Single parents face unique financial challenges while trying simultaneously to raise their children and take care of their own financial needs.
Whether you are or expect to become a single parent, here are some of the financial issues and challenges to account for:
- Collecting child support
- Your saving for children’s education
- Planning for your retirement
- Health, life, and disability insurance
Having a realistic and well-conceived budget will form a foundation from which you can confront the financial pressures of single parenthood.
With only one income, more demands are placed on a larger portion of your income, so it is even more essential for a single parent to pay close attention to how he or she spends money to make sure that the steps to take care of immediate needs and long-term financial goals are met.
Learn more about money management and how it is essential for cultivating financial health.
Collecting Child Support
If you are a single parent because of divorce, chances are that you are receiving child support payments. However, enforcement of child support payments is often lax, and many fathers neglect to pay.
If you are owed child support payments but do not receive them, there are steps you can take to collect. Most states have child support collection agencies that can track down fathers and attempt to collect payment. Locate the collection agency in your state.
Saving for Children’s Education
Helping to pay for children’s education can be particularly challenging for a single parent. Once again, it’s particularly important to pay attention to how you save for this significant expense.
One benefit that single parents have is that, because they have lower household incomes, they are more likely to qualify for higher amounts of financial aid. When you do save to pay for an education, be sure to take advantage of investment strategies whose value is not used to calculate the assets on a financial aid form.
Learn more about investment and savings strategies for saving for college costs.
How much will college cost in the future? This tool will help you estimate your costs.
Once you have a rough idea on how much tuition will cost in the future, how much will you have to save in order to get there? Use this tool to determine what you will have to save:
Planning for Your Retirement
Even if it is difficult to make ends meets, planning for retirement is essential. If you have been through a divorce settlement, you may have the right to part of your spouse’s retirement account in addition to your own, but it is unlikely to be enough for your needs.
For extensive information on planning for your retirement, visit our section on retirement planning.
What retirement accounts or retirement income should you plan on if you have been divorced? It is possible that your divorce settlement included the right to a portion of your former spouse’s retirement benefits earned during the marriage.
To find out, your attorney will have to petition the court for a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order), which explains to the pension administrator of your ex-spouse’s plan on how to divide the benefits. Sometimes benefits are paid as a lump sum, monthly when you retire, or are transferred to your own IRA or other retirement vehicle.
As the law currently stands, if you were married for at least ten years and haven’t remarried, you can qualify for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings if the benefits based on your own earnings are less than half of his or her benefits at age 65. This will not reduce his or her Social Security payouts, so it should not be a source of contention.
Health, Life, and Disability Insurance
As a single parent, health, life, and disability insurance are an even greater necessity. If you are the only financial support for your children (and especially if your former spouse can’t afford to take care of the children), you need to plan for the possibilities.
Visit MsMoney.com’s insurance area to learn more about these types of insurance and how to evaluate them.