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6 Smart Steps When Starting a Family

$233,610. That’s roughly what it costs to raise a child born in 2015, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. No need to panic! If you have children or plan to, there are many ways to reduce expenses and build a sound financial future for your family. 

1. Look for Chances to Recycle 

Kids grow fast, which means that many of them grow out of clothes that still have a lot of use left in them. Whether from online marketplaces, consignment shops or friends and family with slightly older children, seek out opportunities to put someone else’s hand-me-downs to work. If you’ve met a lot of parents at the playground, consider setting up an exchange that lets members contribute items they no longer need and pick up things they do. Beyond clothing, you may be able to score games, toys and a range of kids’ gear for free or at greatly reduced prices. Since safety standards are constantly being enhanced, it may be best to buy some things new, however, like cribs, strollers and car seats.  

2. Save for the Big Goal: College 

For most families, sending their children to college is a top priority. The earlier you start, the better prepared you’ll be when they’re ready. Since college tuition tends to outpace inflation, it’s fair to say that prices will likely remain high when today’s toddlers are moving into their dorms. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to explore savings options and start putting away money now.  

3. Consider a 529 Savings Account 

  • A 529 college savings plan is a popular way to save money for college in an individual investment account with tax advantages. The benefits to these savings options include:  
  • The earnings and interest on the money you contribute grow tax free. 
  • Your contributions are not deductible on your federal tax return, but many states do offer deductions for them.  
  • Accounts are available with a variety of investment options.  
  • Withdrawals aren’t taxed as long as they are used for qualified educational expenses.  
  • The accounts are easy and usually free to set up and manage, too.  
  • They’re open to all, with no age or income limits, although there are lifetime contribution caps. 
  • If you don’t have kids, you can start a 529 now in your name and switch the beneficiary later.  
  • Grandparents and other relatives can also establish one for your child. Their contributions qualify as a gift and aren’t taxable to your child.  

4. Manage Health Care Expenses 

To offset some of the high costs of medical care, consider contributing to a flexible spending account (FSAs), which allows you to set aside money to cover certain out-of-pocket medical costs. That can include co-payments, deductibles and some medical or drug costs. The money you deposit is not included in your taxable income, lowering your taxes. One drawback: You could lose the money if you don’t use your contributions in one year, although some plans allow you a little more than a year, or let you carry over some of your balance into the next year. Health spending accounts (HSAs) are another option, one that’s available exclusively with a high-deductible health plan. The money you deposit in an HSA can be used to cover costs that your high deductible doesn’t.  

5. Review Life Insurance Options

Would your family be able to pay its bills if one spouse died? Whether you lose one person’s income or have to pay for child care if a stay-at-home parent dies, there could be significant financial consequences. Determine how much you would need if tragedy occurs and consider getting life insurance for both spouses. 

6. Think about the Long Term 

You may be focused on your children’s needs right now, but planning for the future helps ensure long-term financial security. As soon as possible, begin making use of tax-advantaged opportunities to save for retirement. If your employer offers a retirement plan and matches your contributions to it, try to deposit enough to earn the full match. If you aren’t eligible for an employer plan, look into other choices such as traditional or Roth IRAs. You’ll be glad you did when retirement nears.