By Sara Bailey
We all go into parenthood expecting to lose some sleep and change lots of diapers. On top of all this, your parent to-do list starts adding up with tasks you never even thought about before. One of those tasks that is easy to overlook, but absolutely essential, is basic financial planning. Your financial responsibilities shift in this stage of life, and if one person is a stay-at-home parent, your income may have changed, too. To make sure your financial plan matches your family’s situation, ask yourself these critical questions to see which areas could use some work.

Have you done a financial checkup recently?

We should all get checkups at the doctor to make sure we’re healthy. It doesn’t require a doctor (although an accountant could certainly help), but your finances need a checkup, too. Can you check off these essentials for your financial health?

  • Does your family have a budget? Are you living within your means?
  • If you have debt, do you have a plan for paying it down? Keep in mind that there is a difference between credit card debt (which you don’t want) and debt that can be positive (like buying a home – as long as your mortgage payment isn’t too high). There may be some types of debt you can’t avoid, such as student loans, but you still need a strategy for paying it off.
  • Do you have emergency savings? How about retirement accounts or college savings?

All of these questions factor into what your overall financial situation looks like, and the answers can help you set some family financial goals.

Have you looked at your insurance policies recently?

Insurance isn’t the most fun topic, but it’s a necessity every family has, regardless of your income and other financial goals. Any family with children should take a look at each of these types of insurance to make sure they’re fully covered:

  • Life insurance: You may not have thought much about life insurance before having children, but once you have little ones to support, life insurance becomes a necessity for most families. If you already have a policy, now is a good time to make sure your coverage matches where you are in life. If you don’t, it’s a good idea to look into options for term life insurance, which will provide a payout to your family if you were to pass away during the policy’s term. Every family’s financial situation is different, so it’s important to get an estimated rate that’s tailored to you. To do this, use an online calculator and input your combined debt, income, current health, age, and location. This tool will ensure that the cost and coverage you get fit your family’s needs.
  • Disability insurance: Another circumstance you may not want to think about is the possibility of one parent becoming injured and unable to work. According to US News, not every family needs disability insurance, but if you have little savings or one partner works in a job that has a higher likelihood of injury, it’s something you may want to consider.
  • Health insurance: Health insurance is complicated and highly dependent on your employment, income, and a number of other factors. The most important thing is to know what your coverage includes and whether different options may be better for your family. For example, Mayo Clinic explains the facts of Healthcare savings accounts (HSA) and situations in which families can benefit from having one.

Along with these major parts of your financial plan, a smaller but important consideration is whether you’re leaving money on the table. Many families don’t even realize how easily they could cut hidden expenses, such as fees, energy costs, and cell phone bills. These smaller ways of saving, combined with the big picture issues, should all be part of a smart family financial plan. We can’t promise parenthood won’t throw you some curveballs, but we do know that getting your finances in order will make you prepared for whatever comes your way.