Without the security of a spouse’s income, single parents must balance their children’s needs with their own retirement savings goals.
Single parents who have to say no to their children over and over again, struggle with wanting to say yes when money is tight and there’s no room in the budget for the latest fashions or games. However, the last thing a single parent wants to do is convey a lack of financial discipline. A financial plan can help a single parent stay on track.
CNBC’s recent article, “Five financial essentials for single parents,” says that when single parents try to satisfy their kids, it can lead to a severe unintended consequence: placing their children ahead of their own retirement needs.
In addition to naming a guardian in a will, there are five other critical financial moves.
- Set up an emergency cushion. A solid emergency fund is the initial step. You should have three to nine months' expenses in that fund. Don’t forget to add whatever costs the kids have each month, like sports and activity fees, school lunches, clothing, and school supplies.
- Check on the right amount of insurance. Life insurance can help your family cope financially without your income. Your income could be lost through illness, so consider disability insurance. If you own a home, purchase flood insurance.
- Create definitive savings goals. You most likely have things that you'd like to do for your family, such as purchase a home, pay for college or plan a special vacation. Each of these will be on a different timeline. Divide this into near-, medium-, and long-term savings goals. Your near-term goals will happen within five years. The way in which you invest these three silos of money is based upon your unique time horizon. If you have decades before you retire or need to pay tuition for a newborn, you can take on more risk. Examine your allocation among these accounts and review them once a year, to see if the amounts you're putting in each—and the investment strategies—still match your goals.
- Have a set savings percentage. There's no set number that works for everyone. There are recommendations to save at least 6% or 9% of your income, but it’s not always possible. If you can only save $30 a month, do it and be glad! Just creating a positive habit of saving is important. Even if you save as little $10 a month, do it with the notion that you'll increase the amount, when your finances permit. A good rule of thumb is to put away 10% of your gross, not take-home, pay and as you get raises, increase your savings rate. Developing that disciplined habit of saving can help you accomplish many of your financial goals.
- Make your retirement plan. With your savings and Social Security, achieving a 50% replacement of income may be enough for people with modest salaries. However, a person who earns $100,000 will be more likely to want 85 to 90% of income. Therefore, they’ll have to save more. In sum, the more you have, the more you’ll need to save to be able to spend the same amount of money and live the same way in retirement.
For those lucky enough to work at a company with a retirement plan, contribute as much as you can, especially if your employer offers a match to your IRA contribution. If your company does not have any kind of retirement savings plan in place, the next best thing is to set up your own IRA and have money taken from your paycheck automatically. How much you save is up to you, but saving something is better than nothing.
Reference: CNBC (August 20, 2018) “Five financial essentials for single parents”