I help couples craft prenups. Here are the conversations all parents-to-be should have before having kids.
- Rachel T. Schromen is an estate-planning lawyer.
- She says talking openly about the financial effects of having kids can prevent problems.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rachel T. Schromen. It has been edited for length and clarity.
We all know the old saying about love, marriage, and a baby carriage. It's sweet and all, but it doesn't reflect the complexity of modern families where both spouses are career-driven and financially astute.
I work as an estate-planning lawyer, which includes helping couples craft prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, and cohabitation agreements, which are legally binding contracts between partners who aren't married.
Sitting across from couples who are trying to take charge of their financial futures has taught me a lot about planning for kids in a fair way.
Have these conversations early
Talking about the financial effects of having children isn't as cute as riffing potential names or daydreaming about what your baby might look like. Yet, having these conversations long before you're holding a baby lets you take a levelheaded approach.
I know that my best self doesn't show up to conversations when I'm stressed or tired. Instead of having these discussions during the "fourth trimester," I encourage clients to tackle them before they start trying to conceive. Having a plan in writing is a roadmap that can keep your emotions,
Consider what happens if someone needs to take time off
Daycare prices are astronomical. Parents often think about how they may share those costs, but there are other, less obvious costs to having a baby. What happens if the birthing parent gets sick during pregnancy and is unable to work? What if they don't have paid leave?
Losing income can create an unequal power dynamic, and too often it's women who are put at a disadvantage. Planning ahead with solutions, such as splitting the lost income or having the working parent shoulder most household expenses, can create equity.
Don't forget about retirement
If one person is taking time out of their career to birth or care for a child, they're likely not contributing to their retirement account. That's one of the reasons women often have less retirement savings than men.
To combat this, consider having the working parent designate equal contributions to the primary caregiver's retirement savings. If you're the working parent, this might mean you're not maxing out your own retirement because you're matching your contributions dollar for dollar in a separate account for your partner.
Use therapy to be proactive
Discussions about money can leave us feeling vulnerable or defensive. They dredge up issues from our past and the baggage we carry with us. That's why I suggest that couples may want to start these conversations with the help of a therapist or counselor. A professional can help you both communicate what you think is fair and why, and keep the dialogue flowing even when things get tense.
Having kids is a natural thing, until you start analyzing how it can affect your finances and career path. Taking an honest look at that with your partner before bringing home a baby can be tough, but it may alleviate stress in the long run.
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