Once you become an empty nester, you’ll want to reevaluate your money. USA TODAY
After raising four kids and shelling out cash for clothes, child care, foodÂ and school tuition over nearly four decades, Jackie Toye says all her adult children are now out on their own.
The empty nesterâs new goal? Securing her financial future now that the kids are off the books.
âItâs time to focus on myself, get my savings back,â says Toye, who lives with her husbandÂ inÂ Albany, Georgia.
âIâm in a game of catch-up,â she says, adding that she’s alsoÂ deciding what sheÂ wants to do with the “second half of myÂ life.”Â
Bringing up kids causes many Americans to fall behind on savings, as the cost of raising a child today, excluding college outlays, is nearly $234,000 for a middle-income family, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.
Toye, 51, says her finances also took a hit in March 2018Â when she was laid offÂ from a sales management position with a large radio group after 15 years and took a 75 percent pay cut when she got aÂ job at a call center. The strain on her family’s finances was severe, causing her to deplete her savings, pay the minimum balance on credit cards and tap her 401(k) for cash.
âYou go from a large account to a small account,â she says, referring to her shrinking retirement plan balance. The good news is her husband is working. “That part is fine,” she says.
Toye’s financial improvement plan includes aÂ long to-do list. Topping the list is restarting a savings plan.Â She’s spending roughly $250 less each month on insurance premiums since her two youngest sons moved out, which helps. She’s also taking steps to rebuild her creditÂ andÂ also wants to “rebuild” her career. SheÂ is considering going back to a tech school to hone new skills.
The challenge for many empty nesters like ToyeÂ is to get the money part of their lives back on track once the last kid checks out of his or her childhood bedroom and monthly expenses fall, personal finance pros say.
To speed up that process, empty nesters need to create a financial plan to help them replenish their savings, turbocharge their retirement funds, boost their credit scores, rethink their real estate needs and, if necessary, pay down debt.
The key to success is redeploying the freed-up cash to the right places to get back on track as quickly as possible.
âItâs an ideal time to take a financial snapshot of your life, and redirect resources towardÂ yourself,â says Tony Ogorek, founder and CEO of Ogorek Wealth Management in Buffalo, New York. âThe good news is your cash flow is hopefully turning positive.â
For most people, the recommended to-do list is lengthy once the kids leave:Â Tally up your debts; calculate how much extra money is left over each month;Â review your savings and retirement accounts; andÂ reassess your housing and insurance needs.
Then take action. The reason? At this stage of your life, you have a âmore limited window of time to make up ground,â explains Jonathan Knapp, director of financial planning at Creative Planning in Kansas City, Kansas. âMany parents tend to overspend and undersave when the kids are at home.â
Acting sooner than laterÂ is key. If your emergency account has been drained â refill it with enough cash to get you through the next mini-crisis. If your credit card balance has swelled, trim it down. If your 401(k) or IRA balance is skimpier than you would like, bump up your retirement contributions. If your five-bedroom house seemsÂ cavernous, consider downsizing. If your kids can get their own insurance, drop them from your policies.
When it comes to money, the focusÂ for empty nesters must quickly shift from making ends meet to settingÂ up for a better future, says DiahannÂ Lassus, president of Lassus Wherley, a wealth management firm with offices in New Providence, New Jersey, and Bonita Springs, Florida.
âEmpty nesters have to manage their money more closelyÂ and identify the best use of every dollar they have,âÂ Lassus says. âAllocate those saved dollars to buckets of things that are important,â such as your 401(k) or emergency fund.
Itâs importantÂ to prepare your children to be onÂ their own without needing a financial lifeline from you later, adds Lassus. That means going over the basics of personal finance with them, hammering home fundamentals like not living above their means, sticking to a budget, saving some money each month and not running up credit card debt.
âItâs all about educating them to make sure they get off to the right start,â Lassus says.
And donât let a lifelong bond with your kid cause you to make financial decisions that might be good for your kids but bad for you, Ogorek says. Thereâs no reason, he adds, to feel guilty as you take steps to remove your children from your payroll.
“As a parent,” Ogorek explains, “you must make sure your focus isnât getting your kid into a new house or a new car, but to focus on your own financial needs.â
Thatâs exactly the way ToyeÂ is viewing her new world.
âAccording to what Iâve been reading,â says Toye, âI may live to 80. Thatâs scary. I want to be financially independent. But youâve got to plan that out.â
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