I do not come from a wealthy family but I have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to always be somewhere in that mid-level of middle class. My middle-class life had been very comfortable.

Then, at 60, my husband died of a massive heart attack, as my daughter, granddaughter, and I sat in a room not twenty feet from him.  My life as I knew it instantly changed.  The sudden loss of my husband affected everything--my relationships with other people, particularly relationships with my children and grandchildren.  I was not the same "mom" as in "mom and dad" or the same grandma as in "grandma and grandpa." I had to create a new identity as a single person, which included my view of finances. It wasn't long before I realized "Oh no, my life and my paycheck have been cut in half-- actually less than in half."  

Creating a new identity as a single woman over the age of 60 has been an ongoing process. Only now, over 4 years after my husband's death, am I finally beginning to progress. Unfortunately, it has taken nearly as long to begin changing my financial habits. My husband had some life insurance and I started receiving monthly survivor's benefits. They were significantly less than what my husband and I would have received upon his retirement were he still alive. But not to worry, I had the life insurance. However, the majority of the life insurance went to pay off the house, two cars, a home equity loan, and a few credit cards. Thank goodness I had it. Most of what was left of the life insurance I spent treating my 3 children and their families to a family vacation at Disney World at Christmas the 2nd year following his death, and various presents, etc.. I am not sorry about the Disney vacation; it was very cathartic, I believe, for the entire family. And I am not sorry for the presents; it is what I wanted to do. I did not seek any financial advice from anyone, as it is not something my husband and I did while he was alive either. He was as bad about spending money, actually even worse about spending money, than I was.  

Anyone finding themselves suddenly single through the death of their spouse should seek professional advice before making any financial decisions. That being said, it is during the time of great loss when you are least equipped to make sound decisions. Obviously the time to address your financial health and habits should be before you are confronted with major life changes.

So, I'm here to share my story, along with my journey, as I enter the world of being more financially fit and strive to make frugal choices. In my next post, I will try to address some of the financial lessons I learned early on, the financial decisions I made, and, more importantly, those I "didn't" make.

Judy Kline

Judy is retired and recently widowed. She is a contributing author for the Retired & Widowed blog where she shares what she has learned about living on a fixed retirement income as a widow. Judy is an amateur photographer and has nine grandchildren.