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Can I Afford Maternity Leave?

My maternity leave is quickly approaching now. With 3 weeks left until my scheduled C-section, I should probably figure out how much cash I’ll need to make it through a 12 week maternity leave.

Our largest cash outflow is the mortgage, which is around $820 a month. It covers the mortgage, taxes, and homeowners insurance. It is automatically deducted out of my second credit union account, so I will have to periodically transfer cash from my main credit union account to the other once my direct deposit paychecks are halted to those accounts during my maternity leave.

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The next largest cash outflow is my hubby’s student loan, around $300. It is automatically deducted from my hubby’s credit union account. While we have one more forbearance available to us, we don’t plan on using it.

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Our third largest cash outflow is the loan to get the roof repaired. We just got the loan last month, and the $200 payments are automatically deducted out of my main credit union account. Since I am actually paying more than the minimum payment of $150 a month, I can actually lower my payments by $50, but I’ll only do that if there is a shortfall in cash.

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The fourth largest cash outflow is the car lease for $185 a month. The payments are automatically deducted from my hubby’s account.

The second smallest cash outflow is our auto insurance. About $90 is automatically deducted out of my main credit union account. We are currently shopping around for auto and homeowners insurance to see if we can get a lower amount.

And the smallest cash outflow is the internet for $44, which is also automatically deducted out of my hubby’s credit union account. If you can’t already tell, I love automatic payments.

These six payments are ones that I either cannot easily change, such as the loans, lease, or auto insurance, or live without, such as the internet. These items total $1639.00 per month.

There are several additional expenses that, with some changes, I can either decrease or cut all together. The highest of these adjustable expenses is my hubby’s health insurance, a whopping $400 a month, which he picked up this year through the health care exchange. If needed, we could just cut the expense entirely.

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The second largest adjustable expense is our food and household items, which I estimate to be around $350 a month. It includes anything we use on a daily basis, from food and drinks to hygiene to clothes.

The third largest dispensable expense is my daughter’s before and after school care, which is $345 a month. While I could pull her out of the program while I’m on maternity leave, which would cut the expense for three months, she would be placed at the bottom of the waiting list for the program once I return to work, which poses a problem.

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The fourth largest adjustable expense is our electric and gas bill which is $165 a month. We are on budget billing, where the utility company estimates our annual cost and spreads the cost over an 11 month period. That way, 11 of the 12 bills are always the same at $165 per month, and the last bill is either higher because we underpaid or lower because we overpaid.

Gas is our next largest adjustable expense, which is usually around $80 a month. My commute to work is about 20 miles round trip, while my hubby’s commute is a nonexistent 6 miles round trip. I’m sure that the gas expense will decrease a little bit while I’m on maternity leave.

The second smallest adjustable expense is our cell phones, at $65 a month. We both have prepaid, with 250 minutes and unlimited texting each and data on my line. If need be, I could lower the expense to $50 a month and not have data on my line, but I love the convenience of having data.

The smallest adjustable expense is my daughter’s health insurance, at $60 a month. We could cut it entirely, but it has covered almost everything we’ve needed for her, so the benefits of Child Health Plus has greatly outweighed the monthly cost.

The total of these seven adjustable expenses comes to $1465.00. Adding it to the $1639.00 brings our total monthly cash outflow to $3104.00. If I take the full 12 weeks leave, the estimated cash outflow during my maternity leave is $9312.00. To balance the cash outflow, my hubby will take four weeks of the new Paid Family Leave at birth while I take eight weeks of Paid Family Leave. During the last four weeks, either my hubby will work and I will stay home unpaid, or I’ll return to work and my hubby will take his remaining four weeks of Paid Family Leave.

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Daycare Is Expensive. And Totally Worth It.

Childcare is one expensive necessity for working parents. Before my daughter reached kindergarten, the weekly cost of full time daycare was anywhere from $180 and $200, depending on her age (infant care is typically more expensive than toddlers and preschoolers).

That’s $10,400 a year for an infant. Now that she’s school aged, the cost for before and after school childcare and the summer is roughly half of what it was this time last year. I don’t have much more time to enjoy this increase in my cash flow, however, as our second child is due in less than 10 weeks.

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Every now and then, I freak out about how we are going to afford an infant and a school aged child in daycare. Then my wonderful husband reminds me that we are in a much better financial position now then we were when our daughter was born more than 5 years ago. We now own a house, one of the two cars is on the verge of being paid off, and we have only one student loan (his) rather than two (his and mine).

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Despite the expense of childcare looming in 2018, I will be forever grateful for the daycare’s role in our daughter’s upbringing, and the role it will play in our second child’s upbringing as well. It allows my hubby and I to work and advance our careers, and thus increase our earning potential as she gets older and continually asks for things that are increasingly more expensive (like an iPad, which I said no to). As a working parent, a mom, and a woman, I can also teach her to be an independent woman and to work towards a goal, whatever it may be, rather than relying on someone else. In addition, bearing the expense of daycare allows us to earn a higher household net income than if one of us stayed at home with the children.

Relying on daycare also lets the teachers, who are much more knowledgeable in early childhood development than I am, help her reach the proper milestones and teach her the curriculum that prepares her for primary school. We had our first parent-teacher conference with our daughter’s Kindergarten teacher a few weeks ago, where the teacher said Lilly has already reached the end of school year goal of writing all 52 letters (the entire alphabet in uppercase and lowercase), largely due to daycare and pre K (also called preschool).

In addition, daycare exposed Lilly to a variety of social situations that I, as an introvert, naturally shy away from. She’s played with kids from different backgrounds, demographics, and those with physical disabilities. Lilly also knows a few of her kindergarten classmates from daycare, which made the transition from daycare to school that much easier.

And lastly, daycare has kept me sane. While my hubby would have no problem with being a stay at home dad, I was going crazy by the second month of my maternity leave when Lilly was first born. I yearn for the mental challenge of working and having a career and cringe at idea of losing my self-identity to become a stay at home mother.

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Challenges Of Pregnancy Over 35

This pregnancy has been the most difficult of all my pregnancies. While the second and third pregnancies ended in miscarriages early on, thus minimizing the emotional and physical stress, the prenatal blood tests I took around week 10 came back positive for Trisomy 18 (T18), also called Edwards Syndrome. On a Friday morning while I was at work, the OBGYN called, and from the moment she said “Hello”, I knew it was serious. Most of the telephone conversation is a blur, but I can remember her saying “low survival rate post birth, if the baby even makes it to birth.” During my lunch break and that night, I Googled everything I could about T18. While it is the second most common chromosome abnormality behind Down syndrome, it is much more serious and extremely fatal.

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The weekend was filled with sadness, but not despair, as I had prepared myself all along for the possibility of another miscarriage. I was 36, had already been through two miscarriages, and did not have the same level of fertility as I had with conceiving my daughter. A week and a half later, I was seeing a genetics counselor and a few specialists in Rochester, NY, about three hours away.

The genetics counselor asked us questions about our family history to get a better idea of about the probability that the baby actually had T18. Based on our relatively healthy lifestyles and the fact that there was very little chance that my hubby and I were related (I’m Korean and my husband is the standard white male of European descent), there was a 55% chance that the baby had T18. The specialists did a high resolution ultrasound and a chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Since I knew that a CVS involved a needle in my uterus to the placenta, I asked about any numbing drugs. The doctor said while she can give me lidocaine, the typical burning sensation from lidocaine is actually worse than the needle for the CVS, so I opted out of the lidocaine. It was more uncomfortable than painful. Just take controlled breathes and remain calm.

A few days later, the genetics counselor called with the FISH results, which is a fancy medical word for preliminary results. Of the 200 cells taken from the placenta, 190 of them confirmed the blood tests, but 10 were normal. Because there were some normal cells, she suggested doing an amnio as soon as I was 15 weeks pregnant. Two weeks later, we were back in Rochester for another meeting with the genetics counselor and specialists for another ultrasound and amnio. An amnio is similar to a CVS, but it takes cells from the amniotic fluid rather than the placenta. The genetics counselor was a bit more optimistic this time, since there was a ray of hope with the 10 healthy cells.

Three days later, the genetics counselor called with the best news I had heard in a long time. The FISH results of the amnio were back and the baby was healthy. And while the full results of the amnio would take another week or so, they would be very surprised if the full results showed anything to the contrary.

A week and a half later, she called again to say the full results were normal. The reason the prenatal blood tests and CVS were so different is because the cells on the placenta have a different composition than the cells from the baby, which makes the placenta cells not representative of the baby’s cells. While the baby is healthy, my situation is uncommon, having gone through the prenatal blood test, a CVS, and an amnio. I am proof that prenatal blood testing and CVS’ are not definitive. We went back to Rochester once more after the amnio for a 19 week anatomical ultrasound, which showed an active and healthy baby.

Now at 22 weeks, my belly gets bigger and more inconvenient every week. Two months ago I was coming to grips with the possibility of a pregnancy termination, but my gut told me to remain patient and have hope that everything would be fine.

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My Hubby And I Keep Our Finances Separate

My name is Emilie Chang, and I am the wife of Aaron Jackson. We have been married for over 5 years, and I still have not changed my name. When I do change my name, I will become Emilie Chang-Jackson.

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While I love the idea of being called Mrs. Chang-Jackson, I do not look forward to the monumental effort it will take to update all of my loans and records. As the financial person of the household, I am a little concerned about the possibility of fixing any errors that might result from changing my name. Plus, I don’t feel like waiting in line at my local Social Security office for an ungodly amount of time. And as much as I’d like to pretend that I’m preserving my self-identity as a Korean American woman, I’m really just procrastinating. I also don’t want to deal with the possibility that the IRS doesn’t handle my name change smoothly. I don’t want to be the accountant that gets audited by the IRS on her own personal taxes.

 

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When it comes to our financial accounts, my hubby and I have kept everything separate, including our checking accounts. Both of our names are on the mortgage and the house, but everything else is kept separate. Both he and I each have a couple of credit cards, savings and checking accounts, a student loan, a car loan, an IRA, and a 401(K) plan. Besides the fact that I don’t want to keep track of another bank account, we felt like it wouldn’t serve us an additional benefit from the bank accounts we already have. The biggest joint cash outflow is our mortgage, and we have automatic monthly transfers set up that transfers money from my husband’s bank account to my bank account every month, and then the entire monthly mortgage amount from my bank account to the mortgage, so that we each pay a portion.

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We’ve also kept our finances separate to keep the grubby hands of debt collectors out of them. We both have student loans, his much higher than mine. Separate accounts helps prevent debt collectors from claiming a stake in the other’s money if something were to happen to us and we could no longer pay the debt. A joint account with both our names could entice a debt collector to collect as much as they can out of both of us, even if only one our names was on the debt. In addition, it gives each of us the right to do whatever we want with our money. In exchange for that, we each allow the other to read each other’s financial information to keep us financially healthy, and to keep communication open. Finances is one of the more common reasons marriages end in divorce.

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Renewing My Health Insurance

The holiday season is upon us, and now it’s time to review my health insurance needs for next year. I am lucky enough to work for an employer that pays for my health insurance, so I only have to pay for my husband’s portion of the spousal premium. I currently pay $316.55 a month for my husband’s portion of the Bronze plan, with a (high) deductible of $12,000.00 between us. Next year’s premiums are rising, so I created a spreadsheet to calculate whether it’s worth it to stay on the Bronze plan or not.

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My out of pocket cost of the plan is rising from $316.55 to $347.40 per month. The deductible of that plan is also rising, from $12,000.00 to $12,900.00. My out of pocket cost for the Silver plan, which is the next plan up, that covers both my husband and myself is $725.84 per month, with a deductible of $4,400.00. My cost for the Gold plan is $868.12 per month, with a deductible of $2,600.00. And the Platinum plan, which is the top plan, would cost me $1,168.47 per month, with no deductible.

2017healthinsurancebenefitsdecidingfactorsI also looked at the differences in the types of services that are covered in each plan. I focused on the services that my hubby and I are most likely to use. Specifically, all the plans cover routine checkups, and routine OBGYN visits for me, as well as any prenatal visits (although I am not pregnant at the moment) in full. The differences in the plans are related to maternity, office visits, and emergency room visits. On the Bronze plan, all three services are subject to the deductible. On the Silver and Gold plan, all three services are subject to the deductible as well, which is much lower than the Bronze plan, but once the deductible is met, is then subject to coinsurance. That means that once the deductible is met (either $4,400.00 on the Silver plan or $2,600.00 on the Gold plan), I have to pay a relatively small percentage (the coinsurance rate of 15%) of the remaining balance, up to a maximum. On the Platinum plan, where there is no deductible, I would pay just a copay for the three services, anywhere from $15 to $250, depending on the type of doctor.

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Then I calculated how much each insurance plan would cost for the year, both including and excluding the deductible. My out of pocket cost for just the health insurance plan itself, without seeing any doctor, is $4,168.80 ($347.40 X 12) for the Bronze, $8,710.08 ($725.84 X 12) for the Silver, $10,417.44 ($868.12 X 12) for the Gold, and $14,021.64 ($1,168.47 X 12) for the Platinum. Including the full deductible into the annual cost brings the total cost per year to $17,068.80 ($4,168.80 + $12,900.00) for the Bronze, $13,110.08 ($8,710.08 + $4,400.00) for the Silver, and $13,017.44 ($10,417.44 + $2,600.00) for the Gold plan. The cost of the Platinum plan remains the same at $14,021.64 since there is no deductible.

Next I considered how likely it is that we will use the full deductible of the Bronze plan. Barring an unlikely emergency situation where either of us end up in the ER, the most likely reason we would use anywhere near the Bronze deductible is if I we’re to give birth to a child (maternity) during 2017, which is subject to the deductible. Since there is no guarantee that we will have a baby in 2017, I am not willing to spend the money on a higher plan just to get a lower deductible.

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Picking a higher plan means that I would definitely spend at least $8,710.08, the cost of the Silver plan, next year. If we do get pregnant, as long as it’s not during the winter, the baby would be born in 2018, at a time when I could change the plan to a lower deductible. And even if I do get pregnant during the winter time, I already get a 50% discount through the financial assistance program that I previously enrolled in at my local hospital. That discount applies to the remaining balance after any adjustments, including insurance adjustments. So if my maternity bill from the hospital is $12,900, and the Bronze plan doesn’t cover any part of it, the hospital will grant me a 50% discount on the bill, reducing it to $6,450.

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