Suze Orman
Photo: Robert Trachtenberg
Q: For now I am a stay-at-home mother of two. My husband makes a good living, and we're in solid financial shape. The only thing that nags at me is that because I'm not working, I am not contributing to Social Security or saving for my own retirement. What are my best options? Should I contribute to my 401(k) from a past job or open a new account? I could contribute $400 each month.

A: It kills me when stay-at-home moms sell themselves short. You are working—you just aren't getting paid for it. I also noted that you refer to saving for "your" retirement. If you and your husband decide that you'll be the stay-at-home parent, his income needs to pay for both of your retirements.

As for Social Security, stay-at-home spouses can claim a benefit based on their partners. Even if you divorce, if you were married for at least ten years, you're entitled to that money, which can equal up to half of the main recipient's benefit. So, if your husband will get $1,000 each month, you would get $500. AARP has a calculator that parses all the variables. (Type "AARP Social Security Benefits Calculator" in your Web browser.)

That said, you should absolutely have a dedicated account—and make the maximum annual contribution. (The limit is $5,000 if you're under 50 years old, $6,000 if you're 50 or older.) Every spouse, with or without income, can open a Spousal IRA. The only requirement is that the "working" partner earn enough income to cover the contribution. So as long as your husband earns $10,000 in income, he can put in $5,000 for his IRA and cover $5,000 toward yours. That works out to $417 a month going into your IRA, within easy reach of the $400 you say is available.

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Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.

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