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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Guest Post: Pumping at Work 101

Pumping at Work 101 | CorporettePumping at work: it’s one of the toughest parts of going back to work after maternity leave. In past posts we’ve covered what to wear to pump at work, how to manage pumping in different offices, pumping during work travel, and how to dress professionally when you go back to work (when your pre-pregnancy clothes still don’t fit). Today Reader K gives you some basic tips for pumping at work and recommends a few helpful products. Thank you, K! 

My best friend gave me great advice before I went back to work: The dread is worse than the reality. I was nervous about leaving my little guy with someone I barely knew; I was nervous I would not be as good at my job as I had been before I left for leave; I was nervous that I would sit at my desk missing him all day. Basically, I was nervous about everything.

But now, seven months in, it hasn’t been that bad. For the most part, I have managed to focus completely on whatever I’m doing, whether work or home life. That means I am really efficient at work and then don’t really check my email once I get home until after my son goes to bed. (Fortunately, we hit the baby jackpot and got a great sleeper.) The hardest part, though, was pumping at work. After reading comments here and talking to my sister and some friends, I got into my routine. (Pictured: breast pump overload, originally uploaded to Flickr by madichan.

Read the rest of the post on CorporetteMoms… (but feel free to comment, on topic, on either page)… 

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N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!

Book Excerpt: Are Some Men Not Interested in “Career Women”?

Book Excerpt: Single without Kids, But Not By Choice | Corporette Are men not interested in career women?  I’m thrilled to introduce Melanie Notkin, founder of the site Savvy Auntie, and author of the new book, Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of HappinessShe describes the book this way: “Otherhood is the story of so many women of my generation, the daughters of the modern feminist movement, who expected to have the social, economic and political equality our mothers didn’t have, and surely the husband and children they did. But many of us remain single and/or childless as our fertile years wane.” She shared an excerpt with Corporette: 

Jared, a divorced dad friend of mine, asked me to set him up. I acquiesced immediately; he’s a nice-looking man, early forties, works in commercial real estate. I was sure he’d be a good match for one of my friends, so I asked him what he was looking for. He prefers tall brunettes, he told me, and someone, he added, who is “down-to-earth.” This remark was curious to me. What did “down-to-earth” mean? Did he want someone who’s charitable? Someone who wasn’t materialistic? Someone who was sincere?

“I mean,” he explained when I pressed, “I don’t want someone with a fancy career like, you know, a doctor, a lawyer, or like a PR person. I want a teacher or social worker type.” Oh, I thought immediately. He wants someone who won’t threaten him. “Fancy careers” were only for men, it seemed. It begged the question: Are so-called career women really not interested in men, as is so often presumed, or are some men simply not interested in “career women”?

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Introducing… CorporetteMoms, a Request for Guest Bloggers, and Some Kat News

SO. I’ve kept a few creative endeavors on the down-low, and now is the time to share! (Gulp!)

CorporetteMoms

The CorporetteMoms Newsletter

Longtime Corporette readers may remember that when I announced my pregnancy with Jack (now 2.5 years old) I ALSO announced that I’d be starting a new newsletter, devoted entirely to pregnancy, navigating maternity leave, and the return to work. Ahem. I never actually got around to starting it, but it’s always been in the back of my mind as one of my major goals for expanding this site. So, first up: I am FINALLY starting the CorporetteMoms newsletterThere will be two subscription options:  one for if you’re pregnant (along with a free eBook with my very best tips for dressing professionally while pregnant), and a second if you’re a working mom interested in news, deal alerts, and other updates.

CorporetteMoms.com

In the process of developing the newsletter, though, one of the things that frustrated me was the huge variation in how the emails looked in different programs — so it was important to me that each post have a home on the web.  So: I am also announcing the launch of the CorporetteMoms SITE, now live at http://corporettemoms.comThe newsletter and site will have a lighter publishing schedule than we have here at Corporette, but there will be at least an Open Thread and news roundup every week, as well as deal alerts for women’s and kids’ clothes and gear. (Because CorporetteMoms has its own database and lives on a separate server for now, it’s likely that we’ll be testing forum software (!) there first… so stay tuned for that announcement, hopefully soon.)

A Call for Guest Bloggers!

But wait, there’s more — I’d LOVE to get some of you guys to be guest bloggers for the CorporetteMoms site. Yes, you! My hesitation in launching a site for working mothers has always been that a) there’s a TON of parenting and mom-deal sites out there (to say nothing of mommy blogs), many of which are doing amazing work (and are addictive reads for me), and b) my own work/life balance is an unusual one. But after a lot of thought, I realized that as an editor I could contribute to and facilitate two kinds of conversations:  professional maternity-style posts, and posts about work/life balance from REAL working women. So: [Read more…]

How to Campaign for Flexible Working Conditions (Or, How to Change the Company Policy That Requires You Lug a Heavy Laptop Around)

How to Campaign for A More Flexible Workplace (Or: How to Ditch Your Company Laptop)How do you campaign for accessibility and flexibility in your workplace when the policies are less than ideal?  Yesterday’s post on how to lighten your tote bag got me thinking — I was so intrigued by the commenters who noted that they have to carry a huge, bulky laptop to and from the office because that is the the only approved way to get access to the office system.  When I was working in BigLaw, my firm used Citrix to give everyone access to the Docs Open system and other office programs — there were even times you could access document review programs from home.  (Ah, glory days.)  The only thing we needed to access the system was a small, flat device (a 2″ by 1″ fob) that displayed a long number that changed every thirty seconds. When you needed to log into the system, you entered the current security number.  That was five years ago, so it honestly didn’t occur to me that companies with information security issues would not be using something similar to Citrix in 2013.  (Even the Department of Defense has a better remote access option, according to a 2011 Lifehacker article.)  Maybe there are good reasons Reader R’s company isn’t using a secure remote system — but maybe it’s just an old policy that hasn’t been reevaluated in a while or from the right perspective. 

So readers, let’s talk about this — how do you change an office policy to make the conditions better for you (and those who come after you)?  Sheryl Sandberg talked a bit about this in Lean In — regarding how she insisted that the Google parking lot have spaces reserved for expectant mothers — and this was kind of mentioned in a recent NYT article about workplace flexibility  — but I can’t seem to find much else about this topic on the Internet.  For my $.02, here are some ideas… [Read more…]

How to Lighten Your Load

how to lighten your loadIf you’re carrying a million bags, how do you look professional?  How can you lighten your load and reduce the number of bags you’re carrying? Reader R wonders…

I work in a large corporate environment and recently had a daughter. I’m back at work, but I feel like a bag lady. I’m only 5’3″ and have to carry in my laptop, purse, pump, lunch, and coffee. (Not brave enough to add my gym bag to the mix, although I’d like to.) I feel like the bags overwhelm my frame and generally make me look smaller, younger, and unprofessional. How do others juggle all this STUFF?

Congratulations on your daughter, R!  Great question — I can see how this is a problem for new mothers, but also for other people carrying too much stuff.  We’ve talked about what your tote bag says about you, as well as how to save your back while commuting, but we haven’t really talked about a) how to lighten your load, and b) how to balance your load (particularly if you’re petite) so it looks more managed.

From my perspective, most of reader R needs to do is to reduce the amount of stuff she carries.  Some tips: [Read more…]