Navigating the many challenges of parenting (including your finances!)
Ah, parenting. Whether you’re hoping to be a parent or (like me!) you’re already swimming in the thick of it, it’s a time of life that is filled with dreams, expectations, and challenges. Having just returned to work after the birth of my second child, I know just how overwhelming navigating the challenges can be!
Now that I have two little ones to manage—our two-year-old daughter and now a two-month-old son—I’m finding that my #1 struggle is managing my time. On the one hand, there is this little tiny human who relies on me for absolutely everything. On the other hand (and very often hanging from my leg as well) is a somewhat less tiny human who needs me almost as much! I feel like every minute is occupied, and every time I try to tackle even the smallest thing on my to-do list, my son needs to be fed or held or swaddled to sleep, and my daughter is competing for every ounce of my attention. Just doing a load of laundry is daunting, and what used to be a quick trip to the market now requires 20 minutes of preparation (at least!) just to get both kids packed up, packed in, and on the road. It’s an endless whirlwind of activity and, yes, parental responsibility.
As a parent, I know that these demands on my time, energy, and patience aren’t going to slow down any time soon. As a financial planner, I also know that parenting doesn’t mean I can afford to put my finances on hold. In fact, it means that careful financial planning is more important than ever before. According to this article in Parenting magazine, new parents can expect to spend close to $50 per week—or $2,448 per year—on diapers, formula, and baby food alone. And the total cost of raising a child to age 18 is stunning. One 2018 study reports that the typical American parent spends an estimated $348,000 per child over the course of their lifetime, while higher-income parents expect to spend double that amount—or more. Yikes.
Despite those big and scary numbers, I’m a firm believer that deciding to become a parent should never be based on money and finances alone. But I have seen first-hand how careful planning can ease the way for parents, giving you financial peace of mind—even if you can’t find a moment’s peace in any other area of your life. Here are just a few tips for parents that can help smooth the financial path ahead:
- Consider your daycare options carefully. Often the largest child-related expense for two-income families is daycare. It is something that, like it or not, will impact every aspect of your finances. Here in Indiana, the cost of infant daycare in a licensed daycare facility is around $15,000/year. And that’s just for one child! Of course, there are less costly options. Church daycare is often cheaper, and in-home care can lower costs even further, but any of these options can be hard to come by—no matter how much you are willing or able to pay. In Indiana, there were 19.9 licensed childcare slots available for every 100 children under age 6 in 2015, and based on my own research, I doubt much has changed since then. Long wait lists are common, which can drive up prices even more. If possible, start discussing your options with your spouse from the moment you decide to spend your life together, and then start looking for the right situation for your family as soon as possible.
- Explore the financial tradeoffs. Whether one of you chooses to stay home with the kids or you go the daycare route, the impact on your finances will be major, and adjusting to a single income or a significant new expense will require some financial tradeoffs. Now is the time to get creative and make choices that remove financial stressors and protect your quality of life—however you define that. Some things to consider: downsizing your home (and getting cozy with the kids!), opting for ‘staycations,’ or driving that ancient minivan for another five (or 10!) years. It’s all about making choices that are right for you and your spouse so you can enjoy every minute you have with your family.
- Get your estate plan in order. Before kids, an estate plan was a ‘nice to have’ option. Once you have a family to provide for, it’s a necessity. If something were to happen to you and your spouse, who would raise your kids? Who will manage your assets to be sure your money is used in your children’s best interest? How can you reduce taxes and probate while ensuring your children have what they need to be financially comfortable? A carefully designed estate plan has all the answers. And be sure life insurance is part of the equation. A 20-year term policy is usually relatively inexpensive and will cover you until your children are in or even through college. (Apply for coverage before you’re pregnant to get the lowest-cost premium.) To learn more about estate planning—and how easy it is to do—read my blog post Estate Planning: It’s easier (and more important!) than you think.
- Stay focused on your long-term goals. With the stresses of parenting happening in the moment, it’s easy to put off thinking about your longer-term goals. Don’t do it! If you plan to help fund your kids’ education, start saving today and take advantage of the power of compounding over the next 18 years. Before you start, read my blog post, Parents: Don’t wait to start that 529 Plan!, to learn why a 529 plan may be the best savings option for your child’s college fund. You’ll be amazed how much you can sock away with very little effort. And while you’re at it, be sure you’re contributing as much as possible to your retirement savings. Ensuring your own financial stability once your kids are grown will help you all live happily ever after!
Of course, if you need help making it all happen (and what parent doesn’t need a little help?), please reach out. Our team is at your service to help build and strengthen your financial future—no matter how many mini-me’s you may have in tow!
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