Preparing for a baby takes more than just setting up the nursery. It also means quite a bit of financial planning. To make sure you're prepared and don't overlook anything, keep this financial checklist in mind.
1. Health insurance
Call up your health insurance company and ask what type of pregnancy coverage you have. When you have the baby, will your insurance cover everything or will you need to pay some money out-of-pocket? Do you need to do anything to make sure your baby is covered by your health insurance after he or she is born?
2. Plan with your work
Do you or your spouse plan to take some time off work to take care of your new baby? Does your employer offer any maternity leave and would that time off be paid or unpaid? Large companies with 50 or more employees are required by law to give up to 12 weeks of maternity leave, but that guaranteed time may be unpaid. Check with your human resources contact to determine the benefits available to you.
3. Budget review
Taking care of a baby can put a strain on your household budget. You're going to be buying food, clothes, medicine and furniture for an extra person-not to mention the cost of diapers. At the same time, your income might decrease if you or your spouse take some time off work. To get ready, take a look at your current household budget. Try to estimate the extra costs from your baby and see whether you'll be able to pay for everything with your current income or if you might need to cut down on some spending in other areas.
4. Add to your emergency fund
When you have a baby, there's a higher chance that you'll need money for an emergency. For example, you might have more medical bills coming up at the last minute. Try to add more money to your family's emergency fund so you don't get caught off guard. It's a good idea to save an extra month's worth of income as a cushion to help you be more prepared for your new addition.
5. Determine your plans for a will and a guardian
Imagine if you weren't there tomorrow to take care of your baby. Who would take care of your child? It is important to thoughtfully choose the individual who would be the guardian of your child and conservator of their estate if something were to happen to you. You may find it helpful to consult an attorney who specializes in probate law. Your attorney can also help ensure that you understand and follow any applicable state laws in appointing the guardian and conservator who will be taking care of your child's best interest. These decisions are commonly documented in your will.
6. Life insurance
If you haven't considered life insurance before, we suggest you consider it now. If you already have life insurance, do you have enough? A good rule of thumb is to have at least enough coverage to replace five to 10 years of your income. Your goal is to make sure your child and their designated guardians have enough money even if you aren't there to provide for them.
7. College savings
The cost of a college education in the United States continues to rise. If you want to pay for your baby's college education, the sooner you can start saving, the better. Now might be a good time to consider opening a college savings plan like a 529 plan. Every little bit helps - especially when you're able to save over a longer period of time.
While this list is nowhere near an exhaustive financial plan for preparing for your newborn, it's a solid start - and that's enough to get you on the right track. After all, you have a lot of other things to think about with your new baby - most of which are much more fun than a financial plan.
NOTE: As of 2018, the IRS has amended the term “qualified higher education expense” to include a limited amount of annual expenses from a 529 Plan for tuition at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school. Source: www.irs.gov/newsroom/529-plans-questions-and-answers.