Study reveals financial concerns after the loss of a spouse.

New research examines the hardships created by the lack of life insurance.


The findings were stunning though perhaps not surprising: Nearly 70% of all women report “significant life changes” after the loss of a spouse, and financial concerns were at the top of the list. This was one of the conclusions of a unique survey sponsored by New York Life, which gauged the emotional and financial stress of widows and widowers.

Among other revelations, the survey found that women suffer the loss of a spouse more acutely than men and their financial problems are apt to be much more severe. For example, 55% of widows have trouble adjusting to a change in income level versus 34% of widowers. They also have a tougher time budgeting for one income, cutting discretionary spending, and saving for retirement or affording a vacation.


Loss: Both emotional and financial.


“The news is unsettling: Women are not prepared for the loss of a spouse, and the problems are financial and much more,” says New York Life executive vice president Chris Blunt. The “Loss of a Spouse Study” involved interviews with 897 men and women who had lost their spouse within the past 10 years.1 The survey examined how this loss had affected spouses’ emotional and financial lives, but focused mainly on financial security.

The study took a hard look at some of the real-life consequences of inadequate life insurance coverage. Nearly 40% of widows whose spouses did not have life insurance reported that within a year they were either struggling financially or barely making ends meet. Among those whose husbands had life insurance, proceeds lasted an average of almost two and a half years. However, surviving spouses wished for at least 11 years more.

Interestingly, these results mirrored those in New York Life’s Life Insurance 2013 Gap Study, which also revealed that the amount of life insurance protection in place equaled three years and the amount of protection needed totaled 14 years. The gap survey showed that, even according to their own estimates, most people don’t have nearly enough life insurance.

Other findings regarding women who lost a spouse are highlighted in this infographic—included the following:


  • 47% “I wish we had some or more life insurance on my spouse.”
  • 42% “I wish we had saved more.”
  • 30% “I wish we had detailed discussions about what might happen financially if one of us passed away.”
  • 28% “I wish we had a better financial plan in place.”

“This wish list can act as a financial survival guide for couples so they can ensure they are better prepared for a loss,” says Blunt. “These widows offer us insight into what life has been like for them since the loss: The financial strain for many has been very serious and for almost all, the loss has been life changing. ”

The findings in the “Loss of Spouse Study” were released in November and reported by more than 50 news media outlets across the country. Importance of the survey is demonstrated by the fact that the United States had 11.8 million widows and 3.2 million widowers as of 2013. During that year, twice as many women as men lost spouses.2

A local New York Life agent will be happy to discuss your financial security needs during a no-obligation meeting. To have an agent contact you, simply click here.

Talk it through with an expert.

We're here to help.

Get Started
Further Reading
  • 1The “Loss of a Spouse Study” was an online survey conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications and had a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5%.
  • 2“The American Community Survey,” U.S. Census Bureau, Oct. 24, 2014.