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A New Baby

Q&A

 Mother holding a newborn baby.

Q: We have been living hand to mouth ever since our son was born. Is there a way to start putting money away – both for our own retirement and for his education?

A: You are not alone. While welcoming a new member of the family is a happy, exciting time, the costs of the first year alone can leave new parents surprised, not to mention broke. And if both mom and dad are working, child care is not a luxury; it is a complete necessity.

There are several approaches you can take. One that may be attractive, if not conventional, is to seriously consider scaling back from two incomes to one, or one and a half. While this may sound counterintuitive, (We need more money, not less!) when you take into account the costs of child care, clothing, business lunches, commuting and everything else it costs to go to work, you may well find that you come out ahead this way. If mom (or dad) really wants to stay home anyway, this may work out well. An extra job on the weekends or evenings can round out the picture without the additional costs of child care.

But, if mom and dad both want to keep working, and the income far outweighs the costs, you need to take a good, hard look at where your money is going. While nights out on the town, frequent spending trips at the mall and elaborate vacations might have been fine before you became parents, it may be time to reevaluate your new priorities. The fact is, no matter what your income is, it’s limited at some point. And preparing for your own retirement, as well as the education of your child, may now come before some of the other things you are used to spending on.

Whatever you do, do not let the financial aspects of raising a family spoil this very special time in your life. Sit down together and come up with a plan, and get on with the business of living. There is so much more to life than your net worth, so make the decisions, get it in order, and enjoy these special years together. Before you know it, your child will be off on his own, and you’ll be able to spend more freely or return to your career. For now, accept the changes to your lifestyle not as a sacrifice, but as a limited-time tradeoff.