Pregnancy is a time of excitement but it is also a time of uncertainty, especially when it comes to money. No matter how much you read or research, much of becoming a parent lies in the unknown. At Abacus, our goal is to help transform that uncertainty into a solid, grounded plan so you can move confidently toward growing your family.
Parents-to-be are rightly worried about the start-up costs of having a baby and how to navigate the changes a new bundle of joy brings to your overall financial goals and career. It’s important to remember the baby care market is a $214.13 billion industry trying to persuade eager young parents to buy all kinds of things that their baby will likely never use. Add in a few high-pressure mom-Facebook-groups, and you’ll question everything from what crib sheets you buy to how much maternity leave you take.
The following simple, positive steps are small things you can do (while you still have enough time and energy!) to prepare for your new arrival.
If Money Were Easy
Anticipating Pregnancy or First Trimester
Whether planning, actively trying, or in your first trimester, there are a few key steps to set yourself up for financial success early on.
If you’re in debt, make it a top priority to create a debt management plan to pay off as much debt as possible before the baby arrives. Repaying debt prior to facing potentially hefty medical expenses through delivery, or ongoing increased expenses as you look at medical care for your new baby, childcare, and more, can alleviate some financial pressure on you and your family. Prioritize paying off high-interest debt first, like any outstanding credit card balances you’re carrying month to month. If you’re only carrying low-interest or long-term debt (like your mortgage), prioritizing savings is a-okay!
Plan for Increased Expenses
Talk with your partner about spending changes you’ll have pre- and post-baby and work to create a new household budget. Ensure it includes diapers, increased health insurance costs, and childcare expenses.
Start Researching Childcare
While it might seem premature to begin visiting daycares, you could be taken aback by the lengthy waitlists prevalent in your vicinity. In certain areas with high demand, waitlists for premium daycares or part-time childcare could extend for a year or more. Take the opportunity to tour a couple of facilities, calculate potential expenses, and consider your alternatives sooner rather than later.
Considering a nanny share or au pair for childcare can provide you with alternative options that are both flexible and potentially more cost-effective. A nanny share involves sharing a nanny’s services with another family, allowing you to split the costs while still receiving personalized care. On the other hand, an au pair is a young person who lives with your family and assists with childcare in exchange for room, board, and a stipend, offering cultural exchange along with childcare support. Exploring these avenues can help you tailor your childcare approach to your family’s unique needs.
Consider Your Work Transitions and Parental Leave
During the early stages of pregnancy, you might find it challenging to manage your daily tasks due to nausea, fatigue, and the mix of emotions that come with being newly pregnant. Nevertheless, this period is opportune for contemplating your career trajectory after having a baby. Mapping out a maternity leave strategy, identifying colleagues who can assist with your tasks at work, and establishing a communication plan regarding your leave can contribute to setting a strong foundation for your success.
Parental leave policies are increasingly recognizing and accommodating same-sex couples. In these cases, the benefit for the non-child bearing parent is often equal to that of the child-bearing parent. This approach ensures that both parents, regardless of their gender or biological role, have the opportunity to bond with and care for their child during those crucial early months. Such policies demonstrate a commitment to equality and inclusivity in recognizing diverse family structures and parenting roles. Confirm the specific policy with your HR department. Inquire about the benefit for the non-child bearing parent to ensure you have a clear understanding of the available options and support.
After your maternity leave, you might find it beneficial to make adjustments to your schedule, such as implementing a flexible work-from-home arrangement or sharing home and office time with your spouse or partner. Considering these logistics in advance enables you to develop a plan that aligns your lifestyle with your values.
Evaluate Your Insurance
Having a baby is a qualifying event that allows you to update your insurance elections. You must enroll within 30 days of the birth to add the child. If both you and your partner have access to health plans, it’s crucial to choose the plan that suits your situation best. This might involve enrolling your kids on one plan and your spouse on another, or it could be more practical for the whole family to be on a single family plan. Be aware that some companies may charge a penalty if both spouses are employed and you choose to combine into one spouse’s plan. While the penalty is usually less than the savings, it’s still important to watch out for.
Ensure you have the appropriate type of coverage. I had to look at this carefully when I had my children. At the time, I believed a high deductible health plan (HDHP) was the right choice, but in retrospect, that may not have been the right choice. You might also realize that a comprehensive family plan aligns better with your needs, especially considering the frequent visits to the pediatrician during your baby’s initial years. Insurance is highly intricate, so it’s crucial to consult with an expert to ensure you’re making the most informed decision.
Consider whether using an HMO or PPO plan is suitable for your pregnancy journey. It’s advisable to make these choices in advance, but remember that since childbirth is a qualifying event, you can also leverage it as a chance to switch plans if needed, especially since your needs as a pregnant person may differ from your needs as a parent with young children..
If you do end up using a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and decide it’s still a fit for your family’s changing needs, it may make sense to increase your health savings account (HSA) or flex-spending contributions to cover increased co-pays and delivery deductible during pregnancy (if applicable). Just be careful of the flexible spending account (FSA) use-it-or-lose-it provisions, and make sure to use all the funds in the account by the end of the year.
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) for dependent care provide a valuable financial tool for parents. These accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars to cover eligible childcare expenses, such as daycare or after-school care. Utilizing an FSA for dependent care can result in significant tax savings and help ease the financial burden of childcare costs.
Additionally, you may want to consider increasing disability insurance coverage now that you have a new dependent. If your baby depends on your income, you need to protect those earnings. Make sure you have both short- and long-term coverage.
Consider getting term life insurance policies (or increase existing coverage) for yourself and your partner. In general, there are two different types of life insurance – term and whole. Term life insurance is structured to last for an increment of time – often 10, 20, or 30 years. Whole life insurance, on the other hand, is intended to last for your whole life. It can also be unnecessarily expensive.
If you have life insurance through your employer, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s likely not enough to cover expenses your partner and child may have if you pass away. This is especially true if you’re your family’s breadwinner or high-income and/or have stock options that could fund your family’s future goals.
Insurance laddering can be a solution for those who want more coverage but don’t want to commit to (often unnecessary) whole-life insurance. Through insurance laddering, you’d buy three policies of different lengths. For example, you might buy a $250,000 10-year, 20-year, and 30-year policy. Then, while your potential costs are high (when your child is young), you have more coverage. But, as time goes on, and you continue to save more, pay down debt, and eventually become empty nesters, your coverage (and premiums) decrease.
Finally, if you’re the one physically having the baby, it’s important to look into life insurance during the first or second trimester. Unfortunately, many life insurance policies become considerably more expensive for a person who has a higher body mass index (BMI). In an entirely supportive world, this would not be a factor at all for those who become pregnant, however, this is a realistic surprise you don’t want to encounter.
In your second trimester, you may have more energy to tackle bigger “to-do’s” and start checking more items off of your list.
Update Your Estate Plan
Who would you want to take care of your child if something happened to you? This is the time to create or update your estate documents to make sure you control what happens if you pass away before your child turns 18. You’ll want to consider guardianship, whether or not you want a living trust in place, and how you want to provide for your baby in the event of an emergency.
Notify any guardians that have been named in your will and make sure they’re on board. It’s also wise to create an advance healthcare directive to guide your loved ones through how you want specific medical decisions to be handled in the event that you’re incapacitated.
Double-check beneficiaries on all existing retirement and life insurance accounts and make sure they’re up-to-date.
Chat with your Insurance Company
Call your health insurance to verify coverage for delivery, baby’s post-delivery care, and the deductible for your hospital visit.
Review Your Withholdings
Update tax withholding on your W-4 and check for child tax credits.
Collect Your Information
Make a binder or folder with your current account information, life insurance policies, and will in an emergency.
Research Cord Blood Banking
This is a procedure to preserve stem cells that reside in your baby’s umbilical cord for potential future medical use, such as cancer treatment or other blood diseases. There can be costs associated with storage, so you’ll want to check out the pros and cons of public versus private avenues.
This is getting real! You’re almost to the finish line. Now is the time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Collect Your Insurance Information
Make photocopies of all your health insurance cards.
Pack Your Hospital Bag
Put insurance copies, advance healthcare directives, or birth plans in the hospital bag.
Automate Your Finances
Pay all bills or schedule automatic payments one month before the due date. Set up all bills on automatic payment after that. Automating will save you future headaches when you’re exhausted with a new baby! One less thing to worry about.
Check-In at Work
Call Human Resources to verify any benefits forms needed to update post-baby. Download an Employment Development Department (EDD) family medical leave application for each parent’s parental leave, then check with HR on the same call about procedures.
You’ll also want to check in regarding any options you may have for creating and/or using flexible spending accounts (FSAs) for dependent care, health savings accounts (HSAs), or other workplace benefits around dependent care.
Now is also the time to chat with your boss and team to ensure the handoff during your leave goes smoothly. Assure the employees you manage that someone will support them while you’re away, and put a communication tree in place so that you have a backup for your backup.
Don’t Buy All the Stuff
You don’t need more, you need less. There is strong cultural pressure to have the latest, greatest outfits and baby gear money can buy. Spending money on all of these things can bring added stress to your finances and, chances are, you won’t use most of what you buy anyway. You don’t need a bigger house, you don’t need to turn your nursery into a Babies ‘R’ Us, and you don’t need bigger headaches. Talk to parents who found ways to minimize expenses by being mindful of using only what their baby truly needed and you’ll likely find yourself far happier (and certainly less cluttered).
Congratulations! Becoming a parent is so exciting, and it can also feel overwhelming at times. While you’re in the thick of it, remember these things.
Before You Leave the Hospital:
- Complete the baby’s birth certificate at the hospital and…
- Apply for the baby’s Social Security card and passport if international travel is likely.
Within Your First Month at Home:
- Add your baby to your family health insurance policy within 30 days of delivery.
- Open a separate account to invest gifts from family members, or consider a 529 Plan to start saving for your child’s future education costs. After all, you now have 18 years to get a jump on saving and investing to grow their savings and help them graduate debt-free!
In the First Few Months:
- Open a dependent care flex-spending for tax-free savings and use that money for daycare costs.
- Think about whether you want to look for a nanny, daycare, or a blended option as you gear up to head back to work – or make a call about how to transition to a new job or career that gives you more flexibility if that’s what you decide is best for you and your family.
- Remember: whatever you decide to do is “right.”
Childcare is a personal decision; only you know your family’s needs!
Take a Little Time Today to Plan for Tomorrow
Don’t worry if you can’t do everything on this list. Every family approaches life’s unknowns differently and has unique situations. But the more you can be aware of and proactively have in place, the more time and peace of mind you’ll have to focus on living in the present with your newborn.
Remember, starting a family is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Planning ensures you’re as prepared as possible and helps relieve inevitable uncertainties. An Abacus financial advisor can help keep you on track so you can focus on the joys of parenting instead of worrying about those unexpected costs around the corner. Schedule a call today.