For many women, having a career and a family is the central balancing act of life. Progress has been on all fronts – motherhood looks a lot different now, as women have choices at every step. Having a career, delaying motherhood, and putting a career on hold to be a primary caregiver to kids (or others) are just some of the options. And creating a family with fertility treatments, surrogacy or adoption now allow many more women to experience the joy of being a mom.
But the additional choices have added even more complexity. We’ve identified two situations many women will face throughout their life and financial journey. They are pivot points that require planning well in advance to provide the most flexibility.
Planning for Career Flexibility
Women’s careers often are not linear. The biggest reason for a break in a career is to take care of young children or be a caregiver to a parent. That could mean reducing work, taking on roles that allow more flexibility (but often lead to less income), or stopping work entirely for some time.
Women who have spent a few years out of the workforce often do not return to the same role. Even if they don’t take a break, many women realize that their skills are better suited to a position that allows them to feel more fulfilled. As you gain more financial security, getting satisfaction from your job becomes more important. This can mean additional education investments if you are a career-changer. If you are more of an entrepreneurial personality, you’ll need start-up capital for your business.
How can you plan for something you don’t know about yet? That’s the value of saving and investing. Prioritizing retirement savings is your starting point. Removing the financial insecurity of the last few decades of your life means you can take more risks now. As your income increases, the amount you put away should also increase until you max out your contributions.
If you are over the income level for a Roth account, the tax-deferred advantages of saving in a traditional retirement account allow you to boost savings and save on taxes.
Outside of retirement savings, prioritizing saving in a taxable investment account can help you create flexibility. The money can have goals tied to it – for example, you want to quit your job and start your own business in five years. The goal’s timeline will dictate the investment strategy you use for the money.
Preparing for Children
No question about it, kids are expensive. But sometimes, big expenses kick in before the tiny human even arrives. If you consider delaying motherhood, you should be aware of your options. You’ll need to identify a doctor that specializes in preserving fertility. The process can be expensive, it may not be covered by insurance, it’s involved, and there is a relatively short period in a woman’s life to freeze eggs optimally. There’s also an ongoing annual cost, and you’ll have additional costs if you use your eggs and undergo treatment to get pregnant. Prioritizing saving for the expense will help reduce the stress.
If you are considering fertility treatments, you should understand what is involved. Insurance may cover some costs, but you need to know your treatment plan, how long it may take, and how to pay for it. This can be a significant expense, so building a cash flow plan around it can take the pressure off and help you make the right choices for you. The process can be stressful, and removing uncertainty around finances can be very helpful. Keep in mind that you can deduct fertility treatments from your income taxes.
Adoption is a beautiful way to create a family, and while the costs are high, there are also tax benefits. Per the IRS, these include a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it’s limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years.
Once you have kids, you want to start saving for their education early. Setting up a 529 plan as soon as possible and funding it regularly will give you the most flexibility in paying for college. There can also be some tax benefits, depending on where you live.
The Bottom Line
Taking control of your life journey at critical points is a little different than the day-to-day challenges of staying on top of your finances, but it’s the best way to achieve your dreams. Creating flexibility and financial independence and planning for expenses before they happen can keep you on track to the life you want.
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