Recent analysis has revealed that single parents, single mums in particular – who form over 80% of single parenting, have experienced the hardest economic shocks as a result of the global COVID-19 crisis.
Single mums face unique financial challenges as they simultaneously try to provide for the family and take care of their own financial needs while ensuring that, should anything happen to them, their children will be taken care of. Whether you are a single mother by choice or by circumstance – unmarried, divorced or widowed, here are some issues to consider as you manage your money:
Invest in yourself
You are your greatest asset, don’t relegate yourself to the bottom of your priority list. Bring yourself to the top because it is important not just for yourself, but for your children. Get the skills, qualifications, certifications that you need to perform at your best and earn those salary increases and promotions that you deserve. You need to be at your best to climb the career ladder or set up your own business. Invest in a network of proactive ambitious people that support, encourage you, and help you grow.
Create a budget
Budgeting is important for us all but when there is only one income to support a family, it takes on a whole new meaning. Set a realistic budget and try to stick to it as this will form the basis on which you can confront any financial pressures. How much are you spending? Is there anything you can cut back on? Paying close attention to how you spend by tracking your expenses over a period of a month or two is good preparation for establishing a realistic budget. This will help you to plan systematically to meet your immediate needs and long-term financial goals.
Build an emergency fund
Many single mums raise their kids with little or no financial – or any other – support from their children’s fathers. With no second income to fall back on, there must be a safety net, a backup plan to tide you over difficult situations or emergencies. Children fall ill, there may be aging parents to take care of – which, in many cases, falls on the daughters, or there may be a car or home repairs to worry about. Such events come out of the blue without warning, so it is important to be prepared, with some funds set aside to fall back on. Six to twelve months of expenses are recommended.
A place to live
If you have relied on two incomes to maintain the family’s standard of living, it could be a hard knock finding that you have to downsize. Your priority should be to find affordable housing in a secure location. Naturally, there must be a balance between the need to live in a decent home and a safe environment versus having to put up with substandard housing, which is not what you hoped for your children. Don’t let keeping up appearances come into the mix, it’s better to ‘downsize’ than to jeopardize the future financial security of your family.
You need a support system
A support system matters more now than ever, especially during this pandemic. in this pandemic situation. For many single mums, especially those that are essential workers, it can be so difficult to find or afford the right childminder while maintaining the important protocols to keep your family safe. This will take a chunk of your income but is very important for your peace of mind and being able to keep your job. If you are in a position to work virtually, this may be the best option. If you are effective and efficient in your role, your boss may well consider this as a long-term option for you. Working from home is the new normal, put things in place to make it possible for you to do so.
Don’t ignore your insurance
As a single parent, health, life, and education plans are crucial. Even if you feel confident that your children will be cared for by their father or other relatives should anything happen to you, put firm arrangements in place for them.
As morbid as it may sound, if you are the primary breadwinner with dependent children, it is your responsibility to try to ensure that there will be some financial cushion should you lose your job, become ill, or in the event of your untimely death.
A life insurance policy will help to replace and protect your income and can help to prevent your children from becoming totally dependent on the goodwill of relations or friends. It can also provide legal guardians with the resources to care for your children and to ensure that they have the opportunities you would have wished for them.
By putting in place the right type and amount of insurance, you will have peace of mind in the knowledge that you are securing your children’s future.
Invest for the future
Even with the huge demands of single parenthood, you cannot afford to ignore your own future financial security. By starting to plan and invest early, even a little amount set aside regularly over several years can accrue over time into a significant sum. The earlier you start saving for your retirement, the more you will have set aside to ensure a comfortable and secure retirement.
Estate planning isn’t a death sentence
An estate plan is more important than ever for a single parent. A will provides clear directions about who will inherit your personal property, bank accounts, and investments and who will execute your affairs after your death. Carefully determine who would be capable and willing to assume responsibility for your children and that they understand the full implications, including the significant financial responsibilities that accompany legal guardianship.
Verbal instructions carry little weight. If you die intestate, that is, without a written will, everything involving your estate and your children will be decided by a probate court and might not be in accordance with your wishes. You may also want to consult with a lawyer about setting up a living will which expresses your wishes if you become terminally ill or incapacitated, and a durable power of attorney to empower someone you trust to carry out your express wishes.
Don’t spoil your children
For many single parents, especially following a divorce, there is a tendency to spoil children. With the societal pressure and the psychological pull of social media, it can be difficult to navigate the minefield of excessive buying and spending, particularly for your children. This can be very damaging to not only your finances but to their attitude towards money as well. You absolutely do not need entitled, spoilt children with all that you already have on your plate. Don’t feel guilty about not providing everything that they want. Encourage them to earn and to start to save some of their own pocket money.
Don’t be distracted by societal pressure
It is so easy to compare yourself to others and want to stretch yourself to try to do what you really cannot afford. Stay focused on your own goals and don’t get swayed by a need to keep up appearances. There will have to be some conversations with them to manage expectations even as you involve them in discussions around family goals and what you are working towards.
With clear goals, deliberate planning, and proactive actions to reach them, many single mums are living their dream lives. They are able to provide for themselves and their children and are also able to afford some of the luxuries of life with a clear view of a life of financial security.