4 things mothers in Singapore should do to plan for their finances

Being a mother in Singapore isn't easy, no matter what the many beaming Mothers' Day photos on Facebook might have you believe.

You not only have to juggle your own work and/or household chores while trying to take care of a sometimes-screaming, sometimes-crying lifeform. you're also constantly haunted by the spectre of the PSLE, N/O/A Levels, and what will happen if your child gets edged out by the competition.

So it's no wonder that recent surveys have revealed how woefully unprepared Singaporean mothers are for retirement. A 2015 survey showed that 75 per cent of the mothers surveyed had not even thought about retirement, let alone started planning for it.

If you're spending all your energy running after the kids or making sure they pay attention during tuition, here four things you should not forget to do for your finances.

Don't leave financial planning, saving and investing to your husband

When you're one half of a couple, it's easy to get complacent and think that even if you spend all your money on toys for the kids or enrichment classes, your spouse has got your back.

If you're a stay-at-home mum or your husband earns significantly more than you, it can be tempting to just assume your husband is going to finance your retirement.

The problem with this scenario is that there's no guarantee your husband will always have such a high income. Let's not even talk about worst-case scenarios like death or divorce. As you get older, retrenchment could become a very real threat-I know women whose husbands were out of work for years.

If you are working, you have no excuse for not planning your own savings and investments. If you're a stay-at-home mum, make sure you're at least aware of what's happening with your family finances, including the family's income, budget, monthly expenses, loan repayments and investments.

It's a good idea to save a portion of your allowance from your husband if you do receive one, get him to top up your CPF account and buy life insurance so you're protected should something happen to your husband.

Obviously, the degree to which you can protect yourself will depend to an extent on your own earnings. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't play an active role in financial planning nonetheless, because let's face it, husbands aren't always the best savers and investors.

You probably want to take on a more active role in managing the family's finances before your husband gets a midlife crisis and spends your life savings on a Porsche.

Be mindful of the financial sacrifices you're making as a mother and try to mitigate the damage

Children are expensive, no question about it. And unlike people in our parents' generation, young parents today definitely should not be thinking of their kids as their retirement plans.

As a mother, you're going to be making some financial sacrifices along the way. The most obvious example would be giving up your own salary in order to stay at home and look after the kids, taking a break from work for a few years or shifting to part-time work or a less demanding role.

But even if you go straight back to work after maternity leave, your finances will never be the same again once you've had your first child. It's a mistake to continue living like you did before the kids came along.

You might have enjoyed your monthly manicures, annual trips to Europe or designer handbags as a young, single woman, but continue to live like that as a mother and you might fall into credit card debt, which a lot of young families do. For many, it's a triple-whammy, as child rearing often comes hot on the heels of a home purchase after an expensive wedding.

As a parent, you've got to work hard to mitigate the damage that child-rearing is going to do to your finances.

Spending $500 a month on tuition now that your child is of school-going age? Make sure you cut back in other areas so your savings aren't affected too badly. Giving up your job to stay at home and look after the kids? You'll want to adjust the family's budget so you can live on a reduced income, consider part-time work and make sure your own retirement is still being planned for despite not having a job.

Insurance is very important for dual income households

As a single person with no dependents, you may have thought you didn't need life insurance. But once you have kids or start to rely on your spouse for a portion of your income, it is essential.

If something happens to you or your spouse, you'll want to ensure whoever is left behind isn't left to pick up the pieces with zero money to boot.

Medical insurance, which is something everybody should have anyway, kids or no kids, is even more critical when you're a family, as one family member getting hospitalised can wipe out the entire family's savings.

If the above is making you panic, do yourself a favour and use MoneySmart's life insurance and health insurance wizards to compare insurance plans.

Don't assume you'll never re-enter the workforce and keep your skills sharp

Mothers who've given up their careers to look after their kids might think they can now dedicate their lives to child-rearing, but completely losing all work-related skills is a mistake.

Divorce rates are on the rise, and even if your husband is such a dreamboat you're certain it will never happen to you, a few years down the road he might get retrenched or be unable to work, which will mean that you'll have to get back into the workforce.

It's thus important to remain employable in some way or other. For mothers who want to pick up where they left off, working part-time or on a contract basis from time to time can keep their skills relevant.

If you hated your previous career and were relieved when you were able to give it up to care for your children, you might want to consider exploring a different job altogether, or becoming a mumpreneur.

For instance, many MOE teachers quit and become private tutors after having kids, while other ladies choose to become yoga teachers or take on less demanding roles within their industry in order to not have to spend 14 hours a day behind a cubicle.

Whether you choose to reinvent yourself or continue on with your career, the important thing is to always make sure you're making plans for when the day arrives.

This article first appeared on MoneySmart.

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