Preparing Your Career & Finances for a New Baby
Whether you’re just starting to think about getting pregnant, or you’re back at work after your second (or third!) baby, there’s no doubt about it: when it comes to family planning, there’s a lot to think about.
From what choices you should make in your career, to the changes you may need to make to your finances, you’ll want to do some research and start planning ahead as early as possible. There are no right or wrong answers to this whole parenting thing (seriously!)—there are only the best choices for you and your family.
Let’s start from the beginning: what should you prioritize when you’re first starting to think about welcoming a new addition to your life? Let’s break down some common questions about how bringing a baby into your life will impact both your finances and your career.
If you’re at the stage where you’re thinking about getting pregnant, one thing you might be wondering is whether you should stop taking on more challenges at work or trying for that promotion. As a career coach, my guidance on this is simple: nope! Keep raising your hand for stretch assignments.
The more senior you are, the more flexibility and influence you may have access to. And once you do have a baby, that flexibility can become even more valuable to you. Even if you think you may want to step out of the workforce for some amount of time, keeping your career on track now can offer you more options down the road.
Checking your Insurance
You might also be wondering how much it will cost you to have a baby. Insurance coverage varies considerably from plan to plan, so one place to start is calling your insurance provider as soon as possible to understand what coverage you will have for a hospital birth. Here are a few other things you may want to get clarity on:
• Ask whether you need to use “in network” providers and facilities, and how many recovery days (in the hospital) you are allowed.
• Find out how much you have paid towards your deductible, and when it resets, since this may not be based on the calendar year.
• Ask when and how you can add the baby to your insurance coverage.
• Do you have any additional benefits? Some examples include access to lactation specialists, feeding assistance (including providing a breast pump), car seats, and baby proofing allowances.
During the Pregnancy
Once you know a baby is on the way, you’ll have a lot to think about: How will you decorate the nursery? What gear do you need? Oh, and how will you pay for all this new stuff, and what will happen to your job if you take leave?
Updating your Budget
One place to start is updating your budget to prepare for new expenses, and ditching unnecessary expenses in order to accommodate the increased spending over the next few years. Keep in mind the lost income throughout this transition, especially if one parent is going to stay at home with the child.
Common baby-related expenses you should account for include gear like a car seat and a stroller, furniture, diapers, wipes, toiletries, clothes, and toys.
Hand me downs are great options for both clothes and toys. You can still spend on the special occasion clothes if you’d like, but try finding ways to save on the everyday stuff that spends more time in the washing machine than anywhere else.
When you’re investing in furniture, you could look for models that will grow with your child—there are cribs that convert to a toddler bed and changing tables that double as dressers. High chairs, bouncers, and swings can also grow with baby.
Talking with your Boss
When it comes to work, it’s worth remembering that good news travels fast, so plan on sharing your news with your boss first. That way, they don’t have to hear about it through the rumor mill, and you can start working on your OOO plan ASAP.
It may be helpful to do some research before you have the conversation—find out what your company’s policies are, and decide whether you want to negotiate the terms.
Take some time to understand what paid and unpaid leave options are available to you. This may include some combination of vacation time, sick time, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state protections, and the parental leave policy from your company. If you are part of a union, part time, freelance, or on a contract, your options may differ.
As you are preparing to go out on leave, you can put together a transition document with your personal contact info and medical preferences. Share this with your manager, office manager, work bestie, and anyone else you think might need it, well in advance in case you deliver earlier than expected.
Be sure to include your due date, your last day in the office, your work from home info if applicable, and your return to work date.
After Baby is Born
Once baby arrives, here are a few strategies to make the most of your time on leave, how to transition back to work, and how to keep your finances on track.
While on leave, your employer should not require you to perform work, but taking occasional calls as a “professional courtesy” is allowed. As ambitious as you are, don’t commit to checking in regularly—or at all—until you know how you’re feeling. Set expectations up front about how you can be contacted and how frequently you’ll be checking for messages.
When it comes to finding quality child care, it can be difficult and expensive. Consider planning ahead as soon as possible, and ideally, far in advance of giving birth. There are multiple ways to make child care work, including help from family members, in-home daycare, daycare centers, a nanny, and/or a nanny share with other families. You can also consider negotiating for a reduction in your work hours or the number of days that you work.
From a financial perspective, the joy of being a parent comes with the added responsibility of protecting your child no matter what. The amount you should set aside for emergencies will vary by family, but you could start with three to six months worth of your (updated) expenses.
Both parents might consider life insurance, even if only one is currently employed. Consider a durable power of attorney, living will, healthcare power of attorney, and will with guardianship provisions. The important thing is that you do what is right for you and your family.
Finally, know that leaving your baby and returning to work can be overwhelming. You could aim to give yourself at least 90 days (or more!) to adjust before considering any major changes. And it’s worth knowing that symptoms of postpartum depression can surface for up to a year after giving birth. Ask for help when you need it and try not to be too hard on yourself. Connecting with other parents can be a big help.
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