The U.S. leads the pack in the percentage of older adults who have trouble paying their medical bills.
Aug. 30--BLOOMINGTON -- The grief of losing a spouse or going through an unexpected divorce isn't easy, and for many, getting finances in order isn't a top priority.
When people become "suddenly single" they are often overwhelmed and not ready to face the reality of their financial household, said Ann Higgens, financial advisor and branch manager for First Investment Services and Raymond James Financial Services in Pontiac and Bloomington.
Along with the emotional losses from death or divorce, people are also dealing with a decreased household income and major lifestyle changes.
"It has to be done at some point. Emotionally, people may have a hard time ... and have a lack of knowledge of where is the right place to turn," she said.
Higgens specializes in helping people who have become suddenly single, partly because she knows what it feels like.
In 2006, when her father died, she helped her stepmother organize paperwork and deal with the finances. In 2012, Higgens went through a divorce.
"It adds to the emotional part of it because you are trying to deal with your every day life and putting one foot in front of the other," she said.
There isn't a trend in the people who seek financial help, Higgens said. Sudden life changes can happen at any age to anybody. Both males and females struggle equally, she said.
"There's a million reasons," she said.
Higgens has had clients who have brought plastic shopping bags full of bank statements after a spouse died.
"A lot of people just become overwhelmed and lack the knowledge," Higgens said.
Couples should keep a book or binder with copies of important information, including bank account statements, life insurance policies, information on various accounts, copies of wills and power of attorney documents.
"I've always felt communication and education about the process are very important," Higgens said. "It is a hard conversation for people to have with their families, but it's important."
People will also need to develop a new financial plan based on their new situation, said Troy Frerichs, director of wealth management at Country Financial in Bloomington. They should craft a budget and may have to make lifestyle sacrifices such as downsizing a home, getting a job or finding a better job, and obtaining a less expensive vehicle, he said.
There are online programs and mobile apps that people can use to help, he said.
With technology evolving, couples should also keep an inventory of their accounts and passwords, and keep it updated, Frerichs said.
"Clearly if you have one spouse who is the primary financial person in the household I think it is good to have a discussion," Frerichs said. "Because trying to piece it all together can take a lot of time."
For those who become single and haven't dealt with the finances, they should not ignore the issue. They should seek help from a friend, family member or financial advisor before it becomes a major financial burden, Higgens said.
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