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When you become a parent, you want to set up your future to have financial security. This is not just to keep yourself from any financial problems but to help secure the future of your children. Doing this as a couple is difficult enough because you have to deal with the rising cost of living and the various expenses that child-rearing demands. Add to that the economic instability that we are currently facing and things are bound to get a little shaky from time to time.
Imagine if you have to face all of these alone? As a single parent, the responsibility of earning income, managing the household and raising your child or children will be all up to you. Regardless if you are unwed, widowed or divorced, this is a reality that more than 12.2 million families have to deal with.
According to the Census.gov data collected in 2012, there are 10.3 million families headed by a single mother and 1.9 million families headed by a single father. All of these have a child or children that is aged 18 years and below. Given the conditions that we have mentioned earlier, it should be safe to assume that we have 12.2 million families in the country who are struggling to achieve financial security. What are their chances to make it and how will this affect the children being raised by single parents?
The real financial conditions of single-parent homes
Single parent homes have a harder time simply because only one shoulders the responsibility that two people should share. Although it is in our innate nature to adjust and survive the circumstances given to us, single mothers or fathers only have so much time each to day to do all the tasks that couples usually share. Based on that, you know that there will be a couple of needs that will be not be met - or at least not sufficiently satisfied.
In most cases, unmarried parents, specifically mothers, are more likely to work full time to be able to provide for the family financially. Towards the end of 2012, Pew Social Trends conducted a survey about modern parenthood. The report was released in March of 2013 on PewSocialTrends.org and it revealed the following data.
49% of unmarried mothers in 2012 view having a full time employment as the ideal work situation. This went up from the 26% who felt the same way back in a 2007 survey.
36% of unmarried mothers in 2012 want a part time job as the ideal work scenario - a decrease from the 46% in the 2007 survey.
61% from the respondents of unmarried mothers earn less than $30,000 a year in 2012. 21% earn $30,000 to $49,999 while 15% earn more than $50,000.
31% of unmarried parents feel that they are always “rushed” while 44% feel that they are sometimes “rushed.” Married parents have a higher percentage with 36% feeling always “rushed” while 47% feel they are sometimes “rushed.”
29% of unmarried parents claim to be not too happy with their current situation while only 10% of married parents feel the same way.
The report cited that the US Census Bureau showed a steady rise of unwed mothers in the last 50 years. At the time of the survey, 31% of mothers are unwed and dealing with the difficult responsibilities of single parenthood. With a huge chunk of them earning less than $30,000 a year, financial security seems to be more challenging than it should be.
In another website, we can find a compilation of statistics that the SingleMotherGuide.com consolidated. Here are the alarming statistics that we found on the site.
15 million children are raised without a father and almost half of them live in poverty.
45% of single mothers never got married while the remainder are either widowed, divorced or separated.
1/4 of single mothers have a degree in college and 1/6 did not complete high school.
66% of single mothers have work, with 40% having a full time job all year round.
The median salary of families headed by a single mother is $25,353. That means around 5 million single mother families are living with a less than $25,000 annual income.
These figures do not really boost one’s confidence with regard to being a single parent. If your aim is to have financial security, this might not be the easiest to accomplish.
Is frugality the key to find financial stability?
But with any problem, there is bound to be a solution and most likely, a small income will be helped by a frugal way of living. There are many ways that a frugal budget can help single mothers meet the needs of the household without exhausting them physically.
With frugality, single parents will learn to:
Prioritize the important expenses of the family. The budget will allow them to identify the expenses that has to be financed before the unnecessary ones.
Live with a budget that will help them control where their money will go to.
Identify the expenses that has to be cut back on temporarily or permanently to make way for more important financial obligations like saving up for an emergency fund.
Pay primarily in cash to live below their means. Relying on credit may only complicate the financial situation especially when dependence on the card becomes more prominent.
Find alternate ways to satisfy needs without going beyond their financial capabilities.
Probably the best thing about frugality is it teaches the whole family to avoid the pitfalls of consumerism. Everyone gets to be more cautious of how they spend their money because they only have a limited source of income. Not only will it help the parent keep the expenses below their income, it will also teach the children the value of money.
Financial advice for single parents
As a single parent, you will be carrying a lot of the burden and one of them is what you teach your kids about your finances. The best lesson can be done by example but you can also make sure that your kids understand what it takes to achieve financial security. You want to expose them by giving them roles to play.
So here are a couple of advice for single parents to help ease the burden for the whole family.
Involve your kids. Since you do not have a spouse or partner to help you with decisions, let your kids in on major issues. Things like moving houses, what to buy around the house and the chores - all of these can be shared with your children. By involving them, you get to help unload some of the responsibility on them - which will help them mature more rapidly.
Cook meals at home to minimize dining out expenses. Since you are probably tired from work, let your kids help out. Washing the dishes and setting the table are some tasks that they can help you with.
Be creative with your snacks. You don’t have to buy everything in the grocery. Make it a fun activity during the weekend to prepare the food with your kids. Make homemade ice popsicles or bake pastries and cakes together. These can be kept in the fridge for your kids to enjoy for the rest of the week.
Teach your kids to take care of themselves. Health care costs are rising and you want to make sure that you will keep the family healthy all the time. Teach them to brush their teeth regularly to minimize trips to the dentist to once a year. Give them vitamins to keep them from getting sick. It is better to plan when you spend on health care rather than the expensive medical treatments needed for unexpected illnesses.
Save entertainment activities for special events. You don’t have to go out every weekend. Come up with fun activities that you can do together at home.
Put some of your money in other income generating sources - like investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. It does not have to be a big amount but you want to make sure that you have some money to liquidate when you need it.
Get yourself insured. Since your kids are relying on you, make sure that they are covered in case something happens to you.
It is not impossible to survive raising kids on your own and have financial security at the same time. However, you need their help to make things easier. By doing this effort together, you get to grow closer and you instill the right values and sense of responsibility in your children.