Having a baby comes with a lot of responsibility and a long to-do list. Here are the things you should do legally and financially to set yourself up for success once your little one arrives.
I remember arriving home from the hospital after my first child was born. There is a sudden moment that hits you when you look at the peacefully sleeping infant, look around at the empty house, and realize it’s all on you now. There are no nurses or doctors to help anymore. And you have no idea what you’re doing.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, and we’ve all figured it out. Diapers, feedings, that elusive shower for you… There’s a lot to do once you’ve had a baby, no doubt about it. Oftentimes, though, we get so caught up in taking care of the baby that we forget to take care of some less-adorable, business-type things. If you’ve recently had a child, here are a few things you need to be sure to take care of once you exit the postpartum haze:
Get baby’s Social Security card and birth certificate
Most hospitals can provide you with the paperwork to apply for these all-important documents. I was lucky and my hospital even mailed it in for me. No matter what, you need to get your child’s Social Security card and birth certificate as soon as possible. How else will you file your taxes and claim your exemption and credit for your little bundle of joy?
Get health insurance for baby
If you already have health insurance, you should be able to add your baby to your plan immediately; you don’t need to wait for open enrollment. If you don’t have health insurance, you should look into getting it, at least for your child. Babies visit the doctor a lot in the first years of their lives, and you don’t want to skimp on medical care for your newborn because you’re watching your budget.
Update your will
You should have a will. If you don’t, go make one right now. It’s as easy as filling out a downloadable form, and many state bar associations offer them for free. If you already had one, you need to update it now that your baby has been born. The most important part of the will for your baby will involve guardianship- who will raise your child(ren) if you die. Read this post for an in-depth look out how to choose a guardian.
Make sure you have an emergency fund
When it comes to babies, spit up happens. Poop happens. Crying happens. Emergencies happen. Prepare for them. Burp cloths, good quality diapers, chocolate, and emergency funds are all keys to thorough preparation. Unexpected expenses will come up, so you should start saving for them now. If your car breaks down on the side of the road while you have a crying baby in the back seat and you’ve just run out of clean diapers, you have enough to deal with without the stress of worrying about how you’ll pay for everything. The first few years are hard. Don’t make them harder by not being prepared financially.
Make sure you are fully insured
You now have a dependent. That means that they are completely helpless without you and your income. Make sure you have life insurance and disability insurance in place so that if anything happens to you, you can still afford to take care of your family. They are counting on you, don’t leave them hanging.
Save for college
If you want your children to go to college, consider saving to help them with the expense. You have a newborn, so time is on your side. If you start saving a mere $14 a month today earning 10% (the average annual return for the S&P 500 from 1928-2014), you will have more than enough to pay for one year of community college in 18 years (assuming costs continue to increase 5% a year). Save $28 a month and you’ll have them halfway to a Bachelor’s degree. However, if you wait until your child enters high school to start saving, you will have to max out an Educational Savings Account ($166 a month) in order to pay for that one year of community college.
Update your beneficiaries
If you have insurance or retirement accounts, you should update your beneficiaries. Especially if you already have other children listed as beneficiaries. You don’t want the new one to be left out. The one thing to be aware of when listing children as beneficiaries, though, is how the money would be transferred to them. You may want to consider making provisions for a trust in your will to handle the distribution of money to your young children.
Stick to a budget
It’s easy to get carried away buying things for baby. Especially when you are emotional and sleep deprived. But don’t blow your budget. That new minivan may be practical, but is it really worth going into debt for? And toddlers in soccer uniforms are adorable, but would those fees benefit them much more if they were invested for college? Set a budget when you are thinking clearly and practically, and then stick with it when your emotions are being barraged by expert marketers.
Claim the child tax credit
Don’t forget to claim your tax credit when you file for 2016. Those tiny suckers are worth $1,000 each for the year, even if they were born at the end of December!
Those are some things you should do to manage the business side of having a baby. I hope this helps. Remember, though, the most important thing you can do is to love them and enjoy them. It goes by very, very quickly.