There are three vital questions you need to ask yourself: 1) What do I need to do and when? 2) Will I be able to meet my needs and my children’s needs? 3) Whom can I trust as an advisor?
This last question may be the most important of all where financial issues are concerned. Whether a person loses a spouse through divorce or death, the feelings of grief can be overwhelming. So overwhelming that they impair his or her ability to make prudent decisions, especially within the first year following the loss. Unfortunately, a sense of insecurity over their financial situation often leads newly single adults to make major financial changes much too quickly — often at the urging of someone who doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Stated more simply, you need to be very careful that you aren’t scammed or taken advantage of.
If you are widowed or divorced, we recommend you choose a personal advisor. This individual need not be a professional financial advisor. What you need most at this point is not technical information but wisdom and sound judgment. You can find someone to help with money management later on. CPAs, attorneys, bankers, brokers, life insurance agents, and financial planners may have a great deal to offer when it comes to decisions of a specifically fiscal nature, but they aren’t necessarily knowledgeable about the best way to handle some of the spiritual and emotional issues you’re facing.
You should also be careful about choosing an advisor just because he or she is a Christian or a family member or friend. These may be important factors to consider, but, as we’ve already said, what you’re really looking for right now is somebody with wisdom and experience. That narrows the field down quite a bit. If you’re taking an airplane trip, you want a pilot who has the skills, the training, the experience, and the wisdom to make the right decisions. You wouldn’t choose a pilot simply because he happened to be a Christian or a family member or friend. It’s possible that another widowed or divorced individual might turn out to be the best candidate for the job. If nothing else, he or she may be in a position to direct you to other helpers. You might also ask your pastor for recommendations. It might even be a good idea to engage the services of more than one personal advisor. Remember the scriptural maxim: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Whatever you do, bear in mind that you’re still the decision maker. You can’t abdicate that responsibility — ultimately, it’s up to you to sift out bad advice from the good. So seek out the best counsel you can find. When possible, defer major decisions for the first 12 months or so. Then rely on the wisdom, comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit to guide you through this difficult transitional period.
For additional help and information on this topic, we’d encourage you to consult the resources and referrals highlighted below. Or if you have relationship concerns and challenges associated with this situation, please don’t hesitate to give our Counseling department a call.
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Family and Personal Finances (resource list)