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Don't overlook little household finances when spouse dies

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 11:54 a.m. MST

Marge Youngs adjusts the flame on her stove at her home in Toledo, Ohio. A Wall Street Journal blog tells widows the importance of knowing how to do simple household things.

Carlos Osorio, AP

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For those who lose a spouse, financial knowledge extends beyond the bank accounts and investments. Those are important, but included in the checklist should be household stuff, according to a blog on the Wall Street Journal.

“When I say, ‘You should know where the circuit breaker is,’ people look at me kind of strangely,” said Jennifer Cagle, a financial planner in Irvine, Calif. “It’s difficult to mention these little things, because they seem kind of trivial. But if you have to go next door and get your neighbor’s husband to find the circuit breaker, that’s a low point as a woman."

Other household items include knowing how to turn off the water and understanding bills. Going through bills can be hard, especially when a spouse first passes away.

Karen Altfest, a New York financial planner who works specifically with widows, suggested inviting friends who generally go to lunch or activities together to come eat at your home instead and keep you company as you go through bills.

“You can say, ‘I appreciate your bringing me a cake, or going to the movies, but could you come to my home going through papers because I don’t have the stomach to open the envelopes,’ ” Altfest said.

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

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