I’m a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom, and my husband earns $150,000 a year.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years to a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. I’m 32 and I don’t see a clear deadline for when I can return to work. My husband makes 150k a year and is contributing to his 401(k) at 3% with a 3% match.

My question is, how do I secure a financial future for myself? Obviously I need to go back to work but am I too late in the game to be able to enjoy “retirement” years? Any help is appreciated!


Dear M.K.,

You’re definitely not too late to enjoy your future retirement years. As financial adviser Stephanie Genkin told me, people usually aren’t starting to save for retirement until their 30s anyway, so you’re on track with many other Americans. “32 is certainly not ‘game over’ — it’s ‘game on’,” she said.

But in order to create a secure retirement later in life, there are a few steps you’ll have to take right now. The first is keeping your financial house in order. Before you can really ramp up your retirement savings, make sure you have an emergency fund. Most financial advisers will suggest having three to six months’ worth of living expenses stashed away in a savings account, and you’d probably want to aim for the latter as you have two little kids at home. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of an emergency savings account, said Lisa Ernst, executive director of Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit organization with financial education programs for women. “The trap we see a lot of women get into regardless of their age is they don’t think that bad things will ever happen,” she said. “The last couple of months have taught us you can be living your life and all of a sudden everything changes.”

It never hurts to analyze your spending, too. This includes reviewing your credit card and utilities statements. Are you spending on services you don’t actually care about? Can you work with your cable company to lower your monthly bill? You can also break down your spending into wants and needs, so that you can better reflect on where that money is going and if it makes you happy, Ernst said.

Once you have those figured out, it’s time to look at your investing options. You may not have the luxury of opening your own 401(k) as a stay-at-home mom, but you can still fund a spousal individual retirement account. Typically, IRAs must be funded with earned income. But when couples have one person working and the other not, they can contribute on behalf of the nonworking spouse. Their tax filing status must be married filing jointly to do so.

A spousal Roth IRA would be a good start for you on your retirement savings journey, said Genkin, who is the founder of advisory firm My Financial Planner. They are funded with after-tax dollars, so when it comes time to withdraw from these accounts, the money will have grown tax-free and the withdrawals won’t be taxed. They’re also useful in the event of an emergency, as…

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