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