Woman are facing the tough choice of working or staying home with their children
Oct. 13, 2015 Whitepaper

Women and Work: Lean On

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With the publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, has come a renewed spotlight on the issues associated with women and work.

Both pursuing a career and being a stay-at-home mom are wonderful opportunities which come with their own rewards and risks. Here we focus on a topic few like to discuss—the financial risks of leaving the work force, especially when done to care for others. This is not meant to discourage women (or the increasing number of men) from deciding to stay at home full-time to raise their children. Rather, the purpose is to arm the caregiver with knowledge of both the risks they are assuming as well as the steps they can take to protect themselves and their families. If you will not be “Leaning In,” then it is especially important to create a solid safety net that you and your family can “Lean On”. 

Protect yourself and your family with three defensive moves 

  1. The first line of defense is the simple yet effective emergency fund. With one-income and a family of dependents, budgets can be tight. There is also a lot more that can go wrong, resulting in high unexpected expenses. Without an emergency fund, a family may be forced to rely on credit cards or other short-term loans, beginning a spiral into significant debt.
  2. The next line of defense is insurance. Both the working and stay-at-home spouse should have their own life insurance policies (term policies can provide a high benefit for a low cost). It is important for the stay-at-home spouse to have life insurance. While she may not be bringing in an income, she does provide a significant economic benefit to the household. The working spouse should also have a good disability insurance policy (theoretically the stay-at-home spouse should too, but insurance companies will not sell you a policy unless you have an income). 
  3. Many people shy away from obtaining disability insurance policies because of their higher cost. However, the reason premiums are higher is because they are more likely to be used. Nobody likes to think about death or disability, and nobody thinks it will happen to them before retirement. However, if you are caring for others, you can’t afford to take the risk of not having this insurance. Insurance policies are important safety nets because they provide a high benefit, but only for very specific causes. A lot of other things can go wrong that insurance policies won’t cover sufficiently such as incurring high uninsured medical expenses, or experiencing an extended job loss or decline in business income. For this reason, every caregiver needs a third line of defense- the ability to get a well-paying job. 

It’s critical to keep yourself employable 

In the long run, being employable is the most comprehensive level of protection for the entire family. If you already have a profession- keep up your credentials! Get continuing education, go to an occasional conference and consider volunteering or freelancing in your field. Do what you reasonably can to keep your resume from going stale. If you don’t already have a profession, start researching opportunities now. Studying is difficult while you are busy raising a family, but what if you need to get a job quickly and you’re not prepared? 

One of the biggest obstacles women face in maintaining their professional credentials is guilt over time spent away from the family. Consider the following: 32% of female headed households live in poverty, double the rate of male-headed households. Also, almost half of children living in female headed households live in poverty. Spending time on your career is not selfish- it is a precaution to protect you and your family from living in poverty.

When putting together your family’s safety net, don’t be shy about seeking professional advice. A financial advisor can provide counsel about purchasing sufficient insurance coverage and having enough savings on hand for a rainy day. Also consider utilizing the services of a career counselor who can help you make the transition back to work by assessing any gap in skills you may have as well as identifying potential paths you can take back into the workforce.

Being able to stay at home to care for your family is a wonderful opportunity. As with any decision, it carries risks that should be recognized and addressed. Building a safety net you can Lean On will help ensure, even if faced with adversity, that you and your family are well taken care of.


This document is for informational use only. Nothing in this publication is intended to constitute legal, tax, or investment advice. There is no guarantee that any claims made will come to pass. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but Kaiser Hoffman does not warrant the accuracy of the information. Consult a financial, tax or legal professional for specific information related to your own situation.
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