Connect Motherhood

HerMoney Podcast Episode 197: Living Childfree And Making Empowered Decisions Around Motherhood

Kathryn Tuggle  |  January 22, 2020

More women than ever are choosing the childfree life. This week we dive into what their decisions mean for their lives and finances.

We live in a world where women can choose to do and become anything we want… CEOs, engineers, cops, military generals, second-act career-starters, the list goes on. And in the same way that women are intentionally choosing and celebrating the things they want to become, they’re also intentionally avoiding what they don’t — and one of those things is motherhood. 

The birthrate in the U.S. hit a 30-year low in 2018, dropping to 3.8 million births, according to The National Center For Health Statistics, but that number just punctuated what many of us have known anecdotally for years — that there is a growing chorus of women who are happily choosing the childfree life. This week’s guest, Maxine Trump, is an award-winning writer, producer and director of the feature film, “To Kid or Not To Kid,” which confronts the societal expectations around motherhood. 

Maxine explains how, in 2020, more women than ever are able to “consider what makes us happy and pursue that.” Jean and Maxine tackle why society may be so late in approaching motherhood as a choice, and why the choice of motherhood may still feel like a taboo subject in some circles. 

The pair also dive into when “childfree” came into the vernacular, and how it compares to “childless.” They also discuss the growing number of women who are choosing to live childfree, including the women who are part of the #birthstrike movement, who have concerns about bringing children onto a warming planet. They also touch on how financial questions are coming into play for many would-be mothers who have decided that they simply can’t afford the monetary commitment of raising children, as well as women for whom their careers are the priority. “Fundamentally, it’s about what you want. Every woman should be allowed to choose what they want, to have children or not. It should be a decision that we’re all empowered to make,” Maxine explains. 

The duo also explore the life cycle of childfree women, and how we can best prepare for retirement and beyond, and leave a legacy behind. Maxine explains how one of her reasons for not having children was her passion for filmmaking, and how she didn’t want to have to sacrifice her ability to make movies in order to have a child. 

Maxine explains how, in our society, it seems we’re always congratulating women for their decision to have children (at baby showers, gender reveal parties, and more) but never do we think to congratulate women on their decision not to have kids. But this is something we should adopt in order to be more inclusive to the growing number of women who are childfree. 

Then, in Mailbag, Jean and Kathryn tackle questions about investing while keeping required minimum distributions in mind, making catch-up contributions, and the decision as to whether to pursue home renovations or move. Lastly, in Thrive, Jean dives into the secret “consumer score” that many of us have, which is the score that takes into account our consumer activity and may impact our customer service experiences in future. 

This podcast is proudly supported by Fidelity Investments. You work too hard for what you earn to let it sit on the sidelines. Let Fidelity show you how to demand more from your money. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC Member NYSE, SIPC.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Transcript

Maxine Trump: (00:01)
Many people saw parenthood as the next step. And one woman who I interviewed in the film who didn’t want children would actually say to people she couldn’t have children because she felt she couldn’t come out and say it would make her unhappy to have a child.

Jean Chatzky: (00:21)
HerMoney is brought to you by Fidelity Investments. You work too hard to let your money just sit in savings. Learn how to make your money work as hard as you do at Fidelity.com/demandmore. HerMoney comes to you through PRX.

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Jean Chatzky: (00:47)
Hey everybody, it’s Jean Chatzky. Welcome to HerMoney. Here’s the thing, at HerMoney, whether we are in our offices, putting together stories for HerMoney.com, whether we’re in our private Facebook group, facilitating a conversation with the 10,000 of you who are in our private Facebook group talking about anything and everything, or whether we’re pulling together a script for the podcast, what we’re trying to do is talk openly about the choices that we make as women. And the nice thing is today we live in this world where we can choose to do and be anything we want. We can be CEOs, we can be engineers, cops, military generals, we can be side hustlers. The list goes on and on and on, and in the same way that we’re now choosing and celebrating the things that we want in our lives, we’re also choosing and celebrating the things that we don’t. And one of those big things is motherhood. The birth rate in the United States hit a 30 year low last year – dropped to 3.8 million according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But that number just punctuated what many of us have known anecdotally for a long time. And that is that there’s this growing chorus of women who are happily choosing the childfree life. And that’s why I’m so thrilled today to be joined by Maxine Trump, who is an award winning writer, producer, director. She’s got a new feature film called To Kid or Not To Kid, which confronts the societal expectations around motherhood. Maxine, thanks so much for being here.

Maxine Trump: (02:42)
Thank you so much for inviting me, Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (02:44)
Tell us a little bit about you and your movie.

Maxine Trump: (02:49)
Wow. Where to start? I think that was such a fantastic introduction because I think we are in this place now where women have so much choice. The glass ceilings are beginning to break. And I think your podcast really emphasizes that, which is fantastic. And I think what we’re able to do now as women, is really consider what makes us happy. You know, that seemed a little groundbreaking when I think back to my mother and maybe everything she wanted to do and she tried to do everything. And I think by seeing her trying to do absolutely everything and for a time as a single mum, it really made me consider, what did I want, what would actually make me happy? And until I got to an age where I had to consider my biological options of still having, children, I started thinking about what I really wanted. And at the time there were no films out there about deciding whether or not to have children. And I’m a filmmaker and that’s my medium and I was missing that. I needed that. And I for a lot of documentary makers, we make films to explore unexplored territories. So that was the genesis really for the film. It was an investigation as to why had this never been made before? And at the time it was so not talked about. There were a few books. There were a few articles. And now six years later there’s been an explosion of books, an explosion of articles. But still this is the first film and I’m so excited to get the film out there. It opens on November 15th.

Jean Chatzky: (04:41)
Congratulations.

Maxine Trump: (04:43)
Thank you.

Jean Chatzky: (04:43)
What do you think it is about motherhood that we are so I guess late, for lack of a better word, in approaching it as a decision, as a choice?

Maxine Trump: (04:57)
Gosh, I’m so excited that you’ve even phrased it like that Jean, because it does feel late. The conversations about what we can do as women in the workplace, in making money, fighting for the rights to have an equal salary, to the Me Too movement a year ago, this still seems like a taboo subject. And I don’t know why exactly. I have a lot of unqualitative reasons that I think why.

Jean Chatzky: (05:32)
Like?

Maxine Trump: (05:34)
I actually had one mother say to me that everybody wants you to join their tribe, right? We’re very tribalistic and I think for a long time many people saw Parenthood as the next step. And one woman who I interviewed in the film who didn’t want children would actually say to people she couldn’t have children because she felt she couldn’t come out and say it would make her unhappy to have a child. So I think there’s been this pressure that, if this is deemed what psychology or society deems like the next step, it’s deemed the unusual step even though 20% of us won’t have children. And that’s beginning I think to break. I think the glass ceilings breaking and some of the other choices may be for us as women are opening up, but we’re still having to wrestle this one, which is a shame.

Jean Chatzky: (06:39)
As you look at the arc on marriage, do you see this following a similar path? I mean, I know just in the time that I’ve been reporting on personal finances, the age at which we are marrying has been getting later and later and later, just like the age of motherhood, but for many women it’s not a decision of when it’s a decision of if.

Maxine Trump: (07:01)
Yeah, absolutely. Again, I just want to say thank you all the time, because you so get it. And the if that you talk about and not the when, like we’re so financially able to support ourselves now. It’s a different world for us and it’s a wonderful world now for women. Opportunities are opening. There’s still a ways to go, but now we can support ourselves. We don’t have to stay in situations that make us unhappy. We don’t have to stay in the job that makes us unhappy. If the boss isn’t going to give us the opportunity, we don’t have to stay in a marriage or a relationship because it makes us unhappy, and we don’t have to have children if we think it’s going to make us unhappy.

Jean Chatzky: (07:50)
You use the word childfree not childless. When did that come into the vernacular?

Maxine Trump: (07:57)
That was a process for me. I used to call myself childless. I was always told from a young age it might be difficult for me to have children and that’s usually, it’s interesting as you get into this world and you explore more. Childless usually is a term that women will use if they can’t have children and childfree if they decide not to have children. But I learned this, when I first started out, I definitely called myself, you know or I was thinking I might be childless. And then it took a friend of mine actually who was childfree, I didn’t realize was childfree until I started making this film, that said, why are you using this term childless? You’re not less than. Why is there a less in this term for you? And it was like this eye-opening moment for me because there’s a power in owning a decision you make. Right. There’s an empowerment I think for and the more we talk about it in a positive way, I think it will be less of a taboo subject for a lot of women who are feeling in a place of struggle, or lack of support, or trying to find the words, which I was trying to do to talk to my family and friends and community about my decision to not have children.

Jean Chatzky: (09:17)
It seems like, I mean you said 20% of people will not have children. It seems like that number is growing very quickly. The New York Times and Morning Concert did a survey of people age 20 to 45 and 58% of people, the majority, said that they actively did not want them or they weren’t sure. So do you see it growing that quickly? Cause those are staggering numbers.

Maxine Trump: (09:46)
I agree. They are staggering numbers and I think it is growing. I think we’re in a different world now than we were even in the 70s when we were told we could be heading to an ecological crisis. And I think a lot of younger people are more aware and, in the last six months, a number of prominent people have been talking about whether this is a subject we should talk about now. You know, from Bernie Sanders to the Birth Strike movement in the UK where women are talking about, they can’t have children because they can’t bring children into the world when the planet is in the place it is right now.

Jean Chatzky: (10:27)
How much do you think money has to do with the growing desire to be childfree? I always remember my mother, this goes back years when I was thinking about having kids. I have two children. They’re, older now. They’re both in their twenties but my mother used to say that if she and my father had waited until they could afford children to have children, none of us would have ever been born. And sometimes I think about that and then I think, well yeah, but college didn’t cost near what it costs today. So where’s the financial component?

Maxine Trump: (11:05)
That’s definitely a part of it. I mean a lot of the reports you’re seeing millennials talking about, well I couldn’t possibly afford to bring up children. And I think they’ve lived through financial crises, wars. They aren’t in jobs anymore where they’re jobs for life. And I think they’re being much smarter than actually I was at that stage. You know, or their age, where they’re really thinking of their future and that wasn’t so much a concern for me. I think really being aware of who I am as a person. And I think for a lot of those people, they’ll probably get to that place too. That, ok, do they move out of the city because they can’t afford to live here and have children? Do they move out of Denver? Do they move out of LA? Do they move and maybe downsize their life slightly because they’re deciding they want children. I think fundamentally it’s really about what you want and as you, as a parent, Jean, hopefully you wanted your children and you’re really happy and in a place of joy. And for me, I think probably I’m going to be a happier person for not having them. So I think yes, a lot of issues help put kind of the nail in the coffin. But I think for the most part people come to this decision because of what makes them happy.

Jean Chatzky: (12:31)
I want to come back to the money in just a second, but I also want to point out to my own children if they are listening to this podcast, cause they don’t always, but sometimes they do, that I did indeed want them. Before we move on, let me remind everyone that HerMoney is proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. We are here to remind you that you work too hard to let your money just sit in savings. Whether you’re new to the workforce or you’re approaching retirement, Fidelity will help advise you throughout your career and beyond so that your money is working just as hard as you do. It all starts with a yearly financial checkup and an understanding of what you own and what you owe. From there, the folks at Fidelity will work with you to evaluate your investment options, determine ways to grow your savings and keep you on track to reach your life’s goals. Start demanding more from your money today at Fidelity.com/demandmore. I’m very happily talking with Maxine Trump, writer and director of the new feature film To Kid or Not To Kid, all about the growing chorus of women who are choosing to live childfree. So from money we go to career. Where does ambition play into all of this? Where does career play into it? Are women choosing to be childfree because of their careers?

Maxine Trump: (13:56)
I think for some women, sure. And for some men, but I don’t think it’s true for everybody. I think it’s a life decision. And I know actually a few articles that have come out recently. There’s been a bit of a push-back of this sort of cold, career-hearted woman who just has this goal that they have to be, you know, they want to be so successful in life. Because there are many women who are mothers who are very, very successful. So I don’t think it comes down to, yes, you want to be a career woman, so you’re deciding not to have children. I think it’s a very broad spectrum. I think for me, having come from a family where my mum absolutely wanted to do everything, and knowing what I wanted to do, being a filmmaker, traveling around the world, being in the jungle, being away from for months at a time, that didn’t lend itself well to being a mother. I’m not saying other filmmakers can’t do that and there can be an absolute balance and maybe they have familial support or a partner that is playing that role. I often joked with my husband that I could be the dad and he could be the mom. And he was like, yes, absolutely. But I don’t think society is ready for that quite yet.

Jean Chatzky: (15:15)
Is this a theme that you’ve noticed in your work? And I’m just sort of thinking about my own kids because I definitely made choices about what I would do and what I wouldn’t do. But I think if you asked my kids, they would say, yeah, my mom tried to do too much of everything. And I wonder if it’s children like my children who are then saying, yeah, I’m not going to try to do everything. I’m going to try to do one or two things well.

Maxine Trump: (15:43)
Well I think it’s really tricky. It’s a very tricky, complicated subject. And I think that’s why it’s still deemed a taboo topic because we haven’t found this language to be inclusive of everyone’s decision. And my film for those that come to the film, and are either deciding whether or not they want children, or have decided they are absolutely childfree or childless, it’s a very open dialogue because there’s no point in fingers at anybody for their choices. I think what has been super hard for women for a really long time is to do it all without necessarily the supports to be able to do everything. And I’ve had plenty of my female friends who are mothers, who have had guilt about…

Jean Chatzky: (16:32)
Hello.

Maxine Trump: (16:34)
Right? Yeah. And you know what a shame because it’s really hard for women to do it all. Really, really hard. And unfortunately, I have seen, and again, there are many men out there who are fantastic partners and there are gay partnerships that I want to model much more my life on, but where the balance of taking care of the children is much more measured. But I have seen many relationships, and there’s a lot of reports unfortunately on heterosexual couples, where the woman is doing much more caretaking for the children and that still upsets me a lot.

Jean Chatzky: (17:16)
And much more caretaking for the older parents. When we look at…

Maxine Trump: (17:20)
Yes.

Jean Chatzky: (17:20)
When we look at the quintessential caregiver, it’s a 59 year old woman who is taking care of her mother and she’s spending about 20 hours a week doing it. For women who are childfree, is there a worry about who will take care of me?

Maxine Trump: (17:42)
You know, no. And I’m going to own that.

Jean Chatzky: (17:44)
Okay. I think that’s good.

Maxine Trump: (17:47)
It might come as a surprise because I actually, there’s this wonderful scene in the film, I have lots of nieces and nephews, and I actually talk to them about whether they’re worried they’d have to take care of me. And they’re like, you’re going to be fine. And I was like, I am going to be fine because I actually don’t mind. If I end up going into a care home or a shared facility, I’m not afraid of that. And actually there’s a lot of statistics about, if you have parents, if you don’t have parents. Actually, and I can dig out these statistics cause I always like to quantify the facts. Only 15% of parents that have children actually have the day to day care. So we still have to, and you know, I look at my family and I look at families I know. Quite often we are living so far away from our parents that a) we can’t get there as much as we’d like to, and b) we need the help because we’re often in full-time employment. So we can’t give as much caretaking as we would like to give. So I don’t think it’s the same as it once was. I do hear you about the responsibility being deemed to lie more at the daughter’s door than it may do at the the son’s possibly.

Jean Chatzky: (19:15)
But I wonder, and whether we’re talking about women who are childfree or childless or men who are childfree or childless, as well as this hugely growing population of singles, I do think it requires maybe some additional planning that I have to make these plans for myself. I mean you said you’d be happy to go into a care home or shared facility, but that’s something that either you’re going to have to work out or you’ll have to work out with your husband or with those nieces and nephews. And maybe I’m being insensitive and I hope not. But it does seem like there is an extra step that you may need to take.

Maxine Trump: (19:55)
I don’t think you’re being insensitive at all. I think this is a subject we all should be talking about and thinking about much more than we do. But I think what is interesting is actually, it doesn’t matter whether you have children or not. We should all be thinking about our future.

Jean Chatzky: (20:09)
Absolutely.

Maxine Trump: (20:11)
And I’m saying that to myself as much as anybody because, you know, my pension could be higher than what I’m paying into my 401k. But I don’t think this expectation that our children will look after us. I think that’s a concern. I don’t think that expectation can be quite what it was in the 50s or 60s or 70s because we’re so disparate. We live in so many different places that I think we all have to have a concern about what lies at the end of our working career. And actually I hope I don’t retire per se. Like I really want to keep making films for as long as possible. If Clint Eastwood can do it, why can’t I .

Jean Chatzky: (20:52)
I totally agree with you. Absolutely. And when it comes to, not just the question of being remembered, but what do you do with your money?

Maxine Trump: (21:04)
Spend it.

Jean Chatzky: (21:06)
Die broke. Is that the philosophy?

Maxine Trump: (21:09)
Well, you know, this is going to be really personal. I am a filmmaker. One of my reasons for not having children or thinking that I wouldn’t have children is because I wants to carry on making films. I knew I would have to earn a certain amount of money to be able to support children and support making the films that I wanted to make. It was part of my decision making process that I didn’t want to always have to make films for clients I didn’t necessarily believe in. I wanted to do as many passion projects as possible. And that was part of my decision making process actually as a creative person, to decide, okay, I’m creating in different ways. As Ava DuVernay says, she creates films, she doesn’t create babies. And that’s part of what I do with my money. I’m reinvesting every film I make. I reinvest in the next film and the next film. And that’s what I really enjoy doing. Other people may be investing in stocks and shares, are looking after their end of years experience. That’s probably not the right term, but being maybe a little more pragmatic about where their money goes. But that’s how I choose and have made my choices. And I think it’s very individual for everybody.

Jean Chatzky: (22:27)
Very personal. As we wrap this up here, I raised the issue of insensitivity and I do think it is hard to talk about. I remember I had a colleague years and years ago who told me that she didn’t want children. And I think I probably looked shocked and dismayed, which was not the reaction that I’m sure she was hoping for. We are not here. We pride ourselves on this show that we don’t judge and I don’t want to be judgy, but how do we talk about it and what are the right words and the right reactions when we want to be inclusive.

Maxine Trump: (23:02)
You know what was amazing for me. I was on a podcast in the production of the film actually, because this has really galvanized a lot of conversation, which is really exciting. Someone actually said to me at the end of the interview, congratulations for your decision. And you never hear that. As a woman who is deciding not to have children, you are always congratulating other people about having a child and you’re saying, you know,. And the balloons come out, and it’s wonderful, and the cakes, and there are millions of push parties, gender reveal parties, et cetera. Not so many parties for when you’re deciding not to have children. And honestly if I’d been your colleague and you’d said congratulations for your decision, I think I would have remembered your name for ever. Because it’s an acknowledgement it’s been a process for us too, and I think it just shows the broadness of all options are fine for women to make. And to be quite honest, making the film, and I now have a spinoff web series as well, which is launching at the same time on independent lens on PBS, which is thrilling…

Jean Chatzky: (24:16)
That’s great.

Maxine Trump: (24:18)
Because it’s going to reach a lot of people. It’s going to open the doors for conversations. And for people that have struggled to get people to understand their decision, they can send them a link to the film and they can use that as an ice breaker. Because I think people have struggles with causing any kind of offense one way or the other. And I think it’s moving towards a place that we are seeing this talked about much more and it’s going to be deemed a normal decision. Because it is normal.

Jean Chatzky: (24:51)
By the time that this podcast launches, the film and the web series will already be out. So where can our listeners go to see them?

Maxine Trump: (25:02)
Sure. It’ll be available on VOD. So you can go to iTunes and Amazon. That’ll be coming out in December. And then if you want to check out the PBS Independent Lens series, go to their YouTube channel and you can watch five episodes of different people across the divide, whether they had kids and feel very adamant that that’s the choice you should make, to people that have either struggled with IVF or a young gay man deciding whether or not to have children. It really is a debate show. So it goes even further than the feature film does because it brings in so many people’s stories, which is just delightful. So yeah, check out the YouTube channel too and tokidornottokid.com for the website.

Jean Chatzky: (25:50)
Absolutely. Maxine Trump. Thank you so much. I hope you’ll come back.

Maxine Trump: (25:54)
I’d love to. Thanks Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (25:56)
And we’ll be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag.

Jean Chatzky: (26:06)
HerMoney.com’s Kathryn Tuggle has joined me in the studio. That was really interesting. Thank you for teeing that up.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:14)
She’s great.

Jean Chatzky: (26:15)
She is great.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:17)
And I felt like so much of what she’s doing is echoing the sentiment that I’m seeing from my friends and in our Facebook group and everywhere. I mean, it really is such a movement now to be childfree and to embrace it.

Jean Chatzky: (26:31)
We did a survey recently of our listeners and found a huge percentage don’t have kids and some I think are just either in college, coming out of college, right out of college. They’re young for kids. But a growing number are childfree by choice.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:46)
Yup.

Jean Chatzky: (26:47)
I know you monitor the Facebook group with Christine and have seen those questions about leaving a legacy. How do you think about that?

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:58)
I think that you have to find your passion. You have to find what sets you on fire in life and I think that that will always be your answer for leaving a legacy. I don’t know of anybody who has been in the later years of their life with big piles of money and said, gosh, I just have no idea what to do with this.

Jean Chatzky: (27:18)
That’s right.

Kathryn Tuggle: (27:18)
I think that at a certain point you find and you know in your heart what you want to do with that money, whether it’s leaving it to your nieces and nephews, leaving it to your favorite charity, a foundation. Everybody finds their path. The trick is just realizing what it is.

Jean Chatzky: (27:34)
And figuring out that it’s a fit and then figuring out how you can use the money best to do whatever it is you need to do. I opened a donor advised fund with Fidelity actually a few years ago and have put some money into it each year, figuring that I will figure out somewhere along the way where I really want to make an impact, but I want to get the tax deduction right now, and it’s not easy. I mean I know what causes light my heart up. I just haven’t quite figured out how to get the best impact for those dollars. And I think that’s a whole different show.

Kathryn Tuggle: (28:14)
It is. We can look into that too.

Jean Chatzky: (28:16)
Okay. All right. That sounds good. What do we have in today’s mailbag?

Kathryn Tuggle: (28:19)
Our first note comes to us from Kathy in Brewster, New York. She writes, hi Jean. My 86 year old father passed away a few months ago. I inherited a portion of his annuity, which was an IRA. I now have $68,000 and a beneficiary IRA in a brokerage account. My question is, how should this money be invested? The annuity was surrendered so it was transferred as cash to my account. I will have to take the RMD every year, which will be taxed. I’m a 59 year old single mom with two kids in college. My current income is less than a hundred thousand dollars annually. I could use more cash from this account to help pay tuition, but I don’t want to mess up the FAFSA or the amount of grant money my kids may be entitled to receive from their colleges. Any suggestions on how to invest this money? Leaving it in cash does not seem to be a wise decision. Thank you for all your helpful information.

Jean Chatzky: (29:08)
Kathy. Thanks so much for the question. I’m very sorry about the loss of your father, but I definitely understand why you’re concerned about it. When we think about financial aid, we don’t have to worry about money in retirement accounts if we’re not in a period where we are required to take distributions because that money isn’t factored into the formula. But once we are required to take it, then it can count against us and so I think you’re right to be concerned. I think you’re right to be thinking about it in this way. One thing you may want to do is think about using just the money that you are required to take out to help either pay down student loans or just avoid the need to take additional student loans, and put off taking as much as possible until after your kids graduate from college. In that case, I would make sure that I’m investing the money with kind of a medium term focus. You’re not investing it in a way that you’re looking out 20 to 30 years down the road. You’re more likely to be looking three to five years down the road, which may be 10 years down the road depending on how far along in college your kids are. That doesn’t really argue for a very aggressive stance but it doesn’t argue for keeping all of it in cash either. For guidance, I would take a look at five 29 accounts and how portfolios are oriented for kids who are three to five years away from college. Because that’s basically the timeframe that you’re looking at. You’re going to want some stocks but you’re likely going to want more fixed income because it’s safer. The other thing to do is, there is a firm that is housing this IRA. If it’s a firm like Fidelity or one of its competitors, you also can pick up the phone, and you can give them a call and you can ask for a little bit of guidance in terms of how to invest these funds for a three to five year timeframe, and you’ll get a good helpful opinion there.

Kathryn Tuggle: (31:30)
Our next note comes to us from Leanne. She writes, I’m a longtime Jean fan and was ecstatic with the launch of the HerMoney podcast. I want to bump up my savings in 2020 and need some clarification from the expert Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (31:42)
My goodness.

Kathryn Tuggle: (31:43)
My husband is 54 and contributes to a 401k with his employer and also has a traditional IRA and Roth IRA with an independent advisor. He contributes the max amount to the 401k, including the catchup contribution, but does not contribute to either of the IRAs. I am 50 and contribute the max amount to my 401k with my employer. Our adjusted gross income is currently around $185,000. Historically, my husband has not contributed anything to his IRA because his advisor told him we made too much money to contribute. I’ve also been told that we can only contribute a total of $26,000 pretax to our retirement accounts for 2020. Since we’re both over 50 in 2020 we can contribute $19,500 to our 401k plus the catchup contribution amount of $6,500 is that correct? How much can my husband add to his IRAs? Can he contribute the $6,000 plus the $1,000 catchup? Can he contribute to either the traditional or the Roth? I would also like to open a Roth. Can I contribute the 6,000 plus the $1000 catch-up? Any advice would be appreciated.

Jean Chatzky: (32:49)
Great, great question. What I love about it Leanne is that it comes from the place of, if you’re at a period in your life where you can afford to save more than you can sock into a 401k or whatever your retirement account at work happens to be, I think you should absolutely do that. And I’m not sure why you were told that you are not able to contribute to a Roth in addition. The $26,000 is correct. You are each eligible to contribute $26,000, $19,500 to your 401k plus a $6,500 catchup contribution in the year 2020. But when you take a look at the income limits for making a Roth contribution in 2020, the income limit to make a full contribution is $196,000 married filing jointly. You guys are under that. And even if you were to earn slightly more than that, as long as you’re under $206,000, you can still make a partial contribution. And by the way, you could do the same for 2019 because you have until April to make those contributions. The limits for 2019 we’re $193,000 for the full contribution and $203,000 for a partial contribution. The Roth is the way to go. If you were looking to make a traditional IRA contribution and have it be deductible, you’re way over the income limit. So that is not a possibility. But I see absolutely no reason, if you’ve got the money, why you should not sock some of it into a Roth, knowing that you’ve already paid taxes on it and know that it can grow for your future without you ever having to pay taxes again. To me, that sounds like a really, really smart move.

Kathryn Tuggle: (34:50)
I agree and I love this question because it just shows that she wants to do the most she possibly can, which is so nice to see.

Jean Chatzky: (34:56)
And that you’re paying attention to the details, right? We absolutely want to maximize whatever remaining tax advantages we have left and we seem to have fewer each and every year. But this is a really great one, so go for it.

Kathryn Tuggle: (35:11)
Our last note comes from Lisa and Krista in long Island, New York. They write, hi Jean. We’re at a crossroads with the home we love. We’re parents in our late forties and we have a teenage boy who’s 14. We have a three bed, three bath home with no basement and a wide open floor plan. We use our third bathroom for guests. Our son needs a space to hang out with his friends, but we’re not sure whether we should live through a renovation or move to a house with an extra bedroom or perhaps a basement or a bonus room. We’re considering building a 1.5 to two car garage with a bonus room on top. What makes more sense, reno or movo? Thanks Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (35:47)
In reading between the lines of your question, I’m going to go with reno and the reason I’m going to go with reno are actually the reasons are actually two. First of all, you write this is a home you love. It is really hard to find a home you love and generally a home you love comes with a neighborhood you love and neighbors that you love and those things are really, really hard to replace. The second is that you’re considering building a garage with a bonus room on top. You didn’t say if it was an attached garage or a detached garage. Something about the way you write this makes me think it might be detached and if that’s the case, you’re not really having to live through a renovation. Your renovation will be outside your home. You won’t have to have dust all over the place in your kitchen. You won’t have to be out of your ordinary dwelling. Plus moving just sucks. I mean, moving is really, really difficult. So I’m going for reno and I hope that that works out for you.

Kathryn Tuggle: (36:57)
Amazing.

Jean Chatzky: (36:58)
All right. Thanks so much. I love it. When our listeners have a sense of humor.

Kathryn Tuggle: (37:02)
Same.

Jean Chatzky: (37:03)
Yeah. In today’s Thrive, we all know about credit scores, but they are not the only scores controlling our lives. There’s also your secret consumer score. It’s a number that takes into account your consumer activity in an unbelievable amount of detail and may determine a lot about your consumer experiences going forward, including whether you’ll be tagged as too frequent a returner of merchandise and how long you have to wait on hold when you call. In the past there was no way for individuals like us to access these reports. But now there are several companies out there that will compile a consumer report on you at your request. A few of them include Sift, Zeta Global and Retail Equation and what they’ll do is gather your data from thousands of consumer sites and generate a report that will tell you pretty much everything, from what you ordered online last year to the transcript of the conversation you had with customer service. And yes, it is more than a little unsettling. The question is, how useful is it really for you to pull your own report and, the answer is, not so useful right now. But I do have to admit I’m a little curious and if you ever needed more motivation to kill those customer service reps with kindness, then perhaps the fear of getting a bad report card will be just what the doctor ordered. Thanks so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thank you to Maxine Trump for the great conversation about the empowered decisions more women are making around motherhood and their futures. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review. We love hearing what you think. We also want to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper and our show comes to you through PRX. Tune in next week. We’ll be sitting down with Frank Abagnale. Yes, that Frank Abagnale. He’s got a new book out called Scam Me If You Can, to talk about how we can protect ourselves in a world of ever-persistent threats from robocallers. romance scams, health insurance fraud, and much, much more. Thanks so much for listening. We’ll talk soon.


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