To say that it costs a fortune to raise a child is an understatement. Several research studies indicate that on average it costs around R90 000 a year to raise a child. On a straight-line projection (no inflation or growth) that’s over R2 070 000 by the time the child reaches 23 years. This figure is a daunting amount, more so if the pregnancy was unplanned.
An unplanned pregnancy can be described as the financial equivalent of being signed up for a home-loan while unconscious. You wake up dazed and shackled to a bill for an amount that seems comical in its size. If you’ve always wanted a child but you’re not sure you can afford it, do you bail, or do you find a way make it work? If you’re up for the challenge, here are my three suggestions for managing your unplanned pregnancy.
You have time
As stressful as it is to find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, the good news is you have a few months to save and prepare before you must care for an actual baby. While a newborn might feel like a financial emergency, at least it’s one you can see coming.
One of the first things to do is set up a dedicated savings account and call it your ‘baby fund’. Set aside a fixed amount of money in this account each payday to be used for any pregnancy- and baby-related expenses, from maternity clothing to hiring a nanny to setting aside extra cash for your maternity leave. Think of creative ways to put extra money in the account, like redirecting the cash rewards from a cash-back credit card to your baby fund. You’ll also find that as your lifestyle changes (e.g. removing alcohol from your weekend routine), this will provide a few extra rands in your budget.
Prepare for the delivery
One of the greatest immediate costs will be prenatal care and delivery. If you haven’t spent time sweating the details of your medical aid, that’s about to change. With the help of your insurance company and doctor, ask for a full estimate of costs to you for prenatal care, tests and delivery. Even with insurance, expect some out-of-pocket expenses for the delivery.
The most important thing is making sure — and I mean 100% sure, preferably in writing — that your doctor is in-network with your insurance. The benefit of doing so is that it limits the price you’ll be responsible for as the patient. Also make sure the doctor’s billing department is sending tests to labs that are also within your insurance provider’s network.
Medical insurance is a somewhat complicated subject. Educate yourself and learn the vocabulary terms of your medical insurance. Some terms you might run into are:
- Out-of-network / In-network
At the very least you’re going to need an obstetrician, a couple of ultrasounds and a maternity ward. Whichever option you choose, make sure your budget can cover these expenses.
Get yourself some life insurance. Most financial experts give you a guideline of eight to ten times your annual salary to cover expenses for baby in the event of your death. While life insurance is important, you’ll also need to insure against the possibility of an injury that could keep you from working. Some people receive short- and long-term disability insurance through their employer: you should determine if that amount would be enough to get you through several months of being out of work if something were to happen to you.
A medical exam is required for term life insurance and most whole life insurance policies, so health concerns brought on by your pregnancy, such as increased weight or high cholesterol, could affect your rates. Some insurers waive charges associated with issues for which pregnancy is a contributing factor. If those charges aren’t waived, find out if you can be re-assessed after delivery and have your rates adjusted accordingly.
Instead of thinking of it as an unplanned pregnancy or an accident, think of it as a gift. Even if you’re not happy about the pregnancy, or you’re worried about how your life is going to change, chances are you’ll eventually feel grateful after the baby is born. Be open to what’s coming, because it is the unexpected – but the unexpected a lot of times brings a lot of joy with it.