10 ways single moms can make money and build wealth in 2021

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Whew, it’s 2021, baby! If you’re like me, you set some resolutions — goals and milestones to hit in this new calendar year. This might include fitness, relationships (start dating again, maybe?), self-care like travel, or read more books, get the kids on a chore schedule, making more money, or to start invest to build wealth.

If you are like 84% of Americans, you had financial goals last year, according to a NerdWallet survey of 2,000 U.S. adults. Unfortunately, that same survey found that one in five people abandoned their money goals within two weeks, and more than half failed to reach some or all of their resolutions.

And this is in a time when we all need to prepare for a recession.

There is a reason I blog primarily about money on this site and in my book (though I do love writing about dating!!). Money touches every vertical of your life:

If you are not in control of your finances, this affects your family life, because you are stressed, perhaps overworked and distracted worrying about bills. You are more likely to argue with your kids’ dad, which affects your co-parenting.

Money affects the men you seek out and attract — I have heard countless stories of very smart women moving in with all the wrong guys because they were tired of being stressed about rent.

Money affects your physical well being (less money means you are more likely to eat unhealthy food, pass on a gym membership and checkups, and suffer all the negative side effects of anxiety).

When you don’t have enough money, or feel that you don’t have enough money, you lose your power.

If you are like most single moms I know, you are going through a lot of life changes — your romantic life, family situation, living arrangements and relationship with yourself are all in flux.

Steady app has helped more than 2 million people find quality gigs and jobs, earn bonuses and manage their finances.

So is your money.

This time of transition offers great opportunity to make positive changes. But with so many balls in the air, there is also lots of opportunity to join the majority of Americans and not stick to those money goals.

Here is your 2021 guide to locking down some practical financial resolutions, stick to those goals, and uplevel into 2021 and beyond!

Look for high-paying jobs — near you or online

When you are broke, or want more money for whatever reason, the first and natural thing to do is slash expenses. That is great, and you should do that. But the best and biggest way to have more in your pocket is to earn more. After all, If you focus on clipping $1 coupons for paper towels, the best you can do is saving $1. If you focus on earning and growing your career, the sky is the limit!

There are more opportunities than ever before to earn a high income from home — or near you, with a flexible schedule.

Our top job board pick is FlexJobs, a paid job board which allows you to find remote, telecommute, at-home and other flexible career-level positions. Read our FlexJobs review.

Or, consider a job as a work-at-home bookkeeper, which can earn $75+/hour. Learn more about bookkeeping in this post, or check out the top online bookkeeping course, Bookkeeper Launch, which teaches you everything you need to know about being a bookkeeper, finding clients and growing your business.

Proofreading is another great, in-demand career you can do at home. Proofread Anywhere offers a FREE Intro to Proofreading Workshop to find out if you have what it takes to be a proofreader. The great news is these workshops are on-demand, so register for free now >>

Need income now while you build your biz? Steady app has helped more than 2 million people find quality gigs and jobs, earn bonuses and manage their finances.

Maximize investing — on every single-mom budget

Saving money is so awesome, but investing is where the juice is. After all, if you park all you savings in a checking account, or a low-earning savings account at your local bank (as most are these days), your hard-earned money will be flat year after year. Meanwhile, inflation means the cost keeping yourself and your children alive goes up 2 to 4 percent each year.

Nevermind that you likely want to grow your quality of life, too!

That is why investing your money in the stock market is so important. Over the last century, stock market returns have averaged 10 percent.

In other words, if you don’t actively invest and grow your money, you are actually losing money.

What’s that you say? You don’t understand the stock market? Feel intimidated and stupid when it comes to investing (even though you are smart, successful and confident in the rest of your life)?

Join the club. Most women do — including me! Wall Street — dominated by men — wants you to feel stupid so you’ll hand over your money to brokers and advisors — again, overwhelmingly bros — who you will pay a lot of money to manage this money.

I wrote this post to help women like you understand investing basics, and feel confident in picking a company, fund and plan to safely invest your hard-earned income for retirement, a home, your kids’ college — WHATEVER. Because you deserve that kind of security.

Betterment, with its free financial planner does an excellent job in making investing accessible and understandable:

Betterment is one of the oldest and largest roboadvisors, with $22 billion under management. Benefits of Betterment include:

  • $0 minimum
  • Fees starting at .25%
  • Tax loss harvesting
  • Better Business Bureau A+
  • Get a free financial plan
  • Access to human advisors
  • New member promo: Up to 1 year managed free
  • Socially responsible investing funds
  • Betterment savings and checking accounts

Learn more about Betterment now for free >>

Protect your family with insurance

This post is designed to free you from worry: worry about making rent, worry about whether your car will break down and you won’t have enough cash to make repairs, worry that you will be stuck in debt forever.

This post will not absolve you from all worry. You know why not? Because you are a mom.

Moms worry. We do.

But I can help you reduce your worry, including that horrible fear that something will happen to you, and as a single mom, you are your kids’ primary caregiver.

Get life insurance

Life insurance is a big piece of this mom-worry therapy. With enough life insurance, you can rest easy that your children can be cared for financially in the event that you pass.

Bestow is a really cool company that allows you to apply for and buy term life insurance entirely online, and with a guarantee of no medical or lab exams.

Bestow offers policies that start at $10 per month, for a $50,000, 10-year policy for a healthy 30-year-old non-smoker. Get a term life insurance quote now from Bestow >>

Get renter’s insurance

What would you do if your home was broken into? Flooded? Suffered a fire?

Renters insurance is very affordable, and can save you from financial ruin.

This post gives details about how renters insurance works, and where to find quick and affordable coverage. Our No. 1 renters insurance pick is Lemonade, with rates starting at $9 per month, and a 100% online application, you can get renters insurance coverage within 90 seconds now >>

Compare home and auto insurance rates

Gabi is our recommendation for auto and home insurance comparisons — quickly and for free. It’s like shopping for an airline ticket, but for insurance, allowing you to compare prices with more than 40 carriers:

  • Gabi customers save an average of $961/yr when switching insurance
  • No user fees ever
  • Our service is completely spam free and secure
  • Our agents support email, chat, SMS, and calls to assist our customers
  • Insurance Rate Monitoring which automatically reshops your policy your rates go up by 8% or more.

 Check out Gabi to compare car and home insurance >>

Get rid of debt and improve your credit

Reducing your credit card, medical, student and car loans means fewer bills, less money wasted on interest rates.

Start by applying for a 0% balance transfer credit card.

Improving your credit score and history means more options and more control: With a high credit score you can get a car note, qualify for a mortgage, business or student loan — al of which could dramatically improve your family’s lives.

Here is my step-by-step guide for how to pay off debt for good, as well as an easy recipe for how to repair your credit score fast, securely and affordably.

If you want to see credit results fast, try Experian Boost, a 100% free tool that can instantly boost your FICO credit score. Average boost users see a 13-point increase. Try Experian Boost now, and get your free credit report and FICO score >>

Learn more about getting rid of credit card debt.

Slash spending and get that single mom budget together

Here is something surprising I recently learned about myself:

The higher my income, the greater my net worth, the less stuff I want.

Yes, I enjoy a beautiful home, nice clothes and jewelry, and enjoy good food. But the fewer items I own, the happier I am.

I like my closets and drawers and cupboards occupied only by items I use and enjoy.

The less crowding my fridge, the more I enjoy the meals and snacks I have — as the waste of uneaten food stresses me out.

Everything else must go. Bonus? Less stuff means more money!

More on how to create a single-mom budget you can stick to, including tools like You Need a Budget — a spreadsheet-based app that helps you pay off debt, create a budget and set and reach all your money goals. Try YNAB's 34-day free trial now >>

TrueBill, which identifies any recurring subscriptions, and on your behalf will cancel or reduce recurring bills like iTunes, Hulu, SlingTV, cable, Internet, cell phone, BlueApron or even Planet Fitness (face it—you never go!). TrueBill.com is 100% free unless they negotiate down a bill, in which they take 40% of the savings.

Start an emergency fund

Do you have at least 3 months’ living expenses in a savings account? No? Create a plan to build up a cash account that will save your butt in the event of unemployment, a natural disaster or otherwise being displaced, a major medical event or any other unforeseen financial event. Even a car repair can undo you, financially.

The value of this savings account is one part practical, one part emotional (you will feel better each and every day knowing this money is safe and available), and one part spiritual. After all, you make better, wiser decisions from a place of power when you not afraid. Money in the bank relieves fear.

Betterment offers a checking and savings accounts, the latter of which offers a higher-than-average APY, plus reimbursed ATM fees. Check out Betterment’s Cash Reserve now >>

Jump-start your savings by selling old gold and jewelry that you no longer need. CashforGoldUSA is A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau, pays within 24 hours, and was found by a Fox Business News investigation to pay 3X its competitors. 

Change your single mom money mindset

The most important thing you can do to change your financial life, is change your financial mind.

How and what you think and believe establishes what happens in your bank account.

The first and most critical step to earning more, saving more, investing more, spending and stressing less about money, is to renovate what happens between your ears.

If you are stuck in broke, there are likely limiting beliefs specific to single motherhood that are spiraling in your mind. I have struggled with many of these, and have heard time and again (and again!) from moms on this blog and social media.

I’m a single mom, and single moms are broke. Of course I’m poor!

Reality: Yes, statistically, single moms are poorer than married moms. But, you are likely telling yourself that story (and it is indeed a story) based on decades of media portrayal of single mothers as downtrodden, struggling floozies, politicians who blame unmarried mothers as the source of all social ills.

There are also countless stories of both down-and-out married moms, as well as thriving, affluent, self-made single moms.

The beauty of living in 2021 as a woman is that compared with the sexism our grandmothers and even mothers faced, we have endless opportunities to earn and invest.

Easy, affordable meal planning for single moms

No more “I’m a single mom and I need money”

Here is a common money story single moms tell themselves:

I need to sacrifice and struggle and overcompensate for the fact that my children are from a broken home.

Reality: What’s with the martyr syndrome, mama? Not a good look! Focus on earning big, spending little, and maximizing quality time with your kids. Studies find that financial stability and a thriving mom are two of the biggest factors when it comes to child development.

Other ways to improve your money relationship: stop overspending on your kids (they really don’t need much), and focus on creating positive relationships for your kids, yourself and the whole family. Kids thrive not because their home looks like the Cleavers, but because they are safe, cared for, understood. You can control all of that, but first you have to decide to do those things.

What to do:

  1. Write down your limiting beliefs when it comes to money.
  2. Write down where these ideas came from. Who told you you are bad with money, or that you have to martyr yourself? What was your earliest memories of a single mom? Was she thriving, or struggling?
  3. Get therapy if you want. No shame at all! Online therapy is a great option, especially for busy single moms, since online counseling apps like BetterHelp allow you to choose from thousands of certified, licensed counselors, totally anonymously.
  4. Think about who your support system is. Do these people set big goals, and actively work towards them? Do they support your dreams and goals? Even the wonderful people who love you most may not be your money tribe. You can meet and be inspired by other, big-thinking and ambitious single moms who will change your paradigm at Facebook.com/groups/millionairesinglemoms.

Focus on money role modeling for your kids

Like it or not, your kids are watching. Lecture them all the livelong day about the importance of saving, budgets and investing, but if your children see you live beyond your means and spend frivolously, one of two things will happen:

  1. They will repeat your bad habits, or
  2. They will grow up to have better money habits, and resent your bad ones. Especially if you are now financially dependent on your kids because of those bad habits, which they now feel pressure to care for.

Instead, involve your kids on your money journey. Set them up on an allowance system.

In this post, I elaborate here on what we do at my house, with spend/save/give jars, as well as a guide to teaching kids about money.

Talk to them about the importance of money for security, including all kinds of insurances.

Set a family money goal — say, an ice skating outing (which my kids have been nagging me about for weeks). If the event costs $50, find ways to save money (sell unused items, skipping a weekly ice cream treat), to save up.

Get creative, and pay attention to what excites your kids — and you!

When my friend Blake was growing up, his family made a game of seeing how low they could get the monthly electric bill. This is something I think will go over well at my house, as both my son and I are passionate about green living.

Not only do these measures teach your kids important, core skills, but it keeps you motivated and on-track, too.

Plus, it relieves guilt, since you know you should be a good money role model for your kids.

Estate planning for single parents

Next steps: How to make money as a single mom

Not sure where to start? If you already have a job, here is my guide to asking for and getting that raise.

Avoid temptation to focus on getting more alimony or child support — which are finite, negative and ultimately hold you back. Instead, my research found that moms who share parenting time equally are more likely to earn more, and feel better about being a mom.

Get dads involved? Close the pay gap? 50/50 parenting, no child support

Need a job? High paying full-time jobs and side hustles for single moms to check out

Building a career or business is the best thing you can do for your finances, your mental health, your parenthood and your future! 

Here is a run-down of high-paying careers you can do from home.

These include:

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

11 Comments

All I hear everywhere I look for advise, is the single mom…what about single dads? We exist, and some of us make good parents. Why don’t we call them what we all are; single parents.

I appreciate the article which was overall helpful; however, $40 per week for counseling equates to more than my past car note. Keep in mind, the app STARTS at $40/wk. Going through your insurance and having them help you find therapists “in network” and schedule your appointments for you would most likely be the best option for “affordable” mental health care especially for single moms. I’m sure BetterHelp is a great resource, but perhaps that affiliate link would have been more appropriate in a different article not centered around becoming financially intelligent. I will say that what you do with the save/spend/give jars is phenomenal! You go girl!

We need a Canadian you! Do you have any women you know of in Canada sharing similar information? I can research myself but as you know the way you’ve listed everything is so helpful. Just need the Canadian version of bank accounts, life insurance plans etc..

I love this article and have done most of the things you listed. However, you mentioned investing but left no links on how I as a single mother can better understand it. It seems so daunting and I don’t know where to begin.

This is one of the best empowering messages I have heard in a very long time. Especially about the road trip. I have been thinking of doing this for a long time and I’m hoping I can summon enough courage to do it with my kids next summer.
Thanks for all these words of affirmation

This is a great article, but what do we do when our childrens’ father habitually takes us to court? If it wasn’t for legal bills, I’d be doing just fine financially. Over the past two years, I’ve paid $50,000 in legal fees due to his motions to modify the custody order, motions to decrease child support, false complaints about phone calls, etc. He’s a diagnosed narcissist and an attorney. Help!

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