Financial Planning Tips for Single Parents
May 30, 2023
Nowadays, it’s pretty difficult to define what a “traditional” family unit looks like – they literally come in all shapes and sizes. For decades, the number of single-parent households in the U.S. has been rising according to the United States Census Bureau. In fact, children living with a mother only is the second most common U.S. living arrangement, a number that has doubled since 1968.
Economic well-being for these households can often be challenging, since the family’s needs fall on the shoulders of only one person. Often, single parents may feel overwhelmed when it comes to paying expenses and managing debt. Even though budgets may feel stretched, financial planning can help single parents more effectively manage their many responsibilities (raising children, handling money, building financial security, and much more).
Here are some things that single parents must diligently address if they hope to achieve financial security:
1. Create and follow a family budget
A budget is an essential tool to understand where your money is going. Determine your monthly income and expenses (on paper, in a spreadsheet, or with a financial app) by subtracting your total expenses from your income. Be sure to include:
- Living expenses - house payment or rent, utilities, food, auto expenses
- Daycare expenses
- Insurance - life, health, auto, property, or renter's insurance
- Debt - monthly payments of credit cards, auto or student loans, and mortgage loans
- Discretionary spending - entertainment, clothing replacement (children do grow!), activity fees, memberships
2. Look for extra money
Once you have a budget, determine if you have extra money left over at the end of each month. If so, use it to build an emergency fund, pay down debt, or invest for your future. If you live paycheck to paycheck, now may be the time to ask for a raise or look for a new, higher-paying job.
3. Purchase life insurance
Life insurance is one way to protect your family from financial hardship if you die prematurely. To determine how much life insurance death benefit you should have, factor in the cost of caring for your children each month and their cost after you are gone each year until age 21. There are several types of life insurance to consider, such as term, guaranteed, or indexed universal. Give us a call to discuss, and we can help you find insurance that meets your unique needs and budget.
4. Understand the child tax credit
It’s important to remember that qualifications surrounding the child tax credit can change each year, making it essential to keep up with the current laws, so you know what to expect. Consult your tax professional to determine if you are eligible for this tax credit before filing your taxes.
5. Eliminate debt and control credit card use
Interest rates and fees can negatively impact your finances, especially if you're working toward a secure financial future. High-interest rates cost you more, so work toward paying higher interest rate debts first, negotiating a lower interest rate, refinance, or finding a new lender to consolidate debt at a lower interest rate and transfer balances. Using a tool like Credit Score Journey can help you understand the factors that impact your score and work toward your financial goals.
6. Save for retirement
Saving for retirement through participation in your employer's retirement savings plan is essential. Ensure you are saving enough to receive your employer's match, and automatically increase your contributions each year by adding auto-escalation. You may want to consider contributing to a Roth IRA with after-tax dollars and work towards maximizing your contributions.
7. Build essential legal documents
Generally, a will determines who will care for your children if you die, an estate plan details how your assets will be distributed to beneficiaries, and a power of attorney document gives someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf while you are still living. Work with a legal professional to determine which legal documents are necessary for your situation to help ensure your children are cared for in the manner you prefer.
Being a single parent can be rewarding and challenging, especially when managing finances independently. By building financial security for yourself and your family, you can more easily address financial shortfalls and plan for a more comfortable future.
Contact a financial advisor near you if you have questions or would like to review your situation. As always, we’re here as your trusted resource.
Courtesy of Fresh Finance. The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Advisor Group to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2023 Advisor Group.