There are plenty of times when discussing finances with our significant others is a good idea. Before moving in together or getting married, or before a big move or a new job, are all good examples.
Another important time to talk about finances is before you have a baby. Almost nothing else in life will have as much of a financial impact, so making sure you’re on the same page before baby comes is a smart move. If you’re stumped on where to start, consider asking your partner the following questions.
1. Who Will Stay Home With Baby?
Perhaps the biggest financial conversation you’ll have with your significant other is whether one of you will stay home with baby, even if only for a limited time. According to recent statistics from Child Care Aware of America, “the cost of child care in every state rivals families’ annual expenditures on housing, transportation and the cost of tuition at a four-year, public university.” Plus, the study added, “in 38 states, the cost of infant care exceeds 10% of the state’s median income for a two-parent family.”
Child care is expensive, but quitting to stay home with a baby means potentially losing healthcare options, access to retirement accounts and matches, paid vacation and sick days, not to mention the mental stimulation and social advantages many get from their jobs. These are all important things to discuss.
2. How Will Our Lifestyle Change?
People make life with a baby work in many scenarios, and what you’re comfortable with will be up to you, but it should be discussed. If you’re in a one-bedroom city apartment and think you can make it work, try it. If an upgrade is in the near future, or you’d like to start putting away money to purchase a house, that’s a conversation to have.
3. Will We Save for Our Child’s Education?
Not everyone can afford to save for their child’s college, and that’s fine. But if it’s something you’d like to consider, start discussing it now. Because of compound interest, the earlier you start saving for your goal, the more you’ll have for your child when they turn 18.
It’s not just whether you’ll save but how much you want to save that should be discussed. Will you save enough money to cover the full cost of tuition at a private college? How about at an Ivy League school? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to chat with your partner so you can figure out what additional monthly savings would mean for your monthly budget. (Chatting with a financial adviser about your financial picture might be smart as well. Remember, experts say not to save for your child’s education if it means having to curb your retirement savings.)
4. Do We Need a Bigger Car or a Second One?
My husband and I managed to live together for eight years before we bought a second car. (In fact, for six of those years we had no car, since we lived in Manhattan and didn’t need one.) We realized, however, that with a baby on the way it was important for us to be able to hop in a car at a moment’s notice, so we decided to lease one. Whether to lease or buy was a big discussion, as was how much car we could afford and what safety features were most important to us, particularly in rugged Colorado.
If you and your significant other have two cars, it’s worth discussing their safety and if it might be time to upgrade now that you’ll be driving a little one around.
5. How Much Can We Budget for Baby?
For many young families, most of the basics are supplied by loving friends and family at a baby shower. Soon, however, your child will grow, and when she does, you’ll need lots of new stuff.
Before baby arrives, sit down and have an overall budget chat so you can determine what wiggle room you have to devote to baby. Even if you don’t end up spending that cash in the first couple of months, try putting it in a special savings account labeled “For Baby” so you have a cushion to fall back on once those new expenses start piling up. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
6. Are the Proper Insurance Policies in Place?
With baby on the way, it might be a good time to start thinking about certain policies to put in place. Short-term disability, for example, is important, should one of you become unable to work for a period of time. (Be sure to check with your employer to find out your options.) Creating a will and naming guardians is important as well, and you’ll want to set up a life insurance policy for both parents.