Study reveals financial concerns after the loss of a spouse.

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 stresses 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 “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 the results of in New York Life’s Life Insurance 2013 Gap Study, which also revealed that the amount of life insurance protection that was actually in place equaled three years and the amount of protection that was actually 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 included:

  • 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.”

The importance of the findings of the "Loss of Spouse Study" 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

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