Question: I’m a single mother — divorced — and I made the fairly stupid decision to cash out my retirement plan to pay my divorce lawyer. I didn’t get anything from the settlement except the house, which I felt I needed to provide security and stability for my two little boys. It’s worth about $165,000, but the mortgage balance is $210,000. I earn $40,000 a year, and I have some assistance to make the mortgage payments. I don’t have any savings to speak of. My employer — it’s a small business — doesn’t offer a retirement plan, so where do I go from here to plan for my family’s financial future?
Ric: Smaller companies are less likely to offer retirement plans to their workers because the owners usually have no expertise in that area, are too busy to pay attention to it and often believe they can’t afford one.
So your first step is to tell your boss that changes over the past decade now make it possible for him or her to create a retirement plan at little to no cost. We’ll be glad to talk to your boss and help set up the plan.
Your second step, regardless of what your employer does, is to set up an IRA. You can put away as much as $5,500 a year, and you can contribute less if you can’t afford that much. We can help you figure out the amount and how it should be invested.
If your boss refuses to establish a retirement plan, your third step is to discreetly look for a new job. Never quit your present job until you have a new one, but find a company where the pay is competitive and they offer a retirement plan.