Articles

By Jaclyn Lim

 

Continue working or stay home as a full-time mother – that is the question that many expectant mothers will be considering as the arrival of the baby draws closer.

 

For some new parents, it might not be easy to entrust a precious newborn to another person, be it a family member, baby-sitter or infant care centre.

 

That’s why some mums prefer to stay at home during the initial years, to care for and bond with their newborn, and experience all the joyful moments and milestones in the child’s life.

 

However, before you hang up your office-wear to commit to full-time childcare, there are practical considerations that need to be discussed with your spouse.

 

Apelles Poh, certified financial planner and senior branch manager of Professional Investment Advisory Services, observes: “Fortunately, very few would take this plunge without first considering whether they can afford it. New parents understand the need to balance the responsibilities of looking after a baby and meeting the financial needs of a family.”

 

He proposes the following areas for discussion before taking the leap:

1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your partner.
Before you start packing those photo frames and potted plants in your cubicle, you need to sit down and have a serious talk with your spouse. Discuss how the decision will affect family life and your relationship with each other. As DINKS (Double Income, No Kids), you were more likely to split errands and chores while putting in equal hours at work. But once you become a SAHM (Stay-At-Home Mum), you will have to take on more household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning while he brings home the bacon. Of course, it should always be give-and-take situation. What matters now is that you discuss these roles and changes together before you commit. By sharing and managing expectations, a whole lot of frustrations can be avoided later.

 

2. Do some calculations.
Once you become a SAHM, the family can only rely on one source of income. So one of the first tasks you must do is to evaluate your finances. Sit down with your partner and go through the numbers – mortgage repayments, utility and grocery bills etc.

 

Apelles shares an easy calculation method to decide whether you can afford it:

 A Single time-home-payAfter CPF Contribution
 BExpenses that are expected to remainMortgage repayments,transport, groceries, utility bills, healthcare, insurance premiums and regular investments etc
 CBaby-related expensesMilk powder, diapers, healthcare (eg: vaccinations and illnesses), baby toys and clothing etc
 DExpenses that can be reduced with a SAHMTransport, clothing, income tax (due to a reduced or no income, government reliefs and rebates for new parents), holiday trips, domestic helper (no longer necessary) etc
 EAdditional income by SAHMFreelance work, Baby Bonus offered by government etc

 

After working out the amount for each category use the formula below to calculate:

A + E – B – C – D = X

 

“If X is positive, there is no issue,” says Apelles. “If it’s negative, some parents may use their savings to tide over this period. Another way is to adjust your lifestyle – such as using public transport, cutting down on vacations, and eating at home more often.”

 

Couples should ensure that there are enough savings in their CPF accounts to pay for the monthly home mortgage repayments. “If not, these out-of-pocket monthly repayments can be quite hefty,” says Apelles.

 

There are actually many of such cash-flow worksheets available online, for example: http://www.parents.com/app/stayathomecalculator/, so it’s good to go through the math before making a decision. Apelles advises: “Doing so will help you to gain clarity of your intended direction, your financial goals and limitations should you decide to stay at home. Consulting a good financial adviser will help too.”

 

3. Clear your debts first.
As you work out your cash inflow and outflow, you may realise that either one or both of you may still have debts other than your home loans. “This could be a car loan or unpaid credit card bills,” says Apelles. “Couples might wish to settle such high-interest debts first. These debts, coupled with the stress of looking after a newborn, can become overwhelming and lead to discord in the family. Don’t risk that.”

 

4. Consider future employability.
Last but not the least, parents who give up a job have to consider their future employability. After all, you may not want to stay home till your kids celebrate their 21st birthday. If you intend to return to work someday, it is advisable to work on sustaining your market value.

 

Apelles advises: “So unless you are able to get no-pay leave from your current company, make sure you continue to read and attend courses to update your work skills and knowledge of workplace developments so that you will not lose out in the future.” You can take on freelance assignments, work part-time or even start a small business to keep your resume fresh. This would also allow you to explore different interests, one of which might develop into a blooming career in future. And the best part? Such work can help to supplement the family income.

 

No matter what, once you’ve decided to stay home, work at it. There will definitely be days when doubts will creep in. But know that your decision doesn’t have to be permanent. When your kids grow older, you can always choose to go back to full-time work.

 

I Love Children thanks Apelles Poh, certified financial planner and senior branch manager of Professional Investment Advisory Services, for his contribution towards this article.

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