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.