Financial Tips for Surviving Spouses

By: Lisa Nichols

Financial tips for surviving spouses are a necessary part of creating an independent life as a widow. According to research conducted by the Social Security Administration in 2005, the poverty rate for elderly widows has been more than three times higher than that of married women in the same age range for more than 30 years. The research attributes at least some of the widow poverty rate to women who spend their savings on health care for a sick or dying husband. (McGarry, Kathleen and Schoeni, Robert F. (2005, January). Medicare Gaps and Widow Poverty. Perspectives, 66, 58-59.) Learning more about Medicare gaps, spousal benefits and how to establish a solid credit history are important financial tips that can help lead widows down the path to financial independence.

Medicare Gaps Can Make For Tough Times

Widows have to contend with a number of gaps in the Medicare program today. Medicare doesn't cover chiropractor care, acupuncture treatments, dental care, custodial home care or custodial care in a nursing facility. Additional Medicare gaps include a lack of coverage for preventive care, which isn't covered by the program. Retirement benefits can help pay for medical expenses, as long as you know where to go to kick-start the benefits process.

Retirement Benefits For Surviving Spouses

There is a great disparity of retirement benefits between the sexes. Eighty percent of men receive retirement benefits, but less than 40 percent of women receive benefits as retired workers. Also, more than 60 percent of women receive retirement benefits only through their spouse. Review all life and health insurance benefits and retirement plan information to make sure that you know where you stand and what type of insurance you have after your spouse has passed away. If your spouse was still employed at the time of death, contact his employer to find out about insurance benefits and wages owed for time worked and paid time off. In the meantime, begin shoring up your individual credit history.

Cleaning Up Your Credit Report

If, like many widows, you have never had a line of credit in your own name or have only been listed on joint credit card accounts, it's time to make a name for yourself. You can start by applying for your own or . Rewards credit cards provide cash back, frequent flier miles or gift certificates just for using the card for regular purchases. A low interest credit card lets you build your credit history and doesn't charge you high interest rates for using the card. Applying for either card is an excellent first step in establishing your credit history and more importantly, building your financial independence.

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