safe motherhood

The rest of your life

Financial planning

Having a baby can be astrain on your finances if you don't plan ahead. Start thinking aboutwhat you can do to give yourself as much room to manoeuvre as possible.If you are planning to take time off work after the baby is born, beyondthe period of your paid maternity leave, you'll need to budget tomanage on a reduced salary. Even if you are planning to return to workat some point, you need to make sure that you don't get into debt duringthose few months. A few hours spent researching your options duringpregnancy can set you up to enjoy the early weeks with your new babywithout money worries.

If you have a mortgage it's probably the biggest element in yourmonthly expenditure.

Re-mortgaging could offer you a number of potentialbenefits:

• You could get a better deal with a lower interest rate and save money on your monthly re-payments.

• You could fix or cap your mortgage in order to budget around it.This will offer the reassurance that it won't rise too high if you onlyhave one income for some time.

• You could look at a cashback mortgage that will give you some extra money while you are on maternity leave.

• You could extend your mortgage if you think you will need toextend your home, buy a new car to accommodate baby, or pay off anydebts on which you are paying a higher rate.

Shop around for a credit card that offers you a bit of breatherafter your baby is born. Some cards are offering no or single-figureinterest on balance transfers for the first six months.

Even if you are not working, you will be able to take out your ownpension from April 2001. From as little as £20 a month you cancontribute to a stakeholder pension plan - available from all majorfinancial providers. Stakeholders are very flexible, enabling you tostop and start contributions as you need to, and can be transferred toan employer's plan if you go back to work.

It may also pay to take independent financial advice on these issuesto structure your financial planning, not just for the first year ofyour baby's life, but to set in place savings and protection plans whichwill form a firm foundation for your family life.