On Mother's Day, financial advice for Mom
When it comes to the financial relationship between moms and their kids, it's all about giving -- giving advice, giving a helping hand, giving to charity. For instance, in the Thrivent Financial/Kiplinger Survey of Family Finances, 17 percent of respondents cited their mother as being most influential in shaping their attitude toward charitable giving, second only to faith communities (22 percent). At 6 percent, dads were in fifth place.
So this Mother's Day, maybe moms should take a break from giving and spend a few minutes taking stock of their finances so they can bolster their financial security and that of their children. Take these steps to start the ball rolling.
-- Talk things out. When asked in the Thrivent Financial/Kiplinger survey what they would change about their spouse or partner financially, 29 percent of women confessed that they'd like him to earn more. But 21 percent said they wished he would discuss money issues more frequently. Sit down together to write down your goals and see whether you're on the same page. Or schedule a money date to discuss financial issues.
-- Start saving for retirement. Small amounts put aside when you're young grow into great gobs of cash when you're older, and lay the foundation for financial security and independence. Take the case of two people -- one who saved $3,000 a year for 10 years (or $30,000) in an individual retirement account between the ages of 20 and 30 and then stopped, and another who began saving at age 30 and faithfully contributed $3,000 each year for 36 years (or $108,000) until retirement at age 66. Assuming an 8 percent annual return, the person who started saving earlier would accumulate about $778,000, compared with roughly $602,000 for the person who started later.
If you're in the workplace, sign up for your employer's retirement plan and aim to contribute at least enough to qualify for any employer match. You can't afford to turn down free money. In 2010, you can contribute up to $16,500 to a 401(k) or another employer-based retirement account, or $22,000 if you'll be 50 or older by year-end. And never cash out your company plan if you switch jobs.
-- Buy plenty of life insurance. Once you have children, life insurance becomes a family priority because your kids would suffer financially if you weren't around to provide for them. Women who are stay-at-home mothers and who are almost completely dependent on their husbands' income are particularly vulnerable. But even working moms could be at a serious financial disadvantage if they were left to bring up a family alone.
As a rough rule of thumb, figure that insurance coverage, including any coverage you have through your employer, should equal eight to 10 times your total household income.
-- Write a will. In the absence of a will, your state's one-size-fits-all estate plan kicks in, and it may not be tailored to your needs or your children's. For example, as the surviving spouse, you may get only a small fraction of your husband's assets, with the rest going to your children. If you and your spouse both die, the state decides who will raise your kids. With a will, you call all these shots.
You can divide your property just about any way you like and design creative trusts for your children that distribute money at specified ages, for example, or tie assets to specific purposes, such as paying for college. Review your will after the birth of each child.
-- Choose a guardian. Think of a will as a way to protect your most precious assets -- your children -- if something should happen to you and your husband while the kids are minors.
Parents are often tempted to rely on informal guardianship arrangements: "My sister has agreed to take care of our children if we aren't around." But an informal arrangement doesn't have the legal standing of a formal guardianship.
-- Kiplinger's Personal Finance