Parenting is one of the most fulfilling and challenging human experiences. Life can feel overwhelming at times, but planning for your current and future financial life is important. If you have kids, or are thinking about becoming parents, then you have likely started to think about how you can prepare financially for the future. Some of the main areas of focus for parents typically include: budgeting, estate planning, life insurance, health insurance, childcare, college education, teaching your children the value of saving money, having an emergency fund, and saving for your retirement.
How much does it cost to raise a child in the US?
The average cost of raising a child until the age of 18 in the U.S. is roughly $233,610, which is around $12,980 per year. This figure does not include the cost of a college education.
When you have a baby, you may need to adjust how much you save. It’s important to look at the weekly budget for your family and then adjust it to include things such as formula, diapers, clothing, baby gear etc. Sit down and work out any new expenses and then rework your family budget to include them.
At first glance, it may seem difficult to save when you start to adjust your budget to include these expenses. However, you may be able to reduce some of your old expenses to still save your financial goals.
Estate planning is something that is often forgotten about but it is very important, especially if you have children. Estate planning is about creating a plan for your loved ones if you cannot make decisions for yourself, or if your life is cut short.
It consists of:
- A Trust (this may not apply to every situation but the next 3 apply to everyone).
- A Will
- Advance Healthcare Directives
- A Power of Attorney
The advance healthcare directives and power of attorney enable you to choose the people who will make decisions for you in a time when you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
Wills and Trusts are important because they list out what you want to happen to your money and belongings when you are gone. A Will also establishes a guardian for your child(ren) in the event that you pass away before they reach the age of majority (18 or 21 depending upon the state they live in). If you do not appoint a guardian, then the court will appoint one for you. If they can’t appoint someone then your child(ren) can end up in foster care.
You can also name two types of guardians – one to look after your children and one to look after your assets. You can change your Will and beneficiaries at any time, which you may do in the future if you have any additional children. Estate planning can often be uncomfortable for people and it’s hard to think about the worst case scenario but it’s better to have it set up in case something does happen.
Life insurance provides money for those left behind such as your spouse and/or your children. You can tailor your life insurance to your specific situation and what’s important to you. It can help pay off the mortgage of your house or fund your child(ren)’s education. If you are at a point in your life where someone relies on you financially, such as your children, then life insurance is essential.
If you are working full-time then you probably have life insurance through your company. Most companies only provide coverage equivalent to one year’s worth of your salary. Make sure you check how much life insurance you have and if it would be enough to cover everything that you want if something devastating did happen. For example, you might want to make sure that there is enough money to pay off the mortgage so that your family doesn’t have to worry about this expense. There is no one right life insurance policy for everyone but there are best practices that financial planners can recommend.
Your health insurance will likely cover your birth and postpartum stay, but you will want to add your new baby to your health insurance as soon as possible. This generally needs to be done within the first 30 days after they are born. Make sure you contact your health insurance provider so that you can get all the necessary forms. If you fill out as much of the paperwork as possible before he/she is born, then you will have less to do after they are born.
Childcare is one of the largest costs of raising a child. As parents, one of the most challenging practical aspects is balancing work and childcare responsibilities. Whether you plan on having one parent stay at home, or both work full time, it’s important to adjust your budget accordingly. Childcare can be especially challenging for single parents.
The cost of childcare has been increasing. It can range anywhere from $400 to more than $2,000 per month depending on where you live. As a parent you have to make the decision between staying in the workforce and paying for childcare or leaving the workforce. This is a personal, and financial, decision. Nowadays, there are also work-from-home positions which can be a great option for parents.
It is important to decide if you are going to save for your children’s education. Setting up a college savings account is one of the best things that you can do to set your child up for a good financial future. This may include a tax-advantaged 529 plan, a savings account, or a UTMA account.
Teach your children the value of saving money
Saving for your children is important, but it is also important to teach them the value of saving for themselves. Research shows that teaching your children about finances at a young age can help improve the way that they handle their finances as adults. You can help them set up savings goals, go over bank statements with them, and talk to them about why they are saving.
When appropriate, you can also include your children in your financial discussions. For example, if you are saving for vacation, you can explain how you are doing it so that they can get involved as well. Teach your children that it costs money to do fun things and how saving can help you achieve certain goals. It’s important for kids to see and hear your discussions around finances so that they can make smart financial decisions in the future.
Increase your emergency fund
If your income stream suddenly stopped, an emergency fund can support your family until you have income again. Having a child may increase what you need saved in an emergency fund. We generally recommend keeping three to six months worth of living expenses readily available for emergencies, but this amount may increase depending on your personal situation. Your emergency fund should be easy to access in the event that you need the money quickly. `
Don’t forget to save for your retirement
While it’s important to save for your children’s future, make sure that you don’t forget to save for your retirement. This will also help reduce the possibility that your child will need to financially support you later in life.
Expert advice on financial planning for your family
Proper financial planning will make a difference in your children’s financial future but, above all else, children need your love, attention and presence. A financial planner can look at your overall finances and then offer strategies and suggestions for your family. As your family grows and changes, your financial plan will also change. If you are interested in having a comprehensive financial plan for your family, schedule a free discovery call with one of our financial advisors today.
Alvin Carlos, CFP®, CFA is an investment advisor and fee-only financial planner, in Washington, D.C that works with clients across the country. He has a Master’s degree in International Relations from SAIS-Johns Hopkins. Alvin is a partner of District Capital, a financial planning firm designed to help professionals in their 30s and 40s achieve their financial goals through smart investing, reducing taxes, retirement planning, and maximizing their money. Schedule a free discovery call to learn how we can help elevate your finances.