Finance Essentials for the Single Parent

Being a parent is arguably one of the toughest jobs to have in the world, it’s even harder being a single parent. Having only one income to support your family and likely not even a high annual salary at that, you must develop good financial management habits to stay ahead. It’s never too late to learn how to save and spend wisely but it is important to have the basics in building a solid financial understanding.

Challenges of Getting Ahead

Life can be a rat race, except in the race of life not everyone is at the same starting point. Some people may be moving towards financial freedom and stability and have an easier time than you for a variety of reasons – higher income, lower expenses and a dual income household. A single parent most likely would not have many of those same advantages. Single parent households in America and Canada average about $45k of their respective currencies, so in Canada that household makes $45k CAD and America $45k USD.

With the cost of living rising in developed nations and outpacing the increase in average wage, life is a challenge. Many single parent households are faced with multiple challenges: they are more likely to have less education, work in lower wage jobs that have little to no benefits such as parental leave, health insurance and vacation time, they need costly daycare services in order to work and some may not even be receiving child support from their ex-spouse.

Some additional challenges come into play if you are a female single parent as women are paid 80% less than men in the same role. If you are an ethnic minority, it’s an additional disadvantage in terms of pay scale. With so many barriers to success, it’s sometimes hard to see the light to a brighter future.

It’s never too late to learn how to save and spend wisely but it is important to have the basics in building a solid financial understanding.

The Light at the End of the Financial Tunnel 

Fortunately, the smorgasbord of bleakness is just one avenue along the path in the race for financial stability. Learning about finances and taking charge of your situation is the best way to steady your ship and give yourself a fighting chance. No matter where you’re starting, these next steps are key to starting your journey to financial freedom.

1) Find a stable job. No matter where you’re starting, you need an income stream, so find one, even if it is a job that doesn’t pay well. Finding a job is difficult, even more so in tremulous economic times such as a global pandemic. One silver lining is that many jobs have become remote so you may not be limited to employment that is based on your geographic boundaries. For instance, if you live somewhere where the cost of living is lower, you can find online job opportunities like a virtual assistant job offered by companies in higher wage cities like New York or Vancouver while working at home remotely. With this type of gig, you receive higher wages, flexibility in hours and no commute. 

2) Find money through government programs. Reach out to your local governmental services. You may qualify for some assistance, such a healthcare, supplemental income, and housing to help you get by. 

3) Get out of debt. Even if you’re buried under a mountain of debt you can still make it out and improve your credit score. Your credit score is an important metric in qualifying for all types of financial instruments. You can call your creditors and arrange payment schedules and explore legal options to avoid bankruptcy.

4) Create a financial plan. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or comprehensive. Just get your financial bearings, figure out how much you need to survive.

  • Write down your net income and subtract all your expenses like rent, groceries, clothing, miscellaneous, transportation costs, utilities etc.
  • Figure out your disposable income each month and set aside some money for savings.

5) Create a longer term strategy. Start with your dreams and goals and work backwards.

  • Identify your key milestones – the things that you and your family want that you need to save money for like purchase a new vehicle, start a savings account, buy RRSP, pay off credit card debt etc.
  • Outline how much you need to save in order to get you to each milestone.

Your Next Steps

Everything with effort can be achievable, it may just take a little longer to achieve with a single source of income and very little of it disposable. Getting on the track towards financial stability and freedom is possible and doable for the average single parent. A few keys things to remember is pace yourself. Focus on what you can do now and plan well for what you want in the future. Start with a dream and a list of financial goals. Start somewhere but expect your targets to move and your lifestyle to change as life evolves with your single parent family.

 

 

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