HOW TO: Afford Maternity Leave in the United States

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Plan Ahead for Financial & Personal Health

If you and your partner are even mildly discussing baby plans then you should also be discussing saving extra money so that both of you can take leave when the baby arrives. Typically financial pros recommend you save at least 10% of your pay for rainy days, but you’ll need much more than that. If you’re only saving 10% of your take-home pay, after a year, you’ll likely only have enough for about a month of maternity leave and zero money in savings for emergencies. A better way to save is to decide how much maternity time you’ll need, figure out the amount of money you’ll need to cover bills during your time off, then aim to save that amount. Simply saving an arbitrary 10% or 15% may leave you lacking funds. You should also be planning goals that help you stay healthy. If you’re fit and in great shape when you become pregnant, you’ll have a better chance of having a low-complication, and thus, way lower-cost pregnancy and birth. If you’re overweight, ill or generally out of shape, you’ll be much more likely to need potentially dangerous and costly pregnancy and birth care and interventions. If babies are in your future, make sure to eat right, get plenty of exercise and see your doctor regularly. By the way, did you know that around 50% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned? Even if babies are the farthest thing from your mind,  it’s a good rule of thumb to open a savings account and start saving plus work on staying healthy, just in case a surprise bundle comes your way. Planning ahead is hard at times, but worth it once you have your baby in your arms.

+ Get great financial planning advice from Expecting Money

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Suspend Your Retirement Plan Temporarily

If you’ve got a 401(k) or other retirement plan in place, suspending your payments while you’re expecting can add up to a week or more worth of leave, depending on how much you contribute monthly. If you and your partner both suspend your retirement payments, it’ll help even more. However, don’t forget to reinstate your account to normal payments after you return to work, because in the long run, retirement savings are important.

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Save Vacation Days

Many workers in the U.S. do have access to paid vacation, sick and personal leave days, and if you’re one of them, start saving them up as soon as possible. Hoarding these paid off days now, may allow you a bit more time home later on with your baby. While a babymoon may sound appealing, it might be best to skip it, go on some simple, yet fun in-town dates with your partner, and save your paid vacation days so you can use them after your baby arrives. Plus, if you save enough, you can always go on a fun vacation later with your baby in tow.

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