Dealing With Finances After a Tragedy

ByABC News
November 21, 2001, 1:24 PM

Nov. 27 -- The tragic events of Sept. 11 may have happened almost three months ago, but many people affected by the attacks are still having to deal with the unfortunate task of managing their finances.

Financial planners say those who have lost loved ones in the attacks are just starting to look at what to do about their financial situation. Though relatives of the victims are starting to receive government and insurance benefits, how to use these funds, as well as what to do with existing investments and retirement accounts, is yet another looming responsibility that many have to face.

"People are having a hard time focusing on the issues," says Gary Schatsky, Chairman Emeritus of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, known as NAPFA. "You're kind of scattered in your approach even if two months have gone by."

Indeed, the maze of paperwork and bureaucracy one has to deal with after a loved one has died is tough enough on its own, let alone dealing with emotional trauma and your financial future. While the potential issues are too numerous to mention in one story, here are a few of the many steps people can take to get a grip on their finances during tough times.

Take It Slow

Ironically, many planners say the best course of action is no action at all when it comes to investments or retirement funds.

"Many people try to move very quickly into dealing with financial issues, because they're afraid and because it distracts them from the emotional issues," says Diahann Lassus, financial planner at Lassus Wherley & Associates, a financial planning firm in New Providence, NJ. "In most cases it's the worst possible thing for them to do."

Lassus says the first thing to do is to make sure you have enough cash to get through the next four to six months, or at least enough time to work through emotional issues and stress. This process can even take up to a year, she adds. The important thing is not to make financial decisions while under duress, which can compound financial problems later.