Millennials and Parenthood?
Baby limbo: Millennials struggle to find the right time for parenthood
From Yahoo Finance
By Mandi Woodruff January 17, 2015 9:27 PM
Mandy Wallace, 30, never doubted who she would wind up with. She was a teenager when she met her high school sweetheart, Nathan, 31, in their hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. By the time they graduated college in 2009, both with degrees in English, they were already married.
They had talked about having children for years, but with graduation came an unwelcome reality check: a combined $60,000 worth of student loan debt.
“It was paralyzing thinking about how we’d manage to give kids everything they deserved [with this debt],” says Wallace, a fiction writer and writing coach. “It’s enough to make me wonder why anyone feels safe having kids at all.”
Like many other recession-era millennials, she and Nathan decided to put off parenthood for a few years, following a trend that, along with an apparent lack of interest in homeownership, some have worried might stymie economic growth.
Birth rates among 20- to 24-year-olds were down 2% between 2012 and 2013, and birth rates among 25- to 29-year-olds have fallen by 1% each year since 2008, according to the CDC. Despite economists’ fears, however, it doesn’t seem millennials are foregoing the institution of family altogether. Birth rates among older millennials (30- to 34-year-olds) are actually on the rise — up 2% in 2013.
Millennials aren’t the only ones eyeing the altar with trepidation. Marriage rates in the U.S. have declined nearly 60% since 1970 and reached record lows during the recession. The rate rebounded slightly in 2012, which the Pew Research Center attributed mostly to an increase in the number of nuptials by college-educated people.
Millennials — those born between 1980 and 2000 — are the first generation in the modern era to face higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment than their parents and grandparents did at the same stage in their life. They also have lower levels of wealth and personal income. Meanwhile, the cost of raising a child in the U.S. has reached nearly $250,000, which doesn’t include the cost of putting that kid through college — up 1,000% in the last three decades alone.
“Everything [gets more expensive] when you have children,” says Pamela Horack, a certified financial planner in Charlotte, S.C., who works with young families. “I believe millennials want to feel financially stable, as much as possible, before they have children.”
But how do you know you’re ready to have a kid?
If you’re waiting to find the perfect sweet spot — that place in your life where your financial stability, your desire to procreate and your basic human biology all line up in absolute synchronicity — then you may find yourself stuck in limbo forever.
That’s where Mandy finds herself today. Five years since graduating, she says she and her husband feel no closer to feeling financially confident to take on parenthood than they were before. While she works to launch her writing career, her student loans have been put into forbearance. Nathan, a manager at a local coffee shop, has had been able to chip away at his debt, but they struggle to pay more than the minimum requirement each month.
“As a woman, I feel like I’m running out of time to have kids and I’m starting to feel that pressure as well,” Mandy says. “I feel like at some point, you just do the best you can with whatever you have.”
So, amid financial uncertainty, how can you prepare yourself for first-time parenthood? There is no “right” time to have kids, but there are steps you can take to try to prepare yourself as best as possible for what’s to come.
“In a lot of ways, children are so the antithesis of a planned event,” Horack says. “You can not know what they’re going to do or what they’re going to bring to your life. Do the best you can with what you know and what you have.”
1. Practice living off of one salary for at least a year.
For couples who have been living the DINK (dual income, no kids) life for a while, it can be challenging to comprehend just how expensive kids are. Horack advises her clients to practice living off of just one paycheck and banking the other. The exercise serves two purposes — you have time to figure out which expenses you need to cut in order to fit your new budget, and you can start beefing up your savings account at the same time. You’ll certainly need it later. The average cost of a daycare facility today is $11,666 per year. A really nice facility can charge $18,000 or more.
2. Make lifestyle adjustments now, not later.
Like the single-income exercise, the sooner you start making lifestyle adjustments to fit your new budget, the better. Michael Solari, a certified financial planner in Boston, says pre-baby years are the best time to pick up side jobs that can help bring in extra income. Once you have a tiny human waking you up at all hours of the night, you’ll unlikely have the energy for freelance work. Solari and his wife both worked extra hours in the year leading up to their first child’s birth. All of that extra income went directly into a savings fund. They were also proactive in getting rid of unnecessary expenses, like cable and eating out at restaurants.
3. Review your health insurance policies.
The first few years of a baby’s life are some of the most expensive when it comes to health care, Horack says. Thanks to the increasing popularity of high-deductible health plans (which require you to pay for a big chunk of your health expenses to meet the deductible before the insurance kicks in), Americans paid $4,823 in out-of-pocket costs for family health plans in 2014, a 3% increase over the year prior, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Solari says his health policy shot up by $200 a month when he and his wife transitioned into a family plan.
A good family plan will include coverage for things like well visits, vaccines, and major emergencies. Also be sure to check your policy for prenatal care coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, most prenatal care services should be covered by insurers.
4. Balance your savings needs with your children’s savings needs.
At the rate college costs are rising, it only makes sense to want to start socking away funds for your future Ivy Leaguer’s education as early as possible. But do whatever you can to keep contributing to your own long-term savings goals, says Cheryl Costa, a certified financial planner in Framingham, Mass. Kids can take out loans and apply for scholarships or get a job if they can’t afford tuition. No bank is going to give you a retirement loan. At the very least, contribute enough to your retirement fund to max out any employer match. If you do open a college savings fund for your child, consider asking relatives and friends to make a financial contribution in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts.
5. Plan your transition away from and back to work carefully.
There’s certainly a lot for women to gain by delaying motherhood early in their careers. When women leave the workforce to care for their children, their wages almost always suffer, even if they have maternity leave benefits. The Family Medical Leave Act requires large employers to provide 12 weeks worth of unpaid leave, a luxury some families can’t afford to take advantage of. A 2011 study found that for each year women wait to have children, their average wages rise by 3% and their overall career earnings rise by 9%. The longer you wait to leave the workforce, the more time you have to establish a good network of colleagues that will (it is hoped) be waiting to support you when and if you decide to go back to work, as well. “You want to have contacts and relationships intact,” Horack says. If you have a partner or spouse to help, then start a conversation about how you plan on timing your maternity leave well in advance. Only 10% to 15% of U.S. employers offer paternity leave policies. If you’re one of the lucky ones, be sure to take advantage of it.
The bottom line: Putting off parenthood (or any gigantic undertaking) until you’ve worked out financial knots in your life is always a smart move. But when it comes to creating a family, it’s important to remember that good parenting, of course, doesn’t always come down to what’s in your bank account.
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