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HOW TO: Afford Maternity Leave in the United States
Posted By Jennifer Chait On May 30, 2012 @ 9:00 am In green maternity,green pregnancy | No Comments
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.
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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.
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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While it’s true we live in a country that doesn’t require paid leave or even decent leave policies for new families, this isn’t across the board. Many states are setting their own paid leave laws and some innovative and supportive companies go way beyond the basics, offering actual decent maternity leave benefits. Ideally, research your own company’s benefits before you become pregnant. Some U.S. companies’ insurance policies offer a full six to eight weeks of full or partial pay for workers with an illness, but luckily, since the U.S. considers pregnancy a “condition” rather than an experience, new moms are often eligible too. Other companies offer Employee Assistance Plans  (EAPs). Often people associate EAPs with dramatic events like drug counseling or therapy, but many EAPs do include benefits related to pregnancy assistance. Other workplace options to look into that may help you save money for leave time include flexible spending accounts  (FSAs) or medical expense FSAs (sometimes called health care FSA). Both types of FSAs allow you to set aside pretax earnings for medical expenses and in some cases child care expenses.
If you own your home you may be able to take out a home-equity line of credit  to help fund maternity leave time. If you’re eligible for a home-equity line of credit, a benefit is that you’ll have access to the money if you need it, but there are no requirements to use it if you end up not needing it.
There are plenty of benefits to both attachment parenting  and going green , but a major perk for new parents is the money you’ll save. Co-sleeping , an attachment parenting method, means no costly crib, organic mattress  or organic crib sheets. Breastfeeding  can save you tons of cash on bottles, insanely expensive formula  and health care (breastfed babies are usually healthier ). Even if you factor in the best nursing bras and a pro breast pump, you’ll still save money by breastfeeding over formula feeding. Other green and attachment parenting ways to save money  ongoing include homemade baby food , homemade green cleaners , cloth diapers  and homemade reusable baby wipes . Of course, basic green practices such as turning off lights, taking shorter showers and driving less all save you money as well.
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Most Americans buy way too much useless stuff  as it is. Once you’re expecting , the urge to spend money and buy useless junk can become even more intense. From cute little clothes to designer diapers  to educational toys to give your baby an edge, new parents often think they need it all. In reality, you don’t. Babies need very little in terms of material goods to survive and thrive. Some diapers, a safe car seat , a basic layette, some blankets, burp cloths and a few books and toys is seriously bare minimum what you need. Plus, don’t forget, people love to give expecting parents gifts. You’ll get baby goods galore from other people , so don’t go out the second you’re pregnant and buy out Babies R Us. If you’re not sure what you need vs. what you don’t check out the following guides.
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 refuses to offer paid maternity leave for families: http://www.inhabitots.com/infographic-mapping-paid-maternity-leave-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/
 massive government fail: http://www.inhabitots.com/ways-the-us-government-is-failing-your-family-and-the-planet/
 great shape: http://www.inhabitots.com/inhabitots-roundup-toxins-to-avoid-during-pregnancy-beyond/
 overweight: http://www.inhabitots.com/how-to-avoid-pregnancy-junk-food-cravings/
 interventions: http://www.inhabitots.com/inducing-labor-not-helpful-if-water-breaks-early/
 eat right: http://www.inhabitots.com/7-eco-friendly-food-safety-tips-for-moms-to-be/
 plenty of exercise: http://www.inhabitots.com/7-safe-exercises-for-pregnancy/
 see your doctor: http://www.inhabitots.com/prenatal-vitamins-for-vegan-and-vegetarian-moms-to-be/
 + Get great financial planning advice from Expecting Money: http://www.amazon.com/Expecting-Money-Essential-Financial-Families/dp/1427795940/ref=la_B001T2BYVM_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338069307&sr=1-1
 go on a fun vacation later with your baby in tow: http://www.inhabitots.com/how-to-fly-cross-country-with-small-children-without-benadryl-7-tips/
 Employee Assistance Plans: http://management.about.com/cs/peoplemanagement/g/eap.htm
 flexible spending accounts: http://financialplan.about.com/cs/insuranc1/a/FlexSpendPlan.htm
 + Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Adoption Leave Statutes by State: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/labor/maternity-leave-state-statutes.aspx
 home-equity line of credit: http://budgeting.thenest.com/use-home-equity-credit-line-3174.html
 + What you should know about home-equity lines of credit (pdf): http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201204_CFPB_HELOC-brochure.pdf
 attachment parenting: http://www.inhabitots.com/attachment-parenting-basics/
 going green: http://www.inhabitots.com/5-ways-to-green-your-home-for-babys-arrival/
 Co-sleeping: http://www.inhabitots.com/co-sleeping-may-fight-obesity-says-study-from-2012-european-congress-on-obesity/
 organic mattress: http://www.inhabitots.com/best-non-toxic-organic-crib-mattresses-for-your-green-baby-nursery/
 Breastfeeding: http://www.inhabitots.com/breastfeeding-reduces-the-risk-of-sids/
 insanely expensive formula: http://www.inhabitots.com/green-guide-to-formula/
 breastfed babies are usually healthier: http://www.inhabitots.com/inhabitots-story-roundup-breastfeeding-edition/
 save money: http://www.inhabitots.com/new-research-says-babys-first-food-should-be-finger-food/
 homemade baby food: http://www.inhabitots.com/spice-up-homemade-baby-food-for-health-and-taste/
 homemade green cleaners: http://www.inhabitots.com/how-to-make-kid-safe-homemade-green-cleaning-supplies/
 cloth diapers: http://www.inhabitots.com/cloth-diapering-essentials/
 reusable baby wipes: http://www.inhabitots.com/how-to-make-a-reusable-cloth-baby-wipe-kit/
 + 7 Thrifty Ways to Save Money and the Planet: http://www.inhabitots.com/7-thrifty-ways-for-families-to-save-money-and-the-planet/
 Americans buy way too much useless stuff: http://www.inhabitots.com/parents-trapped-in-cycle-of-too-much-stuff-and-too-little-time-for-kids-says-new-unicef-study/
 you’re expecting: http://www.inhabitots.com/7-tips-on-preparing-for-postpartum-life-with-a-newborn/
 designer diapers: http://www.inhabitots.com/designer-disposable-diapers-awesome-fad-for-babies-good-for-huggies/
 safe car seat: http://www.inhabitots.com/non-toxic-car-seats-safety-tips-for-child-passenger-safety-week/
 baby goods galore from other people: http://www.inhabitots.com/top-10-baby-registries-for-green-moms-to-be/
 + 10 Things You DON’T Need for Your New Baby: http://www.inhabitots.com/ten-things-you-dont-need-to-buy-for-your-new-baby/
 + Must Have Baby Products: http://www.inhabitots.com/our-favorite-green-moms-share-their-must-have-green-baby-and-kids-products/
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