Can Single Parents Ever Really Retire?

4 Minute Read

Raising kids alone is tough. Between long hours on the job and maintaining order in your home, you spend every waking moment—and every spare dollar—providing for your family. In the process, your own needs often fall by the wayside. If it isn’t urgent today, it doesn’t get your attention.

So when it comes to retirement, you’ve accepted that it simply can’t be done.

But here’s the shocker: It can. All it takes is a little hard work and a lot of determination.

Let Go of the Guilt

As the be-all and end-all of your household, you’re under constant pressure to get it right with your kids. And when you don’t, guilt sets in. This can lead to emotional spending that undermines your best financial intentions—whether it’s charging a new outfit you can’t afford or investing in a college fund at the expense of your own retirement.

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That’s why it’s important to eliminate “woulda coulda shoulda” from your vocabulary. You can’t change what’s been done, but your choices today absolutely shape your tomorrow. You’re not a bad parent for prioritizing your retirement. If you don’t have the money to pay for Junior’s college when the time comes, the sky won’t fall. He can work his way through an affordable college and survive. But you don't want the extra stress of supporting your retirement to affect Junior’s ability to provide food and shelter for his own family down the road. Your medical bills alone could easily cut his family's well-being in half!

Get Your Budget Down and Your Income Up

A budget is especially important when you parent solo because there’s no extra support to help you stick with your written plan. So put every dollar on paper, on purpose, every month. You’d be surprised at how far your money will stretch when you tell it where to go! It might mean eating in more—even when you’re strapped for time—but it’s worth the sacrifice.

If you have trouble finding room for retirement in your budget, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your income. Let’s say you make $30,000 a year today. How can you double or triple that in 10 years? You might have to change careers or hit the school books again—which won’t be easy—but it sure beats punching the time clock when you’re 80 years old!

If the idea of fitting school into your busy schedule seems impossible, go online. You’ll find the best deals for online courses at regular brick-and-mortar colleges. Whatever you do, don’t rely on student loans to pay your way. Apply for as many grants and scholarships as you can to cover tuition without taking on debt.

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Wherever you are in your journey as a single parent, just remember that today’s struggles won’t last forever. Your story is still being told. Make sure it moves in a positive direction.

--First, get $1,000 in a starter emergency fund so you don’t have to rely on credit cards when the alternator goes out on your car.

--Next, pay off all non-mortgage debts to free up your number-one wealth-building tool: your income.

--Then, stockpile three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund so you can handle whatever life throws your way.

Once you’ve knocked these steps out of the park, you’re ready to invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and tax-advantaged retirement accounts like a Roth 401(k). If you can’t immediately dedicate 15% of your income to retirement savings, that’s okay. Work with a financial advisor to set goals you can reach and outline a plan for increasing your contributions as your income goes up.

Call in Reinforcements

One of the best things you can do for yourself as a single parent is to surround yourself with community. It doesn’t matter if it’s extended family, a neighbor down the street or your small group at church. The point is, don’t go it alone. There will be days you need a little extra encouragement or accountability—and maybe even a babysitter.

Be sure your support network includes a trustworthy financial advisor to help you stay on track when life puts your nest egg at risk. A true investing pro will look at where you are today and guide you toward a future you can feel good about.

If you have retirement questions and don’t know where to start, talk with an investing expert who can help you lay out a plan so you can retire.

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