Prior to training as a GP, I used to work in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. It was common to see women plan every aspect of their pregnancies – right down to the vitamins they took and the delivery they wanted.
Women generally attended every scan and every midwife appointment without fail. They prepped their bag for the time of going into labour and meticulously planned every detail.
It wasn’t always possible to see them through in exactly the way they had planned, but I did my best alongside an excellent team of doctors and midwives.
To be honest, despite all the medical intervention and planning, I don’t know if preparing their finances for having babies was always at the forefront of this process.
And with an estimated 50% of pregnancies thought to be unplanned, this is even more worrying.
I’m Not Pregnant Yet
I’m not pregnant yet, but I have had the financial side of becoming a new mum on my mind for a number of years. In fact, it was one of the driving factors behind switching from hospital medicine to becoming a GP, then eventually to working as an online GP and growing my coaching business.
I know I need time and flexibility to be able to be present for any future child I have, plus I know childcare is expensive!
But equally, I don’t want to compromise on my lifestyle by accepting lower paying work in order to have what I want.
So if I’m going to do this, I’m going to make sure I’m preparing my finances for having babies as far as I possibly can.
How Much Will I Be Paid (and for how long)?
The first thing I’ve done is to check what allowances I’m entitled to for maternity pay through my employment and my business.
Maternity leave payments vary hugely between employers. In my previous field of operation, the NHS, women receive different rates depending on how much service they have provided. Some employers are more generous than others.
In my current role an an online GP working for livi, I’m now classed as a private GP and so don’t enjoy as many maternity benefits. It’s a shame, but I’d rather have the job I do than go back to working for the NHS again!
You must know what you might be entitled to because this changes everything. Try out this UK government calculator to find out for yourself.
Another essential is to check your employment contract before getting pregnant so you can find out what is possible.
Being forewarned with how much pay you’ll be entitled to while on leave will help you to be prepared for what will change for you in the months ahead. It will also help you to check your employer is paying you properly when the time comes.
And if your partner is entitled to leave, that makes a big potential difference to childcare arrangements and costs when the baby is born. Get them to check their entitlement too!
I was interested to know what the rules were for people who run their own business. It turns out that it’s even more confusing than being employed!!
You could be entitled to statutory maternity pay, or maternity allowance depending on your circumstances.
You could get statutory maternity pay as a limited company director if you employ other workers who can do the job you do while you’re away, and/or the company can produce enough income in your absence to settle your SMP.
Dividend payments don’t count when working out whether you qualify for this or not – you need to have a PAYE scheme in place for your company.
If you work for yourself as a sole trader, you’re not entitled to this.
But as long as you’ve made more than £30 a week, you’ll be entitled to maternity allowance. This is currently anything from £27-£151.97 per week depending on how many Class 2 National Insurance contributions you’ve made in the 66 weeks before your baby is due.
If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you can get £27 a week for up to 14 weeks if you do unpaid work for your partner’s business.
If this doesn’t work for you, then use sites like Turn2Us to work out what benefits you might be entitled to, like universal credit.
So Now I Know How Much I’ll Receive, What Next?
I know that I will want to go back to building my business ASAP after having a baby, so my plan would be to go back after 3-6 months with help from family and my husband and easing myself in gently.
This means that I will need to have saved money to fund my lifestyle for the time I will be receiving £151.97 per week and to cover the 10% drop during the first 6 weeks of leave (not to mention all the bits I’ll need to buy for the baby!).
When I was working in jobs that drained me, the idea of having a year off to be a full time mum was what I was aiming for.
But I know that’s no longer what I want.
Now that I’m working for an online GP service and have the benefits of working from home without needing to commute out anywhere, I feel that I can go back to work fairly quickly after having a child, providing I put in place the necessary support around me.
Plans can always change, so I need to prepare for longer just in case.
Your next step depends on your plans. When would you ideally like to go back to work? If you think it will be within the time you receive full pay/near-enough full pay, and you have childcare covered, then there’s no issue.
However if you want to have a whole year off, then you’ll need to sort your cash flow out ASAP.
How are you going to fund the gap in pay when it drops? If you have a partner who is earning well, and can accommodate this, then that’s brilliant!
But what if your partner can’t?
Please don’t underestimate this, because I know of women who have had to resort to foodbanks to feed themselves while on maternity leave because they can’t afford to buy food.
This is heartbreaking and shocking. I absolutely do not want this to be you.
Remember also that medical conditions may require you to start your maternity leave earlier than planned, and your finances will then need to adapt accordingly. Having a buffer in place for this can help.
Making The Money Go Further
The next thing I looked at was how I could optimise my finances in general to make my savings stretch further during maternity leave.
Look at your finances in the same way to cut out anything that isn’t necessary.
Pay off Debt
Firstly pay off as much debt as you possibly can. Ideally before you even plan to have kids, but I admit that life doesn’t always work like this. Use the snowball or avalanche methods to do this quickly.
I’m debt free now, but I am being mindful of my credit card spending and reducing that down again to get out of the habit of putting things on plastic.
Start An Emergency Fund
In addition to the maternity fund, I have an emergency fund. This is at least £1000 in money I have saved at any one time that will cover me for when things go wrong. I try to have more saved, but life happens and it does need to be spent from time to time!
I don’t like focusing on restricting myself, but in order to build up my maternity fund quickly, and to make it stretch further, I will need to trim my budget and ditch subscriptions that I won’t be using when pregnant (I’ll cross that bridge if I get to it!).
I use my Healthy Money Planner, but it doesn’t matter which type of budget you choose, just pick something and stick with it. Trim as much as you can out of it and update all your bills. Read more ways you can do this!
Sometimes it takes some drastic measures like getting rid of extra cars and changing where you live. Maybe moving outside of an expensive city and commuting in to work/working from home makes more sense financially, but ultimately do what’s right for you and your growing family. Life still needs to be lived while preparing after all!
If and when the time comes, I’ll tap on the experience of veteran mums to find out what is essential to buy or not, and I’ll look for bargains and second-hand options instead of getting everything new.
I love a gift list too, so anything that I will need, I’ll stick on there and ask people to buy from the list rather than buy things I won’t use or need.
Optimising My Business
The next thing I’m doing to prepare is to optimise my business so that as much as possible is either automated, or being done by someone else.
This will mean hiring a VA while I’m away to field messages and update social media for me. I’m even considering hiring another money coach to help me during this time.
I will also be batching blog posts, podcast episodes and youtube videos to cover the time I’m away.
Currently I’m building in systems to raise passive income to keep my business expenses paid and to send out emails to keep in touch with you, even if I’m knee deep in nappies and feeding!
The last thing I want is for all of my efforts over the last 5 years to go to waste because I disappeared off the face of the planet for 3-6 months.
I will need to make some choices about what I do put out, and on which platforms, and be far more discerning with my time, but I will still have a basic level of marketing going on to continue to build my brand ready for my return.
What About My Baby’s Future?
I’ve even thoughts about how I’m going to help “mini-me” financially after they’re born. I’m going to start a pension and investments right from birth using apps like hapi or moneybox.
I have written a post about children’s savings and investments, so check it out when you have a chance. It is well worth knowing what you can do for your child because it will give them an absolutely amazing start in their adult life!
Final Thoughts On Preparing My Finances For Having Babies
The bottom line is, I need to plan for more than just physically getting through the pregnancy. My money and my business needs just as much attention ahead of time because I don’t want to have to worry about either in the first few precious months.
If you’re in the same boat too, I wish you luck.
My thinking is, even if we discover we can’t have children, I’ll have a nice pot of my money to invest with.
Come and join my free and private Facebook group to find your support tribe – you don’t have to prepare for this alone.
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