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012: Kathleen M. Rehl – Financial Advice for Widows & Enjoying ReFirement

CFP and PhD Kathleen Rehl has had many careers spanning from academia to financial advisory. Most recently, Kathleen has continued penning pieced about widows and money and speaking at selected conferences and events. She is the author of Moving Forward On Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows .

Today, Kathleen reflects on the death of her husband, speaks to how it impacted her and her business, and provides financial and personal advice for widows and widowers.

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Key Takeaways

01:03 – Kathleen Rehl shares her experience growing up in a four-generation family, early money lessons and her decision to leave academia

08:10 – What inspired Kathleen to write Moving Forward On Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows

13:17 – How Kathleen’s business changed after the death of her husband

16:28 – Kathleen reflects on previous work she’s done with widows and how the experience varies with expected and unexpected deaths

25:03 – Pension, insurance and other general financial surprises that impact widows

26:40 – Basic financial advice Kathleen would give to widows and some of the biggest financial mistakes widows make

31:39 – Support systems and the importance of checking in

34:33 – Financial matters a widow should focus on

38:43 – Resources from Kathleen’s website

45:26 – The last thing Kathleen changed her mind about and one thing she wishes people knew about her

49:28 – Kathleen talks about her ‘ReFirement’

51:48 – Jonathan thanks Kathleen for joining the show and lets listeners know where they can connect with her

Tweetable Quotes

“I didn’t know – with my husband gone – if I was going to be able to continue the business without him. But, my assistant stepped up and took on some more responsibilities and we kept going. I pulled back for a little bit and all my existing clients were very understanding. But I found that I didn’t step back for very long because work was what made sense to me.” (14:10)

“Every situation is unique. And, just because it happened like this for me, doesn’t mean that it’s gonna fit this widowed person over here. But generally, if it was an anticipated death versus an unanticipated death, for many folks out there if it’s an anticipated death, they will start doing some of the things in advance that they need to do planning for this time. Whereas if it’s an automobile accident and they are just gone, they haven’t had time to put a lot of those things in place.” (18:59)

“If you look at men and women, eighty percent of all women when they die are gonna be alone or not married. Eighty percent of men die married.” (21:58)

“That’s where I got a lot of comfort. I had one lady friend who had lost her husband two years before and I had assisted her with some financial matters. That first week, she came over several times in the evening. She brought her crocheting with her. And there were some evenings that she’d just sit crocheting and I’d just sit going through the sympathy cards. But she was there. She was a presence with me.” (32:35)

“Be careful about people who are looking to take advantage who might be potential spouses. When I re-entered the dating game, a very wise widow said to me, ‘Kathleen, be careful. You don’t want to get together with somebody who is looking for you to be their purse or their nurse or their mother.’” (39:57)

“I call it reFirement with a capital ‘F.’ It’s not retirement, it’s reFirement. And, for me, the ‘Fs’ are: family, friends, fitness, focus, and fun.” (49:37)

Guest Resources

Kathleen’s Website – https://www.kathleenrehl.com/

Kathleen’s Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.rehl

Kathleen’s LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-m-rehl-ph-d-cfp%C2%AE-ceft%C2%AE-emeritus-30178421/

Kathleen’s Book – https://www.amazon.com/Moving-Forward-Your-Own-Financial/dp/0984579303

Soaring Spirits International – https://soaringspirits.org/

Modern Widows Club – https://modernwidowsclub.org/

Jane Fonda and I Happily Agree About Drinking After 60 – https://sixtyandme.com/abstinence-from-drinking/

Mindful Money Resources

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Episode Transcription

Jonathan DeYoe: Hello, and welcome back to this episode of the Mindful Money podcast. I’m chatting today with Kathleen Rehl, CFP and Ph. D. She has had many careers, including as a financial advisor. She refers to the current chapter of her life as being refired. She writes a lot about becoming a widow and has published over 175 articles. One of those articles is how I discovered her. She’s the author of moving Forward on your own, a financial guidebook for Widows. And having lost my brother recently and becoming a bit of a financial guide for my sister in law, I wanted to have Kathleen on the podcast to ask her some questions to perhaps help both widows and those supporting widows. So, Kathleen, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Thank you. I’m delighted to, uh, be here with you today.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, we’re excited to have you. Kathleen, where do you call home? Where are you connecting from?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, right now, I’m talking to you from St. Petersburg, Florida. This is my legal residence. Usually in June, I’m up in Saratoga Springs, New York. There was some business that brought me back for about a week here in St. Pete. So I split my time half in St. Petersburg, Florida, when it’s cold up north, and in the summertime, in Saratoga Springs, New York, where there’s beautiful, more moderate temperatures in the summertime.

Jonathan DeYoe: Did you grow up on the east coast?

Kathleen M. Rehl: No, I’m a farm kid from the midwest.

Jonathan DeYoe: Where?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Wisconsin most of the time. I was born in Iowa, but. Excuse me, it was not born in Iowa. Was born in Wisconsin, and lived in Iowa for a little bit, but then back to Wisconsin, and I did first two degrees at the University of Wisconsin there, then moved to Illinois and went, um, on most of my, I call Wisconsin home. Madison is my town.

Jonathan DeYoe: So somehow I grew up in South Dakota. And when I talk to people, they say, how come you don’t have that accent that I hear you still hold on to a little bit? Can you name maybe a couple experiences as a kid growing up that sort of build the foundation of your money story?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Sure. Kind of interesting you asked that question, because I’m going to be writing an article for Jonathan Clement’s humble dollar on growing up in a four generation family. I thought that was just normal. You had great grandma and grandma and mom and dad and kids all together. One of the money lessons was, if you grow your own food, you’ll never be hungry. And that’s part of the reason we were on the farm. We raised cattle, we raised vegetables. There was always enough food, but there wasn’t always enough money. And I think that’s probably why I figured out early on that for me, education was going to be the key up and out, because I knew I did not want to have the hard life that my parents had. They both had day jobs and they worked the farm. And there were a couple of times that we literally almost lost the farm, but we didn’t. But I figured, I’m not going to be a farmer’s wife someday, get, uh, a degree and do other things. And for me, getting that phd, it was like my sheepskin. It was, uh, the union card that opened lots and lots of doors for me.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t have that experience, but that experience resonates because my dad and his siblings had that experience. The ranch in South Dakota, cattle, that’s exactly what they did. And they did lose the ranch. And it was a rough time there for many decades, actually. So your story covers a lot of ground, from farming to teaching to financial advisor to refiring. You did all that work to get the PhD, and then you were in academia for just a short period of time. So what made you leave academia?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, after I got the degree and I was teaching in public schools, but then you got the degree and okay, that, uh, opens the door to teaching. And I started out with a position at the University of Nebraska, and I was there for three years, and then I moved to Maryland for a job at a small liberal arts college, hood college. My husband had taken a job at the World bank, so I was there and I got tenure at that point. And this is the lovely ivory tower, kind of a beautiful campus. And everybody thought I was nuts when I said bye bye. I’m leaving. And you made it. You got tender, you’re set for life. But I was publishing a lot and I had good teaching and I was doing some research, but it was time to do something else. And I went to the nonprofit sector and I did that for about twelve years. And that’s where I really cut my teeth on the financial stuff because my degree, the PhD, was in education. I’m a teacher at heart. That’s what I was. But in the nonprofit sector I was doing development work and communications work. In other words, I was a fundraiser or it was a large healthcare foundation. And that’s where I really cut my teeth on some of this financial stuff, because I was working with very wealthy doctors, helping them make gifts to the foundation, and I was interfacing with their attorneys, with their accountants, with their cpas, with their financial planners, and I wanted to speak the same language that they did. So I decided to go back to school again. My husband thought I was nuts. He said, you got enough degrees already. But to get the CFP and in that process, wow, this is really phenomenal. I think I want to sit on the same side of the table as my clients, though, because they’re making gifts to not just the foundation I work for, but they’re involved with their alumni from their college, maybe the local symphony, maybe a pet organization. They had lots of interests and I wanted to help them make those gifts for my boss at the nonprofit I worked want me to bring all the gifts to the nonprofit, but I wanted to help them. So about that time, I had moved to the midwest and I worked for lutheran social services for a couple more years. I said, uh, I’ll help blast you out of the red, but I’m in the process of finishing up my CFP and when that’s done, I’m going to be gone because I’m going to set up my own business. So that’s just what I did. I left there after two years, set up my own business, very small. My goal was to be just bringing one new client a month and it would be, I guess you might call it a boutique practice. I never wanted to have a big organization. I was always going to be just solo, probably not have any, uh, help even. And I started and I was going along just fine. And then all of a sudden, because I worked with a lot of, my husband was a pastor and I worked with a lot of clergy and they have some very unique kinds of things. Like if you set it up correctly, they get their 403 m b money totally tax free. And there’s this housing allowance, and they need a lot of help. So I worked with them. But then, because not very many advisors work with clergy, it’s highlighted in mutual funds magazine put me. It was, uh, like the top 100 planners in the whole country. I wound up on that list. I remember my neighbor running across the street with the copy of the magazine says, this can’t be you, Kathleen. Well, it was, but I just, boom. All kinds of people came and wanted to work with me, so I decided to expand a little bit. I added an assistant to help me with some things, but I still kept it small and mainly working with clergy. But then after my husband died and I wrote, and, uh, we could do an hour just about how the book came about and how I started speaking about that, but we won’t go there.

Jonathan DeYoe: But I started ask that question in just a second. I mean, that’s definitely a question. You can go there if you want.

Kathleen M. Rehl: To speak on it. And then I wrote this book, and the book won a lot of awards. It’s real different than any other book that’s out there because there’s a lot of beautiful original artwork in it. Uh, it’s not supposed to be finance 101. It’s just to get the widow more comfortable with speaking and thinking about money kinds of issues.

Jonathan DeYoe: I noticed in the book, uh, and since you just mentioned it’s different than other books, I noticed that the to dos, the checklists, the financial checklist is like six pages, and then everything else is just. What do you feel about this, go through this process, the emotions, the grief. So how’d you come upon that structure of the book?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, I put together a, uh, team of folks. There were several other advisors. There were some clergy members. There were some widows. And they were like my focus group. And as I was creating the book, it went through different stages, and I would get feedback from this focus group. What do you think about this or this? And there was one advisor who really helped me with the structure, putting those steps near the front and then those other soft kinds of things. Touchy feely, you might call them things later. And the artist that was helping me with the book, and they even helped me come up with the title of the book and the COVID of the book. So it was about twelve individuals. So I would get an idea and I’d go to them and then come back and work from there. So it was with their input.

Jonathan DeYoe: So I had this sort of image that you had started off in your financial advisory practice working with widows, but it sounds like you started off working with clergy, how did the shift to widows happen? Did that happen before or after, uh, you lost your husband?

Kathleen M. Rehl: I was doing a little bit before because most of my clients that were coming to me were middle aged or mature or they were retired already. And so as I continued to work with them, some of them lost their spouses, so they were in that situation themselves. And then when I experienced widowhood and this terrible brain fog and wondering even if I was going to survive myself, if the business was going to be able to continue, and then I thought, oh, my gosh, if I’m going through this and I’m a financial advisor, what about all those thousands of widows out there that don’t know about this? So it was a little bit of working with widows. Then my own personal experience. That was wham. That really did it. I share this. My husband was a pastor. He was a very spiritual man. And before he died, I said to him I wanted him to talk to me, to continue contact after he was gone. And he said, well, he didn’t know if he could send me a message or not, but he certainly would try. But a couple of months after he did die, I was sitting on a swing outside and I continued to talk. Heck, I still talk with him today when I do one of these little presentations, I say, well, I’m going to talk about widows and some other things. And I can hear him say, you go, girl, you do it. But, uh, on that swing, he said, I got the job. And I said, well, what job did you get? And he says, I’m your chief guardian angel. And I said, well, that’s great. I’m hearing all these things in my head. And he said, but there’s more. And I said, well, what is it? And he said, well, as your chief guardian angel, I’m on this committee. And he knew I understood the committee structure in education when I was a professor because I oversaw doctoral candidates going through their PhD programs. Anyway, he said, um, I’m on this committee, and there are other teachers and guides and mentors on the committee. Some of them you know already, but some of them you’re going to meet. And we’ve been put in charge of this, and we’ve got one year to work with you. From the time my cancer was diagnosed, which was last December until this December, and at the end of that year, you’re going to know what your life purpose is. And I said, great. Can you give me a hint about that? I’m not sure, but you’ll figure it out, and I kid you not by the end of the year, I knew that I was supposed to write a book for widows. I didn’t know how I was going to write it, but I knew I was going to write a book and that I was supposed to be working with widows. So some people say that’s a little strange, but that’s the way it happened.

Jonathan DeYoe: When you first started talking about it, and I know you mean it literally, and it felt a little strange, but I’ve had so many people tell me, uh, I lost my brother about a year ago, and I’ve had so many people tell me, have you talked to him yet? Have you opened up a conversation with him? And I’ve maybe a couple of times thought about it and kind of tried and sort of asked a question and just sat quietly, and I don’t get a response, but they say, hey, keep trying. It comes, like, that memory, that latency, it comes, and just keep trying. So it’s a beautiful inspiration. I love that story. I didn’t get that from the book, so it’s cool.

Kathleen M. Rehl: If you want, you might try writing him a letter.

Jonathan DeYoe: There you go. I will, actually, that’s a good idea. So how did real financials change after Tom died?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, he was a big part of the business because he was retired already, and he loved. Oh, he loved when people would call. Those were back in the days people called rather than sent email to inquire about your business. They called. He was right there on the phone, and he would talk to him and explain what it was that we did, and he would handle that. There was some preliminary work that was done before they would come into the office. So by the time they were ready for that first meeting to come in with me, they pretty well were just ready to sign on. So he loved that. I did a lot of workshops where I would go and speak in congregations about financial planning and about legacy planning. He liked lining those up, and he would talk with the pastors, and they would relive days of when they were both in the pulpit or whatever. They liked it, but talk about. So he was my main marketer, and I didn’t know if he was gone, if I was going to be able to continue the business without him. But my assistant stepped up, and she took on some more responsibilities, and we kept going. I pulled back for a little bit, and all of my existing clients were very, very understanding. Take as long as you want. But I found that I didn’t step back very long because work was what made sense to me, and my office was in my home I had a very homey practice, and it was a home that we had designed specifically for the. Really. I had a home in my business, is what it was. But you’d walk in the front door, and the back wall was all glass, and it overlooked this beautiful, calm lake. And it was a very soothing environment. Money is problematic for a lot of people to deal with, so we had. Very soothing. So I think I’ve lost the direction I was going out in that beautiful. I was talking about my assistant. Oh, she stepped up. In fact, I sponsored her to go through the paraplanning program that the board of CFP has. I even encouraged her later to become a financial advisor and then to join me in that. But she said no. She said, I can’t do it, Kathleen. She said, I would feel terrible because I can’t pass the test. So she just was a great paraplanner, and she did a lot of things, and we kept the business small. The most I ever had at any point was about 75 clients. And then I pulled it back to maybe it was around 55 or so clients, and I would only accept one new client a month. And I always had a waiting list, and that seemed to be okay with.

Jonathan DeYoe: Did you. You said you stepped away for a, like, did you take a month off after Tom died or, like, three months or. How did that work?

Kathleen M. Rehl: No, it probably wasn’t even a month. It was because there were a few people that I kept seeing. But when I was in the office doing the financial planning work, like I said, that all made sense. It was after the clients left. My assistant was gone at the end of the day, when I had that empty big house to myself, and it would all come crash. In the reality, he’s really gone. He’s not coming back, because there was a while right after he died that, uh, sounds crazy, but I would hear a sound, and I would expect to have him walk through that front door.

Jonathan DeYoe: Not crazy at all. I think that’s very normal. Did you do any work with widows prior, and did that work with them and sort of preparing them and helping them through the process? Did that prepare you in any way, or was it just. The shock was just totally fresh and new and nothing could prepare you?

Kathleen M. Rehl: I had done. I had several clients who became widows during the time that they were working with me. In fact, there was one couple that when they came, the husband said, the main reason that I want to work with you is because my wife refuses to talk with me about money, and someday I’m going to die, and she won’t have a clue. And so I want her to learn about it while we’re together. And then when I’m gone, she’ll be set. And that’s exactly what happened, because I worked with that couple for about ten years, but five, six years in, he developed Alzheimer’s and just slowly began fading away. But she, by that time, understood everything, and so she was good to go. So it was a situation where they were a couple, and then one of them died, so it was just a widow left. But I wasn’t out specifically looking to work with widows until after Tom died.

Jonathan DeYoe: Do you think that experience with her and maybe with others prepared you for when Tom died?

Kathleen M. Rehl: We always knew that probably I would outlive Tom because he was 15 years older than me, but we didn’t expect it would be that soon. Like, he was 72 when he died. I said 15 years. It wasn’t quite 15 years. It was more like about 13 years, because I had just turned 60, celebrated my 60th birthday with him getting a chemo infusion. How about that?

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Fun.

Kathleen M. Rehl: So we knew he was going to die first, but, uh, it was like, it’s going to be a long time from now because we were planning things that we were going to be doing in a year or two. After his cancer came on so fast. It was diagnosed in December, 1 week in December, and he was gone two days before Valentine’s day.

Jonathan DeYoe: Oh, wow. How much do you think that that matters in the process of grieving and recovery after a death? As you know, my brother died when he was 45, and my sister in law, she’s going through her first year right without him. Can you explain how the experience of becoming a widow changes? Whether it’s a surprise or whether they’ve had time to prepare, or whether it’s at 80 or at 60 or at 40, some of those things. How does that affect the experience of becoming a widow?

Kathleen M. Rehl: And I’ll preface what I say by emphasizing that every situation is unique, of course. And just because it happened like this for me or this for another widow doesn’t mean it’s going to fit this widowed person over here. But generally, if it was an anticipated death versus an unanticipated death, uh, for many folks out there, if it’s an anticipated death, uh, they will start doing some of the things in advance that they need to do planning for this time. Whereas if it’s just like it’s an automobile accident. Bam. Especially with younger widows and he’s gone, they haven’t had time to put a lot of those things in place. So that’s a big one. A huge when. So Tom’s was not anticipated until two months out. It was anticipated then. At that point, the doctor said, there’s no possibility that he is going to make it out of this. And I said, what? Give him. He died of liver cancer. I said, can I give him part of my liver? And he just looked at me and he said, no, because then you die. Um, so you can’t do that. So we had that two months, and we used that time to get odds and ends done that we needed to, but it was still. It was like some mornings I wake up beside him in bed and it wasn’t really real. It wasn’t going to happen. That was just a dream last night. It’s not going to happen.

Jonathan DeYoe: I think they call that denial, right?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Yeah.

Jonathan DeYoe: I think that the statistics are kind of staggering. Like, there’s so many people that go through this and it changes lives a great deal. Can you give us just a sense of the numbers?

Kathleen M. Rehl: I think right now it’s around. I haven’t looked at the census bureau numbers recently, but it’s around 13 million widows. When you put in widowers, males, it gets to about 15 million. There are more women than men because we outlive the guys. For a while, I was looking at the statistics, and it’s interesting. I would have actually expected now there to be more than 13 million. But what is happening? You’ve heard of this gray divorce phenomenon where mature women are divorcing, um, a lot more than several decades ago. So some of those women who might have been really widows now, are divorcees now because a few years ago, they dumped Harry. They said, I’m not going to sit around with this couch potato for the rest of. Since he’s retired, I can’t deal with him. So they went through divorce. So they’re in that category. And also the statistics, when they say 13 million, there could have been. I don’t think I would be included in that statistic now because I did remarry three years ago. I married again. So I’m officially no longer a widow. I have gone through the widowed experience, but on the census table, I’m not a widow anymore.

Jonathan DeYoe: Right.

Kathleen M. Rehl: So not sure exactly how that counts, but it’s about 13 million right now. Another interesting one is that if you look at men and women, I know that’s a binary, but look at men and women, 80% of all women, when they die, are going to be alone, not married. 80% of all men die married. And if you look at the average age, it’s like 59 and a half that a woman becomes a widow. For me, I was almost right there because I had just turned 60 when I was widowed.

Jonathan DeYoe: And if we look at all surprises, me. M 59 and a half?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Yes.

Jonathan DeYoe: Wow.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Because, uh, you average out. You’ve got the older women like me, but then you’ve got younger women who.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, like my sister.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Suicides. Suicides is a big one right now. And, in fact, uh, if we looked at the COVID situation, a lot more men than women died of COVID And there are some interesting hypotheses about that. I haven’t really seen a research study, but some of them have to do with testosterone and what that does to the body. But more men died of COVID than women did. So that 59 and a half, that figure is a few years old. I don’t know if we bring in the COVID numbers, how that would change at this point.

Jonathan DeYoe: So just sort of a side point here. I’ve been in the financial world for 25 years. I’ve noticed myself that there’s a lot more couples that are working jointly on their finances than there were before. It’s still very generational, though. So if you work with the greatest generation or a boomer generation, very often men make all the financial decisions. I mean, women might pay the bills, but men make the investment decisions and all those kind of things. How important is it for both partners to play the role managing the family finances?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Extremely. And, uh, like you, when I had my practice, which I did for 18 years, but I closed that out several years ago, my clients were my age and older. It was a good fit to work, and that’s the way it was for most of them. However, because I had a lot of clergy couples, oftentimes in that situation, it was the wife who knew more about the money than her clergy. And that was the age when only men could be pastors in the lutheran faith. Now, uh, both men and women can. So the pastor, the guy becoming in like the Lord is going to provide, everything is going to be okay for us. We’re going to be just fine. And the wife would say, no, Fred, if we’re going to get our ducks, in order for retirement, we got to work with a financial planner. God’s given us a good planner to work with, and we have to get straight about this stuff. But it was the women in those couples who were generally more aware of the importance of paying attention to this. I think with the younger generations today and women in the workforce, and they’ve got their 401 ks, and they are more knowledgeable about it than women who are my age, 70, 75.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I think that’s one of the positive changes that’s happening. We still need to sort of bring the income levels up, because I think that when a boomer generation, when a man dies, the pension gets reduced, the Social Security gets reduced, a lot of the income changes. And so when somebody loses a spouse and becomes a widow, are there any general surprises that hit them that you can speak to? Financial surprises?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Financial. You mentioned the pensions. I’ve seen that situation where they weren’t aware that when the husband set up the pension, he opted for the maximum payment for life. That was going to be as long as he was alive. But when he died, there wasn’t anything left for her. That was a big shocker. Insurance, not changing beneficiaries on insurance or retirement accounts or where it passes, not under the control of the will or the trust, but how it was set up as a beneficiary and one gal. There were four life insurance policies on, um, her husband’s life. And so we started the process of collecting that money, and everything came through fine, except the fourth one. And, uh, found out that this was a place where he’d worked before and wasn’t working there now. But the policy still continued. He never got around to changing the beneficiary on that, and it was his ex wife who wound up getting the money, and the wife just felt awful about that. And the ex wife, we approached her and said this was just an oversight, and it really probably wanted that. In other words, we think he wanted to give it to his wife. And she said, no, I think you give it to me. And she wondered, my client wondered, did he really not make a mistake? Did he just leave it there on purpose for that ex wife? So that was very emotional for her, as well as financially difficult.

Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, so maybe just getting in some nitty gritty here. You lose a spouse. What’s the first financial advice you give to a widow after she loses her spouse?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Go slow. Don’t need to make any big decisions right away. There was one situation where she had received, uh, the life insurance money, and the agent talked her into buying a financial product that she didn’t understand what it was or what it was. It was an annuity with the proceeds from that saying that her husband would have really liked her to do this, he was sure. So without understanding what she was doing, she bought this product, which we don’t need to go into all the reasons why it was wrong for her, but she hadn’t really figured out what her new life was going to look like, what her expenses were going to be, and made the wrong decision. Or a relative or a friend will have an idea of what she should do with this insurance money, where she should invest it right away without thinking about. So if she’s got those monies coming in, I would suggest that she set them aside, put them in a money market account, short term CD, and just leave it there until she really made decisions. And then to be careful of these financial charlatans, and they are out there. I can remember going to, when I was new in the profession, to a networking meeting where there were financial people attending a table next to me. The guy saying, yes, I have my secretary a long time ago because we called him secretaries then go through the abits every morning, and we cold call because a lot of these women are not comfortable, familiar with working with money. And so he said, we don’t get them all, but we pick up quite a few clients that way. So there are people that prey on widows, for sure.

Jonathan DeYoe: Be careful about widows and the elderly. And you get a combo package when you have an elderly woman who is a widow, that becomes a target for a lot of financial, like you say, charlatans.

Kathleen M. Rehl: The fellow came to her door and she chatted with him, and, oh, he was such a nice young man. And she wound up buying a product. And she just loved this guy because every Valentine’s Day, he sent her a dozen red roses. He could send her dozens and dozens of roses with all the commissions that.

Jonathan DeYoe: He made off of. Let’s play it through somebody. Maybe it’s the product, or maybe it’s, what are the biggest mistakes that a widow makes that first year?

Kathleen M. Rehl: One of them, um, which I may have even put in the book, I’ve forgotten if I did or not, is paying off the mortgage on the house because they say, well, I have to write this big check every month to pay the mortgage, and I just want to have it paid off. So they’ll use some of the insurance money or other money that’s available and pay the mortgage off. So then she doesn’t have that. But then she’s got all of her money tied up in that mortgage, and so she’s house rich and cash poor for some of them. They say, well, it’s too big of an expense. And I would say, well, just put this money in an account and pay the mortgage out of that account for right now, but don’t pay the mortgage off or with the house, they might move right away. I can’t stand it. I walk into that living room and there’s that big blue chair where Bob used to fall asleep in every night. And I know he’s not going to be there, and I can’t stay here, so I’m going to move. And it might be at the invitation of a, uh, relative, a son or daughter. Oh, come and live with me, mom. And had one gal, had an invitation from her son to move to Texas. She lived in Florida. Her church was in Florida. Her medical folks were in Florida. Her lady friends were in Florida. All her life was in Florida. Had been there for a long time. Okay. Husband died, son wanted her to move to Texas. And she didn’t really get along so well with the daughter in law. So I’d ask about that. And she said, well, my son, they’ve talked and it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be all right. But in asking her, well, what about your medical providers? And she had a condition that she did need to see regular medical attention. Well, she didn’t know, but she hoped to find somebody. And what about your church? This was a funny one. Well, no, everybody there is Baptists, and I don’t think I’ll find a lutheran church there, but they all believe in the Lord, so it’ll be just fine. So anyway, justifying why we should go. But then the more we talked, she said, all right, I’ll wait for a while. Well, it was a good thing she waited because six months after that invitation from the son, he got transferred up to, he was in technology up to Silicon Valley, so he moved again. So she would have, had she gone. And I don’t know if she would have gotten along with the daughter in law or not, but she would have moved to Texas and then had to move to California again. So she would be most likely suffering grief, death of a spouse and grief, the loss of her home that she lived in forever and all of her friends and all of her connections. Um, now, at some point it may be a good decision, but not immediately, right away to make.

Jonathan DeYoe: I know that after my brother died, my sister in law, she was surrounded by locally, there’s like six or seven friends that they went to high school, college together, or they were just close family friends with the family. And I don’t think a week has gone by in the last year when one of them hasn’t reached out, say, hey, let’s go to lunch, let’s do this, let’s do that. And she’s very busy with these friends, which I think is amazing, and probably that’s wonderful.

Kathleen M. Rehl: They’re reaching out to her, saying, let’s go to lunch, or, I’ll do this with you. Sometimes people say, what can I do? How can I help? And she’s in that fog, that funny state initially of, um, she doesn’t know what she needs. So they’re saying, come have lunch with me, or I noticed that the mail is piling up on the kitchen table. I’d be willing to sit down and sort through that. Or when she’s ready to sort through the closets, I’ll help you to take things out, and we can take them to the local charity thrift shop. That’s wonderful. That’s where I got a lot of comfort. I had one lady friend who had lost her husband two years before, and I had assisted her with financial stuff, but she started coming that first week. She came over several times in the evening, and she brought her crocheting with her. And there were some evenings that she’d just sit crocheting, and I’d just sit going through the sympathy cards. But she was there. She was a presence with me. So those girlfriends are wonderful help. And there are widows groups around the country. There’s soaring spirits international and modern widows club that have different chapters in different locations where they meet m monthly. They do social activities together, and they support one another.

Jonathan DeYoe: I think that’d be, like, a piece of advice that we could offer people that are surrounding the people that lose a spouse. Right. Is reach out and don’t ask, like, what can I do for you? Just show up and say, hey, can I do this for you? Let’s do this. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s go to lunch and just take the lead because, as you mentioned, the.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Brain fog and you reaching out to your sister in law. And how are things going? Uh, I had my stepson. And this continued for several months. Every morning he would call me and say, how you doing, Kathleen? And sometimes it was just a little 1 minute conversation. Sometimes it went further, but he checked on with every morning.

Jonathan DeYoe: And those are the stories we end up telling. I know that know. And this isn’t widowhood, but I had a friend. My brother was my best friend. Like, I’d known him for longer than anyone else. And I have a friend who sent me. She walks her dog every day. So she would walk around and take a photo of a heart, and she’d just text me a photo of a heart for every day for three months. And it’s a year later, and I got a text with a heart photo yesterday. It just keeps coming, and it never stops, and it’s really amazing. These kind of people are rare. I think it’s just beautiful when you see it, and it’s so helpful. I mean, it soothes the heart.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Great example. Yes.

Jonathan DeYoe: So there’s a ton of financial noise out there, right? The core goal of the mindful money podcast, or of mindful money, is to help people focus on the decisions that are actually helpful and sort of ignore some of those ones that maybe affect how you feel about things, but don’t affect outcomes. So what are the action steps that you should take and what you shouldn’t take? What are some of the things that a recent widow, she should go slow, but what are the things that she should focus on?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, if there are insurance benefits to be collected, she’s going to want to collect those and bring them in. Finding out where the money is in different places, and it may be in one widow. When she came to work with me, it was like, close to 30 different institutions that the husband had put the money. I guess that was his idea of how you diversify, put them in different institutions. And it took us months just to track down where all that stuff was. And so locating that, finding out, uh, if the estate has to be settled, if they had done everything in advance, like with my late husband and I, there was no estate to probate because we had everything lined up in joint name or directed beneficiary. So there was no need to probate. But that’s generally not the case. A majority of the widows are going to be a piece of something or other. So there’ll be the estate settlement that has to be done, coming up with some kind of a, uh, cash flow analysis. I don’t like to call it a budget, but a cash flow of what’s the sources of money coming in? What are the sources of money going out? And that was a surprise, which seems strange, but they were surprised that their husband’s Social Security check wasn’t going to be coming in anymore. He’s dead, but. Well, his pension is still coming, even though he’s dead, so I guess Social Security. No, it doesn’t. And to figure out how, it depended on a lot of factors. Her age, how long she’d been married. But the claiming status on Social Security, whether to take it earlier or depended on if her husband had taken his earlier, if he was at the full retirement age. As you know, it’s complex to make that kind of a decision.

Jonathan DeYoe: Of the survivor benefit. On the flip side, though, and this is something that people should be aware of, if somebody dies younger, there are Social Security benefits that you can actually get. You can begin getting benefits for kids and benefits for a spouse who has passed, which is actually. That’s a lifesaver in my brother’s scenario. Huge.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Yes. And especially with the age of the kids. Yes. So figuring those kinds of things out, but not necessarily moving the money around with the investments, just find out where it is. And then in, uh, the next stage, I’ve got this chart that’s on my website, like the three stages of widowhood. And the first one is that big grief stage, and that’s you’re doing these kinds of things. And then when you get to that middle stage, that growth stage, then you’re ready to really look at where the investments are and if they were appropriate. Some of them might have been very appropriate for them as a couple, but a widow, it’s not the right place for it to be. And then you start moving some money as needed.

Jonathan DeYoe: When do you think that happens? Is that a year, or is it an experiential timeline?

Kathleen M. Rehl: That one year, that was a guideline that I generally use, take a year to get things sorted out. I had some widows that were ready. Two ladies became widowed within just a. They were clients of mine within just a few months of each other. One was late 80s. They had always said he was kind of living on borrowed time. He had oxygen that he was on all the time, and he died quietly in his sleep one night. That was an anticipated death, but she was ready to move on, to make the changes, like in about six, seven months. Another widow who was, uh, in her early 60s when she was widowed, and it took her a full year of grieving. And, in fact, we would work with that three stages of widowhood with the widowed clients and where they would identify where they thought they were at that point. And she was the one that said to me, you know, I think I’m ready to move into that third stage right now.

Jonathan DeYoe: Kathleen, can you talk a little bit about the resources you have on your website?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Oh, let’s see. Everything is free. People say, oh, you’re just giving away everything. I have to remember what’s up there. There is the three stages of widowhood. There are three ebooklets. One of them is about steps for recent widows, and that’s actually a section of the book. We took that out and made that into a smaller booklet. And then there is legacy life planning that deals with sharing your stories. Your hopes, your dreams, your loves, your aspirations for the next generation. There’s one of the ways you can do that. That’s a booklet that’s there, and then there’s one on communication, like what to say and not to say when you’re working with a widowed. And that’s probably. It could be appropriate for friends of widowed folks or professionals who are working with widows. And a, uh, couple of other things that are up there, too.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, definitely. I’d recommend people go and check it out and download what’s necessary and actually buy the book. I want to go back. So we asked the question about what are some of the things that a recent widow should really focus on? Are there other things that they might worry about that they really should just ignore, let go of, or postpone?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, in my particular situation, it’s not really pick the right investment, but be careful about people who are looking to take advantage, who might be potential spouses, daters, things like that. Uh, when I re entered the dating game, a, uh, very wise widow said to me, who was a client of mine, Kathleen, be careful. You don’t want to get together with somebody who is looking for you to be their purse or their nurse or, God forbid, their mother. And when I reentered the dating game, I met all three and were all three in one package together. I didn’t understand how dating worked. I’ve been out of that game for a long time. And when I went online dating, I was shocked to learn that many people lied about their profiles and they used wrong pictures, and it wasn’t who they really said they were. And several people thought, okay, she’s a financial planner, she’s got money. Wow, be careful about that. In fact, one of the research studies that my research team and I did, and we’ve got another study that’s coming out. It’s supposed to be out this month, and I keep checking. It’s a journal of financial services professionals, and they’ve still got the may issue up, but it’s supposed to be out this month. One of the studies was dealing with mature widows who repartnered and married or just were together. And there are a lot of us, uh, mature widows and widowers who choose not to get married. And that was me for Charlie and I have been together eleven years. I’m just married three years. I said initially, not going to get married, never again. Most people thought we were married because we just functioned as a couple. But three years ago, I decided, yeah, I think it’d be okay to get married. Got married. But we did this study and came up with all the stories that the widows told about the guys that they were dating and problems, but then the ones that did remarry. And there was an article that was published in the National association of Personal Financial Advisors about three years ago, ten questions to ask your widowed clients who repartner. And that came out of the study with the suggestions, things like, have you and your new partner discussed money issues yet? Who pays for what? Will you have a joint credit card or checking account with shared expenses? Where will you live together or separately? And this was amazing to me. There are a number of married people who are married, but they live separately. And one of the widows, no, no, we could never make it in the same house. He listens to Beethoven and Bach and Shakowski, and I’m more of a Frank Sinatra kind of a. He’s just. He’s messy. But she said, we love traveling together. We love cruising together. And so it went on. And there was a list of helpful things that you should talk about before remarrying at a mature age.

Jonathan DeYoe: That advice, don’t marry your date. Marry your purse, your nurse, your mom. That’s probably good advice for teenage girls and for 20 year old girls, men. It’s probably good advice for everybody.

Kathleen M. Rehl: And a lot of it that I’m talking about, uh, applies to men, too. And people have said, well, are there any difference between widowers and widows? A lot of it is the same, the grief. But men tend, when they’re widowed, mature men tend to think they should suck it up and just go forward. And, yeah, that’s behind me now. And my current husband was widowed also. And I asked him about his experience, and I said, did you get together with your guy friends and talk about your late wife? And he said, heck no. He said, we get together and have a beer and watch a game on tv or go build something. Get a tool and build something. But he didn’t really talk about those experiences where women are going to be with their lady friends and open up more. And, in fact, soaring spirits International, which I mentioned, they originally started out just as a women’s group, but several years back, they added widowers. So they’re very much guys and gals and everything in between.

Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, I think there’s an enormous cultural shift. I think you see this in women going to work while men stay at home with the kids. You see this in the gray divorce. You see this in. There’s so many elements of our culture that shifting, and I think men are more able to talk about their feelings. And actually the impetus for this podcast was my brother and I were going down one path, and then when he died, I lost his ability to go down. He was going to provide a scale of reach because he’s a technogenius and all this kind of stuff, and I’m not.

Kathleen M. Rehl: And I have a message about that on your site. And I thought, oh my gosh, that impacted you all kinds of ways.

Jonathan DeYoe: Oh, yeah. I think about it literally every single day for the last year. But this is cathartic for me. Like, doing this, doing this podcast is a way I’m processing and offering that message to more people that we were going to offer together. And so I really appreciate you coming on, because I didn’t know that I would find someone like you to actually have this conversation on this podcast. And so it’s meaningful to me and I really appreciate it that the more.

Kathleen M. Rehl: That we give, the more that we get back. For sure, you’re doing this to help others, but I’m pleased that you say it’s helping you too.

Jonathan DeYoe: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, great conversations and people like yourself who come on and we get to talk about this and it’s great. Just a couple of things I like to ask folks that are sort of not related to the topic of the, um, two. Yeah, well, there’s lots, but we’re running out of time. So what was the last thing you changed your mind about? Oh, that’s a hard one.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, I think in terms of there are little changes. Like this morning, Charlie went off to go get groceries and he said, uh, what do you want to make for dinner tonight? And I said, well, I was going to make an, um, omelet, but I really would like to make grilled salmon. So how about let’s change this salmon down. So that’s a little thing or a little thing like, I’m in a poetry class and I was going to write a poem about growing up in this four generation household. And then I switched and decided to write a poem about playing, and it had to be a sonnet. I’ve never written a sonnet before, but I wrote a sonnet. So that’s a little thing, but a big thing that I’ve been thinking about for a while. And I have decided, and you may find this shocking, Jonathan. I will be up for renewal next January on my CFP, which I’ve held this for 25, 25 years. I’m not going to renew. Huh? I’m not going to renew it. And since I retired, I gave up all my licenses and everything, but I still did the encore career, and I wanted to have it. I thought, well, it’d be nice to still have it, but I decided I don’t really need it, and so I’m going to not renew that. I’m going to save hundreds of dollars.

Jonathan DeYoe: You’ve heard it here, folks. She’s stepping away from the CFP, and.

Kathleen M. Rehl: It’D probably be a good thing to. I admire you folks that are still in the saddle doing all this work. There’s no way that I could do that anymore.

Jonathan DeYoe: I love it. I love working directly with people. I also love doing podcasts and writing. So I’m kind of in the middle of, ah, that transition myself.

Kathleen M. Rehl: The writing and the legacy work and the charitable stuff that I’m doing now, which I don’t need that certification for.

Jonathan DeYoe: Right. M that actually stimulates another question I have after this question. So I’m, like, stacking it up behind now, is there anything that people don’t know about you or maybe that they don’t remember about you that’s really important to you, that they do remember or do know?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Well, yes, I’ll review. This is going to be a surprise for several people, and it was just published today. I wrote an article about it, and the title of the article is Jane Fonda. And I agree. And it’s a, uh, countercultural kind of a thing. And I put it out, and I thought people were going to want to know this or not. Uh, but I put it out there, and when they read it, they’ll say, oh, okay.

Jonathan DeYoe: Do you want to give us a hint?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Yes, I will. I stopped drinking totally six months ago, and I was drinking during COVID I started drinking a glass of wine before dinner and then a glass of wine with dinner, and I decided I did not want to continue doing that. And it was better for me just to say, no, I’m not going to drink wine anymore.

Jonathan DeYoe: Is Charlie joining you on?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Only once in a while. He’ll drink a light beer after working out in the yard. And so my drink of choice now is kombucha.

Jonathan DeYoe: Oh, delicious, healthy kombucha.

Kathleen M. Rehl: I want to live. And with all the research that’s coming out as a mature individual, I’m processing alcohol differently in my system than I was when I was in my lancelot. Came out with a major study just a year or so ago and really said that for mature individuals, specifically women, too, that, um, no level of alcohol is really safe. I had been under the ten glasses. A week or less is fine, and I’d done that for a number of years. But then Covid came. I was drinking like 14 a week. I’m going to stop.

Jonathan DeYoe: So many people started drinking more with COVID and I know that the liquor store that I visit, they said Covid hit. They were like, they got so busy, it was crazy. They shut her down for a week, and then it was like, oh, my God, it blew out. It was amazing for them. Not good for everyone doing the drinking, probably. And I’m just as guilty.

Kathleen M. Rehl: I was visiting my grandson, and he said, grandma, why are your eyes red? It was after I’d had a couple of glasses of wine with his parents the night before. And, no, this is it. I want a lot more tomorrows with my grandson and my friends without red eyes.

Jonathan DeYoe: Right. Can you just really quick give us an insight into what you’re up to now? Is it refired or refired?

Kathleen M. Rehl: Call it refirement with a capital. It’s not retirement, it’s refirement. And for me, the f’s are family, uh, friends, fitness, body, mind, and spirit, focus, purpose, and what’s the other? I have to look up here. Oh, fun.

Jonathan DeYoe: Don’t forget that one.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Yeah. And I purposely look for activities that are focused on that. But within the charitable work, um, I call myself an ambassador. I’ve helped a number of charities to set up their endowment funds and then to promote planned giving, and that’s going very, very well. I’ve got another wildlife group that has asked for my assistance, and it’s pro bono, and so I like putting those in place. I’m working on a, uh, workshop. I just got the attorney lined up, and I’m calling it. I got to show you the graphic.

Jonathan DeYoe: Before you kick the bucket.

Kathleen M. Rehl: And we’re going to do some of the practical stuff, the legal docs, the trust, the wills, um, durable power of attorney. But then I will also talk about writing legacy letters and legacy stories and sharing those aspects. So there’ll be an attorney and there’ll be me. And I’m thinking I pitch this when I write articles for. And I write for a lot of different publications, I always pitch it first to see if they’re interested. And I pitch this for one, what to do before you kick the bucket? And she said, oh, I love it. How fast can you get it to me? So I will wind up having an ebooklet along. We’ll use it in this workshop. And there’s another nonprofit that I just mentioned that she said, oh, can you come and do it for us, too?

Jonathan DeYoe: Wow, sounds like you’ve bookended it. Like, you started off transitioning from helping nonprofits raise money, and now you’re closing with helping nonprofits raise money. I apologize. You’re not closing. It’s just this current chapter.

Kathleen M. Rehl: Some people have said you’re returning like you were a professor years ago, and now you’re back doing a lot more teaching. And it’s like, I think it’s helpful as we go forward, new directions that we build on, um, or for me, it has been build on, um, what I had before and move forward. Uh, every morning I wake up, it’s like, oh, m boy, another day. And what am I working on today?

Jonathan DeYoe: So if a nonprofit or somebody out here hears this and says, I’d really like to connect with you, how do they do that?

Kathleen M. Rehl: They can go to my website, which is just my name, kathleenreal rehl.com. And then, uh, if you want to chat further, there’s a contact click on that. And then you fill out your name and your email address, and we go from there.

Jonathan DeYoe: And the fact that we’re talking is evidence that you respond. So I thank you for coming on, and I appreciate your time.

Kathleen M. Rehl: And I don’t do everything that people ask me for, but I have fun picking out things like you, Jonathan.

Jonathan DeYoe: Um, thank you very much. Kathleen. Thank you very much.

Kathleen M. Rehl: This has been fun. That’s one of my right, so, yeah, it is fun.

Jonathan DeYoe: It’s fun. It’s not always light, but it’s fun. M all right.

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