This week, CFP Board is kicking off its monthly Financial Planning for Everyone series. Once a month, this blog will feature a different topic about personal finance and offer helpful tips for managing finances and navigating financial challenges.

And since Mother’s Day is upon us, what better group to start with than moms?

Here’s a question for you:  What institution is the largest U.S. employer and the chief supplier of our nation’s productive capital?  

Need a hint?  It has been in operation longer than any other American entity and is guaranteed to be producing long after today’s businesses have disappeared.  

Still stumped?  It earns no appreciable revenues and does not pay its 85 million workers. It provides no insurance, no retirement or Social Security benefits and only has a few days off, if any.

It’s motherhood.  As Americans, we will spend approximately $20 billion this year trying to pay tribute to our mothers who are, of course, priceless.  But if we can’t put a price on motherhood, we must at least pay attention to its costs.  According to the USDA, on average, it costs $25,000 to $300,000 to feed, clothe and house a child up to age 17.  

While ideally shared by fathers as well, these costs are just the tip of the iceberg for our nation’s mothers. Some studies have found that the pay differential between men and women for the same work is a function not primarily of gender, but of motherhood. In fact, for elderly American women, poverty is more prevalent among those who are mothers.

Most mothers would give their lives for their children, but one thing they may be giving up is their financial security.  It’s time for mothers to start taking care of themselves as well their children.  Until the unpaid duties of motherhood enjoy the same social and market protections as paid labor, women—and all who love and depend on them—need to think about their financial planning differently.

Mothers are living longer, working outside of the home and are more likely to spend a significant period of their lives single vs. their male counterparts. With that in mind, here are some steps that mothers need to be taking toward greater financial security:

  • Create a savings plan.  Aim to put away more money, both for retirement and for a rainy day.
  • Get adequate disability and long term care insurance.  These risks are more prevalent for women.
  • Take more investment risks.  Women have traditionally been more conservative in this area, but they need to make their capital grow sufficiently for their longer lives.
  • Consider taking an adult education class.  Mothers who want to return to the workplace, or are looking to gain additional skills to advance their careers, should invest in additional education and training.
In a word, mothers need to be more selfish about seeing to their own needs.  

American women are responsible for nearly 80% of household consumption decisions. So, as our domestic CEOs, perhaps it is time for them to pay themselves by diverting more of the resources expended on their children to their own savings and retirement funds.

And perhaps it is time for those of us who love and value the mothers in our lives to step it up a bit. This year—along with the carnations and chocolates—consider making an IRA or other savings contribution for Mom. Yes, take her to brunch, but talk about the importance of her financial security, a financial plan and planning for stages of her life.

Even better, pay for a visit to see a CFP® professional who will put her financial interests and security first and bring her finances together.  Click here to find a CFP® professional in your area.