I'm a Mom and a Wealth Attorney: These Are the Money Issues I Really Worry About
When I first became a wealth and estate attorney, I found that most of my clients were concerned about making and protecting their money. They wanted to earn more, travel regularly, and retire quickly. But it wasn't often that they thought about their financial legacy—how their finances affect their family planning and what they need to do to safeguard their children's financial futures.
Even I admit that I wasn't always considering how my financial decisions would one day affect my kids. But once I became a mom, these lessons that I had learned through my career really started to hit home.
In fact, I began my second book, 'Money Momma,' while I was in the hospital preparing for the birth of my daughter. Only in the moments before delivery, could I truly appreciate how much there is for us mothers worry and think (fine, obsess) about.
Here, I share what I think is most important when it comes to creating a strong financial future for my family.
My children should know what they want to do, before enrolling in college
We all know that education costs a fortune. College tuition has gone up approximately 1000% since our parents went to college. Many students are taking on hundreds of thousands in student loan debt but employers are unwilling to pay college graduates huge dollars when they hire them for their first job. This is likely for good reason—when we walk into our first job we have no experience. An education can be the best investment if it actually leads to the life that your child wants. We should spend more time encouraging our children to figure out what they want to do before they incur this debt that I call the modern day incarceration.
After all, a college education is the prerequisite for many jobs today. However, with companies like Apple, Google, and Netflix are no longer making college education a requirement for new hires—should we continue to push our kids to go to the top educational institutions at any cost?
I have a guardianship and estate plan clearly set in a will
One of my greatest fears is this terrifying statistic: approximately 64% of Americans die without a will in place. While the estate and probate law in your state likely says what happens to your money should you die without a will, how could the law possibly decide best who gets your child in the event you don't have a guardian listed in your will? The short answer: it can't.
- RELATED: Why Every Parent Should Have a Will
In these unfortunate circumstances, your child can be placed in Child Protective Services until a judge decides who becomes the guardian. Can you already see your parents and in-laws fighting over this in court? We must do better. We plan vacations to a greater extent than we plan our children's wellbeing when it comes to the unthinkable.
I'm on my hands and knees begging you—please get this taken care of this year. We can't let our children suffer because getting a will was always important but never urgent until it was too late.
I save for family planning or fertility treatments
Women are rising up (finally!) in corporate America. We are becoming executives, lawyers, and doctors in record numbers. This often means that we are putting marriage and children off. Many of my female clients in their late 30s and early 40s are coming to the realization that they want to have children and just aren't able to find a suitable partner.
Then, these professionally successful women are faced with the extreme costs of egg freezing, IVF treatments, surrogacy, or adoption. For this new reality, I suggest creating an IVF Trust and write about it in 'Money Mama.' It's a trust that can be established that specifically allows for funds to be used for the benefit of family continuity. I am a staunch advocate for more companies fully covering the costs associated with IVF. Some companies are already doing this but until the rest catch up with the times, it's important to plan for yourself.
My child understands the value of money
As parents, we work hard to make money so that we can give our children a life we didn't have. Does it ever go too far? All we are reading about today is the so-called "entitlement" of the younger generations. My clients sometimes tell me that they don't want their children to know how much money they have so that their kids still have a normal life.
For those families, I help them implement a life and legacy plan. I encourage them to be honest about the money they have and plan on gifting to their children. Kids will figure it out eventually, so it's a good idea to prime them at a young age to be ready to receive any sort of inheritance.
I also suggest that they implement trusts regularly. You want to ensure that your children's assets are protected from their future creditors (divorces, malpractice, or business partnerships gone wrong, for example.) Parents should also have a plan if they have multiple kids and know who gets what and how they get it. Especially when a family business is involved, I often say that equal is not equitable.
I train and coach my clients on how to have positive conversations with their children. There's nothing worse than your hard-earned money being used to pay for unending estate litigation because your kids were angry at you and their siblings because of a perceived inequity in your estate plan. Talk to them and explain why you are making certain decisions.
I teach my children to give back and donate to charity
I believe it is our obligation to do good unto the world. So often with my clients, we discuss charity at length. Even if my clients do not have much to give, I encourage them to talk to their children about charity from an early age. If we want to be a light upon the world, we can start by teaching our children about giving back and get them involved in the process. When children make charity a habit, they are often much better adjusted to the reality that not everyone in the world has excess and that they too have to make this world a better place.