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:

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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:

[Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: Finding a Financial Planner

How to Find a Financial Planner | CorporetteWhen should I get a financial planner? How do I find a financial planner I like? These are some of the biggest personal finance questions we’ve gotten over the years — but I’ve never hired one, so I asked Corporette editor Kate Antoniades to ask the experts for us.  This is her first post for Corporette, so a big welcome, Kate! (If you prefer to manage your own money like me, we’ve talked about some of the best starter personal finance books, how to manage multiple accounts, and even what our general money roadmaps look like.)  – Kat.

How do you find the right financial planner? And once you do, then what? Reader K, one half of childfree couple (also known as DINK, double-income-no-kids),  asks:

My husband and I are early 30s, both professionals, and we are what are considered a childfree couple. We’ve known for many years that we don’t want to have children. We’re at a stage in our lives, financially, where we’d like to consult a financial planner to start mapping out our next money moves. The thing is, we can’t seem to find anyone who might specifically cater to childfree couples. The considerations are different than those with children — estate planning comes to mind first and foremost — and yet, the closest we can get is the LGBT financial planning niche, where the considerations are still not quite the same. Long term health planning is not one of the concerns we find most pressing, actually, so we’re more focusing on retirement and estate planning.

This is a great question that most likely applies to many Corporette readers. Here are the answers to some common questions about finding a financial planner to meet your needs:

Do I need a financial planner?

Choosing to work with a financial advisor is a smart move, says Farnoosh Torabi, financial expert and author of When She Makes More (she recently shared some relationship advice for women breadwinners). “A financial planner can help prioritize your spending, saving, and investing to help you achieve your goals.” He or she can also act as a mediator for couples who are having disagreements about money, she says.

[Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: What’s Worth the Splurge (And What Isn’t)

When to Splurge, When to Save | CorporetteSomething that I’ve wanted to do for a while is talk about what’s worth the “splurge” (on a big or small level) versus what’s NOT worth the splurge. For example: I always joke that life is too short for cheap liquor and cheap toilet paper. On the flip side, I rarely notice the difference with a “fine” wine (ahem), and “good” coffee is wasted on me also — Folgers is just fine for my one cup a day. At the grocery store, I often buy store brands (or whatever’s cheapest).

On a day to day level, my cleaning lady (who now comes once a fortnight) is non-negotiable and an absolute essential (we love you Olga!), and I will give up other splurges (such as frequent dinners out) to keep room for her in the budget. (Pictured:  Fossil ‘Key-Per’ Wristlet, was $40, now $29.98.)

On a grander level, I think education is worth the splurge if other factors align; in other words, the more expensive program may be worth it if it offers enhanced networking capabilities / alumni base / career services / etc. In terms of housing, I’ve always prioritized living space over location or amenities (e.g., I’ve never lived in a glitzy apartment building in a super chic area but rather the largest apartment I could get in the safest area near where I wanted to live).

[Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: Should You Get an MBA?

should you get an MBAShould you get an MBA? If you’ve ever pondered getting your MBA but wondered if it was worth the investment of time and money, today’s guest post is for you. We’ve talked about how to prepare your finances for grad school, as well as the pros and cons of changing careers, but we truly haven’t talked about this — so I’m thrilled to welcome the personal finance blogger behind Well Heeled Blog, a young woman who just finished her MBA. Welcome to Corporette! – Kat.  (Pictured: Ted Baker London ‘Neon’ Leather Card Wallet, $55 at Nordstrom.)

I recently graduated from a 2-year, full-time MBA program at one of the “15 schools that make up the Top 10 MBA.” I once heard a dean use that phrase and think it’s a humorously apt way to describe the way schools jockey for that much-vaunted “top 10.” designation.

Once you include the money I spent out of pocket and the opportunity cost of two years of foregone earnings and benefits (minus the living expenses I would have had to spend, MBA or not), this degree cost me at least $250,000. That’s enough for a house in many parts of the country, and a hefty down payment in even the priciest areas such as San Francisco or New York City.

Was my MBA worth it? I’m a long-time Corporette reader and occasional commenter, and I’ve seen several questions on MBAs and finances. The decision to pursue an MBA isn’t solely about the ROI in dollars and cents–there are plenty of non-financial benefits such as a grounding in business education, a wider and deeper network, and the opportunity to devote two years to furthering your professional and personal growth. Still, the fact remains that an MBA is an expensive proposition for most people, and this proposition can expand your career horizon while at the same time limiting your future financial choices. Here are my thoughts about the financial implications of an MBA now that I have completed my degree–what I would (and have) told friends who are thinking about pursuing an MBA, especially through a full-time program:

[Read more…]