While today's economy continues to put extra stress on most Americans' wallets, those preparing to welcome a new child into the family experience the added pressure of a whole new set of expenses.
From diapers to baby furniture and day care, the costs for new parents mount quickly. For some, the reality of these expenses is daunting. Others are completely unaware of how the joy of a new child will impact their financial situation.
So, just how much does a baby cost?
The answer depends on many factors. Does one parent stay at home or does the family hire a child care provider? Will the child attend public or private school? Is there a need for a larger home or car for the growing clan? Raising a child costs an average of nearly $11,000 the first year and more than $220,000 for the first 18 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
So where do expecting and new parents start? Thrivent Financial for Lutherans offers these five "baby steps" to help them prepare.
1. Start early. During your pregnancy, take the time to determine your family's immediate financial needs as well as your long-term goals.
2. Create a realistic budget. Determine the true cost of what you will need and weigh it against the new realities of your household income situation. This is particularly important if you plan on leaving the workforce for an extended period of time. Consult another new parent for a list of monthly baby expenses to get a clear picture of those costs. (See Building a Basic Family Budget)
3. Start and/or increase an emergency fund. The chances of unexpected expenses will become much greater once the little one comes on the scene.
4. Get protection through proper insurance. It's time to face your own mortality and vulnerability. Protection is critical. Consult with a financial representative to insure your health, property, income and life through appropriate insurance. In addition, consider a juvenile life insurance policy when your child is born. Also, be sure to update the beneficiary designation on your own policies once the baby is born.
"For new parents, one of the biggest financial priorities we hear about is their desire to protect their family's financial future," says Bruce Fear, vice president of protection products and solutions for Thrivent Financial. "The foundation of this protection starts with having the proper insurance in place in case of an unexpected event. This can provide some peace of mind to many parents."
5. Save for college. Before you know it your child will leave the nest, so start saving for junior's college experience now. A financial professional can assist with the various investment tools available today for college savings. Furthermore, opening a savings account in the child's name is a great starting point for depositing monetary gifts given to the child. (see How Will We Ever Save for College?)
Supporting a family is hard work. Having the knowledge and tools you need to help ensure your financial stability will make the journey less complicated and even more rewarding. Get more information.