The loss of a spouse has quite an impact. At first, you are busy dealing with grief and helping your family recover from the loss. Eventually, though, you must focus your energy on finances. You have lost your financial partner.
Your goal should be to live comfortably with as little financial stress as possible. Losing a spouse often means a reduction in family income. This requires some changes and hard decisions as you consider:
- Where should I live? Many factors are involved in this decision. Work, commute time, children, their friends, activities, and school proximity, health, safety, and other family responsibilities are all important.
- What can I afford? This is probably the most important consideration. If you and your spouse were conservative in spending, your living expenses and debt might be manageable. Do a budget analysis based on your current income and spending. Be aware of adjustments. Income might be down, but taxes might be up if your new IRS tax status is “single” (higher rates). Include new insurance costs for yourself to protect any dependents. Don’t forget to add in the expense of services your spouse provided, such as lawn mowing, painting, or handy jobs. Do the calculations. If you can stay put for a while, great!
- How can I make changes to my current home? It’s home, and you love it. You can freshen things up with some inexpensive changes like rearranging furniture, adding some fresh paint, buying a new bed or bedspread, and relocating photos and wall art.
- What if a change of address is necessary? Downsizing or moving might be the best option for your new financial circumstances or emotional state. Make a pro/con list of emotional factors and expenses. Be thoughtful about real estate commissions, state income tax, moving, and redecorating expenses as well as all those emotional pluses and minuses. Investigate whether spousal disability exemptions and entitlements are available at a new home or new location. Changing states can generate issues. Do your homework. Be diligent!
This is a lot to do and a lot to consider, but help and resources are available. There are excellent calculators and programs online to assist with mortgages, investments, budget analysis, and insurance decisions, including on MOAA.org. Find them at MOAA.org/Finance.
Read past Surviving Spouse Corners.
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