4 Financial Question to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Parent

by Dana George | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on June 4, 2021

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Baby in mother's lap staring up at doctor.

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Since there's no official test we have to take to become parents, it's up to us to test ourselves.

My kids have flown the coop, and though being a parent is the best job I've ever had, I don't believe I did everything right. Because of that, I have plenty to say to any parent-to-be who cares to listen. But I won't do that to you.

I will, however, give you some questions to ask of yourself. Whether you're adopting, pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, having a plan in place (even if that "plan" is a bit of a moving target) may help calm your nerves.

1. Do I have adequate health insurance?

If you're having a baby and have employer-sponsored health insurance, find out your maximum out-of-pocket limit for the year. Budget to spend at least that much. The great thing about planning? You can sign up for your employer's health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). Both allow you to save money on taxes while you sock funds away to cover medical expenses.

If you don't have employer-sponsored insurance coverage, HealthCare.gov can walk you through the steps to sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Medical debt is one of the top reasons people file for personal bankruptcy protection, so take time to figure out how you'll pay those expenses before you (or your child) actually need medical care.

2. Does my employer provide parental leave?

If you've never welcomed a child into your home, you may be surprised by the period of adjustment it requires. For some parents, it's pure bliss mixed with utter exhaustion. For others, it feels surreal. Whatever your experience, you should reach out for help if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Before there's a new little presence in the house, find out if your employer provides parental leave, and if so, whether it's paid or unpaid.

If possible, build time in to be away from work so you can focus on taking care of yourself and your child. Whether you're taking a break from a traditional job or you're self-employed and need time away from your own business, figure out what the budget will look like during that period. The farther in advance you can start putting funds away for parental leave, the better.

3. Have I prepared for the costs associated with a child?

Even if you hear tales of woe from other parents, there's no reason to panic about how much it's going to cost to raise your child. Planning beats panicking every time. After all, you're not going to be paying for Pampers and soccer camp at the same time.

Right now, budget for the first six months. Factoring in expenses like diapers, formula, prescriptions, and pediatrician visits can help you get through those months without too many financial shocks. By the way -- and I really wish someone had told me this -- your child is going to grow like a weed. There is zero reason to buy a closet full of new clothes when your little one will be just as happy wearing hand-me-downs and things you pick up at consignment shops. Your child will look just as adorable in a slightly-used ensemble.

Toward the end of the first six months, plan for the next six months. Save planning for the long term for once you've gotten through that critical first year.

4. Will I continue working? If so, have I planned for the cost of childcare?

I'm not going to soft-pedal it: Childcare is expensive. According to Verywell Family, the average cost of infant daycare ranges from $5,760 to $20,880 per year. For many families, daycare ranks right up with the cost of housing. The good news is that you won't pay daycare costs forever. And by the time your child has outgrown daycare and started school, you will have developed a great habit of putting a chunk of money aside each month. That's money you can invest for your future.

Although I promised not to offer unwanted advice, allow me to share one thought: Enjoy every minute of this parenthood thing. No matter how much it stretches your budget (or your nerves), there's nothing quite like it. Even with great financial planning, surprises will pop up, and that's okay. You'll get through them and learn a ton of lessons along the way.

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