Purse Strings Approved Professional
The Financial Impacts of Being a Stay-at-Home Mom: Navigating Post-Divorce Finance
The financial impacts of being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) are many.
When planning for the birth of a child, some couples take a long, hard look at their finances to budget for a reduced income. For years, it’s been the societal norm that the man will be the “breadwinner,” and the woman will be the stay-at-home mom. And for many families, this works out great!
But can we take a moment to realize that “stay-at-home mom” is a very broad phrase that doesn’t really capture all of what she does? For instance, many SAHMs not only care for the children, but they also care for their spouse and the family home. I know I won’t be able to list all the “jobs” of a SAHM, but here are a few to consider.
For instance, they are nurses when a child is sick, and… let’s be honest when their spouse is sick, they nurse them back to health too. SAHMs are household managers. They budget, menu-plan, shop, cook, clean, pay bills, drive school carpool, make medical appointments, attend school meetings, chauffeur their children to various activities, etc.
And while doing all of these things for their children and home, they still manage to be supportive and attentive to their spouses.
Oh, and did I mention that the monetary pay really stinks for a SAHM? It truly does.
I’m active on social media, and I see the contributions of women to the family being devalued on a regular basis. When the family is splitting up, too often, the husband thinks that his wife shouldn’t receive part of the assets like the home and the investment account because “she didn’t go to work, I did.” But being a SAHM is much more than a full-time job. And while it’s hard to assign a monetary value on all that mom does, it’s time we start recognizing that keeping the kids alive, managing their busy schedules to ensure that they have a well-rounded childhood, and keeping the home livable, and generally ensuring that the whole family functions well….. is a very demanding job.
Becoming a single-income household can put a big strain on the family’s finances. Maybe her previous employment and income provided health insurance, covered certain bills, or gave the expendable income to eat out or make non-necessity purchases. Or maybe the income lost changes the outlook of savings and retirement.
The financial impact of being a SAHM can be especially significant if the relationship ends in divorce. Did you know that 87% of women go broke five years after divorce?
When a SAHM has put her career on hold and faces divorce, returning to the workforce after years on hiatus is often difficult. You feel like you’re behind in your skills, and you see that your peers have been promoted and are on a different career trajectory than you. You may find that you’re earning less than you expect because of your absence from your field. Your financial future may look scary.
Navigating your post-divorce finances can feel overwhelming. This may especially be true if you weren’t actively involved in managing the finances for your family. You might not know how much your family’s bills are, and you are probably worried about how you will afford all of it.
Remember that alimony and child support can help fill the gaps financially. But they’re not forever, and you need to work toward financial independence. Even if you are receiving support payments now, things can happen that are out of your control, and the payments could unexpectedly stop. None of this feels fair, but it is the reality that you need to be prepared for.
So where do you start if you find yourself facing divorce and you are a SAHM? I’m so glad you asked.
A budget is a must! Getting a handle on your finances is the best way to see where you are currently, where you want to be in the future, and what you need to get there. I prefer to call your budget a “spending plan” because it really is a plan for how you’re going to spend your money.
Think of everything! Yes, you need to plan for housing, food, insurance (auto, health, life), medical expenses, car payment, utilities, etc. But don’t only think about right now or the immediate future; think of what it will take to continue to provide for your children with or without child support. Will your children need braces? What about a college fund? Is it worth keeping the house simply because you love it or just don’t want your ex to have it?
Have a plan by making a realistic budget and start planning for your financial freedom. I’ve created this free home budget worksheet to help get you started.
You can do this. It probably won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. And wait until your children see you conquer this and thrive!
Tracy Coenen, CPA, CFF
Forensic Accountant and Fraud Investigator
I work with divorcing parties who have concerns about the money. While I can work with either party, it is most often the woman who is in need of my services. I focus on “lifestyle analysis,” which is a detailed tracing of funds through bank accounts, credit card accounts, and investment accounts to determine where the money went and how much the family’s lifestyle costs. My results are used to track down hidden money or make calculations related to spousal and child support.
I truly believe that knowledge is power. I am here to help inform the parties about their money. Where did the money go? How do we make sure there is a fair division of the assets and the income?