Kids are a wonderful, expensive proposition-your parents probably told you that more than a few times. But the reality is that child costs are daunting whenever and however you have them, and you’ll need to plan. Today, many people are waiting longer to have children due to later marriage, career issues, and a host of other reasons. While that works well for many people, aspiring parents can find a late decision to start a family may produce financial hardships down the line. At the very least, sending junior off to college at a time when you originally hoped to retire can make life very interesting. Yet today, couples and singles also have to plan financially for fertility treatments and adoption. Finally, financial planning for special-needs children provides its own daunting challenges.
That means each child will cost a total of between $173,740 to $191,930 just to get them to senior year. We’re not even talking about college yet. But since you asked…
The College Board estimated that in 2005-2006, annual average tuition and fees were $5,491 at four-year public colleges and $21,235 at four-year private colleges. And for room and board, the cost was $6,636 at four-year public colleges and $7,791 at four-year private colleges. So for tuition, fees, room, and board, that means, at current levels, you would be paying an average of $48,508 for four years of public college, and $116,104 at a private school.
It gets better. Fast-forward to 2024, when the College Board estimates that four-year public school number will be $129,845 and private school will be $314,674. So with that knowledge, how prepared do you want to be?
Planning For Kids: Starting At the Very Beginning
Throughout this article, you’ll be reading about ways to afford kids if you’re having trouble conceiving or if your child has special needs. But the first stop is how much it actually costs to bring kids into the world. (Hint: We’re not just talking about what the health insurance doesn’t pay.) While so many individuals focus on the cost of college and day-today affordability of kids as they grow up, they forget to factor in the cost of lost income for one or both parents during childbirth and the immediate aftermath.
It’s also important to consider the cost of child care for infants if you are planning to go back to work because it’s generally more expensive to find the best child care for infants than it is for older children. Think of the following suggestions as a way to gather funds for immediate, first-year baby expenses, not an education fund-that’s separate.
Setting up a delivery cost fund. First, figure out how much your health plan will pay for the baby’s delivery and immediate aftercare. If you’re in a non-HMO plan, you’re typically going to have to pick up 20 percent of the total bill yourself. If the history of the pregnancy suggests a risk of complications during delivery, you might want to see if you can save more. A sensible way to set this money aside is in a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA) if you have access to both options at your employer or within your small business. A FSA is an account that companies offer workers so the workers can deposit funds to pay their out-of-pocket health and dependent care costs on a pretax basis. However, you have to make a good estimate on the funds you will use over the year because any funds left over will be lost at year-end. A HSA is technically a trust that lets you save pretax dollars for health costs without losing it at year-end. HSAs are often paired with high-deductible health insurance.
Create a baby contingency fund. Kids always cost more than you think they’re going to. Put money aside to cover contingency spending during the first year. Check your short-term disability coverage. Women need to see if their pregnancy is covered under employers’ short-term disability coverage or if a separate policy may provide that coverage. Keep in mind that if you plan to secure this coverage, you should do so well before you are pregnant.
Do some serious budgeting before the baby is born. Even if you’ve never done budgeting before, now’s the time to get serious about it since you’ll be budgeting until the day your kid gets out of college.
Get used to bargain shopping. As you read up on the hundreds of things babies need, start clipping coupons, borrowing hand-me-downs, and cut spending wherever you can. Stockpile what you’re comfortable with and plan how and where you’ll shop so you’ll save not only money once the baby’s born, but time as well.
The Cost of Infertility
As people wait longer to have children, more individuals and couples are fighting the fertility dilemma. According to the National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control, infertility affects about 6.1 million women and their partners in the United States.
According to the organization, the degree of services covered depends on where you live and the type of insurance plan you have. In 2006, 14 states currently have laws that require insurers to either cover or offer to cover some form of infertility diagnosis.
Financial Issues for Special-Needs Kids
Parents of special-needs children not only have to live with the day-to-day fears and concerns about their sick or disabled child, but they have to live with an even scarier prospect-that child outliving them. According to a MetLife survey, 60 percent of parents don’t expect their child with special needs to be financially independent. Yet, 68 percent of them also said they hadn’t written a will and 29 percent report they haven’t done anything to plan for the child’s future.
Here are several financial planning issues you may need to consider. Overall planning. Designing a viable budget is critical because of the often extraordinary medical expenses. It also is vital that you manage your money and create financial strategies that balance your own needs with those of your child’s. Saving for your own retirement, for example, should not be ignored.
Medical coverage. Try to have your health plan cover the child for as long as possible. Eventually, usually when the child turns 18, federal supplemental security income and Medicaid may cover most-though not all-medical expenses.
Life insurance. You may want life insurance benefits to help support your child after your death. However, keep two issues in mind. First, large amounts of life insurance could make your estate vulnerable to estate taxes, so a life insurance trust might be appropriate. Second, you’ll want to be careful about naming the child as beneficiary if the child needs government assistance to meet daily living needs. Insurance benefits would probably make the child ineligible.
Because of the complicated nature of special needs trusts, government benefits, and estate planning, you’ll want to work closely with a knowledgeable attorney and your certified financial planner.
Planning for Single Parenthood
The critical issue for a single parent is what will happen if he or she dies. However, there are other critical issues:
Finding secure, affordable housing. When you’re the adult doing everything, it’s not important to have the fanciest house or apartment on the block. H’s important to have a safe home in a safe neighborhood.
Insure your income. You’ll need to carry life insurance equal to five or six times your salary. And if you can buy disability insurance privately as well as through your employer, max out as much as you can. Employer-paid disability insurance typically replaces 60-70 percent of your income and you may be able to pick up an individual policy that replaces another 20 percent of income, tax-free.
Budgeting is key-and make sure you involve the kids. Single parents are typically not made of money, and that means you need to talk to your kids seriously about money. It’s very likely, for example, that your kid will need to work for his or her spending money as they get older. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about that. They might develop money skills earlier as a result.
Plan. No single parent’s circumstance is exactly like another. You’ll need a will, health directives, and possibly a trust or other financial structure to protect your child’s education and future if something happens to you. Sit down with a planner before you become pregnant or adopt.
Planning for Adoption
Adoption is an extraordinary experience-sometimes lengthy, sometimes harrowing, and extremely rewarding. Before you can build a reserve fund, it’s wisest to pay off your credit cards first.
Any good adoption attorney will insist that you develop and file a will as part of the adoption process. Check your insurance options. In today’s health insurance environment, the addition of a child to a policy can bring tremendous additional burden.