Baby On The Way? Your Financial Habits May Need A Makeover

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First-time parents quickly learn that their days of a full night’s sleep and spontaneous outings are a thing of the past, compelling them to modify their lifestyle to reflect the new reality. But sleeping habits and social calendars aren’t the only things that require an adjustment when you add a baby to the family. Your financial plans also need a reset, says Jason Lambert (www.nwfts.net), president and CEO of Northwest Financial & Tax Solutions and author of the upcoming book The Retirement Trailhead

After all, the cost to raise a child to age 18 is $233,610, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that doesn’t even take into account college costs. “Unless you’re extraordinarily wealthy, it’s a certainty that those added expenses are going to take a toll on your spending habits or your savings, and possibly both,” Lambert says. “You can try to wing it day to day, but that’s going to be a mistake.” Lambert offers a few tips to help parents navigate their new financial state of affairs: 

Start a college fund immediately. 

Over the last few decades the cost of a college education has gone up faster than most other expenses, Lambert says, and wise parents will expect that trend to continue and plan accordingly. From 2000 to 2019, the average annual inflation rate for college tuition was 5.16 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than double the overall inflation rate for that period, which was 2.1 percent. “The sooner you start saving, the better,” Lambert says. 

Work on a household budget. 

“Most of us probably could survive on a lot less than we do,” Lambert says. “People don’t always realize where their money is going, so it’s worth sitting down to figure out how much you are spending each month and what you’re spending it on.” 

Make sure you have an emergency fund. 

A hospital bill, a major car repair, or a job loss are among the many things that can upend your careful financial planning. “Most people don’t have an endless stream of money to pay for an unexpected emergency,” Lambert says. Many financial professionals recommend building a fund that could tide you over for six months if you suddenly lost your income. That might be challenging for some people, Lambert says, but you do need to set aside as much as possible. 

Continue to save for your retirement. 

“A big regret we hear from so many people is that they did not save enough for retirement,” Lambert says. “It’s real easy as you’re raising your family to focus on paying your bills, taking care of day-to-day expenses, and saving for your child’s college. But in the middle of all that you don’t want to forget to routinely put away something for retirement.” If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, especially with a match, then you need to take advantage of it, he says. If not, you should set up your own retirement fund and get in the habit of making regular contributions to it. “If you plan carefully and meet with your financial professional,” Lambert says, “you can work out a financial game plan that helps you accomplish your dreams for your child as well as your retirement dreams for yourself.” 

Jason Lambert, president, CEO and portfolio manager of Northwest Financial & Tax Solutions (www.nwfts.net), is author of the upcoming book The Retirement Trailhead. Over his career, he has worked for some of the largest financial firms in the world, including as an Assistant Vice President with Merrill Lynch. As the firm’s portfolio manager, Jason plays an integral part in the success of Northwest Financial & Tax Solutions. He is a strong believer in the importance of independence in financial planning — when a firm is truly free to help the client in the best way possible. Jason graduated with a degree in finance from Auburn University.

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