Financial planning for single parents
Organising and planning for your family’s financial well-being can be challenging under the best of conditions.
However, the challenges of managing and maintaining a household as a single parent are multiplied. Single parents have less money to spare and there is a pressing need to have a long-term financial plan because in a lot of cases there is no alternative source of income. The stress of knowing that there is no other adult to share financial responsibilities with can be overwhelming. However, this stress can be reduced by making sure that some key elements of financial planning are in place.
Know where your money goes. This is the foundation! If you don’t have a budget that you follow and review on a monthly basis, create one by writing down everything you spend for three months. Everything means everything including little things like that midday candy bar or bottle of water after work.
By recording what you spend and then comparing your income to your expenses, you will see where your money is going. You will be surprised how easy it is to identify ways to reduce expenses. After cutting out the easy cost savers, then make some hard decisions on where you can further lower expenses. The only way to have enough money to save is to either earn more or spend less. For most people the quicker option is to spend less.
How can you reduce costs? By being creative. If you need a cell phone, buy the most economical model, not the latest and greatest.
If your grocery bill is too high, grow some of your own vegetables like lettuce or tomatoes. If you don’t have garden space, these can be grown in containers. Turning this into a family fun project with some TLC can produce great results.
Cook at home, which saves money and brings the family together.
You don’t always have to buy new items; second-hand shops offer great values on clothing and various other items but it takes a bit of time and effort to find the bargains.
Once you have generated extra cash each month, here is what you need to do with it.
Create a cash reserve. It is especially important for single parents to have an emergency cash fund in case of illness, injury or loss of your job. This should be equivalent to three to six months of your monthly expenses.
Manage your debt. Limit your liabilities to the bare minimum, such as a home. Use credit cards only for emergency situations. If you have credit card debt, pay it off as soon as possible. If you have one or more credit cards with a high balance, work with your bank to see if you can consolidate your debt and reduce your interest rate. Remember a credit card is there for convenience not to maintain your day-to-day lifestyle.
Buy life insurance. Having life insurance will give you peace of mind knowing that your children are taken care of financially should something happen to you. The amount of life insurance you need depends upon the number and ages of your children, your debt level and what you want the life insurance coverage to achieve. Life insurance through your employer ends when you terminate your job so it is important to have some non-employment related coverage. Term life insurance is the most cost effective insurance for basic coverage.
Start a university fund. The earlier you begin to save for your children’s university expenses the more time that money has to grow. If you can put away $100 each month for the next 15 years at an average rate of return of 6 percent over the long-term, you will have saved $18,000 but it will be worth $29,327 due to the effects of compounded interest. Talk to your child’s other parent to see how much each of you can deposit and how often.
Plan for your estate. No matter what your age it is vital that you have a will to provide for your children in case something happens. Your will names who will inherit your house, bank accounts, investments, personal property and most importantly it identifies who will serve as guardians for your children. Without a will, the courts will decide what to do with your assets and your children.
Retirement. Don’t forget about your own retirement. In Bermuda we are actually blessed with a mandatory pension programme. That means, whether we like it or not, we will be saving for our retirement. The challenge is that we will need to save more than what is legislated to have a comfortable retirement. Once you have the items listed above in good order, see if you can save some more for retirement. If you are young, retirement may seem a long way off. But don’t be fooled, it comes around a lot sooner than you expect and we can certainly be assured that the cost of living will increase.
Maintaining your finances and planning to be financially independent is going to take some time and energy, but if you are willing to spend time focusing on your financial health then put on your creative hat and think about reducing your spending. You will significantly reduce your stress level. Focus on what is most important and that is your family.
If you don’t think you can manage this on your own, AFL Investments offer financial planning that can get you on the right track. Financial planners are independent, third-party advisors who will work with you and will often give you the “tough love” advice that you may not give yourself.
Cindy F Campbell is the Chief Operating Officer of AFL Investments, a Bermudian financial services company that provides a range of investment solutions and financial planning advice to high net worth individuals, endowments, trusts, pension plans and corporations. AFL Investments Limited is regulated by the Bermuda Monetary Authority and has a license to conduct investment business in Bermuda. AFL Investments is a joint venture between the Argus Group and Cidel Bank & Trust Inc. www.aflinvestments.bm