Join Early Retirement Today
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Is there a good financial info source for widows?
Old 04-28-2018, 10:55 AM   #1
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Tinton Falls
Posts: 113
Is there a good financial info source for widows?

Since I retired, one of my volunteer gigs has been preparing tax returns primarily targeted for the low income and the senior citizen population. I am saddened to see that widows are often not prepared for personal finances and are hit hard by the tax torpedo and disgustingly, by brokers of highly-active accounts with lots of fees. I get it that they may have been the spouse that never paid attention to the the finances in the household, but they really need a trusted family member/friend/financial-guru/web site/book... to help them. Ideally, some prep (Roth conversions, LTCG planning, SS claiming strategy, insurance, will, updating beneficiary forms...) by the couples before one dies could have helped dampen the shock of the surviving spouse when transitioning to the year of claiming single, while making less income (loss of a SS check, a reduction in other household retirement income sources,..) and paying several thousands more in taxes. Shady brokers who make frequent trades, invest in costly funds, and significantly underperformed the markets (some resulting in losses across multiple years in this last decade) are also of concern and the client has no idea what is happening. Locating cost basis info from transactions done decades ago is also a big issue. Locating pension contribution information to determine the taxable distribution amounts is also a frequent source of tax leakage. There are property tax-related programs in some states that specifically reduce the tax bill for seniors, yet it is amazing that we are often the first to inform these people about the existence of the programs and that they have been eligible for years. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

retiredunder50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Old 04-28-2018, 01:00 PM   #2
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
joeea's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 3,275
Originally Posted by retiredunder50 View Post
I am saddened to see that widows are often not prepared for personal finances and are hit hard by the tax torpedo and disgustingly, by brokers of highly-active accounts with lots of fees.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Fee-only fiduciary financial planners would make sense in these cases.

Old enough to know better.
joeea is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-28-2018, 02:13 PM   #3
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 3,148
Financial beginners are Suze Orman's audience. Suze is derided at this board in part because her approach is not a good match for the FIRE crowd, but one of her books might be suitable for those forced into managing finances with little or no prior experience.
GrayHare is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-28-2018, 03:10 PM   #4
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 4,264
Sadly, I think much of the answer is before the fact, not after. Even if you've got a concise book that spells out that your SS income will likely decrease, you'll get slammed in taxes your first full year as a widow, you need to have a conversation with the banker/broker, etc. many women (more often women) are still unprepared to deal with the consequences of widowhood even when they learn the facts. If they were collecting spousal benefits on his record and the household SS goes from 150% of the PIA to 100% after he dies, it's a big shock if they never saw it coming.

On investing, there are some good books out there. I like the "Dummies" series- assumes no prior knowledge, spells things out clearly and has a sense of humor. You really need to enlist others, though. Since I assume you don't have financial planning credentials, you'd probably get in trouble if you told them what they really needed to know- "Get rid of the crook who's got you into high-fee funds and churning your account and buy ETFs at Vanguard". Anyone know of any books that describe that approach?

In the meantime I think I'd just keep a list of all the good links/resources you've used in the past.
athena53 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-28-2018, 04:02 PM   #5
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
pb4uski's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Vermont & Sarasota, FL
Posts: 22,736
Originally Posted by retiredunder50 View Post
..... Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Also, couples need to understand what will happen is one or the other spouse dies and have a plan.... speaking of which... I need to do one for us too.
If something cannot endure laughter.... it cannot endure.
Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.
Slow and steady wins the race.

Retired Jan 2012 at age 56...60/35/5 AA
pb4uski is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 08:00 PM   #6
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Tinton Falls
Posts: 113
Thanks to all of you for your excellent suggestions. I am going to try to push this issue up our chain of command to get approval for some type of guide to offer. I anticipate that if allowed, it will be written to keep our local group out of trouble (we are really there just to help people with their tax returns) - probably can only mention the phrase 'discount brokers' without pointing to a list of the top 3 or 4 and without voicing anything about their existing 1099-B. I can see providing the link to for them to do their own fee-only adviser searches. Locating good books that are focused on this area is difficult, but books from the Dummies series seems like a very good idea. I just found a bunch of internet articles that touch on key concepts.

Personally, I also need to update the 'I'm dead now; here's what to do' guidebook for DW. It's a living document (pun intended) and I think I'll update it annually to capture changes in passwords, accounts status, insurance policies, contact info, current household budget, maintenance schedules for home and auto, asset transfer recommendations (for example, currently recommending DW to transfer spousal TSP account to an IRA after my demise to protect our children from immediate and large tax bills when she eventually passes away).
retiredunder50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 08:17 PM   #7
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 223
Not sure why everyone recommends fee only financial planner. The ones in my zip code require you to have like 5 Million or something or they won't even speak to you . . . I jest about the amount but the local ones seemed high assets and restrictive in the number of sessions etc.
badatmath is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 09:08 PM   #8
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Tinton Falls
Posts: 113
Originally Posted by badatmath View Post
Not sure why everyone recommends fee only financial planner. The ones in my zip code require you to have like 5 Million or something or they won't even speak to you . . . I jest about the amount but the local ones seemed high assets and restrictive in the number of sessions etc.
Although I have never used one, articles indicate that there are some who charge hourly rates vs those that charge a percentage of your assets. I just did a quick check on the garrett planning network and the first one I saw states they charge hourly ($210/hr) and state it is not just for "rich people". The second one I looked up said they have no "account minimums". The third one says a detailed financial analysis starts as low as $1500 or can be put together via an hourly rate. I also saw another one who is not taking new clients. I am sure there are probably some that won't bother with clients with limited resources. I imagine if one has a relatively small amount of assets and income to consider and not an overly complicated scenario full of tons of moving parts, one could possibly get a one time plan that took maybe 5 to 8 hours to develop. I guess the good thing about them is that they have the credentials, supposedly are looking out for your best interests, and they are not looking for compensation from the sale of high-fee garbage products.
retiredunder50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 09:27 PM   #9
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 223
I suppose it depend where you live on what is available.

I expected more options when I was looking a year or so ago.

I do not think $210/hr is unreasonable unless they require minimum 30 hours or something.

Just seems like there ought to be more options.
badatmath is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 09:32 PM   #10
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Souschef's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: Santa Paula
Posts: 2,428
I understand totally. I volunteered at the AARP/IRS tax aide program. I had someone come in with an Edward Jones account that was churned, but could say nothing.
Retired Jan 2009 Have not looked back.
AA 50/45/5 considering SS and pensions a SP annuity
WR 2% SI 2SS & 2 Pensions
Souschef is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 09:34 PM   #11
Full time employment: Posting here.
googily's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 544
After DH died, I wrote a FB post with a (LONG) series of bullet points of things that couples should be thinking about and preparing for in case something happens to one of them. It wasn't just the obvious stuff (know where the accounts are) but things like "don't share a single logon to joint accounts, because if it's tied to the deceased spouse, it may get locked."

It got a ton of positive reaction, especially given that at our age there haven't been a lot of spouse losses yet.

But I'm sure a lot of friends had read many of the pieces of advice before--but it took a very close-to-home loss and a piece written by someone they know (and trust?) for them to start paying attention.

I was "lucky" to be the one in our house who really knew where all the accounts were, and to have been paying attention to sites like this one before DH died. So while it was a ton of work, I knew what to do. But that's not always the case.

And, what the heck, here it is. I see it was written two months after he died.

Today I'm not writing about DH, or us, or my latest adventures in grieving (such as how the installation of a new back door here at the Bunker of Grief sent me into a 36-hour spiral as I realized it was the first real change to "our" house that he will never see).

Instead, I wish to drone on about:


We are very long past the days of a widow basically being patted on the head and handed a checkbook, a savings passbook, maybe some bonds in a safe deposit box, and the phone numbers for her husband's pension company and Social Security. Or a widower not having to worry about any of his wife's financial holdings, because of course the little lady wouldn't possibly have had any of her own.

If you keep scrolling, you will find an offputtingly long list of items, every one of which I have come across in some way in the past few months. (See, it turns out that I *have* been doing more than just than crying into a box of bon-bons while camped on the sofa watching ER and Law and Order.)

It should not surprise you that The Prophet of Doom had almost all of this under control well before DH got sick (MUST PREPARE MUST PLAN MUST ORGANIZE MUST BE READY), and so I thankfully have not had to be starting from scratch at the time when I am the least capable of doing so. And I still have spent untold hours during these weeks on phone calls and paperwork, and have still run into roadblocks I didn't expect.

If you find yourself thinking, "Well, at least if either my partner or myself is diagnosed with a possibly terminal disease, we will have time to sort these things out," let me try to not laugh as I say that, when fighting a possibly terminal disease, the last thing you will probably want to spend much time on is talking about how the survivor will handle everything "afterward." It was also a huge weight off of me during DH's illness to know that we had already dealt with the most complex portions of this stuff. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have had that tossed into the mix as well. I assume it just wouldn't have gotten done.

And even then, not everything was tied up neatly. DH and I both relied on password managers that store all of our passwords in a secure location (LastPass, in our case), but by the time I felt like I could make the emotionally fraught request for his master password, I found out he was incapable of correctly telling it to me (thanks, morphine). (Which made the fact that we had also come up with an In-Case-of-Emergency-Break-Glass setup to get each other's master password an incredibly helpful thing.)

We had done all of our planning with an estate attorney, and have used a tax accountant for a number of years too, so I have not one but two people holding my hands through the very involved process that is nowhere near close to finished. It's already worth every penny. But they don't do it all, and you don't get to just have everything automatically become yours because you're the spouse.

If reading the way-too-long list of bullet points below leaves you nauseous, well, my work is done. And, for the heck of it, I wrote it in the format of a handy questionnaire, geared toward couples but also of use for anyone, just in case you haven't been immersed in this stuff previously in some way and find yourself wanting to do a little bit of prior planning in order to avoid nasty surprises--and probate--in as many situations as possible. Not that I'm telling you that you should. I would never presume to tell anyone to DO AS MUCH OF THIS AS POSSIBLE NOW. RIGHT NOW. BEFORE IT BECOMES AN EMERGENCY. I just wouldn't do that.

Here's the bullet points, should you dare, while granting that DH and I did have a fairly convoluted yours/mine/ours approach to household finance:

* Have you written your wills/trusts? Are they relatively up-to-date? Did you use an estate attorney?

* Do you each know where all of the household bank accounts are held? Are they all jointly owned, or are there individual ones you aren't co-owners of? Do you each have your own online access to the joint accounts, rather than sharing a single sign-on? Because once banks get the word from Social Security about a death, some can be pretty quick to freeze the access of the deceased. So if you just share a username tied to the deceased's SSN, it might get shut down and require some hassle to get re-enabled. Get your own to be sure (and even then online access might still get disabled and require a phone call or two to fix). And no, banks really don't like it if you just go in and take money out of the deceased's solely owned accounts until they give it to you legally.

* Have you figured out which accounts allow for "Transfer on Death" or the namings of beneficiaries, and have you properly filled that information out?

* Is your house owned jointly, as tenants in the entirety or as joint tenants with rights of survivorship? Do you both know which bank holds your mortgage? Are you co-borrowers? How does it get paid? (auto pay? check? bags of pennies handed to the teller?) Do you each have your own online access to the account?

* Do you both know about whether there's any home equity loans/lines of credit/other loans, and where those might be? Are they owned jointly? Do you each have your own online access to them?

* Do you both know about any and all IRA accounts? Have you entered beneficiaries for each one?

* Do you both know about any and all non-IRA non-401k brokerage accounts? Are they owned jointly, which means that the monies are equally available to both of you even when one of you dies? Do you each have your own online access to them? If they are not owned jointly and you don't wish to change that for whatever reason, is there at least a Transfer on Death/Beneficiary election done?

* Do you both know how the household credit cards get paid? What about any cards that your partner holds only in their name? You're going to be required to make a list pretty quickly of all of your partner's assets and liabilities, and it will include all credit cards, loans, brokerage accounts, cars, etc., both jointly and solely held.

* Do you both know how the taxes get prepared? Can you easily put your hands on the past few years of your returns? (The returns also might help you if you don't know the answers to some of the above questions.)

* Do you both know how the utilities get paid? And this doesn't include just water/sewer/gas/electric -- what about cable? Internet? Phone? Are both names on the accounts? Do you each have your own online access to them? (Some utilities go to Occupant, technically, and so don't really care about who is paying them until they hear of a change in the house's title. Then they want to know.)

* For anything where you answered "Auto pay," do you personally have access to the logon information for both the account where the payments come from and the mortgage/utility/credit card account being paid? (Even with jointly owned checking accounts, sometimes if auto pays are set up by one account holder, the other one can't see those under their own login.)

* Is there life insurance? Do you both know how to get to it? (and if there isn't life insurance, is it time to get some?)

* Do you know about each other's pensions, if any? I know, this is so old-fashioned, but there are still some out there. (If there are 401(k)s, it's the law that the spouse be beneficiary unless that right is signed away by notarized form, and your spouse's HR department will help you with the 401(k) stuff, the pension stuff, and any company-provided life insurance, so that's one small piece of assistance awaiting you.)

* Are you each able to get into your partner's computer? Do you know their desktop/laptop passwords? If you aren't comfortable sharing that info now, do you at least have some way for your partner to find out the passwords in case of emergency? (even just a vaguely marked sealed envelope in a VERY safe place can work)

* Are you each able to get into your partner's e-mail in case of emergency, which (putting aside the privacy concerns) will be a huge source of information about accounts, payments, two-factor codes, etc.?

* Are you each able to get into your partner's cellphone, where two-factor authentication texts or codes are found when you try to get into important accounts with their login information? And where there might be a whole lot of photos that you want?

* Are you each able to get into your partner's iAppleCloud-y stuff, Snapagrams, Twitbooks, and the various other social media accounts? Blogs? Tumblrs? (As you can imagine, this was a big one in our household. It took me, a learned master of such things, more than a week to figure out how to log in to DH's Blogspot account.)

* Do you know where the titles to your cars are?

* Do you have all necessary powers of attorney for each other? Do you have living wills? Do you know your partner's wishes about "end of life issues"?

* Do you know what sort of funeral/memorial service your partner might want? Do you know where your partner (and you) want to be buried?

* Do you have access to enough liquid reserves to pay what needs to be paid (funeral, cemetery, etc) while figuring all of this stuff out? I am eight weeks out and have only just started receiving payouts for things I wasn't a joint holder of.

* Are you still reading? If so, I commend you, and I apologize.


* Do you and your partner use password managers? If yes, yay. If no, start. Now. Do you have a way for each other to find out the master password to the manager accounts? (These programs can do a lot of the work of getting into your partner's social media accounts, financial accounts, etc., if properly maintained, but are also just good computer hygiene these days.)

* Do you have 529 college savings accounts? If yours allow it, the current owner of the accounts should name a successor owner.

* Hopefully you know where both of your birth certificates and Social Security numbers are, but what about a certified copy of your marriage certificate? They are generally easy to request (especially if yours is held by the clerk of Clark Co., Nevada ), but it takes a week or so to get one by mail after ordering and so wouldn't hurt to have one or two on hand in case you have to prove you were truly married.

I just thought of another bullet point:

* Do either of you own any web sites? Do you know where they are hosted, and how to update the content? Do you know where the URLs are registered, and have access to the owner account to be able to renew them before they expire? (I had to renew the somewhat important address of DH's site about 10 days after DH died, plus I had to figure out how pages on his site get edited, to post the announcement of his passing. His Password Manger got me into all necessary locations.)
googily is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2018, 10:06 PM   #12
Recycles dryer sheets
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Tinton Falls
Posts: 113
Googily, thank you so much for sharing that awesome post!!! It's going to help a lot of people.
retiredunder50 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-01-2018, 11:43 AM   #13
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Teacher Terry's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 4,013
My MIL died in 2007 unexpectedly. Fortunately she had casually mentioned she wanted to be cremated and where her ashes would go. DH is her only child and she had a will. We live in Northern NV and everything was super easy. The bank gave us immediate access to her $ with a death certificate. We also supplied that to her past employer who mailed us a check for her IRA. Her car was paid for and easy to put in our name and the only other thing she owned was a trailer but not the land. We sold this for a low monthly payment over 5 years to a single mom in need and once paid off released the title. We did publish for 3 weeks in the newspaper for creditors. We paid off and closed her credit card bills. She never carried a balance so was easy. We didn't have any of her passwords, etc but didn't need them. No facebook back then to worry about. It sounds like yours was very complicated. She died right after her SS check was deposited so we had to give that back.
Teacher Terry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-01-2018, 12:53 PM   #14
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: philly
Posts: 1,117
So I would not say I wasn't prepared for financial decisions when my husband died but I really did not pay much attention outside of saving in my own 410K. for better or worst my late husband enjoyed it and was good at it.

But I am a researcher so they were some basic things I did know that I told other young widows when I was in counseling.

1) DO NOTHING until you come up for air. When my honey bunny died at 53 I was flat out devestated. getting out of bed for the first 4 months was a major achievement. Now is not the time to try and make rational financial decisions.

2) everybody and their mama will come out of the woodwork. LOL one of my hubby's cousins kept trying to hit me up for thousands of dollars. He swore my husband had agreed to finance his business. luckily I am from a family with southern roots, lol we are professionals at calling you Hon and "sugar" while saying "no way in hell". be prepared.

3) Have a close friend or sibling who will run interference for you. again my best friend Sheryl is Brooklyn Italian. lol, she may or maynot have mob connections and but she swears she does and is not afraid to use them, also didn't hurt that she's an attorney. My other good friend Mel, paid my sons fall term college tuition. now of course I paid her back but the point is, when you are knee deep in grief it helps to have someone you can trust.

4) Research is your friend. there is absolutely nothing wrong with not knowing because nowadays information is as close as your finger tips. When I first started learning how to invest and manage my money I went to well it wasn't a good fit for me, I felt like I was constantly being called stupid for not knowing. now I'm willing to bet I probably was not but at the time that's how I felt. then some one suggested this sight and loved it.
My point is in todays world it's easy to find out basic stuff .

5) the first two years I did use a fp and it was an excellent experience. I took my time and vetted a whole bunch of them using advice that I got from here and other places. I learned a lot working with him and would recommend him to anyone and have. Not all of them are crooks but again you must do your due diligence.

6) lastly, get about 50, 000 copies of death certificates. Jeez louise I could not believe how many of those things I had to send out. along with the short certificate.

My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being "normal" is not necessarily a virtue? it sometimes rather denotes a lack of courage~Aunt Francis
bclover is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Medicare Widows Benefits PERSonalTime FIRE and Money 16 03-14-2015 12:31 AM
Medicare widows benefits PERSonalTime Health and Early Retirement 0 03-09-2015 01:16 PM
Anyone know of a forum for widows? WM Other topics 9 10-08-2008 05:51 PM
Social Security for Widows question bubba FIRE and Money 20 06-08-2007 07:36 PM
Is there a good source for financial news minus the hysteria? CompoundInterestFan FIRE and Money 14 02-28-2007 12:34 PM

» Quick Links

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:29 AM.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.