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Personal Finance

Helping Those Left Behind

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"There is no knowledge so hard to acquire," said French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne , "as the knowledge of how to live this life well and naturally." My dad, Robert J. Crimmins, died early this year after an extraordinary life, touching all who connected with him in his personal and professional paths. One of his many major important achievements: What he accomplished financially for my mom, his surviving spouse.

His high school's summary of his life shows how much my father accomplished: class of 1956 from St. Francis Prep in Queens, N.Y.; member of the school's Hall of Fame; involved fundraiser for the school and trustee and board member of numerous hospitals, charities and his own alma mater, St. John's University; honored with my mom at the St. Francis annual Golf Classic Dinner.

In a 40-year career with Metropolitan Life, he was involved in some of the company's signature strategies, including the "Snoopy Blimp" bearing the MetLife logo high above numerous sporting and other venues all over the country.

He and my mom met on the outdoor basketball courts at Public School in Brooklyn while both were in high school. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last fall.

My dad did acquire the knowledge of how to live life well, and he lived it naturally. Fortunately he passed this knowledge to his family - and dad's last actions for my mom can be a wake-up for all men born in the 1930s and 1940s.

With many couples of this generation, wives play no active role in financial affairs. Not so my parents. My father made sure my mom knew exactly what would happen after he died and that she had the wherewithal to maintain her lifestyle.

Too often the loss of a husband simply gives way to a different pain: uncertainty and fear over how a widow will generate income for the rest of her life. Even more importantly, if the widow had no relationship with a financial advisor, she's often uncomfortable dealing with this professional. Lack of trust becomes a major issue.

Both you and your spouse must be aware of your financial plan, as well as be comfortable with your financial advisor. In our practice, for instance, we often insist on immediately meeting both members of a couple to determine what each hopes regarding money and to bring our insights to bear on how to make those hopes real.

We view the partnership as being with both partners to ensure that trust and involvement develop over time. Then when one life ends, no one need be scared about maintaining a lifestyle alone.

I've written about the aging brain and the difficulty of spotting financial predators who smell blood after a senior's personal tragedy. Provide your spouse an enormous benefit: help him or her to become comfortable with your advisor, to learn your family financial plan and the why and how behind your money decisions.

Help your spouse know what happens when one of you dies. A big thanks to my dad for taking such good care of my mom, then and now.

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Dan Crimminsis the co-founder of Crimmins Wealth Management LLC in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. His blog is Roots of Wealth.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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