One of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life is when her spouse dies. Whether this happens after decades of marriage or tragically early in a relationship, it takes time for the emotional fog to lift.
Widows are often unfamiliar with the family’s finances or their professional advisers if their husband managed those details. When the time is right, they should do some serious homework on both.
A widow should feel empowered to assess her current advisers and, if desired, to hire new ones. She should have a team of professionals who are experts in their field, and who resonate with her communication style and personality. Here are some tips for hiring the right financial professionals:
1. Seek education from unbiased resources
Community programs are a good place to start. Check the instructor’s credentials and investigate for possible violations (more on that below). If the class involves a “free meal,” this is not education. Find a program in your local library or community center.
2. Check online for advisors’ ethical violations
For financial advisers, type “BrokerCheck” into your browser, find the person, and look for “disclosure items.” Likewise, for attorneys and CPAs, your state’s website will have public information about violations.
3. Ask for a résumé
Look at factors like education, credentials, and involvement in their professional membership organization (local bar, state CPA society, Financial Planning Association, etc.). Being dedicated to their profession is a strong indicator of dedication to ethical behavior.
4. Hire smart, relatable people
Don’t hire slick people (see “free lunch” above). When interviewing a potential adviser, consciously ask, “Is this person smart and genuine, or is this a sales pitch?” When you leave, sit in your car for a moment and ask that question again.
5. Don’t let your children or friends control you
They may mean well, but they are not professionals. You are an intelligent person who will make good decisions once you have equipped yourself with additional education.
There is a time for grieving and it is different for every person. Allow a bit of time to pass and, when you feel ready, get to work. Learn about the topic, interview true professionals, watch for the sales pitch, and take control of your financial future.
Evelyn M. Zohlen, M.B.A., M.S., CFP®, 2019 President, Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), [email protected]