Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., CFP – Moving Forward on Your Own

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows (August 2010).

A husband’s death is possibly the most devastating event a woman will experience. She might wonder, “Am I going to be able to make it on my own?” She may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do next. Important information about money is presented in an easy-to-understand manner, along with issues of the heart, to help a widow face her changed life ahead.

This unique guidebook is presented in a beautiful format, to help heal a woman’s soul as well as gently focus on money matters. It integrates basic financial information with self-reflective exercises that encourage financial self-confidence.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a certified financial planner™ professional and owner of Rehl Financial Advisors, a fee-only financial planning firm in Land O’Lakes, Florida. I am frequently invited to talk about widows and their financial issues at events across the country, including professional conferences, women’s groups, clergy events, church organizations, etc. I also write articles for various print and on-line publications. Likewise, I have been quoted in numerous sources.

Originally from the mid-west, I moved with my husband to Florida in 1998 when he retired.

I’ve morphed several times in my professional life, beginning as a classroom teacher who then became a college professor. After earning tenure I left the ivory towers (my colleagues thought I was nuts!) to work in the non-profit sector for a dozen years. I simultaneously worked on my credentials to become a certified financial planner. After being certified, I opened my own shop in 1996 as a fee-only advisor (I don’t sell products.)

What inspired you to write this book?

My world changed forever when my husband and business partner died of cancer in 2007. Then five weeks later my widowed mother also passed. It was from my personal grief experiences that my life purpose evolved—helping other widows to be more self-confident, knowledgeable and secure about their money matters. I am passionate about empowering my widowed sisters to take control of their financial futures. My loss motivated me to publish Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows (2010).

Widows are one of the fastest growing demographic groups today:

· Of our nation’s 11.5 million widows in 2008, more than 6.1 million are age 75 and older

· The average age of widowhood is 56

· More than one quarter of women age 55 and older are widows and that number increases to almost two-thirds for women who are 75 and older

· 1.5 million women aged 55 – 64 are widowed

· If trends continue, upwards of 80% of all Baby Boomer wives (born between
1947- 1964) will become widows

· On average, only 7 out of 100 widows will remarry

· Most women are financially less well off after they are widowed

How did you choose the title?

The title needed to say what the book is about, so I started with A Financial Guidebook for Widows; however, that all by itself is rather flat. I tried perhaps two dozen alternate first lines for main title, testing them with various clients and friends. I eventually selected Moving Forward on Your Own, because of the sense of motion, of progress, that I want to help widows make.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Early on I decided to self-publish my book, because I didn’t want to loose control over how I wanted the final product to look. For example, I knew it had to be in full color, with original paintings and photography. It also had to be a book that didn’t take a couple of years to produce, as often is the case with commercially published books.

So, it was a challenge to put my team together, including my artists, project coordinator, editor, interior designer (who did the cover design and interior layout), folks to give quotes after reading the manuscript, and so much more. Lots of prayers helped guide me in the process!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I began writing stuff when I was in elementary school, including little storybooks. As a college professor, I wrote lots of articles that were published in scholarly journals. Of course, those were non-fiction writings. I enjoy the process of writing, which isn’t really easy for me. I see writing as another way to share my ideas with others.

Do you have any writing rituals?

When I’m working on a piece, I try to dedicate an hour a day to write. I also tell a special friend that I’m working on a project, and then he keeps asking me, “Kathleen, how far are you on that article? Are you about finished?”

Writing isn’t my “day job.” It’s what I do when I’m not working on financial planning activities for my clients. So, I have to fit it in and around my regular work schedule. So sometimes I double up on writing time over weekends.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

N/A. My writing is non-fiction.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

It was a good exercise in tenacity. I also learned things about myself through the writing process. For example, this was a good exercise in recognizing my own stages of grief as I wrote the chapter on grief and mourning.

It’s a very creative process—sort of like giving birth.

What is your favorite/most successful marketing effort?

I’ve had good success selling books when I’m invited to speak about widow’s financial issues and the financial guidebook, addressing professional conference sessions, community events organized by church groups, etc. Word of mouth sharing also helps greatly.

So far a lot of books have been purchased by the U.S. Army, which wasn’t even on my radar screen when I wrote the guidebook. This started with a contact I made a year before the book was printed. A financial advisor at one of the Army posts in Colorado requested a review copy of the book when he heard I was writing this. When I mailed it to him months later, upon completion, he loved it! After ordering the book for use with widows he assisted through his Survivor Outreach Services division, he personally e-mailed his colleagues across the country to let them know I would send a complimentary review copy if they also wanted to consider the book for use with widows they served. Many contacted me and several other Army posts ordered the guidebook.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

It’s all turning out the way it should.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I treat myself to a novel when I’m on vacation, but otherwise I read many professional books and articles. It’s good to read other self-help books, to see how those authors present their material.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

There’s still much more to be done with Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows (2010) – getting the book into wider circulation. I’m writing shorter articles related to the book. Interviews by U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal were helpful. I’m making presentations about the book and widowhood at many conferences and professional groups as well as speaking to widows directly through various church organizations.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Understand that the project will take more effort and time than you imagined. It will also cost you money if you self-publish. Don’t write a book primarily to make money. You’ll be birthing the book because of your passion for the project. Understand that writing the book is only half the work. You still have to market the book for it to really be successful!

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Women who are widowed or anticipate becoming a widow in the future . . . or those with widowed friends or a family member will benefit from this book’s message.

Widows in transition who are concerned about money issues will learn how to stabilize their new financial situation and avoid making big mistakes following their loss.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Go to www.KathleenRehl.com.

If you Google my name, you’ll find lots of other articles I’ve written or where I’ve been quoted.