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Ask any parent: finances play a huge role in pregnancy. Medical schemes cover only a portion of the medical expenses - there are co-payments on just about everything. Quality education costs too - a lot. And as the old hands know, you can never have enough nappies.

For an average middle-income South African family, the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 years is around R1 650 000. Sonto Lemeko, head of the Voice and Digital Advisory Centre at Standard Bank, said that’s a conservative figure, factoring in pre-birth preparation to the end of schooling. And it’s based on public school education - private schooling costs in excess of R100 000 annually and studies abroad around R300 000 a year.

To break it down, here are a few factors to consider when having children:

* Budget: Factor in the baby outlay costs - there are online baby costing calculators to assist with this. Budget for car seats, a pram, camper cot, travel accessories, baby bottles and sterilising equipment and clothes, as well as ongoing costs: nappies, medicine, food, books and toys.

* Medical care: If you’re already on a medical scheme before you get pregnant you might want to reassess your cover, because there will be trips to the obstetrician, co-payments, out-of-pocket expenses, paediatrician visits, vaccines and other health-care costs. Most medical schemes are unlikely to cover you after you have fallen pregnant.

* Life-insurance: Motshabi Nomvethe, head of technical marketing at PPS, said life insurance is one of the most vital purchases you can make for your future and that of your family, especially during pregnancy, as the family is growing and the dynamics are changing.

“Speaking to a fiduciary specialist to help you structure your estate properly is equally important and so is nominating beneficiaries for a trust, especially for the benefit of your minor children.”

* Plan for the unexpected: Pregnancy can become complicated, which is why expectant parents should consider taking out additional policies - especially if you are self-employed and no work means no pay. For graduate professionals, PPS has enhanced its pregnancy-related sick pay benefit (not a stand-alone benefit), which forms part of the sickness and permanent incapacity benefit for all female members. There’s no requirement for hospitalisation.

If a member is booked off work for any pregnancy complication, the benefit pays for the full recovery period in line with normal sick pay claims criteria. C-sections are covered fully for the duration of the recovery of the surgical wound.

* Leave matters: While working mothers are legally allowed to take four months maternity leave (but employers are not compelled to pay you during such time, so you might need to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund), fathers and adoptive parents have, since the beginning of this year, been able to take 10 days parental leave and claim from the UIF.

Adoptive parents of a child under the age of 2 are also allowed to take adoption leave of two-and-a-half months consecutively. South African mothers on maternity leave can claim UIF for up to four months.

* Baby hardware: People tend to overspend on the first child while the last child has to make do with hand-me-downs. “When you’re expecting your first child you want the best pram, the cutest baby clothes and the best cot you can afford,” said Lemeko.

“With our second child, we didn’t go overboard - we used same pram, car seats, clothes.”

* Get your affairs in order: Update your will to prevent hardship for your partner or family.

* Save: Cutting out credit is essential, especially when there’s a baby in the house. “We weren’t taught how to save - we were used to living hand-to-mouth. We weren’t taught about budgeting, which you could discuss with your children. If we’re afraid of our money, how are we to teach our children?” Lemeko said.

Open a savings account, or a long-term investment account, for your child. Even small amounts make a difference and will harness the power of compound interest.

* Invest: Get into the property market as soon as possible. When you know you want to have a child, start saving. And it’s best having a long-term view, guided by an expert.

Nomvethe said: “This is best done with the help of a financial adviser, taking into account your current, short- and long-term goals, as this will determine the best investment vehicles for you. What we know for sure is that the hardest part is to start, and that the sooner one starts, the better the chances are of achieving financial freedom. Other things to consider with investments are tax, liquidity, growth and risk appetite.”

Lemeko said baby showers have become popular, with parents forking out for catering, venues and gifts.

“If I’m spending R50 000 for a baby shower, why am I not spending that on other things - tax-free savings for my child, investing in an emergency fund? As parents, we need to learn to say no - to ourselves and our kids. Be an adult about it.”

PERSONAL FINANCE