By Dr. Nyle Kardatzke
“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.” Ecclesiastes 7:12 (NIV)
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes advises us that “money is a shelter,” but he indirectly cautions that money in itself doesn’t preserve us as wisdom does. Money is only a tool, but it’s a uniquely important tool.
You are now navigating your financial ship without your most trusted adviser, your wife. I recommend that you find someone with whom you can talk confidently about your finances, even if you have some expertise in this area. For objectivity, if nothing else, a professional advisor, a family member, a friend, or perhaps even someone on your church staff can help. Be sure this person can talk with you analytically without a personal stake in your decisions.
If you haven’t already, you should review your finances now and continue to do so in future years. Financial conditions and laws change over time. You need to be aware of those changes.
Your risk tolerance probably has changed since your wife’s death. You may need or want to reduce the degree of risk in your financial holdings. If you haven’t evaluated your finances recently, you may want to change your assets, insurance, and debt management. Your advancing age alone leads to changes in the optimal handling of finances.
Try to be aware of any financial issues that are on your mind. Don’t let those issues fester and worry you. There are objective answers to your financial questions.
One of the most significant financial decisions for widow-men is housing. If you and your wife were living in your own house, you may soon wonder if there is another place you should consider. Emotional issues, as well as financial questions, are important here. Is your present home convenient and emotionally comfortable? Is it a place where your children grew up and perhaps where they come to visit with their families several times a year? On the other hand, does your home stir negative emotions, or is it becoming unwieldy to manage?
For at least the first year after your wife’s death, it’s probably wise not to sell your house and move unless economic pressure forces it on you. After that first year, you will be able to look at the question with more objectivity. I still live in the house we bought more than twenty years ago, and I love it here. My children love to come here, and the grandchildren enjoy the spaces for play. Yet a time will come when I won’t have the stamina or even the desire to maintain this house. I might not even be safe here or able to climb the stairs.
A popular way to downsize is to move to a senior living community. I know many people, both older and younger than I am, who have made this move happily, and I can see advantages in the simplification senior living can bring. When my health begins to fail, as it will, I’ll want to have people nearby and possibly even medical support in the place where I’ll live. I hope I will have the presence of mind to decide to move when I need to. Two of my brothers are now in assisted living, and the menus at those places make me want to quit cooking for myself.
You probably already have begun to review your insurance needs. Your home and auto insurance may not need special attention. Your medical insurance, Medicare supplements, life insurance, and long-term care insurance will need to be updated soon. This can lead you to a number of complex questions for which a professional advisor can be a great help. See the Internet to begin schooling yourself on the complex subject of insurance.
If you don’t already have a professional financial adviser, you probably should see one. You don’t have to be wealthy to need professional financial help. It may be even more crucial if your financial resources are limited.
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