Modern families come in many configurations, but whatever your structure one fact never changes: adding kids to the household equation costs a whole bunch. According to the most recently available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will run a middle-income couple slightly more than $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18. Oh by the way, that number doesn’t include your future college-bound offspring’s education. If you’re a single parent that financial burden will weigh on you even more heavily.
Costs aren’t decreasing, either – thanks to many expenses that parents no longer consider optional, such as private schools, orthodontics, traveling sports teams and other activities. According to the same USDA study, the average middle-income, two-parent household spent 18% of its budget on education and child care in 2013, up from 2% in 1960. Add rapidly rising health care costs to the picture and even families with exceptional employer-subsidized health plans must plan to allocate a bigger slice of the household budget as the number of dependents increases.
Whether you’re expecting, adopting or you’ve recently welcomed your first child or multiples to this world, don’t wait too long to revise your financial plan. As your family grows, so do your financial considerations, from selecting the right insurance protection to weighing the benefits of stay-at-home-Dad or working Mom status versus the cost of full-time child care.
One of the most critical financial steps parents can take is to sit down and analyze their change in spending patterns. Whether it’s the added cost of diapers, a new nursery, higher health premiums or the need to trade that two-seater in for a larger or newer vehicle, expect your financial picture to change drastically and immediately. And, even if you’ve delayed starting or growing your family and are more financially secure than most young parents, you’ll watch your monthly cash outflow change quite dramatically.
Once you’re responsible for someone other than yourself, emergency funds are even more important. If your new addition taxes your paycheck to the limit, now might be a good time to talk to your banker about a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or other alternatives for handling unexpected needs.
Finally, whether it’s your first or second family, you’ll also want to revisit essential documents, such as your will, clear instructions for guardianship and provisions for childcare should you be incapacitated.
Your life as a parent will be filled with plenty of shocks and surprises, but financial matters shouldn’t be one of them. Babies crawl before they walk – and if your finances are still in the formative stage, let’s talk about getting yours out of training pants.