Having children is a life-changing decision, but many couples—and singles as well—find it to be one of the best decisions of their lives. However, it’s smart to be cautious and plan ahead if you can. The more you have saved, the more comfortable a life you’ll be able to offer your kids. On the other hand, if you do nothing but save and wait to have kids, you may have a harder time having them as you get older; giving birth at an older age sometimes means more risk for the mother and child. While both adoption and surrogacy are options, both add tremendously to the initial cost of having a child. Deciding when you’ve saved enough to have kids depends on a number of factors unique to your circumstances.
While children are not always planned and some young parents manage to save enough at an early age, it’s not a bad idea to wait until you’re at least 25 to have kids. The first reason is that it gives you a few years to get established in a career and pay down debts. With more disposable income, you can afford a larger living space and all of the many expenses that come along with having and raising a child. Secondly, it gives you a few years to freely enjoy your adulthood and independence without the responsibility of caring for children. Take a trip, stay out late, and do things you want to do so you don’t regret and resent having a family when these things become more difficult to do.
Your Parenting Goals
How many children do you want to have? Are you looking into adoption, IVF, or surrogacy to help you make your dream of parenthood come true? The answers to these types of questions determine how much money you need to save. The more children you want to have, the more you should aim to save. There’s no set dollar amount that signifies your readiness, so just try to gauge what’s right for you and your future family. As long as you have low debt and a comfortable savings cushion, you’re probably ready to try. The cost of childbirth depends on your insurance coverage; you’ll need at least that much to cover your medical bills during the first year. If you plan to adopt or rely on IVF or surrogacy, research the associated costs, which can run anywhere from several thousands of dollars to tens of thousands. You’ll need to have that much saved, plus an additional cushion for all of the costs associated with caring for your child during the the first year.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in the area you live in or plan to live in with your family can also make a difference when it comes to your saving goals. If you’re barely making ends meet before kids, you need to either look into another job—keeping in mind that with a child comes the cost of childcare or the loss of income as one parent stays home to care for the child—or look into a more affordable area in which to raise a family. City dwellers will have a difficult time finding housing with enough space for children at an affordable cost that doesn’t eat into the money you need to feed, clothe, entertain, and educate your child. This doesn’t even include the money you’ll want to set aside for college tuition. The more eager you are to have children, the more open you may become to the thought of moving to a less expensive part of the country.
Focus on Debts
Before you focus on building your savings, concentrate on reducing or even eliminating your debts. Interest on loans and credit cards typically eat away at more of your savings than interest on savings accounts, bonds, and investments are able to grow your savings. Debt stack and pay more than minimum monthly payments before focusing on saving for kids. This will increase your chances of qualifying for mortgages and leave you with more money available each month to take care of your children.
If you feel ready to have kids, you’ll find a way to afford them. While it’s not a bad idea to wait a few years if you can manage and you’re young enough (assuming you plan to give birth yourself), you can make more money available sooner by trimming superfluous expenses, paying down debts, and economizing wherever possible. If you wait too long, you may feel like you’re never truly ready.