When your kids were young, you were likely busy saving for college, climbing the corporate ladder, and perhaps saving for a bigger house. Everything was ahead of you and you were just trying to master juggling all of your priorities.
But as our kids get older and we become empty-nesters, priorities change. Your financial plan and your investment portfolio should probably be changing, too. As a mom, this transition period between saving for what you want and achieving it is a critical time to have certain conversations with your spouse and your children.
Where’s the Money?
Sadly, I am seeing a generation of smart, working women who are still reflecting their own mother’s generation when it comes to managing their money. Too many women are coming to see us with divorce or widowhood thrust upon them and no knowledge of how much money they are going to have when all is said and done. Many of these women had professional careers earlier in life but as time went on, they either stopped working or stopped worrying about long term financial security. They often pay the monthly bills but have no idea how much money has been saved, how it’s invested, or whether it will be “enough” in retirement.
So, whether you are happily married or not, it is imperative that you know where all of your money resides. Where is it invested? How is it invested? You don’t have to DO the investing, but you better know where it is and why. This is often why couples hire an investment advisor – to make sure this aspect of their life is handled by a professional. And if your spouse is doing it all himself, it’s even more important to understand where it is and how it is invested.
Who’s on the Payroll?
We know kids can boomerang back to the family home periodically. We’ve certainly seen that during the COVID pandemic. But what I am suggesting here is that you set those same kids up for true financial independence over time. If you have post-college kids who are now working, take a minute to evaluate what you may still be funding for them. Are you still paying for cell phones and trips home? Are they still getting an allowance? What about health insurance?
Keeping your kids on your health insurance until they are age 26 is often helpful for those in grad school or working a job without benefits, but what if they just haven’t bothered to sign up for their employer’s benefits? Weaning them off your own payroll will ensure they understand the importance of health insurance, budgeting, saving for retirement and living within their own means (not yours). You may need that extra money every month in retirement!
Can I Do This on My Own?
This, of course, is a question you want to ask yourself periodically. Even when you are happily married, financial situations can change quickly. What if your spouse is the primary breadwinner and loses a job? Unfortunately, along with the rise of grey divorce we are also seeing early retirement being forced on many men who are at the height of their careers. Can you afford to drop to a single income or even no steady income from employment?
While no one wants to think about losing a spouse, making sure you have adequate insurance to cover a loss of income from disability or death is also critical. And, if divorce is a possibility now that your kids are out of the house, could you manage on your own financially?
What is My Legacy?
Yes, your children may be grown and on their own, but have you told them what’s important? For some that could be making sure your children know what’s coming to them when you are gone – financially and personally. I’ve seen too many parents not share their financial situation, good or bad, with their kids. This can lead to resentment and anger, as well as bewilderment when things have been hidden.
In addition to your estate plan (which you should make sure you have), you might also want to think about how you want your family to remember you. What was important to you? What did you never get around to saying? As we age, putting together what’s referred to as an “ethical will” allows us to capture and give our most important ideas, thoughts, and wishes to our family.
Remember, you will always be a mom, but now is the time to take care of yourself first!