Widower benefits don’t get much attention. Do a Google Search on “Widow Benefits” and you’ll get 4,530,000 hits. (“Widower Benefits” only gets about 700,000 hits…sorry guys.) I bring this up because most couples do no planning and that means the survivor is going to have to sift through between 700,000 and 4,530,000 articles and pieces of information in order to educate themselves about what benefits they are entitled to.
Apart from the “widow benefits” issue of course is the overall concern about financial and emotional survival. When you ask the question, “Do I have enough money to retire,” do you also consider survival without your spouse’s income?
According to an AARP survey of 600 men and women age 40 to 79, women struggle more than men when they considered four life crises: divorce, death of a spouse, long-term job loss and serious illness. Specifically, 46 percent of the widows reported a significant impact on finances after their spouse died. Only 17 percent of widowers said the same. Regardless, some of these folks should consider life insurance even if they are a senior…right?
I feel pretty strongly about this issue for a few reasons. First, I see firsthand what people go through when their spouse unexpectedly passes away.
Second, my parents died when I was in high school. They failed to do any planning before they died and as a result my life and the lives of my siblings were thrown into complete chaos, turmoil and fear. They didn’t have a will or a family trust. It makes me really angry when I see other people go through the same thing when I know they didn’t have to. Maybe it just triggers my own fear from the past. Maybe this is my problem. Whatever…it’s still a huge problem, and if you are married to someone you owe it to them to talk about this now.
You have no idea how painful it is for the survivor unless you see someone go through it…and usually by the time you do, it’s too late to help.
OK. Enough sanctimonious speech.
Let’s move on to the solutions.
I see a series of solutions to this problem and I’m going to outline them for you below:
1. Admit it.
Both of you have to admit the truth. Sooner or later, there is going to be “one less egg to fry.” It’s likely that the woman will survive her husband. Facts are facts. Now how are you going to deal with it?
2. Understand the nature of the problem.
Survivors face two issues: income and assets. Income is by far the primary concern. How is your survivor going to…eh…survive? How much income will s/he need? For how long? What are the potential sources of income? Are expenses going to increase because of lost health insurance (or other) benefits?
3. List possible solutions.
Life insurance, investments, pensions, assets and Social Security spousal benefits are all elements of your personal solution. I’ll admit that I haven’t taken the time to really understand Social Security survivor benefits.
I’ve tried to build a survival plan for my wife without even considering Social Security – but I know I’ve been foolish. She’ll quality for benefits and Social Security will very likely still be there. Why would I subject her to the drudgery of having to figure all that out just when she’ll be least able to deal with the headache? I owe it to my marriage and it’s ultimately her money. Seems selfish on my part…right?
How does she make a claim?
How long does it take before the checks start rolling in?
How much will she get?
I know how much she’ll get but I don’t know the other answers. OK…so I’m going to find out more about Social Security survivor benefits and let you know what I find out. So what are you going to do?
No…scratch that…what are you going to do today?
Are you going to schedule time with your spouse to start laying out your “Widow Benefits Plan”? Are you going to pick up the phone right now to schedule that meeting? Are you going to list all the issues that must be addressed?
How long do you think this entire process is going to take you? When I wrote up my “Widow Benefits Plan” it took me about two hours – and then I only had to think about it once a year when I updated it.
Don’t make me come over there.
This is a huge pet peeve for me. Come on.
Have you created a plan? Have you updated it recently? Have you met with your spouse to go over the plan and to answer all the questions?