The Road Less Traveled
The Financial Challenges of Alternative Lifestyles
By Kara Stefan
parents face the same financial challenges as married ones--only
there's just one parent to shoulder it all. Houses cost the
same whether the buyer is a married couple or a single mother
of four. Groceries cost the same, daycare costs the same,
and colleges don't give students a break on tuition simply
because they come from a broken home.
Jane Herzog of the San Francisco Bay Area of California is
a single mom by choice, via donor insemination. As the sole
provider for her 4½-year-old son, she says she's very sensitive
to the financial challenges of single parents and the special
considerations and worries that come with the job.
- With no second income to fall back on, the financial pressure
can be exhausting.
- Life insurance--how much is adequate and who can you name
as guardian who has the resources to care for your child(ren)?
- It seems doubly important that single parents carry disability
and accident insurance--and yet they have half the income
of two-income couples to pay for these expenses.
- The importance of a will takes on new meaning--if a probate
court decides your parents are too old to care for your
child, he or she could become a ward of the state.
Daycare is a single parent's nightmare. When plans get
thwarted, you have no one with whom to negotiate options.
You and you alone must bear the burden of either immediate
childcare or some ridiculously expensive and far less ideal
alternative, often placing your own economic status at risk.
Herzog comments that this "happened to me, and I ended up
spending a fortune on temporary arrangements."
- Affordable housing can be a long battle: "Despite the
fact that I am a well-paid senior manager, it's impossible
for me to afford to buy a house in the Bay Area, and I can
barely afford to rent our small house," Herzog remarks.
Sometimes, it can take twice as long for a single parent
to become "settled" in a home for purely financial reasons.
- Unless Grandma lives nearby, indulging in a social life
can mean weighing your prospects for fun against the cost
of a babysitter. For single parents, it's usually a question
of economics, not theatre tickets.
Fortunately, the Internet has opened up a whole new avenue
of resources not just for single parents but all kinds of
people who lead alternative lifestyles. The Internet allows
both consumers and service providers to target their interests
and the demographic they want to reach. The following is a
list of Web sites that single/alternative lifestyle parents
recommend for financial services and information targeted
to their specific needs:
provides financial articles and information on debt, taxes,
part of the ivillage.com network, this Web site features financial
advice articles under its "Money Matters" column--much of
which pertains directly to single parents.
features financial articles as well as classified listings
of financial planners, attorneys, and CPAs who work specifically
with the gay community.
a recommended financial advice Web site, whether you're gay
or not. Some of the information provided addresses specific
concerns of the gay and lesbian community, such as how a trust
can protect partners when unrecognized "marriages" do not.
The site also provides access to financial services such as
online trading, banking, mortgage loans, and portfolio tracking.
sponsored by the National Organization of Single Mothers and
provides listings of resources specific to the needs of this
a consumer credit counseling resource offering a lot more
than advice on excessive debt. It also provides tips for back
to school shopping, a vacation planning guide, and even games
for children to help teach the benefits of saving money and
shopping wisely for school supplies.
a listing of resources for loans, grants, and scholarships
to help pay for your children's college tuition.
this site gives you one-stop information about what types
of college savings plans are sponsored by your state. Many
offer broad flexibility when it comes to attending out-of-state
schools, maximum contribution limits, and both state and federal
As a veteran single mom, I can honestly attest to the fact
that financial challenges have not been the biggest disadvantage
to raising a child alone. By and large, the hardest part has
not been the lack of a partner to help shoulder the burdens
but rather not being able to share the joys. Not having a
partner to share in the first time my son walked and spoke,
the funny things he says, and the winning soccer goal he scored
makes the money management part look easy.