Wealth Column: 6 financial tips for moms
May is the month to celebrate mothers.
Whether you're a single mom, stay-at-home mom, working mom or mother with grown kids, you deserve recognition—and thanks—for all you do.
Mothers today are in a much different financial position than they were in past generations. Families with male breadwinners used to be the norm. In the 1960s, only 11 percent of mothers were the sole earners.
Today, by contrast, more than 75 percent of mothers work full time. That means mothers are increasingly adding financial management to their already lengthy list of responsibilities. And, even if you aren't primarily in charge of finances, you should still know how to manage them in the event of death, disability or divorce.
So follow these tips for managing your finances more effectively.
1. Establish a Realistic Budget
Before having kids, you may have played fast and loose with your budget (if you had one at all). But kids change the equation. They bring not only joy, laughter and seemingly endless messes, but also a whole new set of financial considerations. Day care, tuition, music lessons, sports equipment—not to mention basics like diapers and clothes—it all adds up. If you haven't already, reassess your budget and revisit it regularly.
2. Build Up Your Savings
As every mother with young children knows, you have to prepare for the unexpected. That applies to finances, too. Any number of unforeseen circumstances—medical issues, job loss, divorce, even car or home repairs—could land you in deep debt unless you've squirreled away some savings.
Aim for a financial cushion to cover six to nine months of living expenses. Start small and incorporate savings into your budget.
3. Make Sure You Have Enough Insurance
When you have young children, and even when they're grown, don't skimp on life or disability insurance. Both are essential whether you're a dual-income or single-income household. Adequate coverage will give you peace of mind that, should the worst come to pass, your family will have a financial safety net.
4. Start a College Fund for Your Kids
It's never too soon to start saving. In additional to a traditional savings account there are also options such as 529 plans, Coverdell Educational Savings Account or a Uniform Gift to Minors Account. Rules on these funds vary by state, so check with a financial adviser on the specifics.
5. Save for Retirement
Most Americans don't save enough for retirement. For working mothers, the data are worse with only 12% "very confident" that they will be able to retire comfortably. Make sure you contribute at least enough to take advantage of employer matching—which is free money for your future. And even if you're a stay-at-home mom, you can still save through some types of retirement accounts, so check with a financial adviser for more information.
6. Don't Lose Sight of Your Financial Goals
In the busyness and blur of day-to-day life, it's easy to get short-sighted. You're more focused on making it through today than optimizing your financial picture decades from now. And that's understandable.
Still, it's important to think long-term, even during the chaos of life with young kids. Set financial goals that make sense for your situation, and steadily work toward them. You'll thank yourself in the long run.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.