In this week's Money Confidential podcast, host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez and financial expert Bridget Casey help a single mom who's struggling to make ends meet for her and her son.
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money-confidential-expert-Bridget Casey, founder of moneyaftergraduation.com
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Each week on Real Simple's Money Confidential podcast, host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez digs into the real financial issues people face every day. On this week's episode, O'Connell Rodriguez talks to Kayla, a 35-year-old single mother of one from Nashville who is trying to stretch her income to cover herself and her son, while still paying off student loans and other debt. (Kayla is an alias, to protect our caller's identity.)

Kayla has been making good money, and was the breadwinner in her marriage. Fast forward through a divorce and the pandemic, and Kayla is struggling with her finances—she has been paying alimony to her husband, dealing with a lack of child support, and trying to get adequate child care to cover her son after his preschool shut down due to COVID. "This year, childcare has been like the moving target to kill us all. I just about bankrupted myself on getting a nanny, because otherwise I was going to lose my job," Kayla says.

Kayla feels very isolated, because most of her friends have more support to manage their finances and their families. But she feels like she's constantly putting out financial fires in her life.

How can Kayla get her finances back on track? For help, O'Connell Rodriguez turns to financial expert Bridget Casey, founder of moneyaftergraduation.com, and a single mom herself.

Kayla definitely isn't alone—one in five children in the U.S. live in single-parent households. And Casey suggests that she seek other single parents, as a source of support and friendship (and on occasion, serving as a babysitting swap, to help out when she needs a hand). "With my single mom friends, I will just take their kid for a day—my child has a playmate that isn't me and so she's happier and they're getting free child care," Casey says.

Having at least a small cushion of savings is a goal, but Casey advises that Kayla has to be easy on herself right now, with her rising child care bills and debts, and the pandemic still here. "There's still too much of a personal responsibility narrative in personal finance that puts all the blame on the person who is just trying to survive what's happening to them," Casey says. "But these events that we have to deal with are not always because of decisions we made or things that were within our control."

While Kayla is focused on providing funding for her child's college education, Casey recommends that Kayla prioritize her own retirement and debt payments first. "You don't necessarily know what the post-secondary landscape is going to look like in 10 or 15 years," she says.

Listen to this week's Money ConfidentialHow Can I Support My Kid and Save Money as a Single Parent?—for even more tips from Casey and O'Connell Rodriguez to get a handle on your finances. 

Money Confidential is available on Apple podcastsAmazonSpotifyStitcherPlayer FM, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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Transcript

Kayla: So when my kids ask me that, why don't you ever have any money? I feel guilty. And I feel like I'm not doing a good job. 

If I'm financially stable, they won't have to, you know, help me out, but my heart is bleeding for them, saying like, I really want to help you guys.

I make good money but it does always seem to me that the system is made for dual-income households. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: This is Money Confidential, a podcast from Real Simple about our money stories, struggles and secrets. I'm your host, Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez. And today we're talking to a 35-year-old single mother in Nashville we're calling Kayla—not her real name

Kayla: I grew up with parents who didn't come from money and I didn't understand it. I just assumed it was something that I would not have. 

And then, you know I went to college and grad school.  When I started making a reasonable amount of money, like $40,000, I just felt like I was the richest person in the world.

Andthat is part of how I got here with this situation, post divorce, where I was supporting my entire family, because it felt to me like, well, I'm making good money and I can just do this. And I think I've always taken on too much responsibility. Whether that's like, you know, helping my siblings with money or just supporting my husband. Part of my relationship evolving is me just trying to be better about being like, actually this is my money and I get to keep it and not always spend it on other people or spend it at all. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: During her marriage, Kayla was the primary earner in the household, but she wasn't actively involved in managing the household finances.

Kayla: I was just like, look at me, the working mom, I'm bringing home the bacon and, and he   paid for all the bills, but it was with my money.

So it was very much just like a kind of don't ask, don't tell scenario where I was just like, what's my mortgage again? Well, how much are my utilities? I don't know. I'm busy. I'm working. I was handing off the money and he was putting it places When we divorced, it was suddenly I had to figure out how to put all my money in all the right places myself, which made me feel so stupid. Cause I was just like, I'm so empowered and educated. And yet I literally don't know how to pay my electric bill because I had always just been like, here's my bank account. I just wasn't paying attention before.

I don't know any other single parents who are really doing it alone. I know single parents who have remarried and have another income. And that seems great. If my kids' dad were actually involved and, and his wife, like, I wish we could co-parent but that's just, that's not the reality. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Though the experience of single parenthood can feel isolating, nearly a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent, and no other adults.

Kayla: I have really great friends, but I am not near any of my family. And it does constantly feel like a financial moving target that's kind of out of control. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: What specifically is that financial moving target? Is it, is it your expenses?

Kayla: It's constantly moving largely because the child support has been constantly changing.

I think because my ex-husband has been working less and less. So he's kind of come back and asked to pay less and he didn't pay for six months the amount that he was court ordered to pay. And I was paying alimony and that very much feels like a moving target where it's like, I can't quite budget really, because I never really know what I'm going to get.

And then this year childcare has been like the moving—the pandemic, moving target to kill us all. I thought I had it all budgeted in for his preschool, and then school shut down. And I just about bankrupted myself on getting a nanny because otherwise I was gonna lose my job and then no one's feeding my kid.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: I wonder if you think of some of this as—I just need to get through these few years, versus it just feels like this is impossible and it's going to stay this way for the rest of my life. 

Kayla: I definitely think of it as short term. But then again, I also feel really behind. I'm 35 and I just opened a college savings account for my son. I keep having some savings and then they get drained on something—usually having to do with the divorce.

We've been back to court three times—the first time it was thousands of dollars. And then I had to file for unpaid child support, which was thousands of dollars to get the money that I'm entitled to.

And then part of the agreement with our most recent court thing was I agreed to pay off the alimony faster. So originally I think I had something like seven years legally to pay off $17,000, but I paid it all off in December 2020. 

So yeah. Talk about short term, like that's over. That's great. Did I drain my savings? Yes. So it just feels like I'll start from scratch when my kid's in public school. I'm just worried about that. You know, about ending up in a place where it's like you didn't plan ahead because it was just all frantic for so many years of just getting any in here. Just get a nanny in here, just keep your job, just keep feeding the kid, putting out fires and putting all my money on putting out fires. Then time passes, and I look back and I'm like, oh my God, you know, I'm 50. And I just didn't save. 

That is a terrifying and triggering prospect for me because my own mother is like that. She didn't work. And when my dad passed away, she was just, like, clueless and money-less. And I think that was a real awakening for my siblings. And I were all like, oh, if you don't think ahead, then you will just end up with nothing.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Well, I think a lot of what you're talking about, too, is so much of this has both a time and energy and emotional cost in addition to the financial cost. And that's so much to manage.

Kayla: I try not to just be too complain-y because it's hard, because I'll be hanging out with other parents who are just like—'Oh, the pandemic is hard.' And, and then it'll just be like, 'Oh, but at least we have two incomes in our house.' Or like, 'At least my husband helps with the pay for school' You know. And [I'm always just like, it's fine. It's fine. You know, you don't have to just like, feel bad for me all the time and the same thing with my single friends who are like 'Obviously this year has been rough.' 

I love therapy and I love my therapist, but it's always just that weight of like, if I'm going, if I'm paying you to listen to my money problems and fears, is it worth it? Because it's stressing me out that I'm paying you, you know, this rate to be here and complain about this. And I think that's very much a single parent problem, where you want to take time for yourself and just everything has such a cost.

When, you know, if you have to hire a babysitter to go get a manicure, that was like something I did a lot pre-pandemic.

I would be like, okay, I'm paying this woman to be in my house so I can go and sit in quiet, and get my nails done for $25, which is too expensive, but it's like the principle of the thing. Like I need to be able to tell myself I did something for me, but it feels like such a fight, you know? 

Like if I need someone to watch him for a couple of hours while I go to a doctor's appointment, whatever, my friends are so happy to do that. But again there's always like a certain emotional cost of having to ask it, which is just like, Ugh, here I am asking for help again, the single mom, like, ugh.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: It sounded like it's come up for you before, this idea of not wanting to be the one who needs help, but then also feeling like you're the person who's always turned to help bail people out. 

Kayla: Yeah. I'm also like the oldest sibling of a few siblings and I just care a lot about the people close to me and I've always had that feeling of money doesn't matter. Like money's not, what's important in life. So it's very easy for me to just like throw it in a place that I feel like is useful and that will help people, you know, whether it's just like donating $200 to my friend's such and such fund, you know, I don't know.

And then, and then I'll turn around and be like I actually can't pay for this bill this week. 'Cause I just put my money in too many helpful places that are not helping me. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Has that shifted your feeling about money not mattering?

Kayla: Yeah, I definitely think it matters a lot, but it took 35 years for me to realize that. 

Well, now it's like I'm having to rethink what it means and, and put more of a focus on having money because it's like, you know, saving, investing. And I think that divorcing really shoved that up in front of my face in an unfortunate but helpful way, where it's just expenses that can come out of nowhere and lawyer fees, lawyer fees and court fees are just one of those things.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: So as you've been kind of going through this transition, not just in your life, but in your relationship and thought process around money, how has that looked in terms of like actual management of the money? 

Kayla: It's been very baby steps. Yeah. It was like learning how to pay the bills. (Laughter) It feels so dumb talking about that. And very quickly I got a roommate. So I was an adult, a 30-something year-old parent, I put an ad up on Craigslist and I got this girl in almost overnight and like, thank God it worked out. Cause I was just like, I was desperate, cause my ex husband wasn't paying for the mortgage, but he was my childcare, he would mow the lawn and then like, you know, he's gone.

It's just like, I either have to like, buy a lawnmower myself and learn how to use it. Or I hire a lawn guy. I hired a lawn guy. Um, but there's that kind of juggling, like there's the things that are more expensive that are saving you time and you have to make those judgment calls of like, if I'm paying for a babysitter so that I can go do this.

I mean, just over the past year, I opened investment accounts for the first time. I met with a financial advisor. I started a college fund for my son, like maybe two years ago or a year ago.  Just like trying to take these steps in what little free time I have to kind of check the boxes and make sure that I'm on the right track for him, as much as for me. You know, I don't want to be my mother. I don't want him to grow up and then be like, wow, my mom never knew how to balance a checkbook, or never had a real job or savings.

I'm trying to figure out where—as I'm starting to save more as these like big chunks of court fees, and alimony are in my past—what my priorities should be.

I'm just, like, putting a little bit into my savings, my son's savings, my investments. A lot of it is just guesswork. A lot of it's just like, I don't know, $50 a month seems fine, but that's an area where I need more education, because I don't know. 

I just upped my like retirement to 10% or whatever they tell you to do. I have my student loans on automation and I just doubled that, monthly payments.

I do have an automated—when I get a paycheck, it goes into a savings account. So yeah, that's something that I have learned that is helpful that I'm trying to implement more. But now I'm worried that it's like I'm overreaching where it's like, have I really sat down and done all the math, like as to what's coming out of each paycheck and will there be anything left, like am I overautomating to my savings?

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: That's a really great question. I mean how often do you check in with the systems after you've set them up? 

Kayla: I feel like I check in frequently to be like any, any red flags, any disasters, but like the full process of sitting down and doing a budget, like doing the math part of it is just like, I am not a numbers side of the brain person. I'm so untrusting of my own math skills that I'm just like, I could sit down and spend a whole day budgeting and I just feel like I would probably get it wrong. And I just really need someone to check my work and, or the accountability that I've really thought through every, every aspect.  

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Yeah. I mean, so much of what you're saying right now has nothing to do with math, right?  it sounds like a lot of this is just about having an accountability and support system that kind of supports you through keeping this stuff top of mind, through doing this work. 

Kayla: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like so much of it is accountability, so I don't have to have my eye on the ball all the time. 'Cause it's, you know, it's hard enough as it is.  

And that's what's been so frustrating and that's part of why I reached out because I have felt like entirely alone in my scenario. 

At my last job it was a very like parent-focused company. But my boss—the pandemic started and she went to her country house or like rented a vacation house and brought her two nannies and her husband, and I remember one day I was just like, 'My nanny was worried that she might have been exposed, and so she's not coming today, so I'm going to be on my own with the kid. And her response was, 'You're struggling to find reliable childcare?' 

That sentence is seared in my brain. I'm like, 'little miss two nannies at the vacation home with the husband and the, okay—so it's, yeah, it's that feeling like you said of isolation of just being like, it's one thing to be trying to do all the right things. And then another thing to be seen for it, you know? 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Yeah. As if mom guilt wasn't bad enough, and money judgment wasn't bad enough, then you got people compounding the two on top of you—in a pandemic.

After the break, we'll talk to a financial expert who has first hand experience working through the financial, logistical, and support challenges of becoming a single parent.

Bridget Casey is the founder of moneyaftergraduation.com, a financial literacy website dedicated to helping young people pay off debt, invest in the stock market, and save for the future—like Kayla, she is also a 30-something single mother of a preschool-aged child.

Bridget Casey: I think most of the data in North America shows that actually one of every five households are lone-parent households. So while it feels very isolating, it's not a small demographic at all. In terms of money it is very challenging because it is so much more expensive to care for a child and raise them without a partner's income. And everyone's situation is different and they receive different support. But no matter how large that support is, it really doesn't make up for another full-time income coming into the household. 

I was someone that budgeted and planned for having my baby, like to a T. And I was still shocked and overwhelmed by the number of costs that I had to manage And I think all new parents go through this, but it's an exceptional burden for single parents because they have to do it alone, because money is such a taboo topic.  

Most people don't talk about it this freely and this transparently. So when you're speaking to your friends or family, you have no idea what their bank accounts actually look like—and it could be a complete disaster and no one would ever say that because they're so embarrassed and ashamed. But when you look at the statistics it's pretty normal to be struggling with your finances in some capacity at some time in your life. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: So for Kayla, the thing that also kind of compounded this feeling of isolation and also embarrassment was that when she was married, she was the primary income earner in her home, but she wasn't actually managing the money. So when she went through the process of the divorce, she was also just learning where her money was going.  

Bridget Casey: When you're in a partnership with someone in a marriage or co-parenting with someone, you can't feel bad for trusting that that partnership would work. That's the point they were supposed to be helping you. They were supposed to be looking out for both of you. So when it turns out that wasn't true, you shouldn't say, oh, I'm so stupid for believing in the thing that I set my life up to be working.

It's unfortunate that it went that way, but you don't have to carry guilt and shame for thinking something was working the way you set it up to be working  

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Another thing that came up in this interview was, with Kayla, she's like, 'I'm 35 and I have student loans when I graduated from college 10 years ago. So it felt like the first part of my adulthood was just trying to get that under control. And then I had this divorce and that became an extra debt of lawyer fees and alimony and all that I had to take on.And now she's like, 'I'm 35, I'm on a hamster wheel. I feel like I'm at zero.' 

Bridget Casey: I mean, if you had read out my financial situation for the past 10 years, everything in that is exactly the same. I graduated with student loans. I went through a divorce. I had to go through a big legal battle just last year, that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

And it's frustrating because, yeah, you do feel like you're on the hamster wheel for a really long time. And I think there's this expectation again, in your twenties, that by 30 you'll have everything figured out. And then when we get to our thirties and especially when you add a child into the mix and it adds so much more costs and also restricts your time that you could work otherwise and increase your income.

And I wish I had an easy answer, but those things are just really hard. I feel the same as her. I keep waiting for like the relief that would come. 'Cause I did like student loans, a baby, and I was like, everything's good. I'm catching up. And then a global pandemic happened. I mean, none of us are really getting a break. It is just that hard.  

There's still too much of a personal responsibility narrative in personal finance that puts all the blame on the person that's just trying to survive what's happening to them. But in a divorce there's another person that maybe made decisions that impact your finances. 

When you suffer a job loss, that is your employer letting you go. It hurts you, but you didn't make the decision to lose your job.

And these events that we have to cope with and we have to deal with are not always because of decisions that we made or things that were within our control. So sometimes we just need to take a step back and accept that even if we were doing our best, things won't go perfectly.  

When I finally acknowledged, oh, there are other things externally that are limiting my ability to change certain things about my circumstances or at least making those changes take longer, I actually felt better because it stopped me from beating myself up for areas where I felt behind or that I wasn't doing well, because I could acknowledge that I was doing everything within my power And I have to focus my energy on another solution.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: One of the things that's been a struggle for Kayla is that her ex-husband has been shifting the child support that he's paying. Then at the same time, there is this inconsistency, especially with the pandemic in terms of childcare costs, because her kid's school shut down. 

With so much that is chaotic and makes planning unpredictable, what are some of the concrete things you can do to ground yourself? 

Bridget Casey: The best advice I got from my mom, actually, was just plan as if he's not going to pay anything. And once I did that, it did take the stress off. And then it was just a nice surprise when he did, but I know that's not possible for all parents because they really rely on the second parent's income.

I would recommend setting up whatever kind of cash cushion you possibly can—even I mean, the smallest emergency fund that you can. cobble together just to serve you in times of need and then add to it. When the support payments come in put them there and do take care of your career during this time. It's really important to stay in the workforce. So childcare is an investment in your career, even if it looks like an expense on your budget right now. 

And the second thing, and this is really or, the third thing I guess, and this is really hard for parents to accept, but it's not unusual for parents, especially young parents in a global catastrophe like a pandemic, to potentially temporarily go into debt just to make it through.

And I know we all hate seeing those balances show up on our line of credit or even credit cards, but if the choice is like daycare so you can work or losing your job, you have to make hard choices. 

That actually helped me when my child was really small and childcare was so expensive it was like $1,800 a month. And I remember it was more than my rent and I just thought this is insane that I have to pay this so I can go to work. But every year she gets older, it goes down and then I'm like, oh, if I had just realized that the burden would be lessening, like that would have relieved so much stress on me.

And then as you progress in your career, often your income goes up. So there might be some short term pain, but if you can see down the line, your childcare costs are going to decrease. Your income is going to go up.  

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: I think your point about thinking of some of those costs, like childcare, as an investment is really powerful. 

Bridget Casey: I had my baby when I was very early into self-employment and the income of my business at that time wasn't very high, so childcare was a huge portion of it.And it did feel like an overwhelming burden to pay childcare, to work on my business, which at the time was not earning very much money.

My career, my business needed those hours that I was putting in then and if I had delayed it, if I had taken more time away from work, I could have lost my whole company.  But just staying in the game and working on what I was working on, it gave me traction. And it didn't feel like it at the time. That's the hardest part of this is it doesn't feel like you're getting anywhere with this effort in these costs, but you are. And in like two or three years, you're going to be really glad that you made that investment and that you didn't bow out of the workforce and that you, you made the investment in yourself and in the future financial security of your family by paying child care so that you could work. 

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: I do want to ask about paying childcare so you can do things that are not work.  

Bridget Casey: I love paying childcare for things that are not work—especially for things like therapy. I would consider that in the same category as work, anything that's like medical or health-related that's 100%, that's an investment in yourself. You still deserve some happiness and some semblance of yourself as a mother and a parent. I understand if the budget doesn't allow it, then it doesn't allow it. But if you do have a little bit of wiggle room in your budget and  all you want to do is go get a coffee and wander around a bookstore for two hours, like, pay a babysitter for that. You need down time. You need relaxation. Like parenting is an all-consuming thing. It's like a second shift after your workday.

It's joyous and fulfilling and wonderful, but it's exhausting.  So a hundred percent, if it is in your budget, pay the babysitter to take a break. I'm fully behind that.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: The fact is Kayla is a good earner and she does see some of this stuff kind of coming to a close, starting to be able to look ahead. There's a lot of uncertainty for her about, okay—so now that I'm not literally putting out a fire, what do I do with this money? Is it going to the college savings fund? Does it go to my own student loans?  Like how do I really take in the full picture? And then how do I prioritize a plan? 

Bridget Casey: The first thing that I tell parents is you have to take care of yourself and your long-term financial security first before your child's, and this is very hard for parents when you tell them to save in their own accounts before their kid's college fund. But your long-term financial security is the financial security of the family. They can take out student loans, but you can't take out retirement loans. 

When you have a small child, you don't necessarily know what the post-secondary landscape is going to look like in 10 or 15 years.  But you do know that you'll need money for retirement. So prioritize those accounts first, obviously any high-interest debt has to go as well, but if you do have enough cash flow that you can maybe, like, put it towards all these things, debt repayment, college savings, and retirement, then absolutely divide it up, but just make sure your retirement and paying off your debt comes before your child's college savings.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Do you have any rules of thumb for how to divide it up?

Bridget Casey: In an ideal world I like to see people putting at least 15% of their net income towards debt and 10% of their net income towards their own retirement savings. But like, that's a quarter of your income and depending what other financial obligations you have, like if housing is really expensive where you are, or you have a large car payment that might not be possible, but that would be the ideal if you can get there. And then once your debt is paid off, you can increase the savings. But because I know there's not a parent listening to this that will only contribute to their retirement accounts. I would say strive to put 7 to 10% of your income into your retirement accounts, and then like 1 to 3% then into your child's college savings, just so you don't neglect it entirely. And then you can scale that up when your debt is gone or you feel more secure about your retirement. 

And I know some people are maybe hearing these numbers and they're like, there's no way I can fit 10% of my income towards retirement. Then start with five or even start with one, do 1% for three months and then increase it to 2% and keep building it that way. The habit is what makes the difference long-term.   

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: I think another thing that came up as we were really starting to dig into the numbers piece of it is this kind of self-deprecation around the idea of being bad at math and that somehow being indicative of what was possible for finances.

I think what it was really about in this case, especially for Kayla, was she needs accountability and she needs support. And basically a lot of that is built into either a relationship or having family nearby and she doesn't have those things. And so what are some other ways she can get those things? 

Bridget Casey: She needs more single mum friends, single mum friends are the best. And they're everywhere. Sometimes they're like a little hard to find because there's still quite a bit of stigma around single parenting. So people aren't often open about it.

Like I know there are moms at my child's daycare that I've known for like eight or nine months. And then I find out they're also single parents because people don't like to talk about it, but like other single parent friends are so nice to have.  

They're probably facing some challenges with child support and meeting their financial obligations, and to have other people that are going through the same thing and share their strategies is so comforting. And also because she doesn't have that family close by other single parents are nice to fill that gap in a little way. I know with my single mom friends, I will just take their kid for a day. I'm like, just drop her off. You guys, go, go have lunch, go to the mall. And I'm happy because my child has a playmate that isn't me. So she's also way happier and they're getting essentially free childcare in their mind.

But then the trade-off is maybe two weekends from now they'll take my daughter and same thing. My daughter is thrilled to spend the day with her playmate and I'm thrilled to have some free childcare and some me time for something. So use other single parents to fill the gaps. You're family with them now.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: Yeah. You talked about the stigma around being a single mom, but then you also have this stigma around money. So it feels, I think maybe hard or daunting to say, okay find people who will overcome both of these stigmas with you. 

Bridget Casey: It is. And I mean, I don't think you should like launch into the amount of credit card debt you have or child support back pay that's owing to you, at daycare pickup. 

I mean, that's not the time or place, but as friendships build over months or years, you will feel comfortable sharing more like, and you don't have to, if anything ever feels like not comfortable then don't do it. And you can wait. Maybe the other person will say something first.

So, I mean, I'd focus on the friends and support first and then how much you want to dig into each other's personal lives is you can decide that later.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez: The experience of single parenting and the experience of financial struggle are both common, but because of the taboo and stigma around these topics, they can feel like totally isolating experiences when they happen to us. Seeking out a community of single parents with similar experiences can provide accountability, support, and maybe most importantly, solidarity.

Financially speaking, it's important to acknowledge that the math of supporting yourself and a child, let alone helping multiple family members, on a single income is objectively hard. Stepping back to take a longer-term 5 to 10 to 20-plus year perspective can help you prioritize difficult but important financial decisions now—like saving for your emergency fund and your retirement before saving for your children's education, or taking on daycare debt to remain in the workforce so you can advance your career and maintain your retirement savings for the long-term. 

Remember that as a single parent, your long-term financial security is the financial security of your family. So your physical well-being, your mental well-being, your emotional well-being and your financial well-being, are all worthy priorities.

This has been Money Confidential from Real Simple. If, like Kayla, you have a money secret you've been struggling to share, you can send me an email at money dot confidential at real simple dot com. You can also leave us a voicemail at (929) 352-4106. 

Money Confidential is produced by Mickey O'Connor, Heather Morgan Shott, me, Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez O'Connell Rodriguez. Thanks to our production team at Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Chris Browning and Trae Budde.

If you like what you hear, please consider leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, or telling your friends about Money Confidential. Real Simple is based in New York City. You can find us online at realsimple.com, and subscribe to our print publication by searching for Real Simple at www.magazine.store. 

Thank you for joining us and we'll see you next week.