If kids are in your near (or far) future, deciding exactly when to start trying can be tricky — especially when you’re balancing that choice with (sometimes conflicting) career and finance goals. But in a time like the one we’re in now, when a pandemic is affecting everything from the economy to the healthcare system to even our ability to undergo fertility treatments, mapping out your timeline becomes all the more complicated.
There’s a lot of info in here, so use the links below to skip ahead to the answers you’re looking for (or read the whole thing if you’re feeling ambitious!). We hope this guide helps you figure out your next steps and make the decisions that are right for you.
Watch this space (and follow us on Instagram) for more updates and advice.
Jump to any of the sections below
- Part 1: Thinking about having kids during an economic downturn
- Part 2: Planning ahead for an uncertain future
- Part 3: Taking care of your mind, body, and fertility
In this section, we’ll cover what could happen (and what’s already happening) as a result of the times we’re living in, and how to approach making decisions about your timeline for kids.
If you’re feeling stressed about how your plans for kids could be impacted by everything that’s going on in the world right now, you’re definitely not alone. As we learned in our Modern State of Fertility: Career & Money report, 31% of those surveyed about COVID-19 said the pandemic has put their plans for having kids on hold.
While choosing whether to continue trying to get pregnant or pause your plans for the time being is a deeply personal decision, we wanted to make sure you had all the information possible to make the right choice for you.
Of the people who reported that COVID-19 is delaying their plans for parenthood, 46% said it was because they’re worried about access to prenatal care. Unfortunately, the reality is that due to the high numbers of people who’ve contracted the new coronavirus, the healthcare system at large has been greatly affected — from available hospital beds to shifts in how care is delivered and received. Keep reading for the changes that could most influence prenatal care and pregnancy.
Hospitals and healthcare workers will be stretched thin — but it’s impossible to say for how long.
“If you're considering getting pregnant, factor [the current state of hospitals] into your decision making,” says Dr. Jane van Dis, an OB-GYN and member of our Medical Advisory Board. She adds: “If you do get pregnant, know that your OB-GYN and those who care for pregnant women are going to do everything possible to care for you.” But expect some changes in the frequency of in-person appointments — and consider the reduced availability of hospital space (which could be an even bigger factor if you experience any pregnancy complications).
OB-GYNs are taking advantage of telehealth and offering health services via video chat, though some appointments during pregnancy require in-person sessions in order to conduct necessary ultrasounds. In those instances, OB-GYNs are limiting the number of people allowed to attend these sessions — some banning children, and some banning partners and other support people.
Social distancing measures are affecting how we get support.
New rules have been implemented to protect patients and frontline workers from the coronavirus pandemic. While these rules are necessary, they’re impacting pregnant people and the level of in-person support available to them during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum. The rules vary by region, clinic, and hospital, so you should check with your provider since the policies are changing. It’s definitely worth considering what your eventual labor and delivery will look like:
- Your hospital might limit the number of people allowed in the room during childbirth: In New York City, two leading hospital networks banned partners and/or support people from accompanying laboring women, but Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order stating that every pregnant individual would be allowed at least one support person to be present during childbirth.
- Visitors might not be allowed after you give birth: In postpartum recovery rooms, visitors are no longer allowed, meaning new moms are left alone with their babies, and if an infant is in the NICU, only one parent is allowed to visit at a time.
Many fertility clinics have stopped new treatment cycles.
As of March 17, 2020, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) released new guidelines recommending that fertility clinics no longer initiate new treatment cycles, consider canceling all embryo transfers, postpone elective surgeries and any non-urgent diagnostic procedures, and prioritize telehealth over in-person contact. As a result, many women who were expecting to go through egg freezing or IVF in the near future — or those who were already in the process — have to postpone their plans until the crisis subsides.
Not all clinics are following this recommendation, so it’s worth checking in with local facilities to see where they stand on this. You can also get recommendations from your doctor on alternative solutions, like at-home hormone testing with Modern Fertility, in the meantime.
Of the people who reported that COVID-19 is delaying their plans for parenthood, 41% said it’s because of financial reasons. History shows us that financial crises can lead to a decrease in the number of children born: During the 2008 recession, 22 states saw birth rates decline or level off compared with the previous year — and one 2011 study found that recessions lead to a decline in birth rates in most developed countries, not only the US.
Why are fertility and finance decisions so interconnected? Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist and the author of “Mommy Burnout: How to reclaim your life and raise healthier children in the process,” explains that “uncertain times can cause fear in the ability to financially, emotionally, or even socially care for a baby.” In fact, lower birth rates have actually predicted economic crashes in the past.
Unfortunately, we can’t really know how long this looming economic downturn will last. How did we get here? In an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, businesses deemed “non-essential” by elected officials across the country have shuttered. As a result, 701,000 jobs were lost in the month of March alone — 60% of those losses experienced by women — and jobless claims have now surpassed 22 million. The unemployment rate is nearing 18% — the highest recorded since 1940. If the unemployment rate continues to rise, Americans will spend less money overall, the economy will be negatively impacted, and we could see more layoffs as a result. (It’s the circle of finance: job insecurity leads to economic instability leads to job insecurity.)
Based on all of the above data, not only is the coronavirus baby boom joke problematic in its presumption that having children is easy for everyone, but it’s also just plain inaccurate.
Fertility costs to keep in mind
When thinking about your own plans for parenthood, it’s important to not only consider your financial situation, but to also factor in the costs of having and raising kids.
Brian Walsh, the chief financial planner at SoFi, says, “As a parent of two kids under the age of three, I am not sure anyone is entirely ready to have a child. That is a personal decision that only you can make. From a financial perspective, having a solid foundation might reduce the financial stress of having a child and allow greater flexibility. That does not mean that only people who can check all the boxes should consider having a child. The important thing is to think through your options and understand how this change might impact your life, including your finances.”
On average, the first year of a child’s life will cost between $16,000 and $46,000 depending on childcare strategies, feeding approach, medical bills, and lifestyle changes. (The US Department of Agriculture puts the overall cost of raising a child at $233,610.) But the costs vary widely from person to person.
“Someone that lives in a high-cost-of-living area that leverages a nanny could see a much higher figure,” Walsh says. “Conversely, someone having their second or third child could see a much lower figure. Knowledge is power, and you should explore what having a child means to your unique situation.”
Here are three important types of costs to keep in mind:
- Conception method: If you’re thinking about having kids with a same-sex partner, having them on your own, or you end up needing assisted reproductive technology (ART), those expenses can really add up. While costs vary by clinic, according to FertilityIQ, the average cost for a single IVF cycle is $23,000. (It’s important to remember, though, that in-clinic “elective” fertility treatments are currently on pause to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.)
- Hospital costs: Out-of-pocket costs of childbirth and maternal care among women with employer health insurance are rising, and the average delivery now costs more than $4,500—even with insurance.
- Baby-related expenses: These primarily include gear (a car seat and a stroller), furniture, and ongoing things like formula, food, and diapers. SoFi ballparks that costs could range from $200-400 per month for baby supplies, like diapers and formula.
- Childcare and education: Do you need a babysitter or daycare while you’re working? Are you interested in sending your child to private school? The average cost of childcare ranges from $4,000 to $22,600 annually, depending on location and age of the child, according to information from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
“Once you understand your new expenses, start building an appropriate cushion to relieve financial stress as you transition from we to three,” explains Walsh. If you’re not sure you can handle these added costs right now, keep that in mind when making your decision.
We turned to Lauren Carter, the coach behind Career Coach Indy; Lauren McGoodwin, the founder of Career Contessa; Tori Dunlap, the founder of HerFirst100K; and Dr. Lucy Hutner, a reproductive psychiatrist and member of Alma (a community of mental health providers); to find out their advice for actually making the decision to have (or delay having) kids.
If you have a secure job with a stable income, both Carter (Career Coach Indy) and McGoodwin (Career Contessa) say the current economy shouldn’t delay your plans for kids if you’re ready for parenthood. Though, of course, it’s important to also understand the realities of the healthcare factors we mentioned earlier.
If you don't feel like you have job security, for example, you're an hourly worker in food service or retail, now could be a stressful time to try to get pregnant. “Many restaurants and stores are closed down — and that's going to be super challenging financially,” explains McGoodwin (Career Contessa).
If you’re unemployed, Carter (Career Coach Indy) has this advice: “If finances are tight and it gives you anxiety to think about growing a family while searching for a job, consider securing a job first and trusting that the timing for children will be best when you have a secure income.”
Regardless of your job situation, if you can’t afford kids without dipping into your savings or going into debt, then now is not a good time, explains Dunlap (HerFirst100K). “We want having a child to be a joyful experience where you feel financially secure enough to provide for them — not stressed and anxious about money and financially unstable,” she says.
SoFi’s Brian Walsh agrees: “Dipping into your 401k, taking out a loan, or using credit should really be a last resort when responding to career setbacks. Some or all of these actions might be necessary, but individuals should start by adjusting their spending, refinancing debt, taking advantage of forbearance, reducing saving, and exhausting other sources to earn income. It’s important for anyone considering parenthood to “understand your current situation [and] opportunities to reduce spending, and develop a plan to strengthen your financial foundation between now and the birth of your child.”
The bottom line: Deciding whether or not to continue trying for kids right now is a very personal decision — one that only you (and your partner, if you have one) have the power and the right to make. So, use our experts’ advice as a guide if you need it, and do whatever feels right for you.
In the meantime, if you’re feeling anxious about your decision, Dr. Hutner shares her tips for managing that stress.
Dr. Hutner’s tips for dealing with conception anxiety
- Allow yourself to feel it all: Your feelings and your reactions are valid. Any ‘normal’ person will feel upset, disappointed, frustrated, angry, worried, or anxious when plans change — those feelings are real and they're a real response to a shifting landscape.
- Take things one day at a time: What we know is changing day by day. Try to see if you can narrow the scope of uncertainty. Reassessing your decision at small, consistent intervals is what I would recommend.
- Try to be as flexible as possible: During times of anxiety and stress, all of us get into more black-and-white thinking. Try to maintain a highly flexible mindset and ask yourself: If I can’t do it this way, then what is another way I can still get my goals met? Just because things don’t look exactly how you envisioned them right now doesn’t mean you can’t still work toward the future you want.
- Give yourself breaks from the news: We should try not to get too overloaded by the information stream, which can be coming at us from all sides. Keep yourself updated on what’s happening in the world, but balance what you’re watching, reading, and listening to with things that make you happy.
- Practice self-care: The same elements that have been important for getting through anxiety before are the same elements that are important here. Make sure you have enough support and make sure you still have time for yourself and to connect with people.
- Should you keep trying to get pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic? Two reproductive health experts weigh in
- 8 women on navigating the decision to get pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 5 tips for talking to your partner about getting pregnant during the coronavirus pandemic
- What the coronavirus could mean for the economy
Here, we'll walk you through how to consider your short- and long-term personal and professional goals, your career, and your finances (both in general and when planning for kids.)
49% of the people we surveyed who want kids one day are delaying parenthood — and the vast majority are doing so because they haven’t hit certain financial, professional, or personal goals yet:
- 60% reported they don’t have enough money saved
- 51% reported they want to earn higher salary first
- 47% reported they want to travel more first
- 35% reported they want to reach a certain title/level in my career first
- 32% reported they’re too young and/or have plenty of time
- 32% reported they want to buy a house first
- 29% reported they have too much debt to start a family
- 25% reported they want to be in a relationship first
- 19% reported their partner is not ready for kids
- 18% reported their job is too demanding
- 15% reported they want to progress in schooling
- 12% reported they don’t have good enough health insurance
We asked Dana Theus, the president and CEO of InPower Coaching and featured expert on Kunik (a platform for working parents and their employers); Wendy Saccuzzo, a career coach for Tech Ladies (a community for women in tech); Parijat Deshpande, a high-risk pregnancy expert; fertility coach Pradeepa Narayanaswamy; and the experts at Fairygodboss (a career platform and community designed for women); to weigh in.
Here are the steps they recommend when creating your own roadmap for the future:
1. Get clarity and be realistic.
Theus (Kunik): “Imagine COVID-19 wasn't here. What does success look like for you in the next 12-24 months? Start there. Take a look into the future and be realistic about how your job and opportunities are likely to be affected if our economy continues to struggle through the end of the year [or longer].” So look for ways you can achieve what you want — and don’t be afraid of letting go of priorities that no longer fit (or seem likely) within the current circumstances.
2. Be flexible and adaptable.
Saccuzzo (Tech Ladies): “There’s so much that’s out of your control. Have structure [with what you want to accomplish], but balance it with being flexible and adaptable.”
McGoodwin (Career Contessa): “You can, of course, acknowledge what you want to accomplish, but you don’t need to put an exact timeline around when things need to happen. You don't know if a global pandemic will happen, or if you’ll get a promotion and they’ll need you to move to Singapore for a year.”
3. Think about your overall mission.
McGoodwin (Career Contessa): “What I usually recommend is people have a mission or understand what gives them the most energy, and attach themselves to a purpose instead of a job title or five-year plan. If you use that info to create your own roadmap or career development plan, you can use that as a compass and reevaluate things if your priorities change.”
4. Balance professional and personal goals.
Theus (Kunik): “Regardless of COVID-19, I'd give you the same advice: Don't fall into the false dichotomy that you can have either a child or a successful career. Know you can have both and know that what career and family success look like will change at every turn and force you and your family and your company to decide what's more important at any point in time.”
Saccuzzo (Tech Ladies): “If your plans change because of new priorities, think about how you can go back to your roadmap and make adjustments. I recommend asking yourself: If I’m going to create a family, how does my career coexist with this stage of my life? If you [try to] do it all together, that might be overwhelming.”
Desphande (high-risk pregnancy expert): “If someone wishes to reach a particular professional milestone prior to trying to conceive, they may consider options for egg freezing or embryo freezing to enable them to focus on their career, without the pressure of fertility timelines. (Though it’s important to note that egg and embryo freezing can’t guarantee future pregnancy — and we’re not sure yet when fertility clinics will resume treatments.)”
Instead of choosing one goal or timeline over the other, you can make smaller, more achievable goals in each direction.
Get S.M.A.R.T. about your goals
So… how can you create those smaller, more realistic goals? A great approach is a framework called S.M.A.R.T. goals.
You can use the framework “to measure whether your objectives are realistic and break down how you’re going to get exactly what you’re hoping for. In short, you can think of it as a to-do list to help you achieve the goal and objective you want,” explain the experts at Fairygodboss.
What’s especially great about S.M.A.R.T. goals is that you can use them to go after what you want professionally and personally — just create a separate plan for each goal — and you can create smaller sub-goals to make everything feel even more achievable.
- Overarching goal: What do you want to accomplish? (E.g., “I want to get a new job.”)
- Specific goal: Get into the details of what you’re going after. (E.g., “I want to get a new job where I’ll have a better work-life balance but not have to sacrifice my title or salary.”)
- Measurable goal: How can you make the goal more meaningful or motivational? (E.g., “My title will be HR manager, my pay will be the same, or higher, than it is now, and my work schedule will allow me to spend at least two hours with my kids before they go to bed in the evening.”)
- Attainable goal: What’s one small thing you can do to get there? (E.g., “I will browse sites like Fairygodboss to get an idea of which companies offer the kind of flexibility and salary I’m looking for.”)
- Relevant goal: Now, ground the motivational goal in realistic terms. (E.g., “Finding a new job at an employer that’s more family-friendly will allow me to continue to do the work I enjoy doing, and the work for which I’m qualified — and it will also allow me to spend more time with my kids.”)
- Time-based: What time frame can you give yourself? (E.g., “I’ll update my resume this week and apply to jobs over the next couple of months. I’ll prepare for interviews and speak to any companies that show interest in me, and will land a new job within six months.”)
- And, finally… the actual S.M.A.R.T. goal: It’s time to pull all of these considerations together so you have the most focused, specific goal. (E.g., “I will find a new job as an HR manager within the next six months. I’ll perfect my resume and cover letter, prepare for interviews, and research women- and family-friendly companies on sites like Fairygodboss. By landing a position at a new company, I’ll continue doing what I love without sacrificing pay — but I’ll also have the ability to take more control over my schedule so I can spend more time with my kids.”)
When considering parenthood, your job can play a huge role in supporting you along your path in the following ways:
- Emotional support: When you have a manager who understands what you’re going through
- Financial support: Is your income high enough to comfortably raise a child?
- Benefits: Including fertility treatment coverage or great parental leave policies.
But if our workplaces aren’t “fertility friendly” — meaning they can’t or don’t support our reproductive goals, either emotionally or financially — we might be thinking about looking for new opportunities or advocating for more from our current employers.
In fact, we learned that 1 in 3 survey respondents listed “working hours or pace that seem incompatible with parenting” and “poor parental benefits” as the biggest workplace factors for delaying kids — but, on a more positive note, 82% of the people we surveyed said they feel supported at work.
For anyone who’s thinking about making career moves right now, we talked to Lauren McGoodwin, the founder of Career Contessa; Jamie-Alexis Fowler, the founder of Empower Work; Tori Dunlap, the founder of HerFirst100K; Lauren Carter, the coach behind Career Coach Indy; and Jeannie Kim, the editorial director at The Muse; for their takes on the situation.
Searching for a new job
Right now, a lot of companies are laying off or furloughing employees, cutting hours or pay, or putting a freeze on hiring, so finding a new job that’s conducive for future parenthood might be trickier than usual. But it’s definitely not impossible. Here’s how you can set yourself up for the most success on your job hunt:
1. Prioritize industries that are hiring.
McGoodwin (Career Contessa): “There's a lot of content and articles [about that] out there. Companies who are hiring are pretty much bragging about it right now because they know that they're going to get access to top talent.” Many of these companies are, of course, ones that provide “essential” services — with a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus — or ones whose business models aren’t as impacted by people staying home.
2. Get really good at networking online.
McGoodwin (Career Contessa): “One of the best ways to find out what the benefits are really like is by talking to the source, which is people who already work for the companies.” Virtual communities and events can help you connect with people at other companies — and even learn more about employer benefits. You can reach out to people at other companies on LinkedIn, or ask your friends if they can connect you to current employees, to learn if their employers offer benefits like parental leave and how good their health insurance options are.
3. Gather intel on company culture.
Fowler (Empower Work): “The current coronavirus situation, while unique, also offers insights.” See if you can connect with anyone at the company to find out how the team handled the change in working situations given recent events – like whether they are proactively offering thoughts on accommodations to parents or other caregivers who may need flexible schedules with kids at home, or whether everything is continuing as usual, just via video conference.
McGoodwin (Career Contessa): “There's a lot of information about companies out there. How is their leadership dealing with this emergency? How are they treating their employees? How are they presenting themselves on media coverage? Did they lay off all their staff? You can use [COVID-19] as really good information gathering.”
4. Tell people you're looking.
Dunlap (HerFirst100K): “Announce it on LinkedIn, send messages to friends. That way, people will keep you top of mind for opportunities and you'll have the power of your network to help you find your next gig!”
5. Use the time to learn a new skill.
If you’re not really sure about what’s next for you professionally, learn something new. Some Ivy League universities are offering free classes and freeCodeCamp is offering a free coding course. You can also get two free months of premium Skillshare right now. (And here’s a helpful Twitter thread about people’s favorite online courses.)
On the other hand, if you’ve experienced pay or hour cuts or are generally in an unstable industry, it might be a good idea for you to start looking, too. Proactively leaving an unstable industry is, of course, not an option for everyone — but if it is, depending on your urgency to find new work, you can take any of the above approaches to secure something new.
Kim (The Muse) explains that whether you’re looking for new work now or at any other time, if building a family is in your future, getting a sense of the company’s “fertility friendliness” is important: “In the early stages of interviewing, you can ask more general questions (like ‘how does the company [or team] culture promote work-life balance?) which would apply to any employee.” After you get the offer, that’s when you can get more specific: “Feel free to ask lots of detailed questions about parental leave, prenatal coverage, infertility coverage, and flex time.”
Fowler (Empower Work): “I remember when I first found out I was pregnant. It was days before my annual performance review. I had a supportive boss, a wonderful team, and was part of a great organization. Yet I was terrified. I had this new knowledge that I wasn’t ready to share, yet felt uncomfortable holding back. For me, it felt like the cumulative weight of every article I’d read about how pregnancy and children can negatively impact someone’s career. Personally that was the biggest issue: was this going to impact all that I’d been working towards? Turns out: it did but in positive ways.”
Advocating for yourself at work: Why it might be worth it to still ask for a raise right now
Advancing in your career through promotions or raises can help you better prepare for the financial burden of parenthood. Right now, it might feel like a strange time to go after these opportunities — but the experts at Fairygodboss say to keep going:
“For those who are in a position where they still have a job and feel they deserve a raise or a promotion, the financial impact of a recession shouldn’t be the reason they avoid asking for what they think they’ve earned. It may be a reason to make concessions and accept a lower raise than you initially set out to get, but you should still make the ask.
Women are going to be hit harder by the coronavirus outbreak as compared to their male peers as they make up more than 60% of all minimum-wage and lower-wage workers and therefore are more likely to experience job insecurity.
This particular pandemic has even more direct implications on women’s earning potential. As children are kept out of school, dual-earning couples who may have previously felt balanced in their divisions of household labor are being forced to make tough compromises and concessions … [and] it’s more often the careers of women — some of whom may have been earning less than their partners, or otherwise feel more culturally permitted to ask for flexibility — that are taking a backseat in this moment, coming second to the unpaid care needs of their family.”
While this won’t be the case for all households, there’s a strong enough pattern that The Atlantic’s Helen Lewis actually predicted that “some women’s lifetime earnings will never recover” from this pandemic.
A different perspective: Why it might not be worth it to ask for a raise
McGoodwin (Career Contessa) explains: “The first thing people need to consider is everything that’s happening. How can you be the most successful with getting what you ultimately want [right now]? Asking for a raise while your company is in the middle of layoffs or a hiring freeze or is struggling financially is not only going to look tone deaf, but it’s also just not the best time to get your message across and get what you want. I think timing is really, really important.”
If you’ve already started these conversations, however, McGoodwin advises to keep on going — just know that you might have to wait a bit before your boss can take action. “To still be top of mind to your boss, maybe say to them: ‘Look, I know before everything happened we were in discussions about x, y, z. Let me know when you think would be a good time for me to put time on our calendars for us to touch base about that.’”
All of this said, you know your relationship with your manager best. Read the (virtual) room — if it feels like your employer might be receptive to your request, there’s no harm in having the conversation.
- Know when it's the right time: For most employers, the rule of thumb is to wait for one year before asking your manager for a raise. But if your company reviews employees’ salaries on a regular basis, you might be able to adjust that timeline. Pay attention to when your company typically grants promotions and raises. If it happens more frequently than once per year, follow suit.
- Treat it like any other business meeting: What does that mean? Go into the (virtual, in this case) meeting prepared, keep it professional, and ease into the conversation. Start off by talking about your performance. Once you’re on the same page about how well you’re doing, you can shift gears to the topic at hand — using real-world numbers based on industry standards.
- Build a business case: Personal events have no place in a raise negotiation. (So, even if you’re feeling especially interested in a raise right now because of the state of the economy, try to set those feelings aside for the moment.) Talk instead about your contributions to the company and quantify your impact using actual metrics.
- Write up your accomplishments: In some cases, managers will need to talk to HR and get their boss’ approval before signing off on a raise. Handing your boss the highlights in writing will help jar their memory when they make your pitch to others. Plus, it'll help you be able to ask for a raise without fear, because you have facts to back your points up.
- Talk, pause, stop: It’s totally natural to feel nervous during these chats — especially when stakes are higher, like they could be right now — and start talking at a mile a minute. The last thing you want to do during a raise request is ramble or accidentally say anything that can be considered a threat (i.e., ‘if I don’t get this raise I may need to leave’). Remember that even if you’ve been thinking about this for a while, it’s the first time your boss is hearing about it. Give [them] time to process and sit with the request.
- Ask questions: If your raise is granted, you may need to ask about when it will go into effect, or if there is any paperwork to be signed for HR. If you have to wait for your answer, see if you can get an estimate of when you might be able to revisit the topic. If they tell you no, ask if there are ways you can be a stronger contributor to the team and when you can meet again to talk about your performance. (On the flipside, if the rejection is based on the company’s current finances, you can try to find out when would be a better time to follow up.)
The economy is affecting our lives right now in many ways, from our jobs to our financial security. But, as we know, the world keeps on spinning — no matter what’s happening to us personally (or even globally).
So, we spoke with Tori Dunlap, the founder of HerFirst100K; the experts at Fairygodboss, a career platform and community designed for women; Brian Walsh, the chief financial planner at SoFi; and Arianna Taboada, a maternal health consultant for entrepreneurs and featured expert on Kunik (a platform for working parents and their employers); to share their advice on building financial stability — in general and specifically in terms of preparing for parenthood — during this time of crisis
Building a strong financial foundation (right now and always)
1. Practice airplane finances.
Dunlap (HerFirst100K): “Because we're currently in a financial crisis, it's important that you practice airplane finances. Put your own mask on before assisting others. Make sure that you are financially taken care of in the present moment before you plan too far ahead.
Fairygodboss: “This is called recession-proofing. Create a plan to keep yourself on track so that no matter how long the recession lasts, you’ll be set, which can help ease any financial stress or anxiety you might otherwise feel.”
2. Build an emergency fund.
Dunlap (HerFirst100K): "If you’re employed and making an income right now, start building your emergency fund with about 3-6 months of savings. Set up an automatic transfer or dollar amount from each paycheck into a high-yield savings account.”
3. Understand that not all debt is bad debt.
Although it might feel like paying off student loans is a prerequisite to having a solid financial foundation, Walsh disagrees — even as a parent of two, he still has student loans. “Objectively, student loan debt typically carries relatively low interest rates, so there might be better uses of extra money than making extra payments on your student loan debt,” he explains.
Walsh (SoFi): “Personal finances are just that — personal. That means everyone’s situation is different, but at a high level, there are some key indicators of having a solid financial foundation.” If you decide to have kids now or in the future, Walsh has specific recommendations for financially preparing.
SoFi’s checklist for preparing for parenthood
- Review your health insurance in order to completely understand if your doctors are in-network and what the specific out-of-pocket expenses you can expect through copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. The average expense for prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care is $8,802 but this will vary greatly, and you should understand your projection as soon as possible.
- Review your parental leave and disability policies through your employer. In most cases, US-based employers are not required to grant this leave unless you work at a company with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work site. If eligible, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Get your estate documentation in order. This includes durable power of attorney (a document that allows someone else to make financial decisions on your behalf), healthcare power of attorney (a document that allows someone else to make healthcare decisions on your behalf), living will, as well as will and beneficiary designations.
- Discuss childcare strategies and feeding approaches ahead of time. Childcare strategies might include being a stay-at-home parent, relying on a relative, sending your child to daycare (though many daycare centers are currently shut down), or hiring a nanny or au pair. All options come with varying direct and indirect costs, but also depend on your unique preferences. Feeding approaches typically include deciding between formula and breast milk. Finances will certainly come into play, but it is important to understand each other’s values and priorities.
- Update your budget to prepare for new expenses, and ditch unnecessary expenses to accommodate the increased spending over the next few years. It’s also important to keep in mind the lost income throughout this transition, especially if one parent is going to stay at home with the child.
- Make sure that you have enough life insurance in place — just in case something happens. It is important to understand the added joy of being a parent comes with the added responsibility of protecting your child.
- Increase your cushion by making sure your emergency fund is set up for your new budget and phase of life. Also keep in mind the added pressure of shifting from two incomes to one if this is your plan.
- Explore your Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) options and make sure you’re informed on how to leverage those for health and childcare expenses over the coming years.
What you can do if you’re unemployed or on furlough
- Direct, one-time cash payments of up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples, and $500 for children (dependent on factors like your income, whether or not you’re financially supported by someone else, and whether or not you owe back pay on child support)
- Extension of unemployment insurance through July 31st and an extra $600 per week for those who lose their jobs during the crisis (this also applies to self-employed or gig-economy workers)
- Tax relief for one year to encourage employers to implement student loan repayment programs
- Loan forgiveness from the US Small Business Administration for rent, mortgage, and utility costs
- Suspension of most federal student loan payments without interest for six months, and involuntary collections of defaulted student loans (including wage and tax refund garnishments)
- Suspension of involuntary collections and negative credit reporting (but people can still make payments if they choose to)
There are also government resources to help if you don’t have employer benefits right now:
- COBRA benefits: This federal act allows you to continue your health coverage after you lose your job for a specified period of time.
- Independent insurance plans: Another option is to purchase your own plan from the healthcare marketplace if you qualify for open enrollment. Coverage for pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care is mandated for all private health insurance plans (though not all companies fully comply). It’s important to note, however, that many of the independent plans come at very high premiums.
- Federally qualified health centers: If you’re unable to afford healthcare, there may be federally qualified health centers in your area that will provide services (regardless of ability to pay) and even help you determine your eligibility for Medicaid.
While it might be tempting to dip into your 401(k), take out a personal loan, or put everything on credit when finances are tight, these options should only be used as last resorts. Before taking any of these actions, first try adjusting your spending, refinancing your debt, taking advantage of forbearance, reducing how much you’re saving, and looking for other sources of income.
Additional financial resources:
- What does the coronavirus mean for your job search?
- Government benefit resources
- IRS stimulus check site
We always advocate for keeping tabs on our bodies, but now, more than ever, it's important to check in with how we’re feeling — both in our minds and our bodies. Below, find tips for staying on top of your physical and mental health, all of which you can do without leaving home.
Making career moves and getting your finances in order don’t happen overnight. While you’re doing those things, understanding where you stand with your reproductive health and fertility can help you develop more concrete plans — and help you feel more confident in your decision to have kids or delay kids. Plus, learning what you can about your body, your family’s (and your partner’s) medical history, and your daily habits will help you better prepare for future pregnancy and help you get ahead of any potential problems down the road.
- Check in on your hormones: Looking into your levels can give you important insight about your ovarian reserve (aka how many eggs you have), onset of menopause, thyroid function, health conditions like PCOS, and possible outcomes for egg freezing or in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Modern Fertility makes this easy with an at-home finger-prick test that measures all of the hormones most important to reproductive health. Depending on your birth control, you can test your anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), estradiol (E2), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin, and testosterone.
- Think ahead about the impact of your birth control on fertility: The contraceptive method you use might affect how long it takes for your cycles to regulate — and, as a result, how long it takes for you to get pregnant — after stopping. With most types of birth control, the return to ovulation will occur within a few months. If you’re on Depo-Provera (the birth control shot), though, ovulation can be delayed for up to 22 months — making conception more difficult.
- Ask your relatives about their medical history: Talk to the women in your family and find out if they’ve had any health conditions or difficulties with pregnancy, and when they reached menopause. There’s a genetic component to many different medical issues, so learning about your family’s experiences can better prepare you for any potential fertility problems down the line.
- Talk to your partner (if you have one) about their health: If you’re planning on conceiving with a partner, it’s important to check in on their health in addition to your own. If your partner has sperm, they can also take tests to check in with their fertility (male factor infertility accounts for 40-50% of couples’ difficulty conceiving). If your partner has ovaries and is the one planning to carry a child or use their eggs for assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, pass along this info so they can get proactive about their fertility, too.
- Think about your lifestyle: There are certain factors we know that can make conception more difficult in the future. Making adjustments to these daily habits now can help improve your chances later:
(1) Address your smoking habits: If you smoke, quitting can improve your health (reproductive and overall) within weeks or months.
(2) Use glass instead of plastic: Plastics can contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (like BPA) that affect fertility, so consider switching to a glass or stainless-steel water bottle and avoid storing or microwaving food in plastic containers.
(3) Take prenatal vitamins: Start taking prenatal vitamins (with 400mg of folic acid) up to a year before getting pregnant to reduce early miscarriage rates and prevent neural tube (brain and spine) defects at birth.
(4) Understand the link between weight and fertility: If you have a lower body-fat percentage, that can lead to period loss and difficulty getting pregnant — but, most of the time, gaining weight will restore menstrual function. If you have a higher body-fat percentage, a weight decrease of 5-10% has been shown to improve ovulation and increase fertility.
(5) Manage your stress levels: A new, small study has some pretty compelling evidence that mental health treatment (in this case, through one online program) can decrease stress and anxiety and increase pregnancy rates. Managing stress through a program (online or IRL) isn’t always an option, so don't hesitate to reach out for help from friends or family, a supportive community, or a mental health provider if that’s possible financially.
(6) Know the facts about coffee and alcohol: There's little to no evidence that moderate caffeine consumption influences time to conception. If you're drinking more than that (including that mid-morning slump triple latte), consider cutting back. In terms of alcohol, many studies show that having 1-2 drinks a day won’t affect fertility, while some show that this level of moderate drinking can be harmful. It’s up to you to decide what’s right for you.
(7) Keep up with your movement routine, but don’t overdo it: Exercise is important to staying healthy when you’re trying to conceive, but too much exercise can impact your menstrual cycle and your chances of getting pregnant. If you’re not getting a period or having trouble getting pregnant, make sure to discuss your exercise routine with your OB-GYN.
We’re living in a time when stress is especially high — we could be feeling anxiety around our fertility decisions, careers, finances, social lives… or maybe a combination of all four. That’s why it’s important to check in with yourself and your mental health.
If you’re already seeing a therapist or if your stress levels have (understandably) increased lately, many mental health practitioners are available to see patients through video chat or on the phone. Search the Psychology Today database for teletherapy providers or check out apps like Talkspace and LARKR. (Alma is also a great resource to find providers in New York City.)
Also, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many new resources are now available to help you combat coronavirus anxiety. The Shine app released a free toolkit, the Headspace app is offering free mindfulness meditations, and the New York Times put together a roundup of expert tips.
Additional mental health resources:
- Here are the top 5 things you can do to be proactive about your fertility
- National Alliance on Mental Health information and resources
- 22 ways to take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic
You made it to the finish line!
Congrats! You reached the end of this very long guide. Reflecting on all of our experts’ advice, our biggest takeaway is that while the current situation brings up some unique challenges, if there are certain things you want to accomplish in life, there are still ways to make them happen — and you have every right to go after the future you want. We hope this guide helps you do just that.
And, finally... if you’re looking to connect with other people with ovaries about their own decision-making processes during this chaotic time, join the conversations happening in the Modern Community!