Family finances

News and opinion about family finances. Also hints and tips about how to manage finances and what you should be considering as a mum or dad.

To invest or save for the children’s future?

I’m something of a geek when it comes to pensions and investments. I’ve previously blogged about the concerns I have about my pension and the impact this is having on my sleep. As a stay at home dad I face an issue that usually affects mothers; paying either tiny contributions or none at all while my children are very young and my ability to work is severely limited. Of course, pensions are just one financial concern that crept up on me when I become a father. View Post

There’ve been a few changes round ‘ere…

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This man wrote a famous song about changes. Pic credit below.

I thought it was about time I wrote a blog post about this blog. I worry that it seems a little self indulgent, but it seems like the correct thing to do.

I’ve made a number of changes to the blog over the past couple of months. Some of them are very obvious, such as coming out from behind the blog’s logo with a proper profile picture. Others changes are more subtle. View Post

Becoming a stay at home dad; what to consider

becoming a stay at home dad, main carer, childcare, fathers, dads, masculism, equality, gender equality, parenting, mums, mothers

Life isn’t one great big beach holiday when looking after the kids, but it does have its moments. Photo credit:

Are you male and thinking of becoming the main carer for your children or giving up work completely to become a stay at home dad? If so, there are a variety of issues you might want to consider.

It’s a big enough decision for a woman to give up work to look after the kids. By rights, it shouldn’t be any different for a man. In reality it’s a bigger leap because it’s such a rare thing for a guy to do and the world is set up for women to fulfill this role.

Having just celebrated my third anniversary as my kids’ main carer, I’ve put together a few thoughts about issues you might want to think about. I hope you find them useful!

Loss of prestige

I thought that by saying goodbye to a career and well paid job I’d lose some prestige and standing in the world. You might be surprised to hear it, but I can genuinely say I haven’t found this to be the case at all.

I was also expecting to be the butt of jokes, particularly from male friends. Sure, it occasionally happens but most people meet my circumstances with indifference while others are genuinely interested and curious as to how my wife and I make our topsy-turvy family work.

Positive sentiments also come from unexpected sources. I recall a builder doing some work on our house shortly after I left full-time employment. After a few days of being in the house together, I thought I’d better explain why my daughter and I were always there and not my wife.

This guy was in his sixties and I expected to be ridiculed. Far from it; he told me he’d barely seen his kids as they were growing up and wished he could have done exactly what I was doing.

Be prepared to make an extra special effort

I occasionally hear from stay at home dads that have retreated into their shells because they don’t feel like they fit in among the mums. I understand exactly why this happens, but I think there is an obligation on us men to make a greater effort and prove we can do the things that mums have been doing for decades, if not centuries. Luckily, this doesn’t have to involve walking in four inch heels or giving birth.

Can you get involved with the Parent Teachers’ Association (or the equivalent if your children are at nursery)? At many schools there is a severe lack of men on the PTA. Most PTA’s are desperate for the support and anyone that can volunteer is welcomed.

Maybe you can go into the school and volunteer? At most primary schools there are opportunities to help children with their reading. The presence of positive, male role models in the overwhelmingly female environment of a school is also greatly appreciated.

Consider your finances

There’s no escaping this one; even if your family’s finances are rock solid, your personal finances will suffer. This was a big issue for me as I went from being a higher rate tax payer to earning a pittance working part time.

Everyone’s circumstances are different but you should give consideration to pension contributions, investing for your children’s future and how you’ll pay bills, especially those irritating ones that creep up annually such as home and car insurance. I worry much more about money now than I ever used to, although I think that’s quite common in the present financial climate!

Remember; your partner is making a sacrifice too

Your partner is making a sacrifice by going to work and providing for the family. She won’t see as much of the kids as other mothers. Unlike most women, she won’t get to be a part of a tight-knit network of mums. It will attract comment so go out of your way to tell her how much you appreciate what she’s doing for the family.

And finally…

Looking after children is hard work, especially when you have more than one. Don’t go into this thinking that it’s all about baking cakes and coffee mornings.

I personally find being the main carer for my kids very rewarding. I’m privileged to spend so much time with them, nurture them and and watch them growing up. It’s a sacrifice, but one that I have found to be well worth making.

Photo reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

Family finances and the cost of raising children

Just yesterday I bumped into a mum I know. I hadn’t seen her in months and she was very proud to show off Jasper, her two week old baby boy while her older daughter, who used to go to nursery with my eldest, scampered off to play in a soft play area.

We discussed the leap from having one to two children, which we both said we’d found phenomenal. The one thing we didn’t touch on, however, was how expensive it is to have a young family. Without going into details, this has been a hotly debated subject at my family’s dinner table for some time.

finances, family finances, cost of raising a child, children, money, saving, inflation, childcare costs, LV=

This is a picture of some money. I remember what it was like to own some of this stuff.

According to figures recently published by the friendly society LV=, little Jasper will cost his parents £227,266 between now and the age of 21. His family are likely to spend 28% of their income raising him and his sister.

What I found fascinating was the financial cost of a child’s first year of life. According to LV=’s Cost of a Child report, the cost of a child’s first year has risen by 50% from £7,372, when the first report was produced in 2003, to £11,025 today.

A large part of this increase can be put down increases in childcare costs. For children aged less than a year,LV= has calculated childcare costs have risen by 7% (£,6,623 up from £6,191 in 2013).

Education, food and clothing were also identified as big costs. Not surprisingly, 71% of families have had to reign in their spending to meet the increased costs of having children (my family is firmly within that majority!).

So what exactly has forced families to look hard at the finances? In essence, child benefit reductions, salaries failing to keep up with inflation and the aforementioned increased childcare costs.

LV= has in fact gone one step further. It’s produced a handy on-line calculator to you can see how much your children will cost you to raise. I had a look and when I saw the estimated cost for raising both my daughters I will confess that I winced.

So what do you think? Should we be worried about the cost of having a family in the UK in 2014? Do you think childcare is too expensive? Perhaps you’ve been affected by the child benefit cuts? Leave a comment below and let me know.      


Pensions and the stay at home dad

To many people pensions are not particularly sexy. I, however, find pensions fascinating.

Going back a decade or so I worked for two organisations that were at the forefront of alleviating pensioner poverty. I was privy to all manner of information showing that we’re on the verge of a pensions apocalypse in the UK.

One of the major issues I used to deal with was female pensioner poverty. This tends to be a bigger issue for women because mums, as opposed to dads, often take five years out of the workforce when they become mothers and frequently return to part time work once their children are at school.

I think this chap retired with a good pension. I worry I may not be so fortunate.

I think this chap retired with a good pension. I worry I may not be so fortunate.

To be blunt women often pay less into personal pensions than men and miss-out on all important National Insurance contributions that would guarantee a full state pension. Divorce, widowhood and poor health frequently complicate matters.

But what of us stay at home dads? We may be a relatively small population but we face identical issues when it comes to retirement income.

Since I gave up full time work to look after the kids I’ve often wondered about my own pension. With my background it’s something I actually lose sleep over because I know that I’m making all the classic mistakes that have led to generations of stay at home mothers seeing out their later years eeking out an existence on a tiny pension.

The other week I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the savings and pensions specialist Standard Life. I’ll paraphrase but essentially the email said; “John, have you thought about writing a blog about stay at home dads and their pensions?”

Knowing that I’m personally making every pensions mistake in the book I had indeed given plenty of thought to writing just such a blog piece. Standard Life’s email has basically spurred me on to write it.

As regards state pensions, the goal posts are about to move for everybody. In 2016 the Government will introduce a new single-tier state pension. In theory it will be more equitable and easier to administer but there are elements to it that all stay at home parents need to be aware of.  

At present you need to pay 30 years’ worth of National insurance contributions to qualify for a full state pension. This will shortly increase to 35 years.

The state pension age will also increase in 2020 to 66 years of age, rising again to 67 shortly afterwards. The age will be reviewed every five years so further increases are likely within your lifetime.

Julie Russell from Standard Life provided me with the following advice for stay at home dads (although it applies equally to mums): “Finding the time to sit and review all your plans will be the challenge, but its importance cannot be overstated. Office for National Statistics data shows that we’re living longer; more than a third (36 per cent) of people in 2013 will live to be 100. Retirement can now last for decades, which is a long time to fund your lifestyle

and family without a household salary.

“Making sure you save the right amount of money at the right time in the right place is vitally important, as is ensuring you’re able to maximise your tax free saving and State benefits, such as the single-tier pension.” 

On that note I’m off to sell all my personal possessions on Ebay. All profits will be poured into the pension fund.    

For further help with planning your finances and for your retirement visit