Image Source: Unsplash

On average, there are just under 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year. Some of those children come into the world thanks to IVF treatments or other fertility options. Others are placed for adoption. But, the scope of who is having children (and when) is changing.

There has been an ongoing trend in recent years of individuals waiting longer to have children. As of 2018, the average age of a first-time mother was 26, and the average age of a first-time father was 31.

People are waiting longer to have children for a variety of reasons, but finances play a big part. Today’s young adults are facing issues like hefty student loans, a sluggish economy, and difficulty finding jobs. There are also ethical reasons why young adults are delaying having children, including overpopulation and concerns about passing on genetic disorders. On top of that, many people are choosing to get married later, so family planning is put on hold.

Though it would be ideal for someone just starting college to start planning for their financial future, that isn’t always feasible. So, what can you do if you haven’t done any planning yet, but you want to start a family?

When Should You Start Planning?

If you want to know when you should start your financial checklist, the answer is now, especially if you want to grow your funds. If you know that you want to have a family someday, it’s never too early to plan and prepare.

That doesn’t just mean looking at the average cost of having a child. Instead, it requires considering all possibilities of the costs that a child may bring. It’s also not enough to just consider what your hospital and ancillary bills might be. Financial planning for starting a family should include:
  • Cost of living with a baby/child/teenager
  • Medical costs for any illnesses or ailments the child might have
  • Insurance costs
  • Activities your child may be involved in
  • Savings for your child’s future
Depending on your age, your health, or any other issues you might have in conceiving, you should also consider other potential costs. For example, about 6.7 million people in the U.S. struggle with infertility. Things like IVF treatments can be incredibly expensive.

If you can’t have biological children, or you’re at an older age where you don’t think it’s possible, you might also consider adoption, which can end up costing thousands of dollars. Not only is the adoption process expensive, but some children who have been in foster care systems or come from broken homes may need professional help dealing with the mental health effects of trauma or abuse. There are physical effects of trauma, too, that you may have to pay for, such as an increased risk of cancers or heart disease.

What Should Be On Your Checklist?

When you think about everything you have to consider when starting a family, it can feel a little overwhelming. But, if you’ve waited a few years and you’re in a better financial position today than you would have been after just graduating college, you’re already further ahead than you might think.

Now, it’s a matter of understanding the basic principles of financial family planning:
  • Budgeting — Having a budget for food, clothing, and other essentials will help you to keep track of your spending every month.
  • Saving — You’ll want to save for everything from college to retirement, putting away a bit of money whenever you can.
  • Preparing — No parent wants to think about the worst possible scenario(s) happening, but life is out of your control. It’s important to have your finances in order at all times. If anything were to happen to you, you can take comfort now in knowing your children would be financially secure.
A financial checklist is fluid. It’s something you can change and update over time as your life shifts. Maybe you’ll get a new job. Maybe you can grow your budget, or maybe you’ll have to cut back.

The important thing is to have a plan and a strategy for how you’re going to manage your money before you start a family, so you can adjust it as-needed when your family starts to grow.
Offsetting the Cost of Children and Finding Financial Stability

Most people understand the fact that babies are expensive. Even as they get older, if your child is involved in sports or extracurricular activities, you’ll have to pay for fees, gear, travel, and so much more.

Thankfully, there are a few ways you can offset the cost of having children without having to completely change your lifestyle or look for a new job.

One of the easiest things to do is to take a look at your current budget and decide where you can cut back. Do you go out to eat three times a week? Try cutting that down to one. Are you subscribed to several different television services? Get rid of the one you use the least.

You might also consider DIY-ing as much as possible. Baby items, for example, can be very expensive. Why not use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones? Or, try making your baby food instead of buying commercially-made jars and bottles. Is it extra work? Yes. But, you might just be surprised at how much money you can save.

No matter your age or where you are in life, it’s never too late to start a family when it’s what you really want. Keep some of these ideas in mind as you start to plan for your family, to make sure you’re financially secure, so you can enjoy this season of life, rather than worrying about it.