Broker Check

Building Your Roadmap to Retirement

Women and Finances - Things to Consider

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  • Do you have enough to retire? Do you know if you have enough to retire? How much will it take to generate the income you want or need?
  • Everyone is different and income needs, health, and expectations all factor into answering the above questions.
  • Will you be prepared with your nest egg for the cost of living to increase during your retirement years?
  • What taxes and/or penalties might you be expected to pay on your retirement assets?


  • Expenses do not typically get cut in ½ when a spouse dies. A widow must be prepared to keep expenses the same even after losing a spouse.
  • Although the larger social security will still continue, the smaller amount will be eliminated. So the living spouse will experience a reduction in income.  If you wait to collect widow’s benefits from social security until you are 66, you can get 100% of the benefits your husband had earned. You can begin drawing reduced social security widow’s benefits at age 60 of about 70% of what you would get if you wait until age 66.
  • If deceased spouse was receiving a pension from a previous employer, the pension may stop at death, or may decrease by as much as half.
  • 401(k), IRA and other retirement accounts need to be reviewed and examined.
  • Women on average, have a longer life expectancy, and need to be prepared to pay for it.
  • Are there life insurance proceeds to deal with?
  • If you have lost (or are not sure) of life insurance that may be in-force on your spouse, you can write to:  American Council on Life Insurance, Policy Search Department.  Their address is 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004.  You will request a missing policy search form and enclose a legal size, self-addressed stamped envelope.  When you return the completed form, they will send it to the life underwriters who are members of the Council.  Those companies will search their files to see if your husband was covered by a life insurance policy issued by them.  This search will take about three months.
  • Have you considered final expenses to be paid?
  • Tax breaks for widows - you will file a joint tax return in year of your spouse’s death.  If you and your spouse owned rental property together, it will receive a step up in basis.  If you have dependent children, then you will file claiming the surviving spouse filing status for an additional 2 years (which utilizes joint tax status rates).


            Subsequent Marriages

  • Substantial separate assets may be cause for a prenuptial agreement for separate property trust.
  • How might a potential subsequent divorce affect assets in your estate?
  • How could a divorce put your separate assets at risk?
  • Have you had joint retirement planning and debt discussions?
  • Commingling of accounts? Appropriate or not?
  • Updated wills and power of attorney - how will you want your assets to pass when you pass?  To your new spouse or children etc?
  • Do your beneficiaries need to be updated on your employer sponsored plans, life insurance plans, IRAs etc?


Family Home:  

  • Mortgage
  • Taxes and insurance
  • Upkeep
  • Illiquid
  • What other assets will you be required to give up in order to keep the home

Retirement  Assets:

Such as IRAs, 401(k)s, Deferred Comp Plans, Stock options and other company sponsored plans.

  • Taxes
  • Age and IRS early withdrawal penalty
  • Ability to care for yourself in retirement
  • Liquidity could be an issue
  • Update beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance


  • Are you the lower wage earner? How do you plan on making ends meet?  Income will have an effect on all the decisions you make.
  • If these assets are mishandled in transition there could be unnecessary taxes and penalties to be paid.

Your Credit Score:Review your personal credit history by contacting the credit bureaus to be sure that all relevant information is correct and appears under your name. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report at