Good things that come in small packages are often the most expensive things, and babies are no exception. Ask any second-time parent and they will agree – the cost of having a baby, including the basic items the baby needs in the first year of life, such as diapers, formula, baby equipment and clothing, is quite exorbitant in and of itself. Add to the necessities the cost of other expenses, such as daycare and health insurance for the baby, and that tiny bundle of joy turns into a financial nightmare for the unprepared. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge into parenthood and haven’t yet started a “saving for baby” account, now is the time.
Many would-be parents are blissfully unaware of the real financial challenges having a baby can pose, so they experience sticker shock when all the bills start mounting. A recent NerdWallet study of households making $40,000 per year or less showcases some surprising assumptions among parents-to-be. More than half of study participants estimated the cost of raising a baby through his first birthday would be $5,000. Think again. The reality of paying for a baby comes with a significant price tag.
When factoring in everything a tiny baby needs to get his start in the world, the bill totals an average of $21,248, says NerdWallet, or roughly half of the higher limit incomes in the study. In households with $200,000 in income or more, the amount that parents spend from birth through the first birthday can be as much as $51,985, since those in higher income brackets tend to spend more on everything from childcare to clothing and baby furniture. Either way, it’s a huge chunk of change for such a small addition to the family, and one that financial advisors suggest prospective parents should prepare for well in advance.
How do the expenses of baby’s first year mount up to such a large sum? According to NerdWallet, the $21K goes for:
* Child care $8,058
* Housing $4,690
* Transportation $3,344
* Miscellaneous needs $1,941
* Health insurance $1,490
* Out-of-pocket health costs $690
Keep in mind that if you are not paying for childcare, your expenses are greatly reduced. Child care accounts for the largest expense when rearing a baby. If one parent is staying home to care for the baby, the handoff for reduced child care costs is one some families should also prepare for accordingly – the reduction to the family’s income when only one parent works. Again, saving and planning are the keys. Keeping back money to replace the lost income from a stay-at-home parent can make things run much more smoothly once the reality of income loss sets in. Since paid maternity and paternity leaves are not the norm, this is a definite consideration to make for first-time parents.
If you factor in life insurance for mom and dad, a recommended necessity for families with children, add an additional $762 per year. And if you plan to start socking away money for your little one to eventually attend college, add an additional $5,782 to your total.
If you know that a baby is in your future, it’s never too soon to start a “saving for baby” account. Many experts recommend the use of a bucketed savings strategy for parents-to-be that designates dollars saved for a specific expense – in this case, the cost of having and raising a child. Each “bucket” is an account that you set aside for the intended expense. You set a goal for that bucket, and you implement a plan to help you reach that goal. With each paycheck, you add a specific predetermined amount of money to the bucket until the goal is achieved.
The psychology behind bucketed savings gives insight into why many people who struggle to save are suddenly able to succeed when saving in “buckets.” Experts rationalize that savers feel more in control of their money when they are designating it for a specific, tangible goal. Seeing the bucket fill up makes them feel as if they are making some progress towards achieving their goals.
By having a bucket for each goal, you can quickly and easily track the progress you have made, which provides motivation to keep on saving, and at the same time, lets you prioritize the money going from your discretionary income into your bucket.
Notably, this same strategy is effective for reaching your savings goals when you need to save for other life milestones. Creating a “saving for a rainy day” account is a good way to build an emergency fund, while a “saving for a house” account can put you on the road to home-ownership when you sock away money for a down payment. Buckets can be used to create any sort of savings goal, whether you’re saving for a vacation or starting a “saving for a car” account or a “saving for a wedding” account.
Savings accounts pay an average of 0.02 percent in interest per year, making them a slow-go for parents who need to save big. One way to increase your chance of becoming a successful saver and inflate your “saving for baby” account is to use an online saving tool known as Payleaf, which offers savings accounts that pay up to 20 times more interest than the average brick-and-mortar bank. After creating an account with Payleaf and designating a goal, you can earn additional money for your account by doing things you’d do anyway, such as researching companies, giving your opinion, consulting with financial planners and other tasks. After completing a task, Payleaf deposits this money into your savings account, so the process is automatic. It also offers the option for loved ones and family to help you reach your savings goal.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare financially for your new baby is to make sure your health insurance is in order. Medical care during just the delivery of the baby runs from $9,700 to $12,500, and if complications arise, the bill can total up to $300K, notes Parenting. Having a good health plan in place mitigates expenses. Most insured patients pay 20 percent of the cost of care plus any co-payments and the insurance company covers the remaining 80 percent. Examine your plan during open enrollment and make any changes necessary to be sure your prenatal, delivery and postpartum care is covered.
With new parenthood comes new responsibilities, including getting your financial house in order. This includes the need for life insurance to protect your family’s financial future should the unexpected happen. In addition, life insurance can be a good investment in your child’s future, since some policies build up cash value that you can draw against when your child starts college or for other emergencies that may arise down the road.
Term life insurance, which is the most affordable for new parents, is a type of policy that offers coverage for a specific number of years, usually from 10 to 20. The covered death of a policyholder triggers a payment to the beneficiaries of the policy, reducing the financial effect of the loss of a parent. At the end of the term, any money you spend on the policy is essentially lost.
When selecting a term life insurance policy, be sure that the term is sufficiently long enough to provide valuable coverage during the years when you are raising your child, paying off student loan or other debt, and building your retirement fund, suggests NerdWallet. Most people opt for policy amounts that cover the loss of one parent’s income for a set number of years and also takes financial obligations such as college costs into consideration.
Whole life insurance, which costs more than term coverage, covers you as long as you pay your premiums. The insurer uses a portion of the money you pay for your policy to invest in a pool of money you can access during your lifetime if the occasion calls for it. Some parents choose to pay into the policy until their children reach college age and then use the payout from the policy’s cash value to finance their educations.
Some term life policies can also be converted after a period of time to whole life policies, so you can enjoy the low payments of term life while you’re building your family and then convert that policy to a permanent whole life policy later. No matter which type of policy you choose, buying a policy now usually locks in your rate for the future. This is a smart move, since health status, smoking habits and other factors can change, and policies are generally priced, at least in part, based on age, which may increase your coverage cost if you wait.
There you have it – the 411 on saving for baby and preparing financially for your baby’s birth. Having a baby changes everything, but with a little planning and forethought and some savvy financial management, you can make smart decisions as you begin the journey known as parenthood.