How to Handle Single Parenthood [8 Tips]
|By Sarah Carlson, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®|
Single parenthood and divorce are messy and complicated experiences.
You have a seriously tenuous challenge that does not leave a lot of wiggle room for mistakes.
In a divorce, you and your children are emotionally devastated. You will never be the same; you are changed forever.
Your children are already dependent on you for their well-being, and playing multiple roles in raising them can get complicated fast. They're also experiencing how to deal with divorce as a child.
As someone who has endured–and survived–both, I have some insight into how I rocked those chapters of my life with all of my mental faculties intact. I hope what I have learned can perhaps help you.
Social media makes it easy to fall into the comparison trap with those who seemingly do everything right with no struggles when facing single parenthood. I am here to tell you that everyone struggles in this situation, but there are ways to make your life much easier.
Read on for 8 ways to always make sure you are one step ahead of the game in generating a stable financial future for your family while surviving solo childbearing in one piece.
Divorce with dignity. There will be psychological effects of divorce on children. In a perfect world, divorce with dignity and do it cooperatively with your ex in the spirit of raising your children. It is ideal if you and your ex can parent together and not separately.
This may not be possible, but work at it with a family therapist or meditator; your children are worth putting aside your feelings to prioritize their needs.
Come up with agreed rules of conduct that you can refer back to as issues arise. As a Spokane financial advisor, I've seen that people who have a clearer mindset do better with personal finance planning after a divorce.
Develop a budget. Your lifestyle will not be the same as it was before. A budget is essential for one overarching reason: you will be paying for two households instead of one.
Figure out what is necessary for that cash flow, and be able to separate the needs from the wants.
Plan for the unexpected. Not just disaster, but hospital visits, braces, etc. Have access to cash in the event of an emergency.
Medical costs are a big expense in raising children and a perfect expense to include in the agreed rules of conduct. It can make sense for you each to pay the provider directly and cut back on reimbursement between you and your ex.
Don't be afraid to say no to your kids. Don't go into debt to keep their lifestyle. This is where financial literacy for kids is important. Pay bills and yourself first to teach your kids lessons about financial stability instead of the lure of having "things."
You most likely feel bad about the emotional angst they are going through, and it's normal for them to blame themselves. Even though the emotional pain is difficult, throwing money at it is not the solution, but will make it worse. Do not think things will solve their hurt.
Instead, get your children into activities that will encourage them to open up. Give them the gift of your undivided attention. Put away technology, turn off your phones, and focus on having an experience together, playing a game together, doing an art project, or something physical like a bike ride together.
Save for retirement vs. college. Why is it more important to have a solid retirement than pay for kids' college? There is financial aid for college but there is no financial aid for retirement! Avoid taking your long term money for retirement to pay for a shorter-term financial goal, whether college or a new car.
Taxes and penalties are high on such distribution, but more importantly you won't have a nest egg for retirement.
Your children want you to be financially independent of them in your later years, so plan for your future and don't burden them.
Create a support system. Be thoughtful about who you share your gory details with. Although tempting, try to cut down on unnecessary gossip. Keep your inner circle tight and limited.
If you overload one confidant, then consider finding others to share your thoughts with. It's normal for friends and family to get emotional fatigue over your situation.
If you can afford it, get into counseling, it's probably the most important thing you can do to gain a more mature and better perspective on the situation you are going through.
Protect yourself and your children. Update your will and health care directive. Make sure your power of attorney is updated: if you can't be there for your children, how do you want them raised, who do you want to manage your assets on their behalf?
Also remember to update the beneficiary designation on your life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities; those things pass outside of your estate.
- Embrace the change. Divorce is tough, but it does and will give you the opportunity to live life differently. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, your children, others, and your community.
You don't need to go through single parenthood alone. Hire professionals where you can use the help: getting a handle on your assets and liabilities with an advisor or to getting your self-talk straight with a therapist.
Divorce is messy, so take that mess and create something new and beautiful out for you and your children.
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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.