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How to Plan for a New Kid in Your 40s

Jun 15, 2017 3 min read Ilana Polyak

Key Takeaways

  • Build up savings now before expenses balloon once the baby comes.
  • Prepare for higher conception costs; one cycle of IVF can run $12,400.
  • Use insurance to help protect the little one, in case you no longer can.


When Barbara Friedland first started spending time at the playground with her twins, Sofia and Samuel, one thing became apparent: She and her husband, Josiah Gluck, were sporting more wrinkles and gray hair than most of the other parents. Barbara was 47 and Josiah was 49 when their children were born.

 

Photo courtesy of Barbara Friedland

 

“Most people with kids the age of our kids are a good 10 to 12 years younger than us,” says Friedland, who lives in New York City. 

Though Friedland, whose children are now 8 years old, may think she’s an outlier, she’s not. The rate of women over 40 having their first baby has more than doubled over the past two decades. 

Higher levels of education and better career opportunities for women are driving the trend. Only a minority of the most highly educated women have their first child before 30, according to the Pew Research Center. The same study found that 41% of women who want to reach top positions in the workplace say it’s better to delay childbearing.

This isn’t your parents’ parenthood. Here is how you can plan for a later-in-life family.

 

Save more money

Though older mothers and their children may have more medical complications, they enjoy some advantages, namely being in better financial shape. If you are going to delay parenthood, take that extra time to save as much as you can.

By the time Friedland met Gluck, the two were well into successful careers, she as researcher for an international public health non-profit, and he as a freelance music engineer. 

Both had time to shore up a healthy amount of savings. Friedland took advantage of her organization’s generous retirement program, which contributed 15% of her salary on her behalf. She also made her own contributions. Gluck, meanwhile, focused on building up cash and investments, a safeguard against the uncertainties of freelance life.

But retirement may not play out quite as they had imagined.

“When I’m 65 and supposed to be getting ready for retirement, Sofia and Sam will be 18 and just going off to college,” Friedland says. “I can’t imagine retiring then.”

Still, older parents who have done a good job of saving before their kids arrive can reap the benefits of compounding, even if they may end up retiring a bit later. 

 

Focus on career first

Without a doubt, having children later in life allowed Friedland to advance in her career. 

“The way I got into this career was that I could travel a lot to monitor clinical trials,” says Friedland about her organization’s reproductive health initiatives. Her travels took her to South Africa and Thailand, among other destinations. “I couldn’t have done that if I had kids.”

A few years before the twins were born, she started a master’s program in public health, partially paid for by her employer. 

But after becoming a mother, Friedland scaled back her travels. She had established enough goodwill at work that the reduced travel schedule didn’t affect her career advancement.

 

Understand the potential reproductive expenses

Older parents often encounter biological obstacles to starting their families. Women’s fertility begins to decline in the 30s, and takes a big drop after age 35. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), a 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of becoming pregnant each month she tries, but a 40-year-old’s chance drops to less than 5%.

As a result, many older couples need medical intervention. And that can get expensive. Some states mandate that insurers cover fertility treatments, but expensive procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) are often borne by patients. One cycle of IVF averages $12,400, according to ASRM, and many patients undergo it more than once. 

Friedland and Gluck struggled with infertility for six years and went through eight rounds of IVF. Many of their costs were covered. But the experimental treatment called intravenous immunoglobulin, which finally resulted in pregnancy, was not. It set them back more than $10,000.

“You’re more financially secure when you’re older, but you end up spending more to get pregnant,” Friedland observes.

 

Be ready for the unthinkable

One thing that’s always present for older parents is the hope that they will live long enough to raise their children and launch them into adulthood. “We are definitely more aware of our mortality,” says Friedland.

Friedland says she’s adamant about leading a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and good eating habits. But to protect her family against what she can’t control, she and Gluck also have life insurance, disability insurance and a will that lays out who will care for Sofia and Samuel if they die before the children reach adulthood.

 

What you can do next

Older parents bring a richer life perspective and more economic security to parenting. But they can also face hurdles, including possible infertility and needing to delay retirement. Make the most of the advantages and plan ahead for the challenges, so you can enjoy your family as much as possible.

 

Ilana Polyak is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance and the financial advisory industry. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Barron's, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and CNBC.com, where she is a frequent contributor.

 

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