According to a May 2013 Pew Research study, 40 percent of all households with children younger than 18 have mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income. The majority—63 percent—are single mothers, and 37 percent are married mothers with higher incomes than their husbands.
With so many women in positions of financial leadership, why aren’t we more financially empowered? Here are a few financial myths women commonly tell themselves:
“I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I don’t need life insurance.”
According to Salary.com, in 2014, the salary of a stay-at-home mom would be equal to $118,905—for 96.5 hours of work each week. That’s a significant amount, and it should be considered when it comes to financial planning. Your death and the loss of services to the family could present quite a hardship. Do you have adequate life insurance that would cover the cost of the work you do for the family inside the home, such as child rearing or household supervision?
Life insurance is also an important consideration for working moms, who should have enough life insurance to replace the loss of their income.
In the process of estate planning, it’s also important to ensure that you have chosen a guardian or caregiver for your children and have specified how the assets left to your children and family will be managed and distributed.
“I won’t be disabled, so I don’t need to plan for it.”
A survey from the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at the American College showed that the majority of respondents believed men are more likely to be disabled than women. In fact, the opposite is true, and working women may want to consider disability insurance.
If you’re a working mom, your family members likely rely on your paycheck in addition to all the tasks you do as a mom. It’s important that you have planned for income replacement in the event you become disabled and cannot work. (Stay-at-home moms aren’t eligible for disability insurance because it’s designed to replace lost income.)
What if your disability extends beyond six months? If you are single, this could be one of the greatest risks to your financial well-being. Long-term disability insurance may be the answer here. With an employer-sponsored plan, you can typically replace at least 60 percent of your income and potentially receive the monthly benefit free of income tax. This type of insurance can be purchased independently as well.
You can also purchase short-term disability insurance, which has a benefit period of no longer than two years.
If you’re not disabled but you are out for longer than expected due to illness or injury, it’s possible that you’ll exhaust any paid time off available. You need to be able to self-fund this period, which is one of the reasons that financial planning experts recommend a reserve fund of six to 12 months of living expenses.
“I don’t have enough money to start saving for retirement.”
You don’t need thousands of dollars in the bank before you start investing for retirement. Even if it’s $50 per month, adding something to a retirement savings account will add up due to the power of compound interest. Consider this: If you contribute $800 per year—roughly $67 each month—starting at age 30, by the age of 65 you will have $114,745 in your 401(k). That’s before your employer match. If your employer matches 50 percent of your contributions, you could have more than $172,000 by age 65.
It’s important to save as much as you can. Women have “longevity risk,” meaning we are in jeopardy of outliving our retirement savings. Women live to an average age of 81 vs. 76 for men. That means more years of funding retirement.
Make sure you are contributing at least the maximum matched amount to your company 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan, and consider also contributing to an IRA. Whether tax deductible or not, those contributions will grow in a tax-deferred way, meaning you won’t be taxed until you withdraw and take possession of the money. The limit for 2014 on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $5,500. Individuals age 50 and over can contribute additional catch-up contributions, limited to an additional $1,000.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you and your spouse may want open a spousal IRA. This plan allows the working spouse to contribute up to $5,500 per year ($6,500 if you’re older than 50) in your name.
Whether married or single, parent or not, when it comes to financial matters, women need to be empowered. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and plan for your future—no one else can do it for you.
Therese Konis is a Certified Financial Planner from the Atlanta area. She has been in the financial services industry for 25 years.