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Women in Transition

While money is an emotional subject for all human beings, it can be especially challenging for women. This challenge can be compounded during a difficult transition like death or divorce. The receipt of a life insurance benefit or a spouse's retirement plan can arrive fraught with many triggers as it represents the last "live" connection to the loved one. Deciding what to do with this money, and when, can be very difficult. There are no second chances or "do-overs" with such decisions. It is critical that one takes their time and understand their options.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when receiving money after a death or divorce:

  • Life insurance proceeds are not taxable to the beneficiary
  • Receipt of an IRA or a company sponsored plan, such as a 401k, needs to be done with care to ensure that appropriate deadlines are met and taxes are minimized
  • Non-spousal beneficiaries of retirement accounts have fewer options than spouses; take your time to understand how these work
  • Have a plan for money coming to you from a divorce. If the dollars are in a retirement account, plan to keep them as such if possible. Special tax rules apply if you need some of them before they transfer; seek the advice of a qualified financial professional before you sign off on the divorce papers.

While seeking out the advice of a competent advisor is critical, it is also important to understand that major decisions around any windfall or in the midst of change are best made when you are comfortable and in a clear frame of mind. Ideally, bring a trusted friend or family member to any meeting to discuss your options. Keep a notebook and write everything down as grief can impair memory. And, as much as possible, take your time making big decisions, as many of these cannot be made again.