Several years ago, a relative of mine passed away unexpectedly, and in an instant, his wife was left alone and faced with not only planning a funeral (which is not cheap, by the way!), but also with figuring out the tangled web of their finances, which he had always handled. Doing the math and trying to figure out how she could afford to stay in their home and live comfortably into her golden years was extremely stressful and downright scary.
Life is unpredictable, and when things like divorce, death, illness or other unexpected situations arise, it can turn your life upside down on so many levels. “When trauma happens in your life, it affects you emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally and financially,” says Sharon Ball, LPCMHSP, owner and counselor at 9 Paths, PLLC, in Franklin. And the impact is magnified if you’re not prepared in those areas.
Women in particular are at risk of the ill effects of unpreparedness, especially in the financial realm. “Failing to prepare … that alone causes more preventable damage than anything else,” says Frank Weightman, Ph.D., CEP, AIFA, a financial educator who has worked with women exactly like my relative, women who, for different reasons, never took control of their financial lives. “Procrastinating about what we call ‘lifestyle funding’ is a behavior that crosses the socioeconomic spectrum of women — housewives, stay-at- home-moms, professional women, married professional women, divorcees, etc., and procrastination is the leading cause — by far — of financial distress for women. So many women, as we all know, are so busy taking care of everyone around them that they forget to take care of themselves first.”
And taking care of themselves in this scenario involves both financial and emotional self-care. “When a woman goes through a divorce, there are many other factors that often take precedence over furthering her financial education,” says Sharon. “A woman moving through divorce will typically focus on her children and keeping them stable; she will focus on making sure her house is in order and will divert those major financial decisions to her attorney, who may be helpful, but will only give guidance to the woman based on the knowledge he or she is given. So, if the divorcing woman does not know what her marital finances entail, she will not be giving all the information needed to her attorney.”
“You don’t get to choose when trauma happens, but you can choose to be prepared.”
Think about it. What happens if your marriage ended or your spouse, God forbid, unexpectedly passed away? Do you know where all of your money is? Are there investment accounts that you’re not aware of, or bank accounts that were opened without your knowledge? If your spouse’s income suddenly went away, would you be able to support yourself (and your kids, parents or other family members) as needed? If you’re even slightly foggy on the answers to these types of questions, the alarms should be sounding in your head.
What is the cost of doing nothing? “Believe me, you do not want to learn the answer to that question the hard way,” says Frank. “There is never a ‘right time’ to take the first step, but there is most certainly a wrong time, and that is when it’s too late.”
“You don’t get to choose when trauma happens,” adds Sharon, “but you can choose to be prepared.”
If you’re ready to get your financial and emotional life in order so you can live without worry, make plans to attend The Emotionally & Financially Whole Woman, a three-hour workshop for women during which Frank and Sharon as well as Julie Mangus, LPCMHSP, will provide a concise, information-filled look at topics like income equality, money management, reacting vs. planning, caring for aging parents and more — all topics that will impact your life at some point.
“Knowledge is power,” Sharon says. “Get educated and take the first step. It’s not as hard as you think.”
This article is sponsored by Radian Partners and 9Paths.