By Samantha J. Garcia, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove.
When raising young kids, there are so many things to think about. From Is this normal for their age? to Am I doing this right?, being a mom is no easy ride. Add life stressors to that and sometimes it feels like there are endless demands on your very limited time. While there are many things to think through and decisions to make when you have kids, planning for your current and future financial life shouldn’t be put off – think of it as fundamental to protecting your family.
Financial planning can seem overwhelming even without the responsibility of having kids. But when you have them, it is even more important. There are six key areas of focus that you should be addressing as a parent of young children: budgeting, saving & investing, estate planning, life insurance, childcare costs, and education financing.
In my experience in working as a financial advisor, budgeting has a negative connotation for many families. It shouldn’t: It is critical to your success. Budgeting doesn’t necessarily mean tracking every single dollar, but it does mean having a good idea of what is being spent on necessary and discretionary items each month, as well as knowing how much you are saving each month. While some people enjoy tracking every dollar and cent, most can take a higher-level look at how much they’re spending on the broad categories and how much they’re managing to salt away.
Budgeting should really be called cash flow planning – how much is coming in every month and where is it going? Without an accurate view of this, it is difficult to plan for your future.
Saving & Investing
Saving and investing are critical to setting up a successful future. There are some key differences between the two. Savings are not meant to earn a return – the point is to have money safely set aside for emergencies, travel, or short-term goals. Investing, on the other hand, is an active process: The objective here is to grow funds to meet your long-term goals. Retirement is one of the most common long-term goals and funds earmarked for this should be invested rather than saved.
Investing can seem overwhelming with so many investment options to choose from. It takes time to comb through investments and decide which ones are right for you. But what happens when life takes a turn and those investments are no longer appropriate? Working with an experienced advisor who understands your situation can not only save you time – they’ll help provide confidence and clarity while building an investment strategy specific to your needs and making adjustments as necessary.
An advisor can help in times of market turbulence when it may be nerve wracking to watch markets. They can walk you through your strategy and explain the best course of action, which most often means staying the course.
Estate Planning and Life Insurance
Estate Planning is creating a plan for your loved ones if you are unable to make decisions for yourself – or if your life is cut short. This planning is comprised of four elements – a Trust, a Will, Advanced Health Care Directives and a Power of Attorney. A trust may not apply to every situation, but the other three should be in place for everyone.
An Advanced Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney name people you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. A Will and Trust set out what will happen to your belongings when you are gone. A will establishes a caregiver for your child(ren) in the event you predecease them before they turn 18. Determining your ultimate wishes can prompt uncomfortable discussions – but they’ll ensure that your loved ones know your wishes.
Life Insurance can provide money for those left behind and can be an important planning tool for safeguarding your spouse and/or children. Life insurance proceeds can pay off the mortgage on the family home so the family can continue living there; it can also provide college funding for a child or children if something were to happen to one or both parents. You can tailor your life insurance to your situation and what’s important to you. Your policy’s coverages will depend on your income level, debt level, and desire for college funding for your kids, for example.
Childcare Costs – and Work Choices
The costs of childcare drive many women out of the workforce – and these costs are increasing. Some women have to make the tough decision of continuing to work and pay for childcare or leave the workforce altogether. This is a very personal decision, but it is also a financial decision. Understanding all the financial ramifications can be empowering and can help in your own decision-making process.
In coming to a decision, it’s important to bear in mind that women who choose to leave the workforce to raise their children not only lose out on the earning capacity from the years they are out of the workforce, but they also lose out on the growth of their earning potential. And that can have a lasting impact. On top of these are missing out on retirement benefits and the compounding growth lost on the retirement plan contributions that you wouldn’t be making during this time.
While financial considerations should not be the only driver of your decision, it is important to understand them fully. If you continue working or decide to return to the workforce, planning for who will care for your child, where that care will take place, and how to budget for those costs are also matters you’ll need to contend with.
Lastly, it is important to consider whether or not you would like to save and invest for your child(ren)’s education. This should only be considered after you meet your own saving and investing goals. When your child is ready to pursue college/higher education, taking out loans for this is relatively easy. It is much harder to borrow for retirement and lifestyle goals!
If you can meet your own goals, it may be time to consider financing college education or funding your child’s future goals. This may include a 529 plan for college savings, a savings account or a UTMA (investing) account. If you have met your own goals, you could make monthly contributions or include birthday and holiday presents from family and friends to these accounts. I personally have all 3 for my son. When he gets money for his birthday or for holidays, we talk about what to do with the money and then put the plan into action.
Financial planning encompasses much more than saving and investing. It involves taking a holistic approach to your situation and making sure decisions are thought through and important actions are taken. While being a mom to a young child can be difficult at times, it also brings the greatest joy. In my experience being a parent to a young child and working with those who have young children, when these items are addressed, we are happier and are free to be more present with our children. It feels like a burden has been lifted off our shoulders.
How do you balance having the life you want to enjoy today with what you’re going to need in the future? Are you doing what it takes to enter your dream retirement? TAKE OUR QUIZ to find out.
Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors, LLC (“HH”) is an SEC registered investment adviser located in Long Beach, California. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Additional information about HH, including our registration status, fees, and services can be found at www.halberthargrove.com. This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment. It should not be construed as a solicitation to offer personal securities transactions or provide personalized investment advice. HH is neither your attorneys nor your accountants and no portion of this material should be interpreted by you as legal, accounting or tax advice. All opinions or views reflect the judgment of the author as of the publication date and are subject to change without notice.