Expert tips for retirement planning How can a single mom prepare for retirement?

Josephine is a single mom. She wants to finally make provision for her retirement, but is worried about how to go about it.

by UBS Insights 29 May 2019

Picture: Janosch Abel

Five questions for Josephine

What’s your current retirement provision situation?

I haven’t done any retirement planning. Until now, I just didn’t know where to start.

What types of retirement savings solutions are you familiar with?

I know about pillar 3a and 3b.

Are you in a hurry to get a solution in place?

I know I shouldn’t put it off any longer, especially because I want to go freelance soon. But I want my family to enjoy a decent standard of living with the money I earn now, rather than having to count every penny.

Are there any gaps in your pension fund contributions?

Yes, that is an issue. I was a full-time mom for four years and then started working part-time.

When you divorced, how were your joint retirement savings divided up?

They were split according to the usual rules.

Josephine's house is bursting with energy. When we arrive, three boys are running back and forth through the apartment, bouncing on the sofa and giggling uncontrollably as they go. In addition to Josephine’s sons Janis (10) and Laurin (8), one of their friends is also visiting today. “They are a bit wild,” she admits with a grin. Now aged 39, she has lived alone with her two sons since getting divorced seven years ago.

Like many women, after the birth of her first son, Josephine stopped working and became a full-time mom for four years. “After we got divorced, I had to start working again. But instead of returning to my previous job in the business world, I decided to become a fitness instructor. It’s the perfect job for me.” Over the last seven years she’s gradually worked her way up the career ladder – from a cycling instructor earning an hourly wage to team leader.

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Although Josephine’s sons spend two to three weekends a month with their father, the main burden of bringing up her two boys falls to her, making full-time work virtually impossible. She therefore works two days a week as a personal trainer.

How is your retirement savings situation?

“I don’t have a concrete plan arranged, but I feel positive,” says Josephine, when asked about her retirement savings. She knows she shouldn’t put off the subject any longer, but doesn’t see how she can actually put something in place. “Every time I have to pay a bill, I ask myself: how can I save for my retirement too?” Even a mother who works part-time should be able to put a certain amount aside every month. She’d have to cut back on her everyday spending, when doing the weekly grocery shopping, for example, and by using her car less often. Eating out wouldn’t be possible anymore. “It would mean just scraping by.” But Josephine wants to preserve a certain quality of life – for the sake of her family. “I want to be able to go on a weekend trip with my boys, buy them the odd gift here and there, and enjoy the occasional luxury myself. It’s a balancing act between enjoying the present and providing for my future.”

Every time I have to pay a bill, I ask myself: how can I save for my retirement too?

Until now, Josephine has hardly looked into her retirement planning options. In general she prefers getting personal opinions and reading about others’ experiences. As a single mom, Josephine wants to talk about pensions with people she can identify with, whether individuals or a consulting network for single parents like SVAMV.

Professionally, Josephine is doing well: in addition to her job as a fitness instructor, she’s also found work as a speaker and life coach. Her aim? To go freelance in a few years. Which is precisely when her retirement planning will be more important than ever. “It’s time to get my retirement provision sorted out. At the same time, the 'here and now' is equally important to me. I want my family to have the best.”

Five pieces of expert advice for Josephine

  1. First, take a very close look at your budget. Document your expenses in detail. What do you spend money on? Where could you potentially save?
  2. We recommend you start saving with pillar 3a as soon as possible. Even small contributions like CHF 50 a month pay off in the end. You can then gradually increase the amount when you’re able to.
  3. Given that the investment horizon for pensions is long, we would advise you to optimize your retirement savings with a Vitainvest investment fund.
  4. There are certain financial risks associated with going freelance so think very carefully before taking the plunge. In your situation, the best and safest option would be to work more hours and find a permanent position. You can still think about going freelance later on, once you’ve topped up your retirement savings and created a financial cushion.
  5. In the long term, it’s important for you to make up for any gaps in your pension fund contributions. Professional advice is required here. Our consultants are highly experienced and will be happy to share their knowledge with you.