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The Cost of Single Motherhood

Danelle van Heerde, 24 May 2018

The number of single-parent families around the world is on the up – and for an increasing number of them, it’s by choice.

In South Africa, a staggering 38% of children live just with their mothers and only a small percentage of our entire population have income levels that allow for solo parenting by choice. In the US, single parent households have more than tripled since 1960, with single mothers heading up 80% of these. In the UK, 21% of children live in lone parent families.

Regardless of whether single motherhood is by intent, the costs involved are high and few people grasp the full extent it. Danelle van Heerde, Head of Advice Processes at Sanlam Personal Finance, says, “Raising a child on one income is tough and in South Africa, this scenario applies mostly to women. The benefits of engaging a trusted financial planner at the outset for help with a practical plan based on a holistic view of the parent’s finances cannot be overstated.”

Planning and Structure are Critical for Single Mothers

Van Heerde says the pressures of single parenting make it absolutely critical for single mothers to start saving as soon as possible to help them cope with the financial strain. “Single moms need planning and structure to cope with the demands of working and looking after children. The same approach applies to their finances. They often have additional expense burdens, compared to dual income families. In addition, costs associated with specialised pregnancies and ongoing expenses like day-care can add to the overall financial pressure. Plus, there are long-term goals like education for which to save.”

In South African women generally earn around 27% less than men, and this certainly frames their need for proper financial planning, Van Heerde offers some pointers for single mothers:

  • No amount is too small: The effect of compound interest means that the earlier you start saving for the costs associated with parenthood, the better the returns. A tax-free savings account may be a great option given the benefit of tax-free returns.

  • Make the most of maternity leave: If it’s at all possible, ensure that you accumulate savings to supplement your income while on maternity leave as you will not receive a full income from your employer or the UIF. A temporary income protection or sickness benefit that covers pregnancy-related events will provide cover if you need to miss work during pregnancy or need to extend your maternity leave for medical reasons.

  • Prioritise your needs: Don’t let the costs of having a child compromise your future financial wellbeing. Work with a financial adviser to ensure you’re meeting your short-term needs while still saving for long-term goals like retirement. You’ll need to frequently review and revise these goals.

  • Get dependable help: Raising children will likely be one of the most satisfying as well as stressful experiences of your life. If you’re raising a child by yourself, you should try and implement the best possible support network. This should not only include dependable babysitters, but also single parent support groups. There are a proliferation of these online.

  • Involve your kids: Involve the children in the household budgeting process as soon as they can understand what it is about. Start with simple things for smaller children – the overall intention is to make them part of the process so that they will develop an appreciation for budgeting as they get older.

The Variable Costs of Having a Child

While few women in South Africa are single mothers by choice, single parenting is a rising trend globally. Here are some conception and birthing options open to single women and what they cost:

  • IVF: In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is an assisted conception technique that combines egg and sperm cells in a laboratory dish and then returns these to the uterus for development. IVF costs approximately between R52 000 and R63 000 per cycle.
  • IUI: Intrauterine insemination (IUI) - also known as donor insemination or artificial insemination - is a relatively simple fertility treatment that transfers semen directly into the uterus. The approximate cost is between R5000 and R9000 per cycle.
  • Birth: Once pregnant, there’s the birthing cost to consider. Giving birth at a government hospital may be free of charge. But the costs of a birthing centre or private hospital add up:
    • A natural birth with a 48-hour admission at a birthing centre costs approximately R15 650, excluding paediatrician fees and an epidural. , However if you need an emergency caesarean, you’ll be paying R35 240, excluding gynaecologist, anaesthetist and paediatrician fees.
    • At a private hospital, a three-day stay is about R20 193, assuming a natural birth. A planned caesarean is approximately R25 655 for a four-day stay.
    • Fees for the gynaecologist, anaesthetist and paediatrician are over and above these costs, and can add between R12 000 and R20 000 to the bill.
  • Adoption: The costs of adoption vary greatly depending on who facilitates the process. Adoptions through Child Welfare and other Non-Profit Agencies are based on income and typically cost between R12 000 and R15 000 (not including the cost of the medical, police clearance and psychological examination which are usually extras). Adoptions through a private social worker or adoption organisation can however cost significantly more.
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