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Don’t Make Quick Career Changes: Part 3 of Financial Considerations When You Lose Your Spouse

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

Some of us hate our jobs; a few of us love them. More of us probably think of our jobs as good enough: necessary for the money, rewarding in some respects, mind-numbing at times. Regardless of our opinions, we develop connections, routines, and habits around going to and being at work. If we add up the waking hours of our lives, and if we work within the same few co-workers, we probably spend as much or even more time with work people than we do with our spouses, family, and friends.

Think about it: if you work 8+ hours a day with the same people, that’s at least 40 hours a week of (relatively) meaningful interaction. The actual interactive time you spend with a spouse or live-in roommate is probably less than 40 hours a week and closer to about 35 hours if you count up an hour or less in the morning (and most of us are rushing to get out the door rather than “interacting”), two waking hours each weekday evening, and maybe 10 “together” hours on each weekend day.

When you lose your spouse, your routine is up-ended. Quitting your job is another change that probably won’t be helpful. In our series on how to manage after the death of a spouse, we’re exploring tips from FINRA, a reliable financial source. Today, Tip 3: Don’t Make Quick Career Changes.

If you’ve worked at the same job for a while, you’ve probably gotten comfortable with and connected on some level with those work folks you spend 40 hours a week with. Sure, they are “work friends” who might not stay in your life if you didn’t see them every day at work. But the fact is, you do see them every day and you have done so for years, so they function in a supportive role in your everyday life.

It seldom works well when a person makes sweeping life changes that disrupt many of the regular behaviors that they have relied on. Unless you are combatting addiction or have undergone a religious conversion, most other big life changes are better accomplished in small steps rather than wholesale change. In other words, once your normal home routine with him is cut short (waking up next to each other, seeing who can get to the bathroom first, enjoying the fact the he made the coffee instead of you, letting him take the last banana for lunch, negotiating who will stop at the store to pick up dinner, commiserating over the Gamecock’s loss) is gone, it’s not going to be helpful to also summarily end your work routine (sitting next to each other at boring morning call so you can make silly doodles, seeing who can get to the bathroom first, enjoying the fact the he made the coffee instead of you, letting him take the last candy in the dish, negotiating who will make the 3rd call to that vendor for payment, commiserating over the Gamecock’s loss).

If you’ve lost your spouse, even if it proves hard to get up and go work every day, the routine and the connections there are worth keeping, at least for another few months until you have had time to process the surprise and pain of loss.

We’ll cover FINRA’s tips for widows in the next few articles. Tip 4 is Thinking about Social Security Benefits. Thank you for joining me.

Kathryn Hauer, a Certified Financial Planner ™, adjunct professor, and financial literacy educator has written numerous articles and several books including the "11-Step, DIY, Comprehensive Financial Plan Workbook" and "Financial Advice for Blue Collar America." She works to help clients and readers understand and act on complex financial information to keep them and their money safe. She functions as a strong advocate and guiding light for her clients as they move through murky and unfamiliar financial and career worlds.

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