5 Steps Parents Can Take to Improve Their Family’s Financial Health

5 steps

Raising a family is expensive. If you have kids or are expecting your first, that’s not news to you. Some days it feels impossible to afford the bare necessities of food, clothing and a roof over your head. However, as a parent, you also need to think about your family’s overall financial health.  

If you haven’t given serious thought to financial planning, now is the time to start. The sooner you get a handle on your finances and start saving for the future, the more financially secure your family will be. Here’s where to start.

1. Assess Your Income

Does your current income allow you to live comfortably and achieve your financial goals? If not, increasing your income should be at the center of your financial plan. While you can always cut expenses to save money, a higher income is the best long-term solution to financial security. Start thinking about ways you can earn a raise, find a higher-paying position, or pivot your career to increase your income.

2. Examine Your Debt

Most families have some debt (about 80 percent, according to USA Today). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if your debt is preventing you from achieving other financial goals, you’re using credit cards to spend money you don’t have, or you’re struggling to make headway due to high interest rates, you need to take action about your debt.  

List all your debts including outstanding balances, interest rates and minimum monthly payments. Putting it all out in front of you allows you to assess the state of your debt and devise a repayment plan that lets you get ahead. If you find it difficult to keep track of all your accounts, consider debt consolidation. Consolidation combines unsecured debts like student loans, credit cards, and medical bills into a single monthly payment so they’re easier to manage. However, debt consolidation isn’t guaranteed to work in your favor. It’s important to understand the process and how it will affect your debt before choosing to consolidate.

3. Create an Emergency Fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund, but it’s particularly important for parents. An emergency fund enables you to cover minor emergencies without fretting over the bill and remain stable if your job situation changes. Calculate how much money you’d need to cover three months of expenses and set aside funds each paycheck until your emergency fund reaches that number. If you’re a single-income household, aim for six months instead of three.

4. Budget for Childcare

According to Care.com, one in three families spend 20 percent or more of their income on child care. This makes childcare one of the biggest household expenses that parents face and affording it requires careful budgeting. Even when one parent stays home to care for children, there’s a loss of income to account for. Examine your budget to find areas where you can cut expenses and consider flexing your work schedule to reduce the amount of paid childcare needed. Parents can also save money by signing up for a Flexible Spending Account or using the child-care tax credit.

5. Prepare for the Unknown

Life throws a lot of curveballs. When you’re a parent, it’s up to you to be ready for them. Life insurance and a will are two things every parent needs to protect their family from the unexpected.  

Life insurance pays out a death benefit if the policyholder passes away. With a life insurance policy, your family has money to pay for a funeral and stay afloat following a loss of income. However, life insurance alone isn’t enough. You also need a will that names guardians to care for your children if you pass away. Writing a will is complicated, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer.

Author of this article, Tilda Moore, researches and writes about educational resources for openeducators.org. She is passionate about helping parents and teachers in providing kids with the best education possible. She works directly with teachers and other public education groups to ensure they are working toward our vision of constructing a reliable database of verified information