One option that some families consider is having a parent leave the workforce entirely in order to care for a child. But until now, there was little research on the financial impact of making that decision.
The Center for American Progress now has a calculator showing the hidden cost of leaving the workforce to provide childcare. The calculator shows the immediate loss (income not earned) as well as the loss in potential wage growth over a career and lost retirement savings. As PBS NewsHour points out, a 26 year old woman earning $50,000 who leaves the workforce for three years to care for a child loses more than $150,000 in salary - she loses over $500,000 in her lifetime in salary, wage growth, retirement benefits, and Social Security.
To test the calculator, I checked how much a 22 year old woman earning $10/hour would lose over her lifetime if she took three years out of the workforce to raise children. At that income, she would lose over $225,000 in lost wages and benefits.
Do you want to see the hidden costs for your family? Find the calculator at http://interactives.americanprogress.org/childcarecosts/.