How much does it cost to raise a child? Over $233,000 for one born in 2015, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and that doesn’t even include college. At first, that figure seems way off, but then you take a closer look at what you have to pay for — education, medical care, food, clothes — and it all makes sense. Being able to afford all this takes careful financial planning, which should begin now. Here are some tips to help you along the way.
Know Your Worth
A surprising number of adults don’t know how much they own in assets, yet it’s vital in being able to protect your wealth, plan for future goals, and pay for unexpected expenses, says one financial writer at NerdWallet. Of course, having children only makes it more important. To put a dollar figure on your wealth, you’ll need to add up the value of everything you own, from cash to stocks to fixed assets, the most important being your home’s worth. There are plenty of websites where you can find out how much it’s worth, but for a more precise estimate, you may want to ask a real estate agent for a competitive market analysis
Don’t be too upset if your net worth is less than you’d expected. There are ways to increase that figure, and the simplest is to reduce your expenses. Unfortunately, that may mean canceling an expensive vacation or eating in rather than at a fancy restaurant. Of course, sacrificing these pleasures isn’t so hard if you’re doing it for the welfare of your own child. Get in the habit of performing a cash flow analysis that breaks down income, bills, spending, and savings to get an accurate idea where your money is going. Once you have a budget, stick to it.
Prepare for Emergencies
So where do you put those extra savings? At least some should go into a bank account set aside to pay for the unexpected -- and there’s plenty of that once you’re a parent. Something as small as falling off their bike could send you into financial limbo, as would a faulty transmission or damage to your home. How much to put in depends a lot on your lifestyle, but the general rule of thumb is enough to live on for between six to 12 months, accounting for all your expenses, including student debt and your mortgage.
Save for Their Education
Another part of those savings should go into a college fund, as the price of higher education has risen to over $20,000 a year for in-state residents at public universities, reports CNBC, and there’s no indication that figure will decrease. The most common place to park your funds for this expense is a 529 plan, which is a tax-advantaged account sponsored by a state agency or educational institution. To set one up, you’ll need to contact the company operating as the administer in your state and do some research into what type of plan works best for your family.
Choose the Right Insurance
This can be a little bit difficult to sort out, as around half of working-age adults receive coverage from their employer, and these plans often extend to spouses and dependents. As a couple, have a close look at what your policies offer and take it from there. Bear in mind that in some cases, it’s actually more cost-effective for both of you stay on your respective job-based insurance while finding a private policy for your child. In addition, they may be eligible for government assistance such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It’s a smart idea to get an umbrella policy as well if you don’t already have one. Umbrella policies start at $1,000,000 and cover bodily injury to the other party should you get into an accident or someone gets injured at your home. For $200-$300 a year, it's worth getting an umbrella policy to protect your assets.
Now you’re on your way to providing for your child’s needs while maintaining a decent standard of living. If you do it right, there may be enough left over for a trip to Disneyland.