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Taking unpaid maternity leave is leading new mothers into staggering debt, reports The Nation’s Bryce Covert. Covert interviewed one single mum who gave birth to her child prematurely. After exhausting her leave and being let go from work, her last resort was Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and a loan she can barely pay off.
It’s expected that working mothers will cut back on necessities like clothes and health care to get by, but too many are being pushed into poverty because they have no where else to turn to.
According to the Women’s Legal defence and Education Fund, two-fifths of single mother families are poor and “food insecure,” meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. And as the Census Bureau points out, over 40 per cent of new mothers take unpaid leave.
More women enter and exit the workforce than men for caregiving reasons, but it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. Along with the risks outlined above, women leaving the workforce to help raise a child could put their retirement and savings in jeopardy—and set back their career.
Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies with Ameriprise Financial, recently told YM the smartest thing new mothers can do is assess their current financial situation and plan for caregiving costs in advance.
“The biggest mistake I see most women make is putting their own financial security out of the picture, and that’s where they get sabotaged,” she said. “(Women) want to do the right thing, but there’s a difference between helping others and putting yourself in jeopardy.”
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