Financial Planning for Women: Expert Advice From a Money Educator

Money shouldn't be a taboo topic for women. The more you know, the smarter financial decisions you can make. And let's face it—with money comes security. 

We sat down with Christian, the creator of Chris the Money Mom. She is a personal finance influencer (@christhemoneymomand money educator who teaches women how to build their wealth. ​​Her goal is to create a safe space for women to learn about and discuss money, since many of us may not have had that opportunity at home or at school. Christian increased her own net-worth by $200k in 3 years, so we could all learn a thing or two on finances from this savvy woman. 

Chris the money mom

 Chris the Money Mom (@christhemoneymom)

Q: What’s your advice for mothers who are taking a career pause after having children? How can they remain involved with their family’s money-related decision making, even if they aren’t bringing home a paycheck? 

The first piece of advice I would give to mothers taking a career pause is to start planning as early as possible. You should consider:

  1. How can the family budget be adjusted to accommodate one income? (To make it work, families may need to cut out some unnecessary expenses, or make more significant decisions like considering moving to a lower cost of living area to make it work with one income.)
  2. Will mom do any part-time work or “side-hustling” from home to help support the family budget? (Not that it is mandatory, but many moms enjoy working part-time from home. Some examples might include selling physical and digital goods on Etsy, freelancing, etc.)

Moms can and should continue to take part in their families financial decision-making! Budget dates and having an open line of communication is key to making it work. Consider what works best for your family. Will one person be the financial contributor while the other handles the budget? Or maybe you decide to share the budgeting and decision making process (this can look like having regular budget meetings together where you both track spending, review transactions, allocate funds, discuss shared larger financial goals, etc.) It’s really about finding what works best for your family!

Q: How about moms who are scaling down to part-time work, how can they save during this transition? 

The key here, again, is going to be having a plan and ensuring open communication with your partner. 

Before the decision is made, determine if it is financially possible. If so, what lifestyle changes might need to take place in order to make it possible? Consider:

  • Potential money saved on daycare/childcare expenses if mom is working part-time
  • What expenses and luxuries can be cut or postponed while mom decides to scale back at work?
  • What financial planning might need to take place in order for this to be possible (for example, families who start planning early might want to save up an additional “nest egg” beyond their emergency fund.)

Q: What financial advice do you have for mothers raising their children as a single parent?

  1. Have a clear budget: it is essential to really know where your money is going and to create a values-based budget for yourself and your children. I don’t teach hyper-restrictive budgeting (this often leads to guilt, shame, and overspending cycles.) Rather, know and understand where your money is going and learn to make it work for you. If your budget is bare bones and there is nothing left at the end of the month (I definitely found myself in this situation), you have two choices: 1) Find ways to reduce monthly expenses (track your spending and see what doesn’t serve you, then cut it out of the budget!) 2) Find ways to increase your income (what talents can you monetize? Is there a way you can make extra money without taking time away from your kids. Some ideas include: selling unused items around your home, making products to sell on Etsy, etc.) If sticking to a budget is difficult, I suggest starting with a cash-based budgeting system!
  2. Set clear financial goals, then make a plan: Decide what will make the biggest difference in your life. Do you need to pay down some debt? Or save an emergency cushion? Once you have set your financial goals, make a clear plan (with your budget in mind!) on how you can achieve them. Will you start the snowball debt payoff method this year? Or can you commit to auto-saving $x per paycheck in a HYSA (high-yield savings account) to build up your emergency fund.
  3. Know that you CAN take charge of your finances and build a financially stable life and future, even if you are doing it on your own. Oftentimes people feel like they need a partner before working on their finances or achieving larger financial goals (like saving an emergency fund, or saving for a downpayment, or investing for the future.) However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. However, it does take 1) actually getting started, 2) setting big goals, 3) staying consistent (even when you fall off track, which we all do!) and 4) truly believing you can do it!

Q: Many families are forced to weigh the cost of child care vs both parents working. Unfortunately, this typically results in the woman staying home as a caregiver. How do you suggest women who don’t make a huge salary but still want to work approach this? 

Shop around for the best daycare ratesI live in a high cost of living area, where the average daycare cost is anywhere from $10,000-16,000 per year. One of the things that really helped me was shopping around for a daycare that was affordable, but also met our needs as a family (we wanted high-quality care, convenient location, etc.) We ended up compromising on location and chose a daycare that was closer to my mother (rather than my job or home), but that fit within our budget. 

Ask your job about potential benefitsParents should make sure they are asking if their job has a Dependent Care FSA. A dependent care account is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services such as preschool, daycare, etc. This allows parents to save money on childcare services and some jobs even offer to contribute to the account (free money!)  For example, my employer contributes to the account on a sliding scale.

Balance schedulesAnother option could be to consider having your child in daycare or childcare part-time by being flexible with your schedules, if that is an option. For example, one parent might work earlier in the day and one parent might work later in the evening so the child is in daycare less hours (potentially saving on daycare costs.)

Share with other familiesAnother option could be to consider having a childcare provider come to your home, then splitting the cost with other families. 

Begin writing it in budget earlyLastly, as much as we try to be creative, daycare and childcare is a large part of many families budgets. It can help to start slowly introducing this cost early to get acclimated to it. This can look like adding the line item before the child needs daycare. This money can be sent to a savings account (for example, if you need to build an emergency fund or just want to save some extra cash to help with childcare costs.)

Q: What are some easy ways women can get started with investing? It can be intimidating! 

Investing can be scary and intimidating! I know I felt financial fear when I first started my investing journey. However, actually getting started is the only way to really conquer this feat (as with many things in life.) There are a few things that can make it easier:

  1. Have a strong financial foundation before beginning your investing journey:
    1. First start with a budget (this will allow you to know how much you can comfortably afford to invest each month)
    2. Save an emergency fund first (you don’t want to invest money you may need in the near future)
    3. Begin with employer-sponsored plans, if applicable. 
      1. It is important to begin with employer-sponsored plans because they are tax-favored, and an easy way to begin investing! Employer sponsored plans include 401k, 403b, 457, and the like. Often, an employee needs to simply sign up for the plan and determine how much they would like to contribute monthly. This is a simple way to invest because you aren’t doing any stock-picking (money is often invested in target-date funds!)
      2. Once you have taken advantage of employer-sponsored accounts look into other tax-favored accounts like the Roth IRA. You can also begin investing in an individual brokerage account (which is the most flexible account, but isn’t tax-advantaged) or begin investing for your children via a 529 plan or custodial account. 

What I teach, to make investing super easy, (not investment advice) is to invest regularly in ETFs and index funds that track major indexes like the S&P 500 or the total stock market. Studies show that most individual investors can’t beat the market, and we know that stock market returns are about 10% annually (over 20% this past year!) Therefore, investing in ETFs and index funds that track the total market is a great way to make investing passive and easy!

Secondly, investing with a Robo advisor can make things a bit less intimidating. A robo advisor is a low-cost online financial advisor. Robo advisors use an investor's personal information (like financial goals, timeline, and risk tolerance) to create and manage a portfolio using an algorithm. One reason robo advisors are so inexpensive is because they don’t require human management. Opening an account with a robo-advisor is as easy as answering a survey then transferring money in regularly! You don’t have to worry about stock-picking. Some of my favorite robo advisors are Ally and Ellevest.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with mothers who are interested in learning more about finances? 

Absolutely! Make a commitment to always be learning more. There are countless incredible books, podcasts, YouTube videos, and content creators out there who cover personal finance and related topics! Some of my favorites include: Girls that Invest, Bigger Pockets Money, and Her First 100k.

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