Pregnant at 65…with quadruplets? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. If all goes well, Germany’s Annegret Raunigk will be the oldest woman to give birth to quads.
Still, having children at 60 is unusual. Kids past 40, however, is becoming more common.
When Gregory Gardner’s son, Bo, came along, Gardner was 44 — and although Bo was a welcome addition, his arrival put a crimp in Gardner’s financial plans.
“I was probably never going to officially retire,” said Gardner, now 46, who owns his own financial planning firm in Texas. “But I was going to change the pace as I hit 50 to 60, and now I will be 63 at high school graduation. We have drastically increased our savings.”
These days nearly everyone knows someone who’s had a baby in their 40s. In the UK, about one in 25 babies is born to a mum over 40, according to the Office of National Statistics. In the US, about one out of every 96 babies is born to a woman age 40-44, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the number of women having their first baby over 40 more than doubled from 1990 to 2012. In Australia, one in 65 babies is born to an over-40 mother, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics — even higher than teen pregnancies.
There are some unique financial challenges to having a child in your 40s. For one, higher education costs are likely to kick-in just as you’re preparing to retire. It’s not impossible with the right preparation. Here’s your strategy.
What it will take: You’ll need a lot of energy and some detailed financial planning. Luckily, you’re probably in a good place already. “What I’ve seen with some of my clients who have done this is that sometimes it’s easier because you’re entering your peak earning years,” said Shannon Lee Simmons, a financial planner with Simmons Financial Planning in Toronto. “Job security is higher, the mortgage is under control, and there’s not as much student debt. There’s more money to work with.”
How long you need to prepare: As with all pregnancies, you only get about nine months — unless you’ve been trying for a baby for a while without success. The more time you have, the more money you can put towards savings goals before you have to deal with baby expenses. If you’re paying for fertility treatment, however, your goal should be to avoid digging yourself into so much debt that you can’t recover. “Some people have spent tens of thousands of dollars on trying to get pregnant and then they get pregnant and there’s not much wiggle room to pay it off,” Simmons said.
Do it now: Keep slogging toward retirement. “What you don’t want to do is all of a sudden just abandon the retirement plan you have in place,” said Bob Gavlak, a financial planner with Strategic Wealth Partners in Ohio in the US. “You’ve gotten into some sort of rhythm as far as your financial picture and you want to make sure you’re not overly disrupting that.”
That said, you may have to rethink your retirement age, particularly if you were aiming for an early exit. “I may have to work until 70, because once I have the house paid off I’ll still have college payments,” said Douglas Kobak, a financial planner in Pennsylvania in the US who is 47 and has a 4-year-old. “You have to think of saving more or retiring later.”
Plan for university now. You do not have the luxury of waiting to save for higher education because that expense will hit when you reach retirement age. If necessary, sit down with a financial professional to draft a plan that will prepare you for both a comfortable retirement and a reasonable contribution towards education costs. The sooner you start, the more time your money will have to grow.
Shop for life insurance. If you don’t have any already, now is the time to buy — but it will likely be more expensive because you’re older. That said, you also have a greater chance of something happening while your child is still a minor, so it’s important. The general rule of thumb is that you should buy life insurance worth 10 to 12 times your annual salary, but since you’ve had more time to work and accumulate assets, you may not need as much. If it’s really pricey, consider buying one 20-year policy for half the amount you want and a 10-year policy for the other half. In a decade you’ll have less insurance but hopefully have more saved to cover the difference.
You can also investigate the group life insurance that may be available through your employer to make up a gap. It’s often much cheaper and you don’t have to go through the medical test, Simmons said.
Get a will. (Or update your existing document.) Having a baby later in life makes it even more imperative that you have a plan in place in case something happens to you. Among other things, a will enables you to appoint a guardian in the event of your death. “A lot of people forget this integral part when they are swept up in the emotion of having a child,” said Brett Evans, executive director of Atlas Wealth Management in Southport, Australia.
Do it later: Max out your retirement savings. Now is probably not the time to boost your contributions, but at 50 or 55, step on the gas. “You’ll be getting into some of your highest earnings years,” Gavlak said. “So you’re going to be in a high tax bracket and you want to max out your tax-deferred retirement savings.”
Avoid loans. Unlike parents in their 20s and early 30s, you don’t have years to recover from university costs before retirement comes calling. “I simply can’t advise older parents to take on debt to send their kids to school or to deplete their own retirement savings,” said Hank Mulvihill, a financial planner in Texas. “That’s generational suicide.” Talk to your kids early and often about how much you can put toward school and how much they’ll have to take on themselves. “If you’re going to have debt, it belongs on the young ones who can successfully earn their way out of it,” Mulvihill said.
Do it smarter: Get ready for some changes. Having a baby is an adjustment for anyone at any age. But having a baby in your fourth decade might be more jarring than a baby at 25. “If you’re looking at someone who’s in their 40s, they’ve been really independent with their finances, and now they have this brand new human to think about,” Gavlak said. “That’s not going to be a cheap portion of the financial plan.”
This article originally appeared in a interview with BBC Capital.