Curbing COVID’s financial impacts for moms

Mother, Diana Moreno, center, and her daughter Iimaya, 4, right, play with friend, Tiffany Delazari, 3, as they pick up toys at the Single Mothers Outreach in Newhall on Thursday, 020521. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita single mother Diana Moreno found herself without income just as she needed it most, when the pandemic closed schools.

“I’m a full-time student, but I was working as a student employee because that extra income was definitely helping me with my rent,” Moreno said.

Luckily, Moreno was able to continue working until the end of the semester, but after that, she was left jobless while trying to care for her daughter, unable to find any new job opportunities.

“I was behind on my rent, and I knew I needed income. It was so stressful and overwhelming,” she said. “(But) going through the scariness of COVID, I couldn’t get emotional because my daughter’s around — I just had to get it together. … Quitting was not an option — we had to make it work.” 

Similarly, both Lisa, whose last name has been omitted for privacy concerns, and her 21-year-old daughter also lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Life is hard right now,” she said. “I’m struggling to find work, we are constantly aware of our mental health, affordable family housing in SCV is nonexistent and rental assistance has dried up.” 

Stephanie Montoya, Single Mothers Outreach Director of Programs and Services, left, brings toys to Diana Moreno and her daughter Iimaya, 4, at the Single Mothers Outreach in Newhall on Thursday, 020521. Dan Watson/The Signal

The pandemic impact 

March is Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to honoring women’s contributions in history, and it’s no secret that women have made sacrifices throughout their lives for their families, as they are often the ones taking time off from work to care for children and aging parents. 

While both men and women have stepped up to help with the challenges brought forth by the pandemic, it was again moms, like Moreno and Lisa, who’ve sacrificed, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reporting that more than 2 million moms have been forced or opted not to work to care for their kids, help with schooling, etc. — leaving the economic fallout to be dubbed a “she session,” rather than a recession, by financial analysts. 

The bureau also reported that of the 227,000 jobs lost this past December, women accounted for more than 85% of those jobs, while men gained 16,000 jobs.

A Center for American Progress study found these women who lost wages also lose retirement savings, which can add up to four times their annual salary.

Local financial analysts agree that while even brief stints of not working can have detrimental repercussions to a woman’s ability to retire comfortably, there are certainly financial strategies women can implement to help create a reliable nest egg for their future. 

Finding ways around these financial impacts

Ivy Pierson, founder and president of Pierson Wealth Management suggests that the first step in tackling the financial implications is by continuing to fund retirement savings as much as possible, ensuring they have their own nest egg separate from their partner.

“(They should) make sure that they are putting themselves first and that they are contributing,” Pierson said. “It is important for women to be engaged in the financial planning.” 

Whether through an employer’s plan or solely, women should continue contributing to an individual retirement account, or IRA, and Social Security.

While for Erick Arndt, a financial adviser at Virtue Wealth, it all begins with ensuring your “financial house” is in order by first understanding their cash flow, then tackling life insurance and estate planning, as well as ensuring you have an emergency fund.

Most can begin to understand this by creating a spending plan, which Arndt thinks of as a “game plan,” allowing people to understand where their money is going each month, then making adjustments when needed.

In the present, Pierson said it’s also vital for women to pay attention to how they’re spending their money day to day, as well as ensuring they’re accumulating some sort of savings, with Pierson suggesting having that amount come directly out of a paycheck each month.

Then, when returning to work, Pierson highlighted the importance of negotiating a proper salary and benefits, as that will only help to ensure financial stability.

“I am optimistic that we, as women, are able to tackle the world and any challenges that may come to us, but paying attention to your financial planning, being it retirement or day-to-day … is very important to look at and come to terms with,” Pierson added.

Coming out the other side

After losing her job, Lisa was able to rent some space in a friend’s living room until she found out about Family Promise’s new Transitional House and became the first family to move in in September.

“The house gave us an opportunity to feel we had a real home,” she said, adding that Family Promise also provided her family with case management, ongoing referrals for self-help, mental health support, and supplies when needed, as well as help in saving money and searching for job opportunities. “We have been able to save more than 80% of our income during our stay, giving us a savings we never have had and improving our chances of finding our own place to live.” 

Grateful for what the organization has provided her, Lisa became a house mother at the Transitional House, supporting other families by listening to them and motivating them to remain positive and work towards their goals, she said.

It’s this opportunity to start fresh that Pierson sees as a silver lining in the pandemic, allowing more women to find their passion as the workforce continues to evolve and they may get the chance to work remotely, for example.

“I think it creates a great environment for women to thrive in the workforce by being able to do things maybe a little differently,” she added. “I am certain that a lot of creativity will surface from this challenge.” 

While speaking at Bridge to Home about the struggles she faced amid the pandemic, Moreno was able to learn about some of the resources that were available in the community, including Single Mothers Outreach. 

“I would say to other struggling moms: Surround yourself with a community. I think Santa Clarita has some of the biggest supporters,” Moreno said. “You can do it. Ask for that raise, spend more time with your kids, ask for help.” 

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