First Person: Avoiding a ‘Shoebox Widow’ Retirement

Yahoo Contributor Network

If my husband dies before I do, I don't want to be one of those "shoebox widows" who has to sift through a shoe box stuffed with old tax returns, receipts and financial statements. Even before I married my husband, I invested in the stock market with an online trading account and prepared my own taxes online. According to a Mathew Greenwald & Associates' Survey of Recent Widows, a lot of baby boomer widows are in the dark about their finances. A recent NextAvenue article suggests older women may run into serious financial problems if their husbands pass away before they do. As a member of Generation X, I don't surrender all of the financial planning and budgeting duties over to my husband. I stay involved. I know a lot of older women who think they are emasculating their man by controlling the finances in the family. However, my Gen-X husband appreciates the fact that I save him time as well as headaches.

Filing income taxes

One of the most basic financial skills a person can have is the ability to file their own income taxes returns. I don't need to have an accounting degree to use a computer program to file our taxes. According to the survey, 61 percent of widows with financial assets between $50,000 and 1 million had trouble filing income taxes.

Earning enough income

The survey also showed that more than 50 percent of the widows saw their income cut in half when their husbands passed away. Although I make less money than my husband makes, I am not dependent on his paycheck. I also invest in dividend-paying stocks that will generate an income for us when we are retired. I also earn residuals.

Building up rainy-day fund

I've always had trouble when it comes to saving enough for an emergency fund. It turns out I'm not alone. Forty-five percent of the women with about $50,000 to $100,000 in investments and savings did not have money in an emergency fund before their husbands died. Although I've failed at saving in the past, I have managed to put aside $100 each month for our emergency fund.

Understanding Social Security

I have opened an account on the Social Security website about a year ago so that I would know how to budget for my future retirement. I don't want to be like the 37 percent of senior citizens today who have trouble figuring out what they should receive from Social Security. It's easy to estimate how much I'll receive in the future although the older generations seems to prefer leaving it a mystery.

I think it's a shame that 26 percent of the so-called shoebox widows had to downsize after their husband's death. Another one of my financial duties in my family is to pay down the mortgage. Not only will we not have to downsize when we are older, but we will enjoy retirement living in our paid-off home. I can't imagine having any difficulty locating bank accounts or investments. I also make sure my husband is completely aware of all of financial account accounts and passwords. Throwing everything into a shoebox doesn't lead to financial peace. Communicating and making money moves together as a married couple boosts our individual self worth as well as our shared net worth.

More from this contributor:

Making Leap from My Money to Our Money

I'm Happy in our Smaller Home

Preventing a Bag Lady Future


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