WOMEN’S FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE: Prioritize Your Own Needs
The 2021 results of the annual Mom Salary Survey conducted by Salary.com revealed that if stay-at-home moms were paid for all the jobs they juggle while managing their households, their median annual salary would be $184,820 and with company bonuses, overtime and other benefits, the salary could be closer to $200,000. The survey results showed that stay-at-home moms work an average of 106 hours per week, and mothers who also work outside of the home average an additional 54 hours per week on various tasks inside the home.
While the survey results are both eye opening and validating to the women who give so much of themselves to care for their families, not all caregivers are moms. Although estimates suggest that up to 68 percent of caregivers are women, they may be providing care for their children, parents, or a sick spouse. Whether a woman is a full-time caregiver or takes on this role in addition to employment outside of the home, she may find herself balancing numerous responsibilities at the compromise of her own physical, mental, and financial wellbeing.
The Costs of Being a Caregiver
- Lost wages – Not every woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom would necessarily earn a $180,000+ salary if she were to instead work outside of the home, but she would certainly collect a paycheck. Employed women who cut back hours or take a leave of absence to care for a family member also face the immediate impact of decreased income.
- Missed advancement opportunities – An employed woman may decline a promotion so that extra work hours and responsibilities do not hinder her ability to remain a caregiver, and sometimes an employer will pass over a devoted caregiver who may be perceived as a less-dedicated employee.
- Long-term financial loss – With reduced time in the workforce, women may have lower retirement contributions, missed opportunities for employer matches and reduced Social Security contributions.
- Health consequences – The CDC warns that women who are caregivers have a greater risk for poor physical and mental health, including depression and anxiety.
There is no denying that taking on the responsibility of caring for a loved one requires sacrifice, but it is one that many are happily willing to make. Even so, it should not come at the expense of your financial stability and growth. As a caregiver, you must take steps to ensure that your own needs will be met now and in the future.
Have a Plan
- Discuss finances with your partner/spouse. If one of you is providing care for a family member while the other is earning income, decide how you will work together to meet your current and future financial needs. While the caregiver may or may not be able to contribute financially to the couple’s expenses and goals, if a healthcare professional or childcare provider were to be hired instead, it would come at a cost. Do you have a plan in place should the primary income-earner suddenly lose their job or become unable to work? Do you have emergency fund savings? Do you have sufficient life and disability insurance coverage in place? It can be helpful to speak with your insurance agent and review your policies.
- Budget. When financial resources may become limited, it’s more important than ever to maintain a clear picture of how much money you have and the way in which you are spending. Many people find that they can cut back on things they don’t use or need, such as monthly subscriptions for streaming services or frequent takeout dinners. Even small amounts diverted from unnecessary expenses can be saved or invested.
- Consider a spousal IRA. If you’re married and file taxes jointly, you may be able to make tax-advantaged retirement contributions to your own IRA even if you have no earned income. Check with your accountant to see if you qualify, based on your income level, whether your spouse is covered by a retirement plan and if your spouse has enough earned income to cover the contributions to retirement accounts for both of you. You may be permitted to contribute up to the maximum allowable amount of $6,000 if you are under age 50 or $7,000 if age 50 or over to a spousal IRA for 2022.
- Can you receive payment for your caregiver services? There are certain situations, such as caring for a U.S. military veteran or someone eligible for Medicaid, where through grants or program benefits some family caregivers can be paid. Additionally, some long-term care insurance policies may offer coverage where family members might be paid for providing personal care services. It is best to review programs or policies directly, as each one will have specific qualifying criteria and benefits.
- Make time to care for yourself. Reduce stress, eat right, get exercise, get enough sleep. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to do when you have responsibilities pulling you in different directions. However, a broken-down car without gas in it is not going anywhere. If you are going to take care of others, you simply must prioritize taking care of your own needs as well.
- Speak with a financial advisor. While your situation may feel unique, financial professionals have experience in dealing with many variations of work/home/life dynamics. They can help you create a plan that will make the most of your resources and keep you on track to succeed in achieving your financial goals.
Providing care for a family member is one of the most selfless acts you can do, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your own health, happiness, and financial security. If you would like more information on how you can prioritize your financial needs, please contact us.