Divorced? Widowed? Losing a partner is traumatic and taking charge of household finances is rarely top of mind. The immediate aftermath of loss is for grieving. However, with the passage of time the pressure to take control of personal finances increases. Managing money is critical to building a new life.
Women are particularly vulnerable financially. For one thing, most women are at an economic disadvantage with widowhood and divorce, reflecting the long-term negative effect of the gender pay gap on income, retirement savings and Social Security benefits. For another, women typically enjoy greater life expectancy than men and their money must last longer.
A thoughtful personal finance guide for recently widowed or divorced women is "Money Confidence: Smart Financial Moves for Newly Single Women," by Kerry Hannon. Hannon is passionate about helping people gain control of their finances and her book is a practical call to action.
What does it mean to take control of personal finances when you are on your own? "That means figuring out your net worth and your sources of income, devising a budget you can live on comfortably, understanding your tax liabilities, pulling together a winning investing strategy, planning your retirement, and much more," Kerry wrote.
That's a daunting list, isn't it? Don't worry, Hannon breaks down these and other personal finance basics into manageable steps. She covers the fundamentals, from gathering financial documents to coming up with a budget to investing for retirement. Her advice is focused and straightforward.
The key to managing money is to take seriously the idea that your financial strategy should be shaped by what it is you want out of life — your goals, your values, your lifestyle. Establishing good money habits is the foundation for exercising greater choice and personal freedom. Hannon recommends stepping back and asking bigger questions. She jump-starts the personal introspection with 27 possible questions to think about, but anyone reading the book will have their own to add.
"There is no one right way to do this," she wrote. "Becoming a money confident woman is about transformation and investing in our future and ourselves and enjoying the life we have right now (within reason) while setting our course for a prosperous endgame."
If you are facing widowhood or divorce, or you know someone who is, "Money Confidence" is a worthwhile resource to recommend.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace," commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.