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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Handling Frequent Doctors’ Appointments

How to Handle Frequent Doctors' Appointments | CorporetteWhen you have to take time off work for frequent doctors’ appointments, how can you schedule them to minimize the effect on your workday?  What are the best ways to explain your absences to your boss, secretary, and other coworkers?  Reader L wonders:

I was wondering what the proper etiquette is to deter nosy coworkers when you are frequently in and out of the office for medical attention.  While my team superior is aware of the procedures I need done so I can request time out, the other people that I work with daily are extremely nosy and ask questions as if they were trying to diagnose me.  One even asked about my bathroom habits!  As a young professional, how do I communicate to people I work with and under to explain frequent absences without compromising some privacy?  Telling them I was out for a procedure or just not feeling well is apparently too vague and spurs intrusive follow-up questions.  I understand that they are genuinely concerned, but I want to keep my health problems private except for HR and my boss.

Meanwhile, a second reader, S, is stressed about how her high-risk first-trimester pregnancy is affecting her job. Due to a subchorionic hemorrhage, she’s limited in her activities at home and at work, and she was nearly hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness). She hasn’t yet announced to her coworkers that she’s pregnant.

Great questions, Readers L and S.  I think that any time you’re getting into the realm of health-related issues (whether pregnancy or other things), it’s in your best interest to keep things on the DL — coworkers just don’t need to know until there’s Something to Know.  We’ve talked about how to deal with a miscarriage at work, as well as how to deal with a potentially embarrassing illness — but we haven’t talked about this directly.  These are a few tips that I can think of, but I’m curious to hear what readers say:

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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…]

The Best Stores for Maternity Wear

The Best Stores for Maternity Workwear | CorporetteWe’ve talked about the best stores for workwear for tall women, for petites, and for plus sizes; the last one we’re going to talk about is the best stores for maternity wear.  Spoiler alert: the choices are never great — but they have expanded quite a bit since I was pregnant (and since we last looked at professional maternity clothes).  Today I’ve asked blogger (and Corporette reader!) K from Work That Bump to guest post and round up some of the best stores for the working pregnant lady.  Welcome, K! – Kat.

Scaling Mount Everest, running a marathon, and collecting a suitable maternity working wardrobe — it may not seem that the last one belongs, but trust me, it does.  So although I can’t comment on the first two feats, I was thrilled when Kat asked me if I would guest post on the third.  I’ve created what I hope to be a comprehensive list of maternity brands and stores (something I wish I had when I was pregnant). Other issues I’ve addressed that may be helpful: I recently spelled out my approach to shopping for maternity wear and my maternity-wear budget. I’ve also tackled the difficult questions of intimate apparel while pregnant and a transition wardrobe while pregnant.

Before we get into the list of stores, though, it is worth noting that you can score some good prices on maternity wear on Gilt, Rue La La, Zulily, and Haute Look.  Gilt currently has eight pages of maternity wear from good brands like Maternal America and Eva Alexander, as well as nursing bras, jeans, and casual tops for the weekends.  For example, I really like this Charlotte dress from Nom Maternity that is available for $60 on Gilt (pictured above) — it should prove to be very versatile: you could wear it with pumps and a blazer for work or with riding boots and a cardigan for chilly weekends.

And now to the list of stores and brands: [Read more…]

Planning Company Travel Six Months Away — While Secretly Pregnant

When to Tell Your Boss You're Pregnant | CorporetteWhen should you tell your boss that you’re pregnant? Are there any circumstances where you should tell your boss earlier rather than later?

My husband and I are expecting our first child. I haven’t told anyone at work yet, since we’re still in the first trimester (due in June). I’m two years into my current job, and love my company and my work.

A few big opportunities and changes just came up that may affect my plans to “break the news” about my pregnancy earlier than intended:

(1) My boss, who supports my advancement within the company, just got a new position. With a change of management, I may not have a boss who is as supportive of me, especially given that I intend to be out of the office for three months.
(2) My team is planning now for travel that must occur in the spring. Travel involves going to developing countries, which I won’t be able to do on the cusp of my third trimester.
(3) I just found out I am scheduled to present two of my biggest projects to our Board of Directors in June, which is a major career opportunity for me. This cannot be rescheduled for many reasons.

Any advice?

Congratulations, A! We’ve talked about when is the best time in your career to get pregnant, how to announce you’re pregnant, and how to negotiate maternity leave before, but your circumstances may be sufficiently different so I’m curious to hear what readers say. For my own $.02:

The standard wisdom is to wait until the end of your first trimester because the risk for miscarriage decreases then, and I really don’t think you should vary that here.  (At the very least, wait until you hear the baby’s heartbeat!)  (Readers often recommend the work/life balance book, Balance is a Crock, Sleep is For the Weak — as the authors there say about announcing early to your boss: “shut your piehole.”) To put it another way: What are you hoping will change based on your sharing your news? [Read more…]

Miscarriages, Fertility Troubles, and the Office

miscarriage-at-workHow do you deal with a miscarriage at work?  Reader K wonders…

I don’t think you have done a post on having fertility issues while working (please point me in the right direction if I am wrong!). I am an associate attorney and have been trying to start a family with my husband for about a year. Last month, I had an early miscarriage during a busy time at the office, which was, frankly, horrible. I have since recovered from my miscarriage and work has slowed down, but I am wondering if you (or your readers’) have any thoughts on how to deal with fertility issues while working full-time when no one at the office knows what I am going through. I have thought about sharing with a close partner/friend, but worry about putting “baby=leaving” into her head before I am even able to get pregnant.

I am so, so sorry for your loss, K.  We’ve talked about how to survive the first trimester while keeping it on the down-low, and when to tell your boss you’re pregnant, but we haven’t talked about how to deal with a miscarriage.  [Read more…]