Tales from the Wallet: Eldercare and Finances

eldercare-financesToday we’re bringing you our next installment of our Money Milestone series, where we’ve previously discussed paying for grad school, wedding finances, home buyingfinancially planning for a babyfinancial strategies for divorce, and saving for retirement.

Readers requested one on eldercare, finances, and aging parents — and I think that can certainly make an impact on one’s finances, so let’s have an open thread on it today. Have you had to help care for a parent, grandparent, or other loved one? What do you wish you’d known about it ahead of time in terms of finances (yours and theirs)? What were the best resources you found?  

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Tales from the Wallet: Retirement

retirement-womenLadies, how much are you saving for retirement? How large does retirement loom in your thoughts — and where does it fall in your priorities?  Welcome to our next installment of our Money Milestone series, where we’ve discussed paying for grad school, wedding finances, home buyingfinancially planning for a baby, and financial strategies for divorce.

I haven’t retired yet, obviously, but it does loom fairly large in my thoughts and priorities just because getting enough saved by the time we want to retire — and hopefully meet a personal goal of paying for college for both boys — is not going to be a simple matter.  Constant vigilance is the key, I think!  Of course, you don’t want to save so much that you can’t enjoy your life right now — after all, not to get too dark on this sunny day, but not everyone will have to worry about retirement.  We max out my husband’s 401K and my SEP-IRA every year, and we save what else we can in tax-savvy investments and with automatic investing.  (I just started using a new app called Acorns, which is interesting: you can link it to bank and credit card accounts, and it will round up every transaction and invest the difference in Vanguard funds.  Spent $8.95 at the drugstore? It’ll take that $.05 and put it in a queue to invest when you get to $5.  It’s a bit wonky right now — it mysteriously hasn’t updated in 10 days — but I think it shows a lot of promise.)

Readers, are you throwing everything you can at retirement — or are you prioritizing other goals first (like keeping investments fairly liquid for a home purchase or other big expense like a wedding, or paying down debt)?  (Incidentally, we did try to answer what retirement assets you can use for a first home purchase in a previous post.) 

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Tales from the Wallet: Surviving Divorce, Financially

financially-surviving-divorceWe haven’t done a Money Milestone series in a while, in part because I’ve been a bit trepidatious about this one. I keep reading that divorce can decimate your finances, and there are numerous things you should do in advance of, during, and after a divorce. However: I’m happily married (knock on wood). I still think this is important for us to talk about here, both for readers who may be thinking about a divorce or going through one.  So let’s do this as an open thread (anonymous as always) — ladies who’ve been divorced (or seriously investigated getting one), please speak up. What are your best tips for financially surviving a divorce? What would you do differently with your finances during the marriage, if anything — and when would you have done it? What resources can you recommend, either on the finances side or otherwise?  

In this Money Milestone series, we’ve done grad school, weddings, home buying, and planning for a baby.  In terms of money and relationships, in the past we’ve also talked about pre-nups, shared accounts, married money management, dating someone with less money, dating a fellow busy overachiever, and more.

Further reading:

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Tales from the Wallet: Financially Preparing for Baby

financially-preparing-for-babyWe’ve talked about some of the major financial milestones that can affect your life, like wedding and grad school — but we haven’t yet talked about how to financially prepare for baby. (We have talked in general terms about family planning, as well as when the “best” time to get pregnant is.) So here are the questions: how can you prepare financially for a baby?  What considerations should factor into the decision to start trying?  Mamas, what are your best tips for the women still just pondering it? 

First, a story.  I remember being pregnant with my first child and reading a story somewhere about how babies were so expensive.  Yeah yeah yeah, I thought.  Sure, there are big purchases like a stroller and a crib.  But a baby shirt is like $5! Diapers are like, what, $20 a box?  NBD.

Stopped laughing yet?  I didn’t get it — in a big way.  CHILDCARE is the huge expense for children.  It really escaped my notice that if I wanted to work for 40 hours a week, then someone would need to watch the baby for 40 hours a week.  In most states, public school doesn’t kick in until kindergarten — aka, age FIVE.  So that’s five years of childcare — per kid — that you need to figure out.  We’ve talked about the pros and cons of different childcare arrangements over at CorporetteMoms, and last week we talked generally about parental budgeting — but I thought we’d bring the conversation over to Corporette.

For my $.02, for those of you just considering a baby, I would say:

  • Lock down health insurance.  I would strongly, strongly, strongly advise you to get health insurance (a good policy!) before you consider having a baby.  Doctors’ visits add up, as do ultrasounds, visits to specialists, and the ultimate labor and delivery bill.  (I believe my copay was $1000 for each pregnancy, but for my relatively uncomplicated births I recall seeing that the hospital bill for Jack was $16K, and for Harry it was $14K…. I definitely would not have wanted to be facing either of those numbers without insurance.)
  • Know your maternity leave policy. Note that you are only eligible for FMLA leave if “you have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.” We’ve also talked on here about negotiating for maternity leave at the interview stage, as well as (on CorporetteMoms) what an ideal maternity leave would look like.
  • Consider getting short-term disability.  Pregnancy may or may not be covered — and it may not be covered as a preexisting condition — so it’s best to think about this before you get pregnant.
  • Know if any vesting periods apply to you.  Stock options, pension plans, 401K matches, etc — if any of those employee perks may apply to you, take a look so you know what the situation is. If you’re only ten months away from being fully vested in a big perk, you may want to wait to start trying for another month or two.
  • Get a budgetary cushion.  You will need some cash for doctors’ copays and baby essentials, and you’ll eventually be able to roll that cushion over for childcare expenses.  In a perfect world I would suggest you have at least $1K-$5K cash, but obviously a lot of people have gotten pregnant with a lot less and been fine.
  • Talk to your doctors.  Finally, if you haven’t yet started trying to conceive, a minor note — talk to your doctor (and have your partner talk to his doctor) before you start.  My doctor suggested I get some more shots (the MMR vacine, if memory serves) that I could not have gotten while pregnant or nursing, and I also had genetic testing done. Unexpected health complications can be expensive, so being proactive here can really help.

Meanwhile, once you’re pregnant, I would suggest:

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Tales from the Wallet: Financially Preparing for Grad School

financially preparing for grad schoolWe had a great discussion a few weeks ago about wedding finances, and now it’s time for the next post in our Money Milestone series:  grad school. We’ve talked about how to adjust your new student budget once you get to grad school, how to pay off student loans, how to juggle grad school and a full time job, and even whether you should get an MBA — but not this. Some of the best tips came from folks on the Corporette FB page and some of my personal FB friends, so a huge thank you to everyone! (Check out U.S. News & World Report’s Paying for Graduate School Guide for some additional advice.) (Pictured: J.Crew Factory Magic Wallet, $14.50.)

Before Grad School

  • Live like a student before you go. Keep your expenses down while you’re saving up — and create a new budget. This helps you save more, and also prevents culture shock once you have to dial back your lifestyle when you get to grad school.
  • Manage what you’ve already borrowed. Form a strategy to pay down your existing debt. In some cases you may even want to postpone applying to grad school until you have more of a handle on your finances and achieve a higher credit score (which can earn you lower interest rates). Consider deferring your undergraduate loans if it makes sense for your financial situation.
  • Make sure you know the numbers. In a recent post, Above the Law mentioned a new, “brutally honest” student loan calculator that shows you your future monthly payments in comparison to your expected salary after earning the degree.
  • See if your current employer offers tuition reimbursement. It may be slow going but you can pay for a grad school degree through this method alone!
  • Set up a 529 plan for yourself. While you’re saving, you get a deduction on your state taxes, and you can then use that account to pay for your grad school expenses. If you have money left over in the plan, you can roll it over into your kids’ plans. (Rules vary widely by state.) Resist the urge to raid your 401(k) for tuition costs.

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Tales from the Wallet: Wedding Finances

Money Milestones: How Your Wedding Affects Your Finances | CorporetteWhat are the financial implications of getting married — and how does your wedding budget affect your overall financial health? What other major milestones affect your financial health?  I’ve often read that how you handle a few major milestones in your life — wedding!  grad school!  baby!  buying a house!  divorce!  retirement! — can have a significant impact on your overall financial health.  So I thought we’d start a series on Money Milestones.  (We’ve already talked about how where you live affects your finances, as well as what a general money roadmap, through life, should look like.)

First up:  the financial implications of getting married.  The question to everyone who’s been through this: what choices did you make that affected finances? What would your advice be to someone just going through it (either for the first time or again)? To those of you who decided NOT to get married because of the financial implications — please share some of your thoughts with us!

For my $.02, these are my best tips:

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