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by Maggie Germano
October 29, 2020
by Maggie Germano
October 29, 2020
I’m about to enter the third trimester of my first pregnancy. As a soon-to-be mother, I’m excited and scared. As a financial coach, I’ve been in planning mode for months. Having a child is not only a huge physical and emotional change, but it will also be a huge financial change. It’s important to me to understand and ensure that I am taking the right steps to prepare and protect our finances for starting a family.
I recently spoke to Chelsea Brennan, who is the founder of Smart Money Mamas and the annual Mamas Talk Money summit, about what steps new parents should take as they prepare to start a family. As it’s such a new, transformational time, and it can be easy to overlook the financial aspect, but it’s so important to keep money in mind as you are planning ahead.
Having a kid is expensive! There is a statistic out there that says that it costs about $250,000 to raise a child up to the age of 18. Luckily, Brennan clarified that the statistic includes the cost of buying a larger house, with the assumption that families tend to upgrade when they add a child to the mix. So if you don’t think you will need to move, you likely won’t spend quite as much as the statistic.
However, there are still lots of expenses that come along with having a child. Whether it’s the supplies you need to prepare your home for the baby, or the items that you need to pay for to maintain the life and health of the child moving forward. It’s important to understand what these one-time and ongoing costs will be, so that you can create or adjust your family budget accordingly.
Some things to consider:
When we are planning to start a family, the last thing we want to think about is illness, injury, and death. Unfortunately, at the same time, these are exactly the types of things we should be thinking of as we are planning to add a child to the family. We can never anticipate the things that might happen to us, or when illness, injury, or death will come along.
That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead and get organized so that our family will be taken care of if something is to happen. Here are the main things you should do as you think about having a child:
It’s so important to remember that while you can take out loans for things like buying a home, going to college, or buying a car, you can’t actually take out a loan for retirement. When we are caring for other people, it can feel like we have to prioritize them over ourselves at every turn. But the truth is, if you don’t prioritize your retirement planning, everyone will end up being hurt in the long run. If you don’t have enough money invested to care for yourself in your retirement years, it’s likely that your children will have to be the ones to care for you, physically and financially, if needed.
So make sure to review your investment plan early on while you’re starting a family. At the very least, make sure you’re contributing to your employer-provided retirement plan and getting any match amount that they might offer. If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, you should open an IRA and get started from there. If you can, reach out to a financial planner to get guidance and support so that you know you’re allocating your money in the right way to reach your long-term financial goals.
If you are going to be a working parent, make sure you get really clear about what your parental leave will look like. Find out exactly how much time you’re allotted through your employer. Your partner should do this too. Everyone should be taking as much parental leave as they possibly can, so that we can not only get the healing and bonding time we need, but so that we can also normalize this benefit.
Once you understand your parental leave policy, start working with your manager to create a transition plan. According to Brennan, this is a great time to have important conversations with your manager and team members. “Obviously, there are a lot of things that you do that your employer doesn’t realize that you do, that your team members don’t realize that you do. And so creating as clean systems as possible, and communicating whether you’re going to be available or not available on maternity leave [is important].”
It’s not possible for everyone to be completely unavailable during family leave and still maintain their position at work, so make sure you understand if that’s the case for you and that you set boundaries with your colleagues. This can be a really powerful move for your career, as you show that you want things to move smoothly while you’re gone and continue to succeed when you come back.
If parental leave is not an option for you, see if there are other solutions you can take advantage of. If you can afford it, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.” You can also see if your employer will allow you to move to part-time or incorporate flexible hours.
This piece of advice has come up whenever I talk to anyone about starting a family and becoming a mother for the first time. Brennan’s advice was no different: “Do not make any major life decisions in the first six months after your kid is born. Ideally a year, but the first six months after your kid is born, they will be changing constantly, you will be changing dramatically, you’re going through hormonal stuff - you might have postpartum depression - there are a million different things that can happen in that six month period. Whatever your plan was - you’re going to go back to work, you’re not going to go back to work - stick to it and reevaluate after six months.” Once you’re able to adjust to your new life circumstances and get back to a place where you feel more like yourself again, take the time to reevaluation your life decisions.
If you follow these steps as you prepare to start a family, you’ll be much better off, both financially and in terms of stress. You’ll know that you are doing the things you need to do to protect yourself and your family from financial hardship and uncertainty.
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