Brandy Mickens, divisional vice president at Equitable Advisors, says when her daughter’s daycare closed in early March because of COVID-19, “I actually cried.”
Mickens, who has been with Equitable Advisors for 18 years, says the sudden closure was a shock for her and her husband. “I was thinking, what are we going to do to get through this period of time where we both have to work?” she says.
She immediately called her mother, who lives in a different city. Luckily, her mom was healthy and able to come to stay with Mickens and her family for a short time.
“That was the first phase, really just identifying that we were going to have to operate a little bit differently and start to think about contingency plans around this,” she says.
Where Advisor Support Steps In
Mickens’ experience is echoing across the U.S. as closed daycare centers and schools conducting remote learning have caused working parents to rethink child care.
Because the responsibility of caring for the family tends to disproportionately fall on women, the coronavirus has impacted them more, says Kim Bourne, advisor at Avantax and wealth management advisor at Playfair Planning.
Now that some offices are reopening while many daycare centers remain closed and plans for reopening schools this fall remain in flux, many mothers are forced to make hard decisions about their jobs and families, with some women possibly having to leave the workforce. This not only has repercussions for employers, but also for women’s pay equity, financial wellness and future retirement security.
Financial advisors can offer guidance to working families and working women by reviewing families’ budgets. They can also offer more than just financial support; they can help clients explore all of their options and remind them of resources.
Financial and Psychological Impact
Mickens says as an advisor, she’s probably spoken to more of her clients in the last three months than in the last six months. She says she starts by reviewing their financial plans and budgets, especially if there’s been a change in income due to a job loss or furlough.
The first step, Mickens says, is for couples to take a sharp look at their needs versus wants, and how they can make adjustments financially.
Stuart Riemer, managing director/partner, Treasury Partners at Hightower, says there are two related issues going on now. There’s the financial impact of COVID-19, which may affect people to a certain degree, but there’s a psychological impact, too, leading to many families becoming overwhelmed.
That’s where financial advisors can help. “There are a lot of moving parts in terms of being able to manage the fallout,” says Riemer. “But it’s important to take a deep breath, get perspective and figure out a plan since this is reality.”
The three advisors say advisors should help women and couples explore their resources and how to build those up. That may include talking to family, friends and or even employers for help, whether it’s financial or childcare. People can be reticent to ask for help, but as Mickens points out, “everyone is going through this together.”
When it comes to juggling jobs and daycare, Mickens says her clients say their employers are a lot more understanding now, so it’s definitely worth it for women (and men) to talk to the boss about how they can work differently. That can include asking for a more flexible schedule.