According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the most stressful, life-changing event is the death of a spouse.
At 1 p.m. today at the Women’s Club house, Kathleen Rehl will return to repeat and update the empowering advice about financial and life transitions that she provided last July. Titled “Widowhood: What You Need to Know Now,” her presentation will again be part of the Chautauqua Professional Women’s Network series.
“Widows are one of the fastest growing demographics in the word today,” Rehl said. “Seventy percent of all wives can expect to experience widowhood during their lifetime. The average age that women become a widow is 59.4. One of every two women is widowed before she is 60 years old.”
According to Rehl, the majority of widowers remarry within two years.
Not so for women.
“On average, a widow may live on her own another 15 years,” she said. “Only 8 percent of widows between the ages of 55 and 64 will remarry. And after the age of 65, only 2 percent will remarry.”
Rehl said that married people and their friends often engage in “magical thinking,” failing to prepare sufficiently for a loved one’s death. This lack of preparation often includes missing access to passwords and account information, as well as out-of-date wills.
There are aspects of grief that sabotage widows, and then there are common mistakes that new widows often make, in large part because of their emotional turmoil.
A widow herself, Rehl wrote Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows in 2010 after her “best friend, lover, co-parent, business partner and husband” passed away in 2007. While Rehl had worked with widows beforehand as a financial planner, she said that when she became one herself, she walked the walk — while in a fog.
Moving Forward has won 10 national and international awards.
“It’s not Finance 101,” Rehl said. “It’s all in color, and is beautiful like a woman is. It has inspirational art and photography for healing. And analysts think the six pages of checklists are one of the most helpful parts of the book.”
Rehl became a certified financial planner nearly 20 years after she earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and began a career in teaching and development.
“I was in the top 100 list of financial advisors until I sold my business [Rehl Financial Advisors] last year and relinquished my financial license,” she said. “I can reach a lot more people and touch more lives though speaking, teaching and writing.”
Working with Widows: Understanding Grief and Emotions of Women in Transition is Rehl’s third book, developed collaboratively with and published in 2013 by the insurance company Protective Life Corporation.
Rehl has recently been doing more Webinar teaching and has created a teaching video. She is dean of women at the Purposeful Planning Institute, and an inspirational educator and speaker on the faculty of Sudden Money Institute. Rehl has established Moving Forward on Your Own, a philanthropic fund benefiting women and their families.
According to Rehl, there are 12 million widows in the United States today. Because that number is growing, she has been out every week speaking.
“I’ve given 40 speeches so far this year,” she said. “My work is very fulfilling, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do it. It is a part of my husband’s legacy, too.”