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It’s no secret that having children is expensive. But the actual numbers can still come as a shock. On average, middle-income parents in America will spend more than $230,000 to raise a child, from birth to age 18. And that number doesn’t include the expense of college (which typically costs more than $100,000 over four years). It’s a tremendous undertaking.
Of course, cost alone shouldn’t stop you from having children. It just means that you’ll want to think strategically about how becoming a parent will affect your finances and plan accordingly. This week’s guest on She Makes Money Moves is the mother of a one-year-old son. She and her husband would like to have more children, but they’d also like to purchase a home and save for retirement. To help her figure out how to do that—without going broke—Barry welcomed Shannon McLay, founder & CEO of the Financial Gym, onto the podcast. Here, McLay breaks down how you should prepare to pivot to parenthood.
Plan as far ahead as possible
When Financial Gym clients first start working with us, we’ll ask them what their short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals are. Most people have a really clear idea of what their short-term goals are (stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, build up savings and pay down consumer debt) and even have a vague idea of their long-term goals (retire some day). But medium-term goals are often very gray and murky. Especially when it comes to working with single women in their 20s and 30s. We’ll ask them if they intend to get married and have a family in the future. They usually respond with “I’m not even dating anyone…but yes, eventually.”
We often forget that life goals equal financial goals, and making the decision to become a parent comes with some serious financial implications. Do you think you’ll want to freeze your eggs? Do you work in an industry that could offer maternity leave, or are you self-employed and would need to fund it on your own? If you ran into infertility problems would it be important for you to take further measures like IVF to have a baby or would you want to adopt? The sooner you start thinking about the possible routes you may want to take, the more prepared you’ll be mentally and financially when the expenses come up. (Of course there are many cases where parenthood is impossible to plan for far in advance. So in those instances, we recommend sitting down and mapping out a budget early into your pregnancy.)
Decide on childcare options
The next step is to consider what types of childcare options you have available to you and how you’ll afford them. We always suggest that future parents calculate the monthly expense of having a child and set that amount aside, depositing it in a baby fund. This helps them save up the upfront costs of becoming a parent and gives them time to incorporate the cost into their budget so it’s not so much of a shock when the child arrives. For example, infant daycare is about $1,000 a month. You can feel confident that you can afford daycare if you can effectively save $1,000 a month towards your baby fund.
On the other hand, some families may find that it makes more sense financially for one parent to stay home and care for the children in lieu of paying for childcare. To prepare for this, we recommend that they begin practicing living on one income and saving the other.
Budget for the long-run
Many parents make the mistake of thinking that their budgets are going to become a lot more flexible once their children are old enough to go to public school, because the childcare costs will be reduced or go away completely. However, the child-related expenses do not go away once daycare goes away. At the Financial Gym, we recommend that parents continue to allocate roughly what they were used to spending on childcare for miscellaneous things such as new clothes, extracurricular activities, birthday parties, family vacations, unexpected dental and vision care, and of course, college.
According to a survey by Fidelity, the sponsor of She Makes Money Moves, 80% of women aren’t talking about money with the people closest to them. Today Glamour invites you to the conversation: Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, in the iHeartRadio app, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and join us as we help women raise their voices and make money moves.
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