Moving Past Pessimism with Purpose

Becoming a Widow

Since recently becoming a widow, Deborah often feels as if she’s trapped on a renegade roller coaster of stress, fear, confusion, exhaustion and loneliness. As if her grief and loss don’t seem debilitating enough, she is deluged with responsibilities, tasks and decisions – decisions that could permanently affect not just her finances, but her family, her health, and her happiness. Deborah, who is normally a pretty optimistic person, is now convinced that life will only get worse from here, that every choice she makes (or doesn’t make) will be the wrong one.

Understanding Behavioral Bias

Research in behavioral finance and neuropsychology confirms that certain emotions, experiences and circumstances can lead humans to develop behavioral biases that impact all kinds of decision-making. Those who develop an optimism bias invariably envision best-case scenarios. Others become skeptics compelled to question and fully investigate every possibility. Still others’ thinking patterns lean toward the status quo, so they want to keep things as-is for as long as possible. Those with pessimism bias, of course, focus strictly on worst-case scenarios.

While pessimism bias does have an upside (e.g. encouraging saving rather than incurring debt, and protecting one against being taken advantage of), it can be incredibly harmful too. Especially because of its tendency to kick people who are already down, precisely as it did with Deborah. By convincing them there’s no possibility of or purpose to working through the darkness, it can destroy their motivation and/or ability to make good decisions, leaving them stuck in what feels like a hopeless place.

When Pessimism Bias Meets Widowhood

Deborah’s transition from wife to widow engulfs her in normal but painfully overwhelming grief and stress. As the emotional part of her brain begins overriding the higher-thinking part, she develops a pessimism bias that drives her to dote on the negative.

Like Deborah, most people confronting widowhood experience a range of natural yet complex struggles that temporarily compromise their ability to think clearly and act wisely. For many widows – even those who have been anything but pessimistic in the past – those struggles can lead to pessimism bias that further impedes their transition.

Widows need a clear, supportive process for working through those struggles to prevent their finances – and their very lives – from paying the price. A knowledgeable, understanding guide skilled in blending both the human and technical sides of financial planning can make a world of difference.

Merit is Here for You

Our team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ and Financial Transition specialists integrate technical expertise with an in-depth understanding of life-changing events. We respect and normalize what you’re going through. We assist you in identifying where you are, where you want to go, and when what you need most is some time out to breathe and consider it all. We empower you with tools and resources that can help you prioritize what needs doing and when, and move forward, making financial decisions with both confidence and a positive sense of purpose.

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 Widows 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.

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