Woman sitting at table looking at paperwork.

The Reality Behind Widowhood

The time to start preparing for it is now.

While it’s commonly understood that women tend to live longer than men, the average age at which women become widows is younger than most people realize. Baird Trust’s Jackie Russell and Baird Family Wealth’s Jaleigh White recently sat down to discuss common misconceptions around widowhood – and what women can do now to prepare for the likelihood of living alone.

Headshot of Jacqueline Russell
Jackie Russell, Baird Trust

Jaleigh White professional headshot
Jaleigh White, Baird Family Wealth

The average age of widowhood is younger than many people expect.

For many people, the term “widow” evokes a woman later in life – but that picture isn’t fully accurate. While it’s true more than half of all women over age 75 are widowed, the U.S. Census also reports that the average age of widowhood for women is only 59 years old – an age when many couples are still working and drawing an income from an employer.1 As Jackie points out, many widows are caught off-guard from the death of a spouse, and often find themselves financially unprepared to suddenly have lost half the family income or access to a spouse’s pension or Social Security benefits.

The impact and responsibilities of widowhood are far-reaching.

Upon the death of a spouse, widows are often in a vulnerable state, balancing their own personal grief against the unfamiliar world of collecting life insurance benefits, planning a funeral or arranging a memorial service. But while these final arrangements are the immediate priority, they’re not the only concerns: Bills still need to be paid, the home still needs to be maintained – and all the tasks associated with daily life now fall on the surviving spouse. Jackie notes, “We know in our lives as couples, we divide and conquer activities of daily iving. When the entirety of those responsibilities falls solely and suddenly on a surviving spouse, that can lead to an incredible amount of stress, making an already difficult time that much harder.”

You don’t have to do it all yourself.

The process of moving forward financially can be both overwhelming and time-consuming: Gathering your assets, modeling what-if scenarios and coming to terms with widowhood’s personal and financial impact can be physically and emotionally taxing. But you don’t have to figure this all out on your own. In addition to your Baird Financial Advisor’s expertise in financial planning and wealth management, they also have access to a deep bench of experts at Baird Trust – specialists who have dedicated their careers to helping women and families pursue their best lives.

1www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/04/love-and-loss-among-older-adults.html, www2.census.gov/library/publications/2005/demo/p70-97.pdf. Accessed July 2023.