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Five Steps Single Parents Should Take to Safeguard Their Family’s Financial Future

August 25, 2021

In a two-parent household, raising children can be quite the task. Raising children as a single parent brings additional challenges, stressors, and responsibilities – many of which are financial.

Though financially stressful, it’s important to remember that it’s possible to raise a child on your own and have a stable financial life. It merely requires discipline and planning. So, if you’re a single parent and feeling a bit overwhelmed, use these steps as a guide to help you achieve financial security.

1.     Prepare Your Estate Planning Documents

It’s hard to think about, but nobody knows for sure what the future holds or how much time we have left. So, unless you feel confident in leaving your personal and financial decisions to next of kin or to state officials, it’s essential to make time to sit down with an attorney to discuss your wishes should anything unexpected happen. People tend to procrastinate when it comes to getting their estate paperwork in place, but it’s important to be proactive so you can be sure that your wishes will be followed when you’re gone, especially about who will raise your children in your absence.

Since children under the age of 18 cannot take control of inheritance money or make any legal decisions, listing them as beneficiaries won’t be enough. You’ll want to choose a guardian in your will that will determine who will take over responsibility for your kids should you be incapacitated or pass away.

SEE ALSO: Why Wealth Transfer Plans are Critical to Estate Planning

2.     Purchase Life Insurance

When it comes to life insurance, the general guideline is that if someone is dependent on your income, you should probably have life insurance. So, if you’re raising children by yourself, you’ll want the security of a life insurance policy to ensure you’re covering your family’s needs. Sitting down with a financial advisor will help determine how much insurance you’ll need in your unique situation. You should estimate how much raising your children will cost, which includes paying for college, assets you want to protect or debt you wish to pay off. You’ll also want to speak to an attorney about how you can properly name a beneficiary for your life insurance policy.

There is an abundance of options to choose from when it comes to life insurance, so be sure to do your research and talk to those who are experts in the area and who you can trust. Though it may seem superfluous or extreme, life insurance policies can be an affordable and efficient way to protect your family.

3.     Fund an Emergency Savings Account

While no one wants to live life considering every worst-case scenario, single parents must be prepared. Doing so can give you peace of mind, knowing that your children will be protected no matter what may happen. One of the best ways to be sure that you provide for your family is to have a fully-funded cash reserve on hand for emergencies – such as a worldwide pandemic, for instance. For a one-income household with children, you should aim to have at least six months’ worth of monthly bills and expenses saved.

This may seem like a lot of money, but you don’t have to save it all at once. Start small, with just a small percentage of your paycheck going away into savings each month. Slowly, you’ll see your safety net grow over time, giving you and your family added protection from unexpected expenses.

4.     Contribute to a Retirement Account

It’s natural as a parent to want to put your children’s needs and wants before your own. However, you can’t forget about taking care of yourself either, especially if it’s just you. After you’ve put the proper risk management documents and saving practices into place, it’s time to focus on saving for your retirement. Your early working years are critical to your retirement savings goals, and the longer you wait, the more money you will need to save to have a secure retirement.

SEE ALSO: Estate Plans Versus Wealth Transfer Plans

With the right planning, you can incorporate your retirement plan into your other wealth management plans. If you have access to a retirement plan at work, such as a 401(k), strive to save around 15% of your total income. Or, if money is tight, see if your employer offers to match your contributions and put in just enough to qualify for a full match. As you grow in your position and begin feeling more financially stable, you can increase your contributions. If you don’t have a 401(k) available to you at work, look into opening an IRA. Both the Roth IRA and the traditional IRA can be great retirement savings tools. To decide which one is best for you, you can listen to my interview on the Marriage, Kids, and Money podcast here.

5.     Open a 529 Account

The last step you can take to help put you and your children on solid financial footing is to begin saving for college, should your child decide they want to continue their education. A 529 account is a tax-favored education savings account that allows individuals to save for any qualified education costs that might come up in the future. The great thing about these accounts is that contributions are made on an after-tax basis. The money grows in the account tax-free, and any distributions you take out will also be tax-free when you pay for qualified educational expenses. You can choose various investments to grow the account.

Furthermore, anyone can contribute to these accounts. So, any grandparents or other family members that want to help you save for your child’s college expenses can help. Even if you don’t have enough extra cash to contribute to this account regularly, you can begin putting any money your child gets for their birthday, holidays, or other gift money into the account as they grow. Even if you don’t save enough to cover the entire cost of college, every dollar helps make footing that expensive bill easier.

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