Single parents are often so busy taking care of everyone else, they forget to take care of financial planning for both themselves and their children, says Samantha Fraelich, CFP.
There are 10 million single mothers and 2 million single fathers in the United States, and half the marriages end in divorce.
"That should tell you right there that there is a need for financial planning for single parents," says Fraelich, vice president of Bernard R. Wolfe and Associates Inc., a wealth management firm in Chevy Chase, Md. "This is a conversation financial planners need to have with their single parent clients."
Fraelich, who has several single parents among her clients and who herself was raised by a single mother, sees the need for a different type of conversation when financial advisors are planning for single parents.
"You do not want to scare the children, but you need to get them involved," she says. "My mother used to have us cut coupons, and the money we saved with the coupons was ours."
One of Fraelich's clients is a single mother of three in her 40s who did not have a will and did not realize her children would probably be awarded to her older sister if something happened to her and it was left to the courts. Since the client did not even speak to her older sister, she definitely did not want her raising the children. Fraelich helped this client set up an estate plan and power of attorney.
Another client was a single father who had not made sure that his children would be taken care of financially if something happened to him. After talking to Fraelich, he took out a term life insurance policy, which is much less expensive than a universal policy, and added an enhanced death benefit.
"Unfortunately, he died within two years of that, but it was the best thing we could have done for the children," Fraelich says.
Fraelich advises all single parents to have a will, even if it is one taken from the Internet and notarized. "That's better than nothing," she says.
Also, disability insurance is vitally important for single parents, because if for some reason they had to stop working, there would be no second income or another person to fall back on.
Fraelich offers some other common sense tips for single parents to protect their children. Among other things, they should:
Create a realistic budget and discuss it openly with the children, she says.
Save money and have an emergency fund. Sometimes the children's college fund has to take a back seat to other more pressing needs, like disability insurance, she says.
Have an estate plan in place, which includes what should happen to the children if anything happens to the parent. Again, a client should talk with the children about it, she says. A power of attorney and a medical directive should be in place.
Talk with a financial planner.
"A planner will be able to help determine what is needed and give you options on how to allocate funds that can help make it happen," Fraelich says. "They can help create the road map that a single parent striving for financial success can follow."