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The death of a spouse

Posted July 09, 2014 in Advice Column

Death isn’t an easy topic, but it is important to discuss it. When developing financial plans, couples need to consider what will happen when one of them passes away.

The Census Department reports that in 2009, 2.4 percent of all men were widowed and 9.3 percent of all women were. After age 65, 41.3 percent of women were widows. The death of a spouse isn’t a theoretical number: It’s something that could very well affect your family.

As part of your financial plan, you should consider what will happen to your family’s income and expenses when one spouse passes away. If the spouse was working, that income will be lost; if the spouse was retired, the pension could be. Social Security benefits may make up some of the lost income, especially if there are minor children in the household.

Expenses may go down, but don’t depend on it. If there are minor children, then childcare expenses are likely to increase with only one parent in the household. If the family received its health insurance from the deceased spouse’s job, then those costs may rise. On the other hand, some of the deceased’s expenses will be eliminated. With retired couples, research by the Department of Health and Human Services on widows shows that household costs decreased about 20 percent when the husband passed away; in some cases, her income decreased by 50 percent or more when her spouse’s income was gone.

Careful planning for savings, pension elections and life insurance may help your family avoid a financial crisis on top of personal sorrow. The proper option will be different for each couple, but the first step should be a discussion about what would happen should tragedy hit tomorrow.

Information provided by Jeff Haupts, State Farm, 116 N. 15th St, Fort Dodge, (515) 955-3626.  See more at

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