When you’re a new parent, you’re too busy snuggling, feeding and bathing your baby to come up with a financial plan. So the time to get money-wise about parenthood is before the diaper changes and middle-of-the-night feedings start.
One hospital is taking an active role in equipping and educating expectant parents on money matters as a part of its larger parenting classes. Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisors Brent Shaw and Jeff Gayonski are partnering with UC Health-West Chester Hospital near Cincinnati to help parents-to-be figure out their financial priorities before baby arrives. Here are their top tips:
CREATE A PARENT BUDGET
“Your budget changes drastically when a child arrives. Some of it is expected and some of it is not,” says Gayonski. So he has expectant parents write down what’s coming in and going out each month. Factor in things like diapers, formula, child care, clothes, toys and taxes, which can work in your favor (child tax credit, anyone?). The numbers should include everything you need to keep your household running.
CALCULATE THE COST OF YOUR BABY
The cost of your new baby can be more than $16,000 just in the first year! Contact your health insurance carrier or double check your policy to make sure you know what will be covered. Does your employer offer short-term disability income insurance? Will that cover any lost income if a parent stays home for a time with the baby? Plan accordingly.
WILL MOM OR DAD WORK?
If someone stays home, will that mean a loss of income? If both parents are working, what kind of child care will you need for your baby and what does that cost? When it comes to these very personal choices, Shaw says, “By thinking about every decision and what it would look like, we can help expectant parents create flexibility.”
REVIEW INSURANCE BENEFITS
This step includes life insurance and short- and long-term disability income insurance. The goal is to make sure your family could continue to survive financially if something unexpected happened. The monthly cost of life and disability income insurance — especially when you’re young and healthy — is probably less than you think.
CREATE AN EMERGENCY FUND
There is no one-size-fits-all number here, but the typical rule of thumb is three to six months of household expenses saved in an account that you can quickly access. If you know you will be tapping into a current emergency fund to help pay for baby, then you will need to create a plan to rebuild it.
CREATE AN ESTATE PLAN
This covers your wishes for your child in the event that something happens to you. Simply telling people around you what you want is legally not good enough. Put it into writing.
“The biggest issue that parents have is that no one will ever be good enough to be a guardian for their child or children,” says Gayonski. “As a dad, I share that feeling. No one will ever be perfect, but please make a decision and document it. We have to make sure our children are taken care of as best we can, and that’s on us as parents.”
SAVE FOR RETIREMENT
Both Gayonski and Shaw admit that for new parents on a budget this can be tough, but the sooner new parents can start, the better. They suggest going after “low-hanging fruit” first, such as employer matches to 401(k) plans. As you begin to save more, they suggest an eventual goal of saving 20 to 25 percent of your household’s gross income for your short- and long-term needs.
SAVE FOR YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION
If this is something you want to do, there are a number of different ways to save, and each has its drawbacks and advantages. A financial professional can talk through the options with you and help you set up an account in your child’s name. Also keep in mind that relatives can contribute gifts to these accounts.