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Becoming a Big-Breadwinner Mom

A few ways to avoid the motherhood pay penalty

by Rebecca Webber  |  3831 views  |  0 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Kids are expensive. Every mom knows this and the data proves it. A child born in 2013 will cost a typical middle class family in the U.S. more than $300,000 to raise to age 18, according to the USDA. But working moms generally get paid less once they have kids. They lose about 4 percent of their salary per child, according to a recent report by Michelle J. Budig, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. (Meanwhile, men tend to get paid more once they become fathers). 

Not helpful.

There are a few ways you can make it more likely you’ll keep earning a lot even after you have children.

Go for the big money early on

Women who earn more than 90 percent of other women are less likely to see their salary drop after they have children, according to Budig’s report, which was released by the Third Wave think tank. Specifically, if you earn about $90,480 per year, you may well continue to earn at that level, or higher, even after you have babies. 

If you’re a physician, a marketing manager, a CEO, or an engineer, you’ll likely earn a strong salary and be well positioned to hang onto it once you start having children. Women also find high-paying jobs as pharmacists, lawyers, and in management, according to current data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

You might also achieve a top-ten percent salary by gaining seniority in your job, which leads to a second suggestion.

Wait as long as you can before you have kids

Women who delay having children, especially those who wait until they are in their late 30s or 40s, usually earn considerably more than women who had their kids earlier. This holds true for almost every type of occupation, and the differences become more pronounced in the jobs where salaries are high, according to data from the American Community Survey.

The median woman who starts having children in her late 30s or in her 40s gets paid $7,859 more per year compared to the median woman whose kids are a few years older. For women in professional or managerial occupations, such as business, engineering, science, or healthcare, the earnings differential increases to $10,295 per year. And in some fields, the gap becomes enormous. Female lawyers will typically earn $32,407 more per year if they have children later, compared to colleagues who became mothers at a younger age. 

These differences can really add up over time, leaving high-earning working moms with more money to cover the costs of their growing families.  

About the Author

Rebecca Webber covers women's lifestyle and personal finance topics for ValuePenguin at www.valuepenguin.com/

Read more by Rebecca Webber

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