Curious how your spending and money management stacks up? In this series, we talk to real folks just like you, who’ve shared their tales of spending, saving, and searching for loose change.
Today, we hear from Stephanie, a 36-year-old accountant from New Orleans. Stephanie divorced five years ago and has sole custody of her two kids. In this season of life, she’s overwhelmed taking care of day-to-day expenses and childcare. She hasn’t yet allowed herself to create a new vision for retirement — one without her ex.
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Housing costs: $1,000
Groceries and home supplies: $400
Dining out: $50
Loans: $300 auto lease/$150 student
Health, dental, and vision insurance: $800
Auto, homeowner, and umbrella liability insurance: $150
Life insurance premium: $35
Lawn service: $0
Cell phone: $50
Clothing, misc.: $150
Credit card debt payments: $400
MONTHLY SAVINGS AND INVESTMENTS
Roth IRA: $50
Savings: $100 a month
Employer-sponsored retirement plan: $200
OUR CHAT WITH STEPHANIE
How difficult is it for you to put money away for retirement? Have you had to give up anything?
It’s hard. I divorced five years ago and have sole custody of my two kids. There’s always something I need to spend money on. I know it’s important to save for my retirement, but it’s truly hard to prioritize that in this season of life.
If you had to put away more money for your retirement, what would you cut out of your budget?
I don’t have a lot of extra money each month to cut out. I could look at starting a side gig or getting a part-time job, I suppose. I could also consider getting a roommate to cut down on my living expenses. I got the house in the divorce settlement and I have an extra room.
What are your retirement goals? What age do you want to retire? What do you want to do in retirement?
Could I retire today? Seriously though, I’m having a hard time imagining retirement right now with so much on my plate. If I do the math, the kids will be out of the house in 15 years, and I will be 51 then. Retiring by 65 sounds wonderful! My ex and I had talked about traveling the U.S. in a motorhome after we retired. Now that we’re not together, I guess I need to create a new vision for my own retirement. I definitely want to be near my kids (and future grandkids) or be able to travel to see them regularly.
What does “health” mean to you?
Health means you can be resilient. You can roll with whatever life gives you because you are strong mentally, physically, emotionally, and in your relationships.
Are there luxuries that you always need to include in your budget? Housecleaner? Grocery shopper?
No luxuries right now, but I look forward to the day I can get more help with housekeeping!
Do you have a financial planner? If so, explain why your planner is valuable.
My ex and I consulted a financial planner when we first got married, but I haven’t been to one since then. I remember how helpful our financial planner was because she told us about things we hadn’t even thought about. For example, we talked about how some kinds of retirement savings can be used for education expenses without penalties. I didn’t know that. I haven’t thought about those conversations for years, but now that I have, it would be helpful to get some unbiased professional financial advice.
In addition to saving for retirement, what are some of the big picture items you want to invest in?
I want to take the kids to Disney World before they are too old. And then college for them both will be right around the corner. I’d love to find a way to put away a bit of money for their education if I can.
What intimidates you in planning for retirement or what questions do you still have?
I think I tend to stop thinking about things when they intimidate me, and maybe that’s why I haven’t thought too much about my retirement savings since the divorce. Probably the biggest question I have right now is how to save enough for retirement while still managing all my day-to-day expenses.
THE WRAP UP
Stephanie is 36 years old, a single mom with sole custody of two kids, and works full-time as an accountant. Figuring out how to prioritize saving for retirement in this season of her life is challenging. Now that she’s single, it’s time for her to create a new vision for what she wants in retirement since the retirement goals she had with her ex are no longer appealing. Ultimately, Stephanie hopes to retire by age 65.
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