Many couples are choosing to start families later in life compared to their parents and grandparents. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the mean age of first-time mothers is rising, from 25 years old in 2009 to 26.3 years old just five years later.1 And, increasingly, mothers are waiting to have their first child at age 35 or older. This trend has financial implications. On one hand, parents may be more financially secure and have clear priorities for the future. On the other hand, these parents are closer to retirement, so balancing kids’ expenses with saving can be a juggle.
If you choose to have your first child later in life, here are four key do’s and don’ts to help you manage your finances with confidence:
Do establish a solid financial foundation. Your household expenses will likely increase once you’re paying for childcare, additional checkups at the doctor or dentist, and other items for your child. With this in mind, consider using the discretionary income you have today to shore up your financial position. Prioritize paying off student loans, build an emergency fund (three-to-six months-worth of expenses is a good benchmark), and consider paying more toward your mortgage if you’re a homeowner.
Do boost your savings. Creating a habit early of saving for major goals can help you maintain your savings momentum while you are focused on adapting to your new addition. Harness the power of compound interest by contributing to your retirement accounts with each paycheck and setting aside funds for major goals, such as an annual vacation or home remodel.
Don’t prioritize your child’s college education over retirement. Will you be making tuition payments in your final years of work or in retirement? If this is a possibility, it’s imperative that you create a plan to balance saving for both goals right away. The reality is many couples need to push back their retirement date, figure out how to earn additional income with a different job, or cut back their travel plans to pay for their child’s education. While it’s understandable that you want to provide for your child, keep in mind that health, layoffs or other circumstances outside of your control could change your retirement date. Your child has other options to pay for college – including scholarships, loans and work-study programs – that are not available to you if your retirement savings come up short.
Don’t forget to update your estate plan. Ensuring you have adequate insurance coverage becomes a bigger priority when you have a child in the picture. If you or your partner were to sustain an injury or pass away prematurely, you want to have confidence that your disability and life insurance coverage will cover the financial commitments and goals you have for your family. Reassess your policies and meet with a financial advisor if you want a second opinion on what the right amount of coverage is for you. Additionally, consider purchasing long-term care insurance to cover potential health care expenses in retirement. Policies are typically more affordable when you apply at a younger age so it’s worth taking the time to see if securing coverage makes sense for you.
It’s exciting to dream and plan for all the activities you want to do as an expanded family. If you want a second opinion on how to juggle your financial priorities, meet with a financial advisor in your area.