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Six Recommendations for Working with Widows

February 19, 2013

by Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP

  1. Help a new widow feel secure and safe. She is not interested in beating the market. Her main question is, “Am I going to be okay financially?” Her highest priority is to understand her current financial position and maintain a good lifestyle. I’ve worked with multi-millionaire widows who came to my office afraid they would be bag ladies. This is a very common fear.
  2. Offer to assist with some activities that may overwhelm her. I've accompanied women to their attorneys for estate settlement work. Likewise, I’ve helped widows find good repair services.
  3. Show compassion and care. In addition to your empathetic support, encourage her to participate in grief-support services as appropriate. Many women enjoy and find hope reading other widow’s stories. Online grief support sites may also be helpful. Hold some meetings in friendly places, such as coffee shops. I have even talked with new widows on my backyard swing, which overlooks a peaceful lake.

Don’t make these mistakes

  1. During her grief, don’t be insensitive with your language. Avoid saying, “I'm so sorry for your loss.” She didn't lose her husband. If she lost him, she could go and find him. He's dead. He's gone forever. This phrase is a platitude.

    Rather, say something like, “I can't begin to understand the pain you’re experiencing now, but I want you to know I'm here to help you.” Keep the focus on her, rather than on your feelings. Of course, if you are a widow or widower yourself, you can acknowledge this. But don’t say to a widow, “I know just how your feel.” Each widow’s journey is unique.

  2. Don’t use financial jargon or fancy charts and quarterly reports. A new widow isn’t interested in them. Your advice and answers to her questions will be more helpful than just the numbers, which can be overwhelming.
  3. Don’t aim for the highly efficient meetings that work well with other clients. Your goal isn’t to hurry up the process. Rather, give a widow breathing space as you engage her, listen to her and help her make financial decisions when the time is right. More frequent and shorter meetings are better than three-hour marathon sessions with 10-year financial projections.

As you help widows transition into a new life after loss, you’ll be richly rewarded. Plus, your widowed clients will be loyal and great referral sources – widows enjoy sharing good things with their girlfriends. They will tell other ladies what a great financial advisor and thinking partner you are. Word gets around — guaranteed!

Kathleen M. Rehlis the author of the multi-award winning, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. A widow herself, Dr. Rehl helps financial professionals grow their business with widows, so these women are attracted to you and “stick” with you. She also presents workshops nationally for women’s groups, congregations, foundations, hospice and more on helping widows and those who anticipate widowhood, or have widowed friends or relatives, to be more self-confident, knowledgeable, and secure about their money matters. She is passionate about empowering her “widowed sisters” to take control of their finances.