How many of you were told what to do, or better yet, what NOT to do with your money, when you became suddenly single? Widows, does the statement “don’t make any major decisions for a year” sound familiar? Divorcees, does “get on with it” sound familiar?
Granting permission to avoid decisions or to rush someone to move on is not kind, thoughtful, or helpful.
First, aversion hurts you and everyone in your care. Whether you are avoiding financial decisions or attempting to avoid your feelings and owning your emotional state aversion is harmful—but to whom? Everyone who loves you and especially your dependents, and most of all you. The financial part is easy, maybe not for you but it could be. When you avoid financial decisions, you could eliminate possibilities or ignore good opportunities. The positive aspect of aversion is you are not reactive.
Second, and equally harmful is the “sense of urgency”. Ask yourself is your sense of urgency real or artificial? Is there a true definitive deadline or is it self-imposed? When you pressure yourself, you may lose sight of what is important. A real urgency has deadlines, but those deadlines are not typically unreasonable, except in grief, when everything is unreasonable and seemingly inhumane.
The death of spouse is the most stressful event on the Holmes Rahe scale at 100 points and divorce is the second most stressful lifetime event at 75 points. If there is a real sense of urgency, ask yourself are you avoiding a necessary decision? What energy do you have to make your betterment a top priority? How can you educate yourself to make good and timely decisions?
Do these questions give you pause? Do you feel defeated? Are you overwhelmed and trying to catch your breath? You are grieving this responsibility, and the need for selfcare is relentless! Sadly, no one can grant you this year off. That is a gift of comfort no one can give so do not try to avoid the timely tasks or rush yourself along. Have you ever had a year off from, as my adult children say, “adulting”? Do you have an estate to close? A divorce decree to negotiate and sign? Additionally, the suddenly single, have a whole new financial situation to address, I sure did and so did many of my clients, just like you.
Has anyone pressured you to make decisions? Did you or do you have a timeline to address with opportunities and/or penalties? I teach a course titled Suddenly Single, which is my professional and direct response to these irresponsible and trite pieces of “advice” to rush someone along, tell them to take a year off or blanket them with “shoulds” without any basis in fact, experience or knowledge of what they speak. I have heard bereavement experts, other finance professionals, marital counselors, attorneys and even widows and other divorcees say the best piece of advice is “don’t’ make any major decisions…” STOP IT. You have to, you will do fine when you understand which decisions are imperative and which ones can wait. Personally, I had extremely poor advice from people who love me very much.
Stop it! Do not listen, and for our loved ones reading this, STOP IT!
Suddenly Singles, I am sad to say, the world will not give you the year off. The IRS does not have a bereavement extension. Your deceased or ex-spouse is no longer going to consult you or handle this aspect of the household.
Join my class, you will see how these often parroted and harmful pieces of advice are unacceptable. Hurry up or wait is contrary to the suddenly single persons betterment. Suddenly Single focuses on three main takeaways that require action, the first is to write your budget, second is to organize your financial life and third is how to find a professional partner (which you may want to have as step one).
Megan Kopka, CFP®
Megan Kopka is a fee-only advisor in Wilmington, NC serving clients locally and across the country.
Megan is the co-leader of the Cape Fear Chapter, Modern Widows Club