Even though the Family and Medical Leave Act allows for up to 12 weeks of time off work for parents, nothing guarantees this time will be paid, and data shows that only 12% of workers in the private sector actually get paid leave.
Weeks or months without any form of income can do significant damage to a family’s financial well-being, and it’s exactly why it’s important to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
From paying the bills to keeping the food on the table, everything is an expense you’ll want to account for, and securing the funds for the next couple of months is key to making it through several weeks of unpaid parental leave.
We’ve put together a list of all the things you can do to minimize the strain these expenses will have on your financial security and well-being.
Make use of your other benefits
While your workplace may not be able to offer you any paid maternity leave, you could utilize the other benefits your compensation package may have to offer.
You may already have short-term disability insurance without even knowing it, and while not all policies apply for maternity leave, those that do will be able to reimburse you for a portion of the income you lost.
If you’ve got a flexible spending account, you could free up some of your money to be used elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this can’t be used to pay for parental leave, but it will allow you to spend some of this money on paying for child care or medical expenses with non-taxable money.
Your childcare benefits may also come in handy here, as it’ll allow you to spend less during your parental leave time and focus on covering your other expenses.
Upgrade your insurance
If your workplace doesn’t offer disability insurance, it may be time to buy an individual policy, possibly even before you become pregnant, as it’ll allow you to get coverage right on time.
However, some of these policies do include exclusion periods you’ll want to take note of, as you won’t be able to claim your benefits until this period expires.
Another good thing to do is review your health insurance policy long before becoming pregnant, as you may be able to find a more comprehensive policy to cover all your needs.
Dr.Kecia Gaither believes that being ready for anything is crucial, as no one can know what could happen in the delivery room, and one complicated C-section can do a lot of damage, both physically and financially.
A longer stay in the hospital can be costly, but if you’ve got a good health insurance plan, it won’t be as damaging to your finances as it normally would.
Adjust your work schedule
At times, you’ll want to prepare for pregnancy ahead of time, and if you’re planning for a child in the near future, it may be prime time to take on some extra hours in order to secure some additional funds.
In fact, even vacation plan rescheduling isn’t out of the question, and the same goes for doctor’s appointments, both of which can be postponed for the sake of generating additional income before your parental leave.
Another thing you could do is take up freelance work or consulting after the baby has arrived, which may be able to help you push through this period of no income with ease.
You should, however, set reasonable expectations for the coming period, and don’t plan on overworking yourself through your maternity leave, even if you feel capable, as it takes away from the purpose of the maternity leave itself.
Rethink your budget
Budgeting is an incredible strategy that’s applicable to a number of different situations, ranging from dealing with debt to overcoming a loss of income.
By cutting back on unnecessary costs, you can help keep up your financial well-being even through a slightly rougher patch, and you may even use it as a learning experience for the future.
This way, you may also uncover leaks in your finances, usually ones that can be patched up with just a few minor changes to your spending habits, and every dollar counts.
As basic as it sounds, unpaid maternity leave is a common thing in the private sector, and it’s a reality many families will face.
However, low-income families usually draw the short end of the stick here, leaving them without some much-needed income during this time, and this can put some major strain on your family’s finances.
By employing some budgeting strategies and taking note of your insurance policy, you can secure enough funding to put your family through this period of no income without it having too great of an impact on your financial well-being and independence in the long run.