Caution, I am about to use an admittedly cheesy analogy, but if you bear with me, it illustrates the concept of being an active participant in your own financial rescue. You are cruising along in your life when you are blindsided with news that will change your course forever. That news is, you are no longer cruising alongside your husband. He is either leaving against his will (death) or by choice (divorce), but either way, you will no longer have your co-captain and it feels like your ship is sinking.
It is time for you to be an active participant in your own rescue. Your ship might be sinking, but that does not mean you are helpless. And the more you help yourself, the more your “rescuers” can help you.
I am going to stick with the analogy and relate some self-preservation tips courtesy of a retired U.S Coast Guard officer. These tips compare being an active participant in your own rescue to what you are going through with the loss of your husband.
"Too often we see captains get caught up trying to save the boat, and they fail to get a mayday off before the batteries or antenna is submerged. Boats accelerate as they sink.”
Admit there is a problem as soon as you recognize a potential problem. Do not put on a brave face while you are throwing cups full of water overboard while buckets are pouring in. If your husband was in charge of the household finances, no one expects you to be fully versed in your household finances. You were a team and delegated responsibilities. It is now time to speak up and let people know you don’t fully understand what is going on financially.
“Gather together everyone and everything you can reach.”
Get your finances organized. Know where everything is located. If you are going through a divorce, this will be the financial affidavit where both spouses have to disclose all financial assets as well as financial inflows/outflows. This is usually court-ordered in a divorce case. Although if it is not court-ordered, a financial affidavit type of document is also a valuable starting place if your husband has or will predecease you. It is a snapshot of where you are currently at financially.
“Don't let the first time you open your flare kit be the first time you need it.”
Empower yourself with your own financial knowledge and skills. Perform money exercises. Some exercises would be to walk through scenarios of what to do when monthly bills need to be paid, where to get money, where to invest money, and who to call if you have questions.
“You can't yell forever, but you can blow a whistle all day long.”
Use your equipment. Think of a financial advisor as your life jacket or whistle. If finance is not your profession, don’t act like it is. You don’t practice yelling for hours in case your boat sinks. Instead you get a whistle. Just like it is much easier for you to blow a whistle, it is much easier for your adviser to be your loud voice for your new found financial independence.
Because you took precautions, your time treading water and longing for dry land is much shorter than it would have been. Your eventual rescue can be successful because of the steps you took before the boat actually sank. Now you can get a new boat and become your own captain.
This concludes my cheesy metaphor.
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