Mothers must have a personal financial plan
Mothers have an incredible physiological uniqueness yet to be duplicated by the male species. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World published in 1932 with his predictions of test tube babies produced en masse may be closer to realisation; but for today, every child entering our world is linked by an invisible umbilical cord to their birth mother.
The adorable child comes home to the waiting arms of birth, adoptive, foster, or guardian mothers where he or she will be nurtured carefully and lovingly to eventual adulthood. Then, like kites on a tailwind, the strings are cut. Up, up and away to freedom they fly, responsible only for themselves.
We mothers are left behind, sometimes empty emotionally, certainly questioning our own future path. We've been so used to sharing, caring, supporting, making sure that everyone is happy, that's a mother's job, is it not?
What are we; who are we; and where are we now?
It has never been harder to be a mother while still being you. Expectations of mothers are higher than ever. So, is the constant subliminal pressure to be perfect.
The expectations range the gamut of these capital C equations:
• Caregivers. The average woman may spend eleven years out of the workforce taking care of a family, leaving her without enough retirement money to take care of herself.
• Confidante, counsellor and crisis intermediator. Psychological training or not, mothers are assumed to be emotional and financial problem solvers.
• Career professionals. Most mothers and grandmothers now work (well maybe not in some individuals' refined world). We want the best for our families. We need to work to keep the family finances moving forward, especially with Bermuda's high cost of living.
• Centennial futurists. We will live longer, in many cases, far longer than our men. We need to use our experiences to save greatly for the future because we will be there as witnesses.
• Cosmetically perfect. Should we listen to the message that we still must be the way mothers should be, nurturing, caring while also maintaining the bodies, and faces of our daughters and granddaughters? We can find self-help in How Not To Look Old Effortlessly by Charla Krupp.
• Realistic expectations. Perhaps we would choose to ignore these messages, even though the pursuit of thin enough, young enough, good looking enough, smart enough, but not too smart, rich enough but at the same time, being modest and putting yourself last is blatantly encouraged by advertisers and social media.
Mothers often put off thinking about what happens after the children leave home, let alone retirement way down the road.
Self-preservation supposes that you rethink what your major role as mother is today and how it will change as you enter your mature years. It will require a new mindset; it will not be easy to think differently because to change means to become selfish.
Time to put you and your needs first, so that you keep control of your life when you are just responsible for you.
What mothers have to become.
You still have amazing opportunities to plan for your financial future:
1. Plan for yourself by investing in yourself first.
2. Care for yourself first.
3. Protect yourself first.
Invest in yourself first. If you never had the opportunity to finish your education — you have all the power now; every study out there shows that mature career individuals are the best motivated, the most desirable employees. Finish high school, attend college or university. Find out that you are as smart as you know you are, and now you have the paper to prove it. Bermuda needs you, mature, detailed, efficient problem solvers.
Education builds your intellectual capacity — the confidence, the stimulation, the passion, the excitement are astronomical — not to mention the opportunities to continue to advance in the workplace.
Care for yourself first. Ramp up a new exercise plan, just for you. Improving your health means that you will always be the centre of your family. Women, in general, are living longer than ever before. Always ask yourself, will there be anyone left to take care of me as I age? You need to look after you.
Protect yourself first with your financial plan.
• Avoid being a guarantor for someone else's loan. Realism must decide. If you are loaning money to friends and children — are they going to pay it back?
• Don't give away your assets. As we get older the prevailing advice, or relative pressure is to put other title holders on your accounts and your property — to save on inheritance tax. Ask yourself one question? Will they take care of you — properly?
• Sacrifice will get you nowhere — don't jump from job to job to become a caregiver. It may tie you up emotionally and severely restrict your opportunities for your own retirement.
• Never leave your job for any reason without being sure that you have another to go to and that your health benefits are covered in the carry-over period. Caregivers are the most vulnerable group, due to stress, exhaustion and self-neglect.
• Learn every chance you get about your pension options, your investments. If you don't know what you have, you won't know what your retirement will look like.
• Have a contingency plan for you in place — particularly if your family does not make good financial decisions.
Mothers, the world over, have achieved awe-inspiring feats: career, family and personal success. Others have suffered horrific life and war tragedies at ages far too young to even be a mother.
Let us all think of (and pray for) those mothers today who have no rights, no basic necessities, no support system, no opportunities, no access to healthcare, no finances, and little hope for the future. Yet, somehow, through their indomitable spirit, many manage to survive for their offspring and themselves.
We are lucky. Happy Mother's Day.
PS: Don't forget to call your Mum, that's all we need. Gifts are not necessary.
Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org