Suddenly Single? Step 1: A Budget

Understanding that aversion and urgency are natural feelings surrounding money, know that you are not on your own. If you need help, I am right here. However, no one can do this part without you. You may feel a lot of anxiety making decisions; trusting your instinct, mind, gut, or intuition are exactly what people say shouldn’t be used to make decisions. No one makes their best decisions under duress and widowhood; new grief is the greatest stressor. I remember new grief—the constant shock and disbelief and renewed realization that I was on my own. It is ok to be in mourning, including that of your loss of self. I missed my normally good decision-making self; I have been there. I was not as confident then. I really did want the world to give me that year off! To you I say, hang in there, take the next “right”. This is courage and you are brave because you must be. The only way to face fear is to take action. You might be afraid to know your financial circumstance but better to know sooner than later. Budgeting is step one and budgeting is simple. You cannot move forward in finance without knowing your income and expenses, that’s your cashflow and we call it a budget.

Budgeting is the first step towards being financially successful. The first financial tip is to write out your household budget. As a CERITFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I liken assessing a budget (or a client’s cash flow statement) to having your vitals checked at a doctor’s visit: weight, temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Your budget gives valuable information for you to immediately assess and address.

Budgeting isn’t an easy task, but it is simple. The actual math is merely simple additions and subtraction. What’s not easy? The fear of not having enough or not wanting to take responsibility for your actions, making future plans, justifying purchases. Many people do not want to know, you are not alone. However, now you must face your decisions and take responsibility because no one else will be owning your circumstance for you. A simple budget begins the process to see how immediately you must address of financial decisions. Understanding your daily needs can be an inspiration to act quickly or allow you time make an action plan. Budgeting is verification of how financially healthy your household is right now.

Perhaps you need to make changes; save less or more, spend less or more? A budget can help inspire you to act instead of worry. A budget can give you confidence in where you are right now or help guide you to confidence by sparking insight to make a change. A budget merely serves as your guide to start prioritizing changes you need to make or ought to consider. It is a guide that can grant permission to postpone major decisions or affirm the need to make smart and informed decisions right now. The budget reveals what your values are by choices you have made. You may find as an independent person those values may change. Smart decisions are responsive not reactive, there is a difference. Without judgment, act with a motivation toward self-care begin to take care of yourself.

Be kind to you, especially now. Be patient and try not to condemn yourself (negative self-talk), especially about money. I have met with many clients in the best situations with shame surrounding money, please address your needs with a lot of self-compassion. Give yourself a lot of praise as you face your finances, again many people are not brave enough to be honest with themselves to assess their budget and talk about money.

Congratulations, you are brave and leaning into living!

A few tips for your budget:

  • Use good and reasonable estimates (always round up, it is a more conservative approach).
  • Identify both your income sources and your expenses.
  • Do not forget expenses that occur quarterly and those on an annual basis.
  • A conservative approach to budgeting is to round up your expenses and round down your income.

Remember, budgeting is simple math; it is addition and subtraction. Be compassionate to yourself; be mindful that budgets are fluid because sometimes life happens—like car problems (subtraction) or stimulus checks (addition). Budgets do change; however, they also serve as a solid baseline.

Budgeting is a process; it is not a place to be harsh and is a place to be aware and mindful of your impact. What is at the center of your budget? You. What comes in and what goes out is completely up to YOU. You are the decision maker of your past, current and future choices. You earn the money and you tell the money where to go. When you see your bottom line then you will know if you have some choices to make. Should you be saving more? Should you be investing more? Should you be spending more?

As a fellow widow, I know that living today is as important as planning for your future. Writing out your budget and revisiting your budget is an invaluable exercise. One that will help you become more aware of your needs the possibilities you have.

The best way to face a fear is by taking action; do it afraid!

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

Suddenly Single

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


Welcome to my firm!  Kopka Financial, LLC. is designed by me, Megan Kopka, an experienced financial advisor and CFP®.

When I started out on my own I took a colleagues advice:”If I were young and starting out on my own, I would go the RIA route, Meg”. After much investigation and a little more work I chose to become a RIA firm as the platform to operate my business. RIA means registered investment advisor, this means my firm is independent of a broker-dealer and I am not beholden to the company, which allows me to run a fee-only practice. I will be concise and clear about the process in planning, investing (when warranted) and communicating fees for planning and investing. My mission is to be your resource for top independent, objective financial advice for individuals and families. The value my firm and I offer can be invaluable to your good decision making ability and your avoiding critical mistakes which could potentially delay or worse, derail your financial goals. I strive to be the best in what personal financial planning has to offer and my  success is measured and reflective in your successes.  It is my hope you will see the value in personal financial advice, the structure of establishing as an RIA firm to the numerous affiliations and credentials I acquired and mostly .

Another difference between myself and Financial Advisors is I (through Kopka Financial, LLC.) write plans. I will not have a relationship with a client any other way than to begin with a plan. Written financial plans range in fees from $1,500.00-$4,000.00. What is a written financial plan? A financial plan allows a planner to get to know the client through an assessment of what they have put in place for themselves (financially+) thus far. Through an evaluation and a series of conversations the I can assess the plan and make recommendations. The recommendations are based on the clients goals and any a general overlay of best practices. Recommendations are based on applying efficiencies in investment planning; insurance planning; retirement planning; tax planning; estate planning; education planning and financial management.

Stay tuned for future blogs to define some terms: RIA (above); CFP; Fee-Only; NAPFA; Financial Plan!