Right now, you love being able to spend your entire day hanging out with your kids. But there may come a day when you'll want -- or need -- to work.
Here's some bummer news: You're likely to find that your time at home has cost you more than you'd planned. A study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, in New York City, found that women lose an average of 18 percent of their earning power (28 percent if they're in a business field) when they leave the workforce temporarily to raise children. Another study found that moms with college degrees who stay home with kids can suffer a lifetime loss of $1 million in earnings or more, depending on their skills and education.
To increase your odds of getting a decent salary when you're ready to return to work, make the most of your time at home. If you were already established in a career, be sure to stay connected to former work colleagues. Go to lunch with them a few times a year, and shoot them an e-mail if you come across a work-related article you think they'll find useful. Attend conferences in your field, join associations, and continue reading professional publications.
If you don't have much work experience, use your time at home to begin to build a resume. Do volunteer work, and seek out challenges that will help you develop new skills and contacts. If necessary, go back to school.
Above all, it's critical that you have a long-term plan for your career -- and for your finances. This way you'll be fully prepared, no matter what curveballs life throws your way.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the October 2007 issue of Parents magazine.