Published in: Personal Finance | Oct. 9, 2020
By: Maurie Backman
Parents are scrambling during the pandemic, and some households may be suffering financially as a result.
It's no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on American life, and that extends to the way children are educated. In fact, a lot of students returned to a very different setup for the 2020-21 academic year. Many are limited to remote learning only. Others are adjusting to a hybrid model of schooling, where classes are held partly in person and partly online.
All of this takes a toll on parents -- many of whom have no choice but to juggle their job-related and parenting responsibilities. In fact, some parents have been forced to cut back on work or quit altogether in order to be there for their children and support them academically. And the financial impact of those decisions could be tremendous, both in the near term as well as in the long run.
In the course of the pandemic, 25% of parents have had to reduce their working hours to accommodate their children's learning schedules, reports FlexJobs in a September survey. Meanwhile, 15% of parents have had to quit their jobs altogether. And of those who quit the workforce completely, 38% do not plan to rejoin it.
Of course, some parents aren't able to work from home, which explains why so many have had no choice but to limit their hours or leave their jobs outright. Many families rely on schools not just for education, but for childcare too. Parents in districts that can't provide a normal, full-time learning schedule have been forced to make professional changes.
Unfortunately, those changes could be harmful. The income loss from reduced hours or lost jobs could make it extremely difficult to pay the bills. There are long-term career repercussions to think of as well. That resume gap could make it harder to get back into the workforce once the pandemic ends. And those who do manage to resume working could face a scenario where they're forced into a long-term pay cut.
For some families, the changes could be temporary (or at least that's the intent). But that doesn't make it any easier to sacrifice earnings and career progress. Parents who lose out on income will need to redo their household budgets to avoid falling behind on bills. They'll also need to think about how these setbacks might impact their near- and long-term financial goals. For example, those hoping to buy a home may have to hold off another year or two if a temporary loss of income makes it impossible to save toward a down payment.
Of course, cutting back on expenses is a good way to cope with income loss. But that might not be an option for families that already limited their spending to only essentials before the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it could be a solid year until a coronavirus vaccine becomes widely available and schools are able to resume a normal schedule. Until then, parents can try to minimize the hit to their income by looking for flexible work arrangements.
Work-from-home jobs were abundant before the pandemic. Things may be very different now, but that doesn't mean flexible or remote work is out of the question. That may not be a solution for parents of younger children who have to be both physically and mentally available during the school day. It's fair to say that many families may have a pretty long financial recovery ahead of them.
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