Whether widowhood comes with plenty of warning or like a lightning bolt from a clear sky, your life is irrevocably altered. While trying to get your sea legs for whatever passes for your “new normal,” it’s likely you will struggle through some rocky shoals. It’s understandable to be confused and unsure about the future and the decisions you’ll need to make.

Grief can exacerbate feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. While only time can heal a broken heart, knowledge, and information can empower widows and give them strength and purpose in life. Below are some important do’s and don’ts that any recent widow should take into consideration.

Do:

  • Investigate all financial resources that may be yours to access. While many companies offer their employees life insurance, that may have only one policy in effect. Some credit card companies and auto clubs like AAA offer members life insurance policies, as does AARP. Husbands who were members of unions or fraternal organizations also frequently list their wives as beneficiaries of policies offered by those organizations as well. A widow could be the beneficiary of several small policies that boost her assets significantly or at least provide her with a tidy nest egg.
  • Consult with a reputable financial planner if your husband left you with considerable assets. Seek out a trusted adviser who is looking out solely for your best financial interests before you make any investments.
  • Review your tax status after the death of a spouse. Your deductions might need to be adjusted on your paychecks to increase your net income. Another tax issue that could impact your financial situation is your husband’s age at death. If he died more than six months after his 70th birthday, you might have to receive his minimum distributions from a 401k or IRA in his final year.
  • Realize that you now are at the helm of your financial future. As such, you need a clear picture of both your and your late husband’s outstanding debts, so request copies of both credit reports to see where you stand.

Don’t:

  • Take investment advice from non-professionals. This is not the time to turn to family or friends who may only have limited investment savvy to share, although asking for recommendations for a trustworthy financial planner is fine.
  • Allow yourself to get rushed into investing any large sums or nest eggs. Take the time to thoroughly investigate all investment opportunities available to you.
  • Remain passive about your finances. Learn how to take charge of your investments and get on the right path to financial success.
  • Believe that you can just follow the same financial strategies as your brother, best friend’s cousin or neighbor down the street. Everybody’s financial picture is different, and the result you want to achieve may vary widely from the person whose financial hacks you’re copying.

Some husbands are better at estate planning than others, but regardless of the financial situation in which you find yourself after your husband’s death, it can always be improved with wise fiscal management.

Taking steps to financial success

The first year of widowhood will always be the hardest. Many women discover that working with a trusted financial planner allows them to channel their grief into positive activities like learning about different wealth management and estate planning strategies.

Financial planners can be invaluable in helping women achieve financial success and independence. Recent widows can learn how to develop safe money strategies that allow them to create personal lifestyle wealth plans that dovetail with their unique situations.