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April 22 2016

Experts Want You to Save for Parental Leave the Same Way You Save for Retirement

What To Expect
featuring Sabrina Schaeffer and Carrie L. Lukas

It's no secret that the maternity leave policy in this country is a huge problem for women (and men) trying to start and grow their families. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants just 12 weeks of unpaid leave—and only to certain workers at some companies. And beyond the fact that it's a very short time for a mother to bond with and care for a new baby, many women simply cannot afford to forego a paycheck for that long.

With the United States ranking dead last of 21 high-income countries in terms of generosity of paid leave, various solutions are being explored, including partial paid leave. (California, for example, pays 55 percent of income for six weeks).

Now another idea is on the table, one that proponents say gives more power to families. A special savings account for caregiving has been suggested by the think tank Independent Women's ForumWashington Post reports.

States would come up with individual plans allowing workers to stash away money for pregnancy in the same way they save for retirement: tax-free. Similar to growing an IRA or 401k, workers could contribute up to 12 weeks pay per year to these "Personal Care Accounts" to help fund maternity leave. The annual cap would be $5,000 with a lifetime maximum contribution of $30,000, and the funds could only be cashed out when eligible for leave under the FMLA.

Employers would have the option to match workers' contributions. Having access to and donating to a PCA would certainly take some of financial pressure off of maternity leave and could make it easier for people to take full advantage of the FMLA because they already have money put aside. 

The downside is, though, you must have disposable income to contribute each pay period, which many families who need paid leave do not have, and plan years in advance for a baby. What about the half of U.S. pregnancies that are unplanned?

Still worth noting for its fresh approach. The think tank that put the idea forward is right-leaning, and the conversation around paid leave has been dominated by the left side of the aisle. The important thing is we're working towards a solution for a system that hurts so many families.

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Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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