Many estimates suggest that after their spouses die, a whopping 70% of widows fire their financial advisors. Anecdotal evidence suggests this often happens because the advisor (who supposedly worked for both halves of the couple) somehow never really cultivated a relationship with the woman. Perhaps the advisor made the old-school mistake of seeing her not as a client, but as “my client’s wife.” Or perhaps (yes, let’s admit it!), as women, we often encourage being relegated to this position because we still think finance is boring and wish to abdicate financial responsibilities to our spouses.
Whatever the case, once we become widows, we are the clients, and we are now fully responsible for our financial security and that of our families. I recall a fellow widow telling me about how she found herself staring across the table at her financial advisor of many years and thinking that he was a virtual stranger. Other widows have told me stories about being patronized by advisors bent on doling out “I know best” advice while ignoring their needs and requests. One woman said her advisor literally patted her on the head and said, “Stop Worrying. You’re going to be fine.”
Even if an advisor starts lavishing the right kind of attention on the widow once she’s in the driver’s seat, she may well feel it’s a case of too little, too late.
If this sounds like your “widowhood experience” with your advisor, you may be in the market for a new one yourself. There are lots of great ones out there; just be sure to do your homework and find the right fit. Consider the following as you begin your search:
- You deserve to feel safe. Your whole world has been upended. This is no time for conversations about how you can “kill it” in the market. Look for an advisor who can first show you that you’re financially okay right this minute.
- You deserve to be heard. Look for an advisor who asks open-ended questions, answers your questions clearly, never interrupts, shows empathy, and respects your silence when you need time and space to figure out your own thoughts and feelings.
- You deserve to be understood. You are more than your financial portfolio, and widowhood affects more than your finances. Seek an advisor who “gets” how changes in your life affect your thinking, emotions and relationships, thereby driving your decision making. And if possible, find one who provides support beyond your financial needs – one who can recommend a variety of resources, from grief support and realtors to handymen/handywomen, to legal and medical professionals, to support groups. All of these can be a helpful part of your support team as you redefine yourself and move forward. And don’t be afraid to reach out to trusted friends when you need to bounce around a proposed idea.
- You deserve time to make decisions. Once you determine you’re safe right now, choose an advisor who will give you the time you need to understand and feel good about decisions before moving forward. The best advisors recognize and support your need to obtain and process information in a way that best supports where you are in your transition.
- You deserve a thinking partner. Complicated jargon, convoluted charts and spreadsheets, and tediously long meetings? Run – don’t walk – to the nearest exit. What you need right now is an advisor who simplifies what’s on your plate, rather than piling on the complexity. You need someone to help you sort and prioritize decisions and understand options, thereby smoothing the long, bumpy road from overwhelmed, confused and afraid to confident, clear and purposeful.
Choosing your next Financial Professional
Beyond looking at designations, training, experience and reputation, ask a potential financial professional which standard applies to the work that they will do for you. There is much industry discussion today surrounding the fiduciary standard vs. the suitability standard. Simply put, the fiduciary standard requires that the advisor put the clients’ best interests ahead of their own. The suitability standard, on the other hand, requires that the advisor recommend investments that fit the clients’ investing objectives, horizon and experience. Advisors offering fee or hourly planning services will typically be providing those under the fiduciary standard, but investment products may fall under either standard. It’s important to understand the standard and how your advisor is getting paid.
Credentialed financial professionals may elect to continue their education around the personal side of financial planning by becoming certified as a Financial Transitionist®. CeFTs are trained to understand not just the numbers, but the human, personal side of money and the unique challenges of transitions. Equipped with a comprehensive understanding of how people subjectively experience life-altering change such as widowhood, they educate and collaborate with clients, employing effective processes and tools to help them make their best decisions.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Meet the founder of our Widow Division, Joy Kirsch.
At age 30, is when Joy became a widow, she lost her husband, best friend and business partner. She quickly discovered that she had no real education or training about how grief affects our brains and bodies. Her natural curiosity and desire to “get it right” led to years of study around life-changing events and how they affect financial decision-making. She now devotes her time to helping other women prepare for life’s transitions with the goal of improving financial well-being. “Life Happens and sometimes it’s difficult, but we get to influence the outcome. I want women to have the resilience, courage, and wisdom to make good financial decisions while moving forward through difficult times with confidence and a sense of purpose.”
Joy believes that true wealth is not just a measure of one’s financial assets, but the sum of a person’s health, wealth and personal relationships. She has devoted her professional career to helping others define their values, dream new dreams and align their wealth accordingly. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Practitioner, a Certified Financial Transitionist® through the Sudden Money® Institute and the founder of The Widows Journey, a non-profit entity dedicated to educating and empowering widows to allow them to lean into life and make a difference in the world. She is a member of the Dallas Financial Planning Association and former chairman of the Fort Worth Business and Estate Section of the Tarrant County Bar Association. She is securities and insurance licensed and graduated cum laude from the University of Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.
Although Joy has won several industry awards, she is most proud of her twenty-five talented, beautiful and exceptional nieces and nephews. When she’s not hanging out with those little family members, she enjoys golf and tennis, weight training, yoga, meditation and trying every new restaurant in Dallas with her beau, Ron.