coronavirus

‘Moms Are Cool' Program Offers Free Financial Counseling for Mothers Impacted by the Pandemic

Paige Montgomery

Women have been disproportionately impacted by job loss during this pandemic, and mothers have been hit even harder. 

Since February 2020, the economy has experienced a decline of nearly 5 million jobs — and women account for 57.5% of those losses, according to the National Women's Law Center. The financial impact has been devastating, especially for women with families.

Even before this global health crisis, the pay gap for mothers versus fathers was $15,300, according to the law center, meaning mothers had to work more than 16 months to make as much as fathers were paid in 12. For women facing additional financial insecurity due to the pandemic, some experts say it will be more difficult to afford the education and training that would allow them to advance. 

Many mothers seeking financial guidance don't know where to turn. 

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Paige Montgomery, a 29-year-old single mom, was trying to get her money management back on track after a job loss — and a high risk pregnancy — had turned her finances upside down.

"I was on bed rest, and then ultimately was laid off because of Covid," she said. "I had no savings.

"I was living literally paycheck to paycheck." 

Sabrina Smith, 37 and also a single mom, said she struggled after being laid off, too. "I luckily had a little bit of savings to hold me over," she said. "But then from there, I had to find other ways in order to pay my bills."

Earlier this year, these mothers learned about a free program, called "Finances are Cool. Moms Are Cool," offering financial counseling to a select group of mothers to help them rebuild what they've lost. The program was created by social media influencer Haley Sacks (known on Instagram as "Mrs. Dow Jones") and Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management and a CNBC contributor.

Smith and Montgomery were among 10 mothers selected for the three-month course, which included a series of lessons — on retirement savings, life insurance, and investment strategies, among other topics, in virtual group sessions. Lessons were taught by three certified financial planners from Ritholtz Wealth Management — all women — who also provided one-on-one financial counseling. 

Sabrina Smith (L) walks with her sons
CNBC
Sabrina Smith (L) walks with her sons

"Serving as a role model is something that, the ladies at my firm, maybe they didn't expect, but it's just one of those ancillary benefits that came along with running this program," Brown said.

During the three-month course, Smith and Montgomery got back to work. Montgomery scored a full-time job as a marketing manager. Smith was hired back full time at the company that laid her off.  After their "graduation" ceremony this fall, these moms said they are feeling more confident about their finances

"The thing I learned the most was probably about my 401(k)," said Montgomery, who is now focused on building wealth for herself and her now one-year old daughter. "The class came at a perfect time, because the majority of my anxiety at that point was with my finances." 

Smith said what she learned in the program also helped her relieve some of her stress around money. "Through the program, I decided that I needed to establish an emergency fund," she said. "It really showed me, you need at least six months to a year saved up."  

The financial guidance taught Smith a few things about motherhood, too. 

"As mothers, we want to be superwoman all the time," Smith said. "You beating yourself up over your finances, it's not going to make your finances grow any faster.

"Stop being so hard on yourself." 

Tips will pay dividends for years

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Both Montgomery and Smith say the tips they took away from the course are tools they'll use — and share with their families. And the certified financial planners who worked with the group — CNBC Financial Advisor Council member Blair DuQuesnay, Dina Isola and Emily Johnson —  said they plan to continue to be resources for these moms for years to come.

This was the first group to go through the training, but Sacks and Brown plan to continue the free program for mothers who are facing financial hardship. 

For mothers seeking comprehensive financial advice, check out these free and low-cost resources, as well: 

Credit counselors may offer initial budget sessions for free. Find a non-profit counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Non-profit organizations for financial advisors, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, the Financial Planning Association and Foundation for Financial Planning, have lists of financial planners or local groups on their websites who will provide pro bono advice.  

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