Going back to work after spending years away doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Careful tracking of your finances can help you concentrate on what many women strive to do: Achieve a healthy balance between work and family. Here are some tips to help you make the adjustment:
1. Get organized
Your time matters and it pays to be organized. Create a personal financial center at home to keep your family’s financial records at your fingertips.
It may be a good idea to keep both original and copies of important documents such as a will or deed to your home in a safe deposit box and a secure place at home.
2. Rework your budget
You’ll be earning money, but you may also be taking on new expenses, such as child care, commuting, and dry cleaning. Find out how much these additional expenses will cost each month. Then make any adjustments to your budget.
Healthcare. Health insurance is a must. If you and your spouse are both offered health insurance through your employers, figure out which option is best and decide whose plan you should use for your family. Be careful not to use two primary policies, which can lead to confusion when you file a claim.
Retirement plans. If you haven’t already started saving for retirement, now’s the time to do it. One great way to do so is through your employer’s 401(k) or 403(b). Your contributions will be pre-tax (in most cases), which lowers your taxable income which lets you save on taxes.
Save as much as you can and make sure you meet the company’s matching amount (if it’s offered).
Flexible spending accounts. Ask about the availability of flexible spending accounts and/or health savings accounts. You may qualify for these tax advantaged vehicles under two or more different employers’ plans. Check with your employer for the latest contribution limits.
3. Consider life insurance
Life insurance provides a generally income tax-free lump sum to your survivors in the event of your death.1 You should consider getting a life insurance plan that reflects the income that would be lost if you were no longer here.
It is also recommended that both you and your spouse or partner each own an additional policy (besides an employer-offered plan) that offers at least 10 times your annual salaries in protection. The appropriate amount of insurance for you depends on your needs and personal circumstances.
4. Don’t forget potential tax breaks
Claiming dependents. You can receive a child tax credit by claiming your child as a dependent.2
Childcare credit. Depending upon your circumstances, you may be eligible for a tax credit for money spent on childcare. The amount of the credit varies from 20% to 35% of what you pay for childcare, depending on your pre-tax income and withholdings. You may be able to use this credit in conjunction with a flex spending account or you may find it best to use one or the other.