I called my mother in law to check in yesterday.
I get worried about people after a loved one dies, but especially I’m concerned about her, right now. My in-laws were a close couple. She’d always yell, “Dave!” at him for one reason or another, but there was a camaraderie in her admonishments.
She enjoyed admonishing him and I could have swore he enjoyed being admonished.
There’s no way I can imagine what’s going on in someone’s head the day after their spouse passes away. It’s beyond imagination.
Still, my call to her was shocking.
I was surprised to find that she’d already called her financial advisor about moving money around and scheduled a meeting with the Medicare people about Papa Dave’s hospital bills.
A piece of this I understand:
– The need to keep moving.
– The desire to run.
– The longing to make things feel better and to grab control.
I understand that, and it makes me want to give my mother-in-law a big fat hug today. All the running in the world won’t make the pain go away. There isn’t a hug big enough to swallow all those years of being together.
That’s why it’s a difficult pill to swallow when I tell you what I told her: Be still. Wait.
When any major life event occurs, the worst decision is to change your financial picture.
My best advice? Do nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Too many times I’ve had clients come in after a spouse passes away and they want to make changes. Not little changes, mind you, but major, life changing moves. Let’s guarantee my money won’t run out. I want to take a trip around the world. It’s time to sell the house and move closer to my kids.
These are all valid thoughts, but not for today. Today’s a time to work on other areas.
– Go for a walk.
– Sign up for cooking classes.
– Learn a new language.
– Dive into a hobby.
All of these are positive life experiences that you can bow out of later without major repercussions. If you decide to sell your house and move, what if you don’t like the new place? If you change investments and the market tumbles, how will you respond?
Too many times I’ve witnessed people who’ve made life changing decisions without a clear head, only to regret all the moves later.
Often this regret, coupled with the sorrow of the original loss, is crippling.
How long do you wait?
I don’t know. 16 years of advising people who watched spouses, parents and children die still wasn’t enough for me to help you there. I can say this: Everyone was different. I will tell you that both my client and I knew when it was time to start moving. I’m sure you’ll know, too.
So, maybe Tom Petty was talking about a completely different topic, but he’s still right: The Waiting is the Hardest Part, but it’s the most important. Wait.