Last year, the number of UK mothers in work reached its highest level for 20 years - a figure that has steadily been climbing since 20031. Of course, raising children is no easy feat and it can get even trickier when you have to balance work, motherhood and finances.

Regularly saving for your child or children’s future might be high on your to do list, but it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of your own financial well-being.

It’s like being on a plane and the flight attendant warns you to put on your oxygen mask before you can help others. In other words, prioritise your financial independence so that you can help your children when you can afford to.

Having a rainy-day fund is a good idea for those day-to-day unexpected emergencies, like if your boiler packs up. But it’s also important to have some savings just for yourself. Say your relationship breaks down. Do you have the means to move on if needs be? A separate pot of savings can help ease your mind and retain your financial independence.

According to a Fidelity Women and Money study, a third of women don’t have a savings account and only a quarter own an investment product2. Although more than half (54%) are interested in taking control and doing more to manage their finances.

But where do you begin? Here are three things to think about to gain greater financial independence.

1. Start investing as early as you can

Given the cost-of-living crisis and the negative effects of inflation, you might think investing is too risky and cash is the safest option. However, if you start early your money has the best chance to grow over time.

And the sooner you start, the better. Typically, saving small amounts over a longer period can make a bigger difference than saving larger sums later in life, even if the total amount you’ve put in is the same.
Remember though, the value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest.

Take a look at our animation to learn how investing the same amount at different times in your life can have a great impact on your overall pot by the time you come to retire.

2. Regular saving is your friend

Market highs and lows affect the price of your investments and are a natural part of investing. Investing regularly can take the guess work out of trying to time the markets and catches the high points as well as the low. In financial terms this is known as pound-cost averaging.

When you’re investing remember that putting away money - even small amounts can make a big difference - as long as you do it regularly and give your investment plenty of time. And while there are no guarantees, more time can mean more potential for growth and more opportunities to reinvest any money from your original investment.

3. Don’t forget your pension

Your pension is one of the most important long-term assets you have in your lifetime. However, there are barriers that may prevent women from growing their pension. These may include taking a career break after having a child, not getting pay rises during the time you’ve been out of the workplace or having to pay for expensive childcare - all of which can eat into how much you can contribute.

So, it’s good to find out how much money you may need to have in your pension to live out the retirement you want for yourself. You can use our retirement budgeting calculator to see how much you might need.

If you’ve opted for a career break to look after the kids and your pension has taken second place, there are things you can do to catch up. Ensure you max out any employer contributions or think about whether you can pay any extra into your pension to help bridge the gap - you might be surprised what a difference even a small amount can make over time.

As a working mother, it’s only natural to think of your children. But it’s important that you’re financially secure and financially independent first - that way you and your children can thrive, without sacrificing your oxygen mask.

1. Financial Times, 22.07.2022
2. Research conducted by Opinium research between 7-17 Jan 2022 among 14,052 men and women in the UK, Germany, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.UK-specific findings taken from the global study are based upon sample of 2,010 (991 men and 1,008 women).

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