The cost of working parents

Some reports claim that raising a child in South Africa can cost around R90 000 a year. Picture: iStock
Some reports claim that raising a child in South Africa can cost around R90 000 a year. Picture: iStock

While having children can bring much joy, the costs associated with caring for them can be crippling for any family. Leaving the workforce can offer some financial relief but there are other costs to taken into account, says Angelique Ruzicka

These days many parents face tough choices: go to work and pay through the nose for child care, reduce the number of working hours and be a “part-time parent” or shelve the career altogether and be a full-time parent who takes care of everything from child care to education and carting the children around for play dates and extra-mural activities.

Many parents crave work-life balance but when it comes to city jobs, working long hours and traffic congestion mean that the scales are often tipped so that more time is spent at work and commuting to and from work.

How families benefit financially from a stay-at-home parent

For some families it makes financial sense for one parent to stay at home to take care of the children. For starters, they would save on nursery/crèche fees. Pay structures for nursery and pre-school fees vary widely depending on the area and the type of facility, but costs can include administration fees, and monthly or termly instalments. In some instances, parents also have to make their children lunches, and pay for stationery and other essentials such as toiletries.

Stay-at-home parents will also save on travel costs as there will no longer be the need to commute to and from the city. Extra savings can be made by ditching the second family car as there’d only be one car to maintain, service, fuel and insure. The working parent may even be able to use public transport to get to work, which would again be cheaper than driving to work.

Using ridesharing platforms, such as Uber and Taxify, is another option which can save you money as, once again, you lose the responsibility of having to maintain a car and all the extras that come with it: services, toll fees, parking fees and cleaning. However, this has to be weighed up as, the longer the commute, the higher the cost of an Uber.

How stay-at-home parents lose out financially

Some reports claim that raising a child in South Africa can cost around R90 000 a year. This is why having one parent doing the childcare may make sense. But what families don’t take into account is what that stay-at-home parent, typically the mother, could be losing out on financially.

A poll conducted by US paper The Washington Post found that three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers have either left the workforce or switched to a less demanding job to take care of their children.

However, the US think tank, Center for American Progress, pointed out that parents making this type of sacrifice lose more than just their annual salary. Retirement savings, general savings and other benefits have to be considered and, every year that a parent stays at home, they are sacrificing money that could have been put towards their golden years, medical aid or disability insurance.

WORK FROM HOME – THE SOLUTION?

For some parents, working from home has provided a solution to the increasing costs of childcare while offering the flexibility needed in raising children and catering to their social and medical needs. Here are a few ways it can be done:

. Create a business from home: Would your professional skills enable you to do the same thing from home? Nadia Rossouw based her agency Nadia Rossouw Public Relations at her home. “We decided to build an office on our property. This really helps as I have a completely separate work space but, at the same time, I am always close to the kids.

. Make use of freelancing platforms: There are plenty of freelance websites that have sprung up in recent years, which provide a platform for employers and giggers to liaise on work contracts and fees. They include Upwork, Peopleperhour and Freelancer. Make sure you read up on their terms and conditions as these freelance platforms often take their own fee out of your work agreements.

. Create a job from a passion/skill: If you can sew or bake and enjoy doing so, there is a chance that you could garner an income from this, which will enable you to either reduce your working hours at your current job or leave full-time employment altogether.

. Create an online course: If you’re quite knowledgeable about a certain topic or even a leader in your field of work, why not teach what you know? All you need is a tripod and decent recording equipment – some feature phones already have the functionality for this. Online learning platforms such as Udemy and Teachable, for instance, enable you to load courses and earn an income.

HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR INCOME?

If you do decide to carry on working, protecting your income is vital. According to insurer Liberty, income protection claims related to retrenchment are a growing trend. Income protection claims for young parents were at 9.3% in 2016 but increased to 11% in 2017. Meanwhile, parents with older children saw no claims for retrenchment in 2016 but 4% of claims in this segment were for retrenchments in 2017.

Head of risk product development at Liberty, Henk Meintjes says, “Liberty claim statistics for 2017 show that, for young achievers (millennials), retrenchment was the most common cause of income protection claims, making up 17% of total claims. When compared to retrenchment claims in 2016 at 11.7%, there was a significant escalation in retrenchment-related claims – 6% increase, to be precise.”

He adds: “Having a plan in place to protect one’s income is the right step towards planning for a financial future. Your income is your most valuable asset when you are working, and that is why it is important to put the right insurance cover in place to mitigate the risk of retrenchment.”

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