WTOP Interview: 3 More Questions Newly Widowed Spouses Face

Interview Transcript

Shawn Anderson: 5:11 on WTOP. The weeks and months soon after losing a spouse are not only emotionally difficult, they often require those who are suddenly single to grapple with complex financial decisions.

Hillary Howard: Joining us live to talk about it is Dawn Doebler, co-founder of Her Wealth and Senior Wealth Advisor at The Colony Group in Bethesda. Great to see you Dawn!

Dawn Doebler: Good to see you!

Hillary: So, you were here a few weeks ago, talking about some of the decisions widowed spouses have to think about right after their partner dies. There is so much to consider, what do you want to address this time?

Dawn: Well, that’s right, Hilary. These two articles address the six common questions widows need to answer soon after the loss of their spouse; these decisions often have significant financial implications for their future. So, I wanted to try to simplify the process by giving tips about the six most common questions that widows face. So, if you missed our prior segment, it addresses the first three questions:
•    Who settles the estate?
•    What options do I choose for life insurance?
•    And where should I live?
And today’s article focuses on the second three questions:
•    When to file for Social Security?
•    Why do you want to review your investments?
•    And how do you manage to pay your bills?

Shawn: Let’s start with Social Security because that’s such a big question for so many people. Can a widowed spouse get a Social Security benefit and if so when would that happen?

Dawn: Well, Shawn it’s really surprising to me how many widows expect to receive both their own Social Security and their spouses; and the reality is that a widow receives only one benefit, it’s the highest benefit for which they qualify and that’s determined by the Social Security Administration. And also, many widows are surprised to learn that even though they can immediately get survivor benefits for minor children, the earliest they can collect their own survivor benefit is at age 60. And claiming at age 60, actually should be done with caution because it cuts your benefit by 71% or you only receive 71½% of the overall benefit. So, to get a 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefit, you need to wait until your own full retirement age. So, that’s very significant if you’re a young widow.

Hillary: What impact does becoming a widow or widower actually have on your investments, Dawn?

Dawn: Well, you do need to understand your investments, especially if you’re going to be depending on them to generate income and that will impact the asset allocation of your portfolio. And generally speaking, really you want to review the allocation of your assets whenever you go through a major life change. You should also review the impact of your investments on your taxes, because now you’ll be a single taxpayer. And widows want to consider ways to keep track of their money and understand the performance of their investments without spending too much time in all the nitty gritty details.

And that really goes along with the third question, which is in the article; and that’s how to manage your bill paying? In both cases, you want to use automation to help you manage the details while reducing the effort required on your part. And so, really the end goal is for widows to feel as comfortable as they can about their money and their ongoing financial health.

Shawn: Lots of good advice there! Thanks so much Dawn. Dawn Doebler, with The Colony Group and you can read more about all this on wtop.com, search Her Wealth.