This having a baby thing is certainly expensive, no?  And while many employers provide benefits and perks to help, sometimes we don’t even know all of what’s available to us as employees.  Today, Mindful Return alum Jean Lu of Cambridge Associates is joining us as a guest on the blog, to share some of her personal money-saving tips – things she admits she learned the hard way.  *******************************************************************************

Hi there, this is Jean. I’m a mother of two boys and have worked in the finance and investment industry for almost 15 years. I want to help you think about the financial picture of returning back to work after maternity leave.

Let’s start with a money mistake I just made. Last month, my son had a playdate, and I got to talking to the other mom. It turns out she works at the same university as my husband. She told us that the university actually covers up to $1,000 per year of travel costs related to childcare for junior faculty. (This was news to me!) So, if my husband has a conference in Switzerland and grandma has to fly in? Grandma’s flight is covered. I quickly did the math and realized that we passed on $3,000 since my 3-year old was born. Yikes!

With that in mind, here are three actionable money-saving ideas for you, each of which takes less than 30 minutes:

  1. Learn your employee benefits. Most professional firms have a raft of HR benefits, most of which we don’t even know about. For example, my firm covers 10 days of back-up childcare per year. Some firms even have a hotline to walk you through what’s offered. In the time it takes you to pump, you can schedule a call with someone to learn about the benefits.
  2. Ask colleagues for advice. Ask the new parents: “What reimbursements does our company offer? Any lifesavers you want to share?” During my first maternity leave, I was tearing up just thinking about flying cross-country and pumping too. One of my colleagues — also a working mom — told me to expense the $600+ airline club membership fee. I objected, “But I don’t take 12 round trips per year. I’m not eligible for that reimbursement!” She bluntly overruled me, emphasizing my value to the team and compared the membership to the thousands of dollars that the firm had already spent on each business trip. Ensuring that I arrived on time (and high performing) was worth it. And on top of that — this is my favorite part — she commanded, “and if anyone gives you any trouble, tell them to come to me.”
  3. Spend the time on follow-up. Dedicate a pumping session a week to file those receipts. To confirm the reimbursement. To reach out for another networking call. One mental trick I use to get motivated is to calculate savings by the hour. So, for example, if I had spent an hour to discover the $1,000 reimbursement and another hour on follow-up, that’s $500/hour!

In talking to my friends about money and finance, one of the biggest hang-ups I find is that they think of it as “all or nothing.” Either you’re fantastic with money or in over your eyeballs.  Not true! Every bit of effort counts. Each reimbursement will give you more slack to hire a weekend babysitter. Each coaching conversation will empower you to save for college in a 529 plan.

For those of you who followed one of these tips, how did it go? Share your thoughts below in comments. And if you want further tips on a working mama finance topic, let us know that, too.

Jean Lu is a Managing Director at Cambridge Associates, a leading global investment firm that has been pioneering portfolio management solutions for more than 40 years. She serves as a Director of Investments to endowments, foundations, and family clients. Her team manages $2 billion across all asset classes, including hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, and real assets. She received an MBA with honors from the University of California at Berkeley and holds undergraduate degrees in business and math from MIT. Jean lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is mother to two boys.

Back to Work After BabyIf you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.      

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