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U.S. News Archive
July 29 - July 31, 2001

 

 

 
This page contains news for the period July 29, 2001 through July 31, 2001.  

<< July 2001  >>

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Tuesday, July 30, 2001

Single parents face more pressures in thinking of their family's financial future

A story release today by the Associated Press reports that  when one thinks about what a family does to plan a financial future, what often comes to mind is a mom and dad caring for their children. But increasingly, families are headed by a single parent, and  the steps to ensure a secure future must be taken with the grim reality that there isn't a back-up partner should things go awry.

"The normal rules and advice that apply to married couples don't apply for single parents," said Deirdre Weaver, author of "Loosely Braided Fog: A 3-D Single Mom In The Making" and a speaker for the American Association for Single People in Glendale, an advocacy group for singles.

That doesn't mean that single parents and coupled parents don't have the same financial concerns. It's just that for single moms and dads, the pressure to get it right is more intense because they're it.

More than 20 million children, or more than 27 percent of young people, now live in a single-parent household, said Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of the single people association.

And while most single-parent homes are headed by women, a growing number of men also are raising children on their own, he said. The number of single dads grew 25 percent between 1995 and 1998, from 1.7 million to 2.1 million, while the number of single moms remained constant at about 9.8 million.

But be it a single mom or dad, experts say single parents need to realize that just because their income is cut in half, doesn't mean their expenses will be as well. It's not that simple.

"Single-parent families in this lower income group spend a larger proportion of their income on their children," said Mark Lino, an economist with the Agriculture Department. "As single-parent families have one less potential earner (the absent partner), their total household income is lower and child-rearing expenses consume a greater percentage of income."

This doesn't mean that single parents can't make a life for themselves and their children. They just have to be vigilant about how they spend their money. Among the things to keep in mind:

Do a budget and stick to it as best as you can.

Cut your debt as much as possible.

Talk to the kids about the finances.

Protect what you have with adequate insurance.

Continue saving -- even if it's a small amount.

In addition, single parents should try to cut their expenses as much as possible and be frank with the children about the family's finances.

Finally, have a carefully crafted estate plan.

Make sure you have a will and name a guardian for your minor children.

Be clear about how you want the money distributed for your children. This is especially important if you're divorced and have primary custody of the kids.

If something happens to you, and your children are cared for by your former spouse, you must ensure that the money you leave will be used for their benefit.

You can also establish a trust into which your children's inheritance will flow when you die and you can spell out how the money will be used.

A trust is a legal entity that holds title to assets and property for the benefit of another person or persons -- called a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

A trustee, whom you designate, administers the trust, handling such duties as record-keeping, distribution of assets to beneficiaries and paying taxes.

"That way, you put responsibility on the trustee to make sure the assets are used in the way the deceased parent intended," said Marcia Williams, president and chief executive of Independence Trust Co. in Franklin, Tenn., a financial and trust management firm. 

Sunday, July 29, 2001

Legislators across the country advocating marriage to its constituents

A story published today by the Plain Dealer reports that an expanding political movement in Washington is promoting marriage as a powerful prescription for many modern ills. Couples who marry, proponents argue, are likely to be richer, happier, healthier, more productive and less expensive to taxpayers than those who do not.

The very conclusions widely ridiculed in 1992, when Vice President Dan Quayle exalted the nuclear family while condemning TV character Murphy Brown for bearing a child out of wedlock, are being verified through research.

Among the findings:

The poverty rate of 28 percent for female-headed households is five times the rate of married couples, according to the 2000 U.S. census.

Two of three families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), are single parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A 1996 survey of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth reports that children of divorced families were more likely to lie, steal, get drunk, damage school property and seriously hurt others than those of intact marriages.

Critics charge that the research oversimplifies complex matters, and that the pro-marriage movement favors one segment of America at the expense of others.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, head of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, has introduced a bill to give $380 million to states for marriage and fatherhood initiatives. "This isn't about a slogan or criticizing a situation comedy," Bayh said in an interview. "This is about putting into place those things that will actually help children and strengthen families."

Louisiana was in the movement's vanguard, enacting the country's first "covenant marriage" law in 1997. Couples who choose to participate - whether marrying or already married - must seek counseling and wait two years before a divorce becomes final.

Other states have also begun their own pro-marriage experiments.

Arizona and Arkansas offer covenant marriages, with Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declaring a "state of marital emergency." Oklahoma has put $10 million in federal welfare money toward an effort to cut the divorce rate by one-third in 10 years. Gov. Frank Keating views broken marriages as the main cause of poverty. West Virginia, meanwhile, pays married parents who receive welfare a $100-a-month bonus.

But to Heather Boushey, an economist with the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, the marriage movement misses the key point: Poverty is about money, not relationships.

According to a July 23 report authored by Boushey and others, 4 million American working-class families wonder whether they will have enough money to meet basic expenses at the end of the month. Single mothers were nearly three times as likely to experience economic hardship as married people, but the authors chose not to highlight that fact.

There was a reason, Boushey said. "We don't know how to convince people to find someone who treats them well, someone they can get along with. It's not something government and public policy can do.

"What we do know is that access to a good job, to health insurance, to subsidized health care and child care are effective. In the end," she said, "you can stand there holding a marriage certificate, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to meet your family budget."

Single-parent families on the rise in North Carolina

A story released today by News & Record reports that according to just-released 2000 Census figures in the state of North Carolina, 12 percent of all white families and a staggering 43 percent of all black families in Guilford County, are headed by females with no husband present. The number of single fathers is also rising fast, though single mothers still represent the overwhelming majority of single-parent households.

Those numbers reflect national and regional trends that continued from the 1990 census. Virtually everywhere in the Triad and across America, the trend toward more single-mother families is continuing.

In most cases, there's a disproportionate number of minority families, especially blacks, for reasons ranging from poverty to divorce to cultural challenges. Statistics also show that while about a third of all American children are born out of wedlock, nearly 70 percent of African American children are born outside marriage.

In North Carolina, 40 percent of black families and 12 percent of white families are headed by single women.

In Asheboro and Lexington, one of every two black families with children is led by a single mother. High Point is one of the few area cities where those numbers decreased slightly over the past decade, yet still 14 percent of its white families and 47 percent of its black families are led by single females.

That worries Peggy Dilworth-Anderson, a professor of human development and family studies at UNCG, because of the accompanying likelihood that such families will live in poverty.

"Single-parent households tend to be poorer than two-parent households," Dilworth-Anderson says. "When there's a lack of a partner, there's a lack of a complementary income."

Children living in single-parent families are four times as likely to be poor as children raised in two-parent homes, according to the Urban Institute's 1999 Survey of American Families.

Experts say that families headed by single females of any race are much more likely to be impoverished.

Family structure is changing because society and Americans' attitudes and expectations are changing, some experts say.

"Marriage is in a state of crisis," says Ida Simpson, a Duke University sociologist who teaches a course called "The Changing American Family."

"The crisis is two-pronged," Simpson says. "One is bearing children outside of marriage. The other is divorce. In each case there is a strong impact on the family -- namely, what happens to children."

From 1960 to 1999, the number of children living with a single parent rose from 5.8 million to 19.8 million. And more than 40 percent of those 19.8 million children were living in poverty in 1999, experts say. Other studies have indicated that children from fatherless families are more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to finish college than their peers from two-parent homes.

Steve Lilley, an N.C. State sociologist, says that more single-parent families are to be expected in the United States, where the divorce rate has approached 50 percent of all marriages for decades.

"There's also a trend toward independent living for women at both ends of the age range," Lilley says. "Young men and women are delaying marriage longer than in the past, and women are less likely to marry (again) if their marriage falls apart. And at the other end, older women with children don't remarry as quickly as in the past.

"Women in general are more economically sufficient. The need for another man to support them, or for another income, is not as great as it was in the past."

 

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