You’ve undoubtedly met these women before. They may play different roles — mother, aunt, grandmother, or a dear family friend — but they likely have much in common:
- They all moved straight from their parents’ house to their husbands’ house.
- Their husbands were the primary wage earners, and if the women worked at all it was just was just for some “pin” money.
- Many of these women have never made decisions about finances alone.
While not all women in the senior age bracket fit these circumstances, those who do have unique financial needs. In the “Father Knows Best” era of the mid-1950s, a woman relied on her husband for financial support. She happily changed her maiden name and let her husband take care of the finances while she stayed home with the children. However, she never imagined what would happen if her husband got sick and died and she was left making all the decisions for herself and her family.
Here is a true-life scenario that may sadly be repeated over the next two decades.
Sandy and Don were married for 34 years. Don owned his own business, and Sandy worked part time. She worked to keep busy, not to earn a significant living. Don always took care of their personal and business finances. Then, the unexpected happened. Don got sick and needed medical care. Sandy did not understand their health insurance policy. After a lengthy hospital stay, the doctors determined there was nothing they could do for Don and that he should consider hiring a nurse to help make his final weeks comfortable.
Sandy suddenly needed to deal with Don’s business and didn’t know where to begin. Don died, and while Sandy was unraveling the business issues, she was then faced with the medical bills — the insurance Don selected didn’t provide enough coverage, and Sandy had to pay his bills with credit cards. Sandy was in desperate need of an income, but without Don, there was no business. There was no key employee to run the business or an emergency succession plan. Additionally, Don did not have any life insurance. In the end, Sandy got two jobs to pay off the debts and had an attorney work out a payment plan with the creditors.
Life insurance could have provided much-needed liquidity at Don’s death. Long term care insurance could have provided some payment for the nurse. A business continuation plan, which is usually funded by insurance, may have provided additional income to the family and given Sandy a means to make money on the business.
It is unfortunate that no trusted advisor, whether it was a CPA, attorney, or insurance agent, reached out to Sandy while the business was running and Don was alive. By not developing a relationship with both parties, each of these advisors lost a valuable relationship when Don died. Sandy was not comfortable being strong armed with “we know better” tactics. She needed relationships based on compassion and trust. In the end, Sandy made poor decisions, she lost the business, and an insurance agent missed out on the opportunity to help Sandy get through this emotionally and financially trying time.