February 1, 2010
A Womanâ€™s Guide to Money Management
RECOVERING FROM THE LOSS OF A SPOUSE
Franka Baly is a thriving entrepreneur. The 41-year-old Houston resident owns ReEmergence L.L.C., a graphic design studio she opened in 2000 that assists small businesses with developing Websites and marketing material, and is co-owner of Infuze Hair Studio. In 2009, revenues were more than $160,000. In addition to being an entrepreneur, Baly is the mother of 6-year-old twin boys–and she’s also a recent widow.
Baly’s husband of 16 years died in a car accident in May 2008 at the age of 42. This tragic incident pushed Baly to refocus her time and energy on rebuilding a stable future for her and her boys. Prior to the death of her husband, Baly had a full-time job at AIG and worked occasionally on ReEmergence. After getting laid off in 2002, she continued working part time on her business while still living comfortably in a two-income household. Following the birth of the twins, Baly and her husband developed conservative spending habits, only spending when it was necessary. They both had life insurance, retirement plans, saving accounts, and a few investments set up for their future.
Both Baly and her husband were responsible for the family’s finances. “Our pastor encouraged us to sit down and pay the bills together, so we would be able to communicate and really see our financial situation,â€ said Baly. “We couldn’t hide anything from each other that way.â€ By performing the simple task of bookkeeping with her husband, Baly was able to access the accounts and did not have to scramble at the last minute to find the paperwork needed to prepare for her husband’s funeral.
After her husband’s death, Baly immediately had a will created. She also made sure to take care of her physical health. “I became real nervous about something happening to me, and my boys losing another parent and not being taken care of financially,â€ she explained. Baly also contacted a financial adviser. “If you don’t have a plan then you will tend to make a lot of mistakes. I learned that from having a business.â€
Here are some tips that can help you bounce back after the loss of a loved one:
Get financial records in order. Many widows scramble at the last minute looking for financial documents in order to finalize the funeral plans. Many also lack knowledge about their household finances. Candace Bahr, founder of Bahr Investment Group and co-founder of the Women’s Institute for Financial Education (www.wife.org), recommends getting more involved when it come to your finances. Review income tax forms, 401(k) statements, investment portfolios, credit card bills, and pension plans and become familiar with them. Many women do not realize they do not qualify for spousal benefits from their husband’s pension plan’s until it too late.
Hire a financial adviser. Sound financial advice is crucial at a time when emotions are likely to be high. “Find someone who has very good knowledge of the industry and several years of experience,â€ recommends Fola Odejimi, a certified financial planner with The ODYSSEY Group L.L.C., a financial planning firm in Phoenix. Work by referrals and check the credentials of the adviser, making sure they cater to your specific financial needs. But don’t wait for a tragedy to seek a financial adviser, have a financial road map already in place.
Protect yourself from becoming easy prey. Have someone accompany you to meetings that require you to make financial decisions so that you don’t get taken advantage of. Do not make any quick decision when it comes to money. Baly’s support system came from her adviser, family, close friends, and her church family. She also briefly joined a support group for her and her boys.
RESOURCES FOR WIDOWS
Financial Strategies for Today’s Widow (Fireside; $14), by David Latko, provides financial guidance for widows.
Grief Net (www.griefnet.org) offers online support and resources for those who have lost a loved one.