Traditionally women relied on the financial support of their partners, but trends indicate the strong need for women, particularly single mothers, to take more responsibility for their financial situation.
“It is estimated that around half of single mothers receive no financial support,” according to Sylvia Walker, market development manager at Old Mutual and herself a single mother of two.
“This leaves them financially more vulnerable and generally worse off.”
The burden is escalated by social pressures and the perceived need to “keep up with the Motsepes”.
Those mothers who are single parents often find that there are never enough hours in the day, so they need to ensure that their financial plans suit their demanding needs.
Stay away from debt
“Households simply need to cut their coat according to their cloth,” said Walker.
“The biggest consideration as a single mother is not to fall into a debt trap.”
Debt is often used to fund expenses to live a specific lifestyle, which can lead to a situation that spirals out of control.
Save, save, save
Life is more demanding, with expenses like food, clothing, school fees, medical expenses and saving a single cent does not seem like a feasible option.
The answer is to “pay yourself first”. If possible, arrange for a deduction directly from your salary, so that your savings are separate and not factored into your household budget.
These savings should be for a rainy day (emergency money) as well as for longer-term needs such as tertiary studies for your children.
Think about your future
Money is tight, and already there is so much to think about financially.
“We want the best for our children,” said Walker.
“But the rising cost of education cannot be avoided. Therefore it is important to be open with people about your financial situation."
Many schools will make allowances for learners whose parents are under financial strain.
"Rather put your pride in your pocket and apply for financial relief than go into debt to pay school fees at the full rate.”
Have a financial plan and stick to it
Walker added that single parents face an additional challenge. There is no spouse or partner to fall back on in times of a financial crisis, so cover for severe illness, death and disability becomes even more critical, as their income and their children’s future need to be ensured, no matter what happens.
Women on average also live five to seven years longer than men, highlighting the pressing need to also save for retirement.
Are you part of the sandwich generation?
“Single mothers working full-time jobs often need additional childcare support while they are at work,” said Walker.
“Many of these women would prefer to have their ageing parents, who have the time and perhaps little money, assist them.”
No fewer than 41% of single mothers who responded to the Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor form part of the sandwich generation – financially supporting both their children and parents.
“Single mothers often find this type of arrangement worthwhile,” added Walker.
“Why pay a stranger to care for my child when I can pay my parents? That way I can trust the caregivers and support my parents at the same time.”
So where to start?
Though single mothers have more responsibilities on their shoulders than their married or childless counterparts, the message rings true for everyone - consult a financial adviser to get on the right track to achieving your financial goals throughout your various life stages.
“It’s up to each and every woman to take control of her future,” concluded Walker.
“There is no magic wand or formula, just discipline and proper financial planning, which are key elements in securing financial freedom.”
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