Although women 65 and older are three times as likely as men to survive their spouse, many men face the same challenge. That's why it's important for women—and men—to stay involved in managing their finances. Hartford suggests that every couple should be able to answer these three questions, well before retirement:
• If my spouse were to die, how would that affect the household's income?
• What would an expensive illness do to our retirement savings?
• If either spouse were to die, would the survivor be prepared to take over management of the finances?
Each spouse should also know how much the couple spends each month, the location of savings and investments, and how to access the funds. Couples can also involve a trustworthy financial adviser, especially if one spouse is not comfortable with investment decisions.
As spouses have long known and behavioral economists confirm, a chief benefit of marriage is that it lets individuals focus on what they are good at—whether it's earning money, running a household, or a mix of the two—and benefit from their partners' skills as well. But too much specialization can one day leave a widow or widower in the dark when it comes to essential financial skills and knowledge. A system that involves both partners keeps either from having to teach himself or herself under stress later.