I attended a community luncheon. Several couples were seated at my table, and we introduced ourselves. After watching me for a few minutes, one wife suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, I saw your picture in Sunday’s newspaper. You wrote that guidebook for widows!”
She continued. “But I’ll never need to read your book because Bill and I have an agreement, don’t we, Honey?” She smiled at her husband. “We’ve worked out a deal. I get to die first, so I don’t have to learn about that money stuff. It’s so BORING. I’d rather go play with our grandchildren. Bill does all our financial work for us. My husband takes such good care of me, don’t you, Darling?”
That husband appeared to be older than his wife. He was also not in the best of health. So who’s most likely to die first? Probably the wife will be left on her own after her husband dies.
Indeed, half of all women widowed at age 65 can expect to live another 15 years. After Bill’s death, she’ll be in the midst of grief – plus be clueless about their finances. That’s a difficult double whammy!
I call this magical thinking. If we start talking about that time ahead when one of us passes on, somebody’s going to die! Let’s just not discuss this, so it won’t happen! If you and your spouse do this kind of “Magical Thinking,” STOP IT! It doesn’t make sense, does it?
I believe one of the best gifts a couple can give each other is talking about their money matters together, before one of them passes on. That includes topics like:
If you’re married, one of you will certainly die someday, leaving the other behind. Having these conversations is a way to really express care for your partner. You might start by saying “Honey, because I love you so much, I want us to talk about some important money issues together.”
Then pick an evening that’s quiet and share a glass of wine or another favorite beverage together as you talk about one money topic. Then in a week or so, move on to another topic. It’s a better method than simply falling back on magical thinking, which ultimately fails.
I’m currently involved with what may be the largest international research study of widowed persons to date. One question asks participants what they regretted not knowing about money and finances before their spouse died. Almost 1,000 women answered this.
Many comments were heartbreaking. Like the widow who didn’t know she was not the beneficiary of her deceased husband’s life insurance. Or the woman who had never written a check before her spouse died and didn’t have a clue about their finances.
Many of these women subsequently made major financial mistakes. They invested in things they didn’t understand. Their vulnerability was because they had remained oblivious to their family’s money matters for years, or even forever.
What financial topics would you suggest that spouses talk about together? Or, if you were widowed and didn’t have these money conversations, what do you wish that you would have talked about? Thanks for adding your comments below.