With even NFL players donning pink apparel this month, it’s safe to say that most Americans recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which draws attention to the need for regular screening.

What is rarely discussed is what happens after the battle is lost – and what does the survivor do next.

This is a personal story, as I lost my wife in July 2013 after a six-year battle with breast cancer. Together, we wrote a booklet, “Cancer and Finances – Your Resource Guide,” to share with others to help them in their journey. Below are some highlights that will help the survivor.

Everyone needs a financial plan. Getting diagnosed with cancer just brings it to your attention.

If you don’t have a plan, you might be wondering why you need one. If you do have one, you might be wondering if it’s sufficient or if it needs a second look.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is an extremely emotional process. Dealing with financial responsibilities can be just as emotional. Unfortunately, making decisions is a reality in a time of grief.

During this stressful time, it is important to make wise decisions that could have a lasting impact on you and your family’s financial well-being.

Here are a few ideas that should be done as soon as possible.

  • Make a list of financial issues that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks and months, and focus on those actions that you must take soon or that lay a sound foundation for financial decisions that need to be made later.
  • Don’t let emotions rule financial decisions. As you go through the grief process, it is imperative that you be conscious of your shifting emotions – anger, sadness, hopelessness, denial, depression – and not let them influence your financial decisions. For many, it is best to wait several weeks to handle the financial issues that can wait.
  • Organize your financial records. Collect financial records such as investment and retirement accounts, vehicle titles, deeds and bank accounts, and determine what debts are owed. Check income-tax returns, checkbook records and even hiding places you know of in order to identify potential assets or liabilities.
  • Discuss financial changes with your immediate family. Include children who are old enough to understand that financial adjustments and sacrifices might be necessary, at least in the short-term.
  • Consider seeking professional financial advice. A financial planner can help in two major ways. First, it’s difficult to make rational money decisions alone in such times of stress. A planner can help you avoid making rash, and potentially costly, financial choices.

Second, decisions about what to do with life insurance benefits, investments, retirement accounts and your home have major tax, estate and investment consequences that could benefit from expert advice.

  • Maintain financial control and actively participate in decisions regarding your finances, even those recommended by professional financial advisers. Listen to their advice, but do not hand over control of your finances to friends or relatives.
  • Regardless of whether you use professional financial advice, take the coming months to educate yourself about investments and personal money management. A number of good books, magazines, websites and seminars are available.

If you would like a free digital copy of our booklet, simply email me at allen@freemanwealthadvisors.com

Allen Freeman, CFP provides financial planning to retirees and widows. www.allenfreemanfinancialplanner.com