I am by no means a financial whiz or genius. But lucky for me, and for all of you, I was raised by one. I have always been and remain to be horrible with math, which is pretty comical given the fact that my father was practically a prodigy when it came to numbers. And my husband, well he is way better with numbers than I am.
As a couple and as parents, we try to make the wisest and most beneficial financial decisions for our young family, and thankfully we have received the best possible instruction and direction on how to do that.
Based on my own experiences and what I’ve observed with families around me, I am going to share with you what I believe to be ten innocent, yet common financial mistakes made by parents. I will also provide some suggestions to counteract them. By avoiding these ten pitfalls, you’ll in essence be working to ensure that you and your family are living in a comfortable financial space today, and one that will aid in a fruitful tomorrow.
Here are TEN COMMON MONEY MISTAKES MADE BY PARENTS and how to remedy them:
- Being blindsided by the actual cost of having a child (including pregnancy and delivery). I myself was in this boat when I became pregnant with my first child. Even with health insurance and a good medical plan, we still had to pay out of pocket somewhere between 2k and 3k throughout my whole pregnancy and for the delivery. When you make the decision to have a child, be aware of the financial costs that you will be responsible for, starting at conception.
- Having the wrong insurance plan. Having the wrong health insurance plan for your family can end up costing you — in dollars and in headaches. If you are a family whose kids get sick a lot and you make trips to the pediatrician often, it may benefit you to pay more out of pocket for your premium rather than have to pay high co-pays each time you go. You can estimate how often you think each child may have a sick visit in a given month or a year and do the math, but definitely don’t ignore this consideration. Additionally, consider all of your options when it comes to flexible spending accounts for your medical expenses. Overall, it may be beneficial to work up some different medical need scenarios that could (or are likely to) arise, and base your plan off of that. If you are struggling to understand the plans (which always happens to me), it can be helpful to schedule a phone call or an in-person meeting with a health care advocate.
- Not having a monthly budget. This is a big “no-no”. Everybody needs a budget. Budgets help you to see your current situation for what it is and how you can attain and maintain your family’s financial goals. For most, myself included, I don’t enjoy making, looking at, or adhering to them. Budgets can feel so constricting. However, the alternative is that you end up spending more than you can really afford, and then accruing debt. Not the situation you want to end up in.
- Not saving now for your children’s education and future. You should begin saving for your children’s future today. Yes, I mean NOW. I know that it is hard to imagine starting a college fund for your 3-year-old, but believe me when I say that you will be grateful and relieved fifteen years from now. Even if all you can afford is $2.00-$5.00 a month, put that money aside and leave it alone — or better yet, put it in a growth account.
- Using credit too much. This one speaks for itself. Try to carry cash and not credit cards, and limit the amount to what your budget allows for you to be spending that day. If you don’t like carrying cash then only use your debit card. I would suggest that you leave the credit card at home and only use it for financial emergencies or necessities.
- Making too many online purchases. It is so easy to click “confirm payment” when no money is actually leaving your hands or your wallet. Don’t get sucked into Amazon or Etsy, and make those site visits and purchases a regular thing.
- Not having life insurance on yourself and/or your children. Nobody likes to think about anything bad ever happening, but we need to — it is important. With both parents having life insurance policies in place, your family will be financially supported if anything were to ever happen. It is also a smart idea to open life insurance policies on your children when they are young; as far as I understand, generally at a young age they automatically qualify. This means that they typically don’t have to go through the standard health screening process that adults do in order to open a policy on them. Setting them up with a policy now ensures that their children (your grandchildren, or their future beneficiaries) will be supported if anything were to ever happen to them. Believe me, I know and understand that this is a cost which a lot of us cannot easily afford, or do not want to take on. However, consulting with an estate planner or your insurance agent to understand the most cost-efficient way to get something started may be a beneficial discussion — anything is better than nothing.
- Not saving for when you are an empty-nester and retirement. Don’t you enjoy fantasizing about your children being grown and it’s just you and your spouse again? Can’t you imagine traveling with your spouse, taking cruises, maybe purchasing a boat, or taking road trips? Well, if you want to make any scenario (other than one marked by debt) a reality, then you should begin thinking of how to realistically make those happen. Yes, you need to think about that now, as you are presently in the troughs of parenthood with young children. You and your spouse deserve the lifestyle that you desire once it is just the two of you again, and it is necessary to think and plan for that now, before the time quickly comes upon you and you have not saved enough to live how you desire.
- Not saving now for your possible grandchildren. It seems crazy, right? Why would I think now about my children having children? I mean my children are all elementary-age and younger, but guess what guys? The cost of living, and everything for that matter, is only going to increase. Save now and you will be a step ahead.
- Not planning now for your funeral expenses. It is depressing to think about this. It is depressing to talk about this. Heck, it is depressing to even write about this, so I will just say one thing about it…you will feel so much better knowing that your family and loved ones are not stuck scrambling with figuring out how to pay for your funeral.
And here’s an extra tip, well, just because:
Hire a financial planner or at minimum, consult a financial advisor at your local bank for guidance. When all else fails and you don’t feel like you can make the correct financial decisions on your own, ask for help. Get help. This is the best financial decision that you could make. Just be sure that you trust the person you decide to use, as your comfort level with your finical “leader” is super important.
Lastly, if by chance you are someone who is reading this and thinking, “I cannot afford to do any of this,” then please simply remember this: “The goal isn’t more money. The goal is living life on YOUR terms”. – Will Rogers.
Figure out what those are for you. For most of you, I would venture to guess that your “terms” are likely to include a happy, stable financial environment for yourself and your family. And what’s great about that is you have the ability to achieve it if, at minimum, you stay aware, stay smart, and use common sense.