Anecdotal evidence abounds about widows and their uncertainty about or even fear of–finances after their husbands’ deaths.

But one advisor has set out to research exactly how widows cope, and how advisors can serve them better.

Kathleen M. Rehl, a financial planner, author and teacher who specializes in helping widows, undertook research along with three colleagues by focusing on a group of 1,100 widows.

One of the key findings was that half of the widows said they were not as confident about finances after their husbands’ or partners’ deaths as they were before; another 23 percent said their confidence level was about the same.

Another key finding from the study, according to the researchers, was that widows who worked with a financial advisor felt more financially confident. However, many advisors do not know how to deal with or help widows.

Numerous studies have shown that a large percentage of widows leave the financial advisor who helped them when they were part of a couple, Rehl said.

“This may mean for some widows that they lose the benefit of [past] advice that took into account life with their deceased partner and planning inherent in that advice,” said the study, entitled “Widows’ Voices: The Value of Financial Planning,” which was published in the Journal of Financial Service Professionals.

The fact that many advisors have not learned how to build a relationship with widows is amazing when considering that 70 percent of all married baby boomer wives will experience widowhood; that 70 percent of widows fire their advisors after their spouse dies; and that many women will be dual inheritors, as they are given money from deceased spouses and their parents, the report noted.

When the study participants were asked what they need most, the widows’ top desire was to receive help from a trusted financial advisor. 

The second thing women said they wanted most is simply to have more money. The third most popular response was to understand their money issues better through financial education and classes.

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