The Husband and I were recently running late for a consultation. As we lovingly bickered about the building's location — he had already turned around twice — he accidentally sideswiped a car.
I share this lovely outtake from our marriage because the person with whom we were meeting was Andrea Blackwelder of Wisdom Wealth Strategies, our certified financial planner. We were en route to discuss how to balance saving for retirement with the real-time demands of kids and life's unexpected road bumps.
The irony is not lost on me.
For many parents it's tough to prioritize the future over omnipresent children's needs, life's exigencies and, in our case, cars in blind spots.
Lynn Clark, 44, of Denver, has almost drained her retirement account to start her portrait photography business. "As a self-employed person, I can't currently contribute to my retirement savings or my daughter's college fund. Everything I'm making goes for the basics, a few extras and the business expenses."
She says retirement still seems far away, and she and her husband laugh at the notion of retiring before age 70.
I can relate. Four years ago, The Husband started a Web development business. As we worked to build his client base, our priorities changed from our investments to keeping a roof over our head. Savings have been particularly challenging because, like many small businesses, our monthly income fluctuates.Automate savings
As a financial adviser, Blackwelder's biggest advice is to save automatically and schedule savings increases.
"As hectic as the lives of parents can be, it is important to ensure that saving money on a regular basis is taking place, no matter how little. The best way to accomplish this is to create an automatic system by which savings are transferred from checking accounts to savings or investment accounts," she said.
She also advises taking money out at the beginning of the month and not the end. That way, parents are more likely to have the funds available. "If you're only able to start saving $25 each month, schedule an incremental increase every three to six months. It is better to start with a lower amount and increase it over time than to not start at all."
Denver mom Ratna Gupta says as circumstances change such as a child needing braces, she reduces the money she puts into her retirement account so she can pay off the orthodontist.
"What I need to remember is to go back to the fixed amount I had before and not get used to that money hitting my bank account every month. I have it go straight into the retirement account and adjust if necessary."
Blackwelder also recommends having a year's worth of emergency funds. "A savings account is fine for the first six months but after that, savings can be invested in low-risk mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in hopes of higher returns than that of the average savings account."Determine needs versus wants
Arvada resident Steven King says his first rule is to save for retirement before saving for college. "My three kids will be able to take out loans, scholarships and grants for college but there aren't any options for borrowing for retirement."
He goes on to say that in regards to making choices for his kids' "needs," he and his wife involve them in the conversation. "Many of their needs are actually wants. We are trying to teach them at a very young age about the perils of debt and the rewards of investing."
Mom of four Kristen Haaijer says it's important to save and spend on kids when it really matters. "Education is our top priority. We spend some money on extracurricular activities but they must be balanced and work with the family budget. Activities such as community service, scouting and church enrich greatly but cost little."