Q: My wife and I are expecting our first child. What are some of the financial issues we should be thinking about?
A: Having a baby can be a joyful experience. But you’re right in understanding that it also has financial implications. The sooner you deal with some of these issues, the better off you’ll be in the long run, experts say.
Financial planner Elizabeth Jetton, who chairs the Denver-based Financial Planning Association, said one of the first issue soon-to-be parents must come to terms with is whether one spouse will have to drop out of the work force to care for the child.
“There’s a cost to mom or dad staying home,” Jetton said. “There’s also a cost to working — the added childcare.”
Either way, parents may find they have to manage their overall spending better so they can live on less income or divert some for daycare services, she said.
Jetton said that many expectant parents “succumb to ’spenditis’ the minute the child is conceived.”
Her recommendation is that they should set limits on their spending for baby furniture, clothes and play things. There’s nothing wrong, she said, with getting relatives to chip in for expensive items like strollers, or using hand-me-down clothing from relatives and friends.
Life insurance for both parents is also an area that needs an early review, Jetton said.
“If something happens to the primary earner, you want to be sure that there’s enough money to assure that child can grow up in a good environment, go to college, and that the surviving parent can get the childcare support they need,” Jetton said.
Another important area is health care insurance.
The Financial Planning Association and insurer Aetna Inc. recently expanded their joint Web site, www.planforyourhealth.com, to include baby budgets and benefits.
Sandy Jones, who with daughter Marcie Jones wrote “Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth,” said that many expectant mothers spend more time decorating the nursery than figuring out if they have adequate coverage for the child’s delivery and postnatal care.
“As soon as you know you’re pregnant, you should pick up your insurance card and call your health insurance company,” Jones said. “Ask them what your policy covers. ... And ask them when to add your baby to your policy.”
Couples who don’t have health insurance coverage should look for local and state programs. “There are many that pay for prenatal and postnatal care,” she said.
Jones also suggests that expectant parents take the time to research purchases for the baby so they get what they really need at affordable prices.
“A $1,200 jogging stroller may look trendy, but do you really need it?” she asks. And, she added, mid-priced strollers often perform just as well as the very expensive models.
There are two items that Jones recommends parents buy new and not used — cribs and car seats.
“The more recent the crib, the better shape it’s in and the more likely it will have undergone rigorous testing,” Jones said.
As for car restraints, parents shouldn’t risk the possibility that a used child’s car seat has undetectable damage, such as deteriorating straps, she said.
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