7 Money Moves New Empty Nesters Should Make Now

Raising one child to age 17 costs a middle-income married couple on average $233,610, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Once your kids leave the nest, all of the money you spent feeding, clothing, and entertaining them is suddenly up for grabs. But if empty nesters don’t earmark their newfound savings for specific goals, it’s easy to fall into the so-called “lifestyle creep” trap — when your lifestyle suddenly becomes more expensive as soon as your discretionary income increases.

A 2016 study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that a couple collectively earning $100,000 per year should be able to put an additional 12% toward their retirement savings after their children fly the coop. But in reality, researchers found that same couple would only increase their 401(k) contribution by 0.3 to 0.7 percent.

Covington, La.- based certified financial planner, Lauren Lindsay encourages empty nesters to put their extra pocket money to work.

“In general, when people have money ‘available’ they tend to spend it and not even be conscious about how they’re spending it,” Lindsay told MagnifyMoney. “I think it’s really important to refocus our goals now that we are in a different stage and, hopefully, on that home stretch towards retirement.”

Lindsay says the empty-nester stage is a really good time to circle back and revisit your budget to focus and make a plan for your financial goals. “Depending on where you are in the scale of retirement, you could use the extra funds to pay off a car, pay down the mortgage, save towards a trip, fund the emergency fund, or other goals,” she says.

As a new empty nester, there’s likely an endless list of purchases and lifestyle upgrades your newfound savings could go toward. You may even think you deserve a new car or boat, or to go on a luxury vacation every year after 18 or more years of child-rearing.

You can certainly treat yourself if you’d like, but you should make sure to get your financial house back in order before celebrating your freedom.

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your empty-nest savings go to the right places.

Put a number on what you’re saving now that the kids are gone

You may not be aware of exactly how much money you are really saving now that there are fewer mouths to feed at home. Creating or revising your budget gives you an opportunity to see the numbers behind the decrease and adjust your spending to maximize potential savings.

Peachtree City, Ga.-based certified financial planner Carol Berger suggests new empty nesters take the opportunity to complete a cash flow analysis — either on your own or with a financial adviser.

“This will allow you to identify how much discretionary income you have and then develop a plan on how to use it,” says Berger. Tally up the reduction in your spending to get an idea of how much potential cash you could be diverting to your own financial goals.

Shrink your lifestyle

If you’ve spent decades shopping for a family of three or more, it’s hard to break that habit right away. You might still be shopping for more groceries than you really need, for example, and wasting money in the process.

It might be time to take an even bigger step toward minimizing your housing costs — downsizing. Not only could this reduce your overall housing costs, but it’ll give you an opportunity to shop around for a home that better fits your needs as you age or to consider a residence in an active adult community with homes and amenities designed specifically for those ages 55 and older.

Check out what you’re paying for utilities, too. While you may have needed the tricked-out cable package when your kids were living at home full time, you may not care about paying for premium channels any longer. Call your provider and negotiate a less-expensive package. Try using a service like BillFixers or Trim to renegotiate or cancel bills and features you may no longer have use for.

Review your insurance policies

The same goes for your insurance policies like car and health insurance. Under the current health care law, kids can stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26. But if your adult child already has employer-provided insurance, you don’t need to pay for their coverage anymore.

Contact your employer’s human resources department to discuss removing members from your family plan, or switching to a lower-cost individual plan when you’re on your own. The same goes for any vision or dental insurance plans you may still be paying the family price for.

If you’re still paying for your child’s life insurance policy, you may want to speak with them about transferring the plan into their name or canceling the plan if they have access to a better one through an employer.

It couldn’t hurt to ask for a discount on your car insurance or switch to lower-cost coverage because the kids aren’t there to drive your car.

Put your newfound money toward any outstanding debts

Saving for retirement is important and paying off your outstanding debts should be your top priority. The interest rates on unsecured debts like credit cards are generally higher than any returns you’d receive on potential savings. So if you pay off your debts first, you’ll actually save yourself more money in the long run.

According to a 2017 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report, the number of Americans 60 and older with student loan debt rose from 700,000 to 2.8 million individuals between 2005 and 2015. The average amount of student debt owed by older borrowers almost doubled during that time, from $12,000 to $23,500.

One of the worst things you can do for retirement planning is ignore past-due debts. If debts go unpaid for too long, you could see your wages or even your future Social Security benefits garnished. The same CFPB report shows the number of retirees who had their benefits cut to repay a federal loan rose from about 8,700 to 40,000 borrowers over the 10-year period.

Don’t sacrifice your retirement goals to pay for college

College has never been more expensive. But remember: Your kids can take out a loan for school and pay it off as their income grows. You can’t necessarily take out a loan for your retirement.

That’s why financial planners often advise parents not to put themselves at financial risk by sacrificing their nest egg to pay for their child’s college education — unless they can afford to take the hit.

“Many people believe that they must send their kids to college, and they pay a hefty sum for that — sometimes at the expense of their retirement,” says Oak Brook, Ill.-based certified financial planner Elizabeth Buffardi.

If you’ve covered your debts and have room to save more, you still have plenty of time to contribute to your retirement funds.

Let’s say a married couple has $200,000 already saved for retirement with 15 years left to go. They collectively earn $100,000 per year, and they have diligently been saving 15% of their monthly pre-tax income for retirement. If they double their savings to 30% — putting away $2,500 each month — and their investment grows at an average annual rate of 6%, they could have well over $1 million saved by retirement.

Plan for long-term health care needs

A couple retiring today will spend an estimated $260,000 on health care needs in retirement, according to Fidelity.

Think of what other health care needs you could have in retirement. Buffardi says she always asks clients if they are worried about needing long-term care in the future. While most workers will qualify for Medicare once they turn 65, Medicare does not cover all long-term care needs. If you know you have a family history of dementia or other age-related illnesses that may require long-term care, this may be a concern for you. You may consider taking out a long-term care insurance policy or setting aside funds in a regular savings account.

Learn to say NO

Even after your kids move out, they can still treat you like the Bank of Mom and Dad. They may come to you for a wedding loan or to ask you to co-sign something they can’t afford, like a mortgage. Even though their pleas may pull at your heartstrings, consider your own financial needs first.

The post 7 Money Moves New Empty Nesters Should Make Now appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

4 Credit Cards to Help Prepare for Your New Baby

There are several cards that can help you afford the various expenses that go along with parenthood.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Expecting parents have a lot to do in a short time frame. They’ve got to prepare their home for a new arrival, coordinate doctor’s visits, put together a birth plan and more.

If you’re expecting a child, you may want to add choosing a new credit card to your to-do list. Your current credit card may be not be enough to reward the types of purchases you’ll be making for the foreseeable future. There are several cards that can help you afford the various expenses that go along with parenthood.

Here are four cards for expecting parents.

1. Citi Double Cash

Rewards: 1% cash back on purchases and an additional 1% back upon payment
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 14.24% to 24.24% for purchases, 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers, then variable 14.24% to 24.24%
Why We Picked It: Parents get extra motivation to pay off their baby-related purchases. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Benefits: All purchases earn 1% cash back and another 1% upon payment, for a total of 2% cash back on everything.
Drawbacks: You’ll have to wait until you pay to earn your full cash back.

2. Blue Cash Preferred Card From American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at on up to $6,000 in yearly spending supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 24.99%
Why We Picked It: New parents may be spending a lot at supermarkets, department stores and gas stations. This card provides cash-back incentives for all three.
Benefits: You’ll earn 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and certain department stores and 1% cash back everywhere else. Plus, there’s a nice $150 signup bonus and a 12-month 0% intro APR period.
Drawbacks: The card has a $95 annual fee.

3. BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: If you plan to chauffeur your kid to and from daycare, and in a few years, team practices and sleepovers, this card can save on gas.
Benefits: With 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, you’ll get plenty of ways to put some money back in your wallet. Bank of America customers get an additional 10% redemption value when they deposit their cash back into a Bank of America account.
Drawbacks: You’ll have to be a Bank of America account holder to unlock this card’s full value.

4. Citi Simplicity

Rewards: None
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR for 21 months, then variable 14.49% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: If your current card’s interest is too high, you can use this card for 21 months of interest-free purchases and balance transfers.
Benefits: The 21-month intro 0% APR offer gives you a chance to pay down purchases and balance transfers. Whether you’re buying diapers or setting up your nursery, this card can help you avoid interest.
Drawbacks: Once the 21-month intro period expires, the card’s value tanks.

Choosing a Credit Card for Your Growing Family

Choosing a card for family expenses is a personal decision, and depends on your parental spending habits.

Cash-back card rates vary, so you’ll want to look at the cards that best reward the way you spend. If you’ll be spending at many different types of stores, a card with a flat cash-back rate on all purchases might be the best move. If your purchases will be concentrated at a few merchant types, you may want to find a card that best rewards those purchases.

However, a card with a strong balance transfer offer might be the best option if you’ve put a lot of upfront expenses on a high-interest card.

In short, the best credit card for your family will depend on your specific needs and goals.

What Is Required to Get a Credit Card for Family Expenses?

Cards with cash back rewards or strong 0% APR offers often require good to excellent credit. You should know your credit score before you apply, because a hard credit inquiry can lower your credit score a few points. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

At publishing time, the Citi Double Cash, Blue Cash Preferred Card From American Express and Citi Simplicity credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 4 Credit Cards to Help Prepare for Your New Baby appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Things to Do Before Your Maternity Leave Ends

From one new mom to another.

No matter how much time you have home with baby before returning to work, it’s important to get as much out of your maternity leave as possible. Of course, maximum cuddle time is high on that list (along with napping as much as possible while baby is sleeping). However, there are a few other things you might want to add to your final to-do list to really maximize your time and feel ready to head to back to work.

1. Consider a Trip (Just a Little One)

While the idea of packing up your newborn and hitting the open road might seem silly, hear me out. The truth is, taking a trip, even a super-short one, will never be as easy as it is right now. For starters, you aren’t working, so you won’t have to ask for time off and be at the mercy of other colleagues’ vacations. Of course, your significant other is another story, but at least that’s just one person jockeying for time, not two.

Plus, newborns are the best travelers. They sleep most of the time, they ride for free on planes, and you won’t have to worry about keeping up with a crawling, walking, running toddler. (Of course, no matter where you plan to travel, run it by your kid’s pediatrician first.) If you can manage to pick a place that won’t stress you out, it’s a great time to start making family travel memories. Just plan for something low-key and relaxing. Bungee-jumping is probably off the menu.

2. Put Together Those Newborn Albums & Keepsakes

You probably think you’re too tired to spend hours on Shutterfly sorting through the hundreds of photos you take of your child a day to put together an album (speaking of which, we’ve got some ways to save on that here) — and you’re likely right. But consider how much more tired you’ll be when you go back to work. Plus, all those newborn memories are fresh in your mind, since you spend 24/7 with your bundle of joy, so you can write the most sentimental and memorable captions to go along with those tons of photos.

3. Figure Out Childcare

If you haven’t already, now would be the time to figure out who will watch your baby when you go back to work. In all honesty I waited too long — we didn’t post our ad seeking a nanny until three weeks before I was going to start working again. Finding the right provider for your child, or the right daycare setting, takes time, so if you haven’t started looking before baby was born, try to start as soon as you can once they arrive.

4. Take Time for Yourself

It’s great to have some plans for your maternity leave, but if nothing happens at all other than feed, burp, pump, rest, repeat, that’s more than OK. Some moms have plenty of extra energy to fill their days with closet reorganizations and daily park visits, while others feel more tired and are happy to just relax during any down time.

If you can muster even just a little extra energy though, it might be worth leaving baby with someone for just a couple hours at some point for some alone time. Go for a drive. Get your nails done. Grab a coffee and sit in the park. Whatever you decide to do and for however long you can, taking a little bit of time to rest and recharge by yourself will likely do your whole family a world of good.

5. Reassess How it All Went

Were you using your maternity leave as a way of helping you decide whether or not you would return to work once it was over? If so, be gentle with yourself if it didn’t go exactly according to plan. Taking care of a newborn is no joke, and doing it 24/7 is more than a full-time job, often filled with days where your only adult conversations are in the morning and/or at night when your significant other gets home from work. If you decide that staying home full-time really isn’t for you and heading back to work will provide you with the mental stimulation and creativity you crave, that’s totally fine.

Alternately, if you decide you will stay home, be sure to reassess what a new budget would look like without your pay, including things like where your health insurance will come from and how you’ll save for retirement. (You can get an idea of where your finances stand and how much debt you’re carrying by viewing your free credit report on Credit.com.)

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

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How to Make Moving Back Home Work for You

Moving back home doesn't have to be the end of the world. Here are tips for surviving and getting out.

I’ve moved back home with my parents twice: Once after college to work at a nearby internship and again after breaking up with the person I was living with.

My parents were, at least outwardly, cool about it both times. They never charged rent, which probably made me feel more guilty about mooching off them and spurred me to move out faster.

More than half of post-college millennials moved back in with their parents after college, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade. Not all of them have parents as cool as mine, and the mix of emotions involved with shacking up in your childhood bedroom can lead to tension. So if that’s where you find yourself, here are a few tips for making it work.

How to Prepare

Before you plan to move home, you should have a plan to leave, said Susan Newman, a psychologist and author of “Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily.” Know how you will eventually move out and discuss a possible move-out date with your parents.

“It helps you focus a little more on your job hunt,” she said.

If you don’t have a job yet, don’t stress. Here are 50 things you can do to score your first job.

If the date passes, you can always reassess.

You should also talk about your schedule. When you were in high school, your parents might have expected you for dinner every night. Now that you’re an adult, if that’s not the case, you should have a conversation to reset those expectations so Mom doesn’t get offended when she makes your favorite dish and you’re at the bar.

How to Have a Social Life

While you may want to have friends or dates over whenever you want, you still need to respect your parents’ feelings, Newman said. After all, it’s still their house.

Kate Moore, a 26-year-old content creator with Precision Marketing Group, has lived at home for about two months. She said it’s best to establish boundaries on day one.

“You’re used to gallivanting around town at all hours of the night and returning when you felt like it,” Moore said. “Now that you’re back under your parents’ roof, you need to maintain a delicate balance between respecting their space and maintaining your freedom.”

If you expect to be able to come and go as you please, make that clear, but also promise to be considerate.

How to Avoid Clashes

If you had tension with your parents before you moved out, don’t expect that to go away this time around. Make sure to address it head-on once you move back in, Newman said.

For example, if talking about politics always leads to an argument at the dinner table, Newman suggests making clear that is an off-limits topic for both of you. If your parents have disagreed with you on certain issues your whole life, like your style, friends or politics, come to an agreement that you won’t let those issues come to a boil.

Some parents simply won’t listen. It can be hard for the people who taught you how use the toilet to treat you like a fellow adult.

“One thing that might help a lot of the time is to say to your parents, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not the little kid I was before and I really don’t like being treated like a teen who just got my driver’s license,'” Newman said.

However, that also means acting like an adult. Clean up after yourself and don’t expect your parents to do everything for you.

How to Avoid Feeling Like a Mooch

Moore said her parents charge her only as much rent as their utilities increased from her living with them. She said other people moving home should work out how they could contribute to the costs in bills and food they’re accumulating for their parents. Little gestures help, too.

“Sometimes I delight my parents by bringing home a case of paper towels or a gallon of 2% milk,” Moore said. “Small contributions to the greater household will go a long way.”

Don’t act like a guest, Newman said. If you don’t have a job, find other ways to help, like making dinner or mowing the lawn. Yard work for neighbors might also be a good way to earn some extra money.

How to Benefit

You’re not just getting free meals and discounted rent, Newman said, but a chance to spend time with your parents while you’re adult instead of a child they’re raising. Young people should take advantage of the opportunity to get to know their parents, in addition to paying off their student loans or building up their savings. (See how to lower your student loan payments here.)

“As a young adult, and as a parent who’s not racing off to the soccer field for the third game of the weekend, you have more time to talk,” Newman said.

How to Get Out

Whatever your reason for moving back home, whether it’s to chip away at student loan debt or to find a job, pay off credit card debt or simply to save money, it’s important to know what your monetary target is and make a plan for getting there.

Even if you don’t reach your goal by the the time you agree to move out, whether it’s six months or a year, your parents won’t necessarily kick you out if you’ve shown progress, Newman said.

Moore said a mix of rent prices in the area, student loan debt and credit card debt led her back home. Since moving, she’s paid off one of her credit cards. (Paying off a credit card means you’ll lower your credit utilization, and ultimately improve your credit scores. Having good credit scores can help you land better terms and conditions on things like an auto loan or mortgage. Want to see how your credit card debt is affecting you? Check out a free snapshot of your credit report on Credit.com.)

Young adults moving back home shouldn’t feel like they’ve failed, neither should parents whose kids haven’t quite left the nest, Newman said.

“You don’t have to feel guilty,” she said. A lot of young adults lean on their parents to some degree, even if they don’t move back home.

“My son still brings home his laundry,” she said.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

The post How to Make Moving Back Home Work for You appeared first on Credit.com.

How New Parents Can Budget For Child Care

Plan ahead as much as possible.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Having a new baby on the way is an incredibly joyous time for most families, but it can also be stressful. After all, babies require a lot of care — they need to be fed and changed, and then there’s the diapers, clothes, bedding, car seats, toys, healthcare … it can be overwhelming, both emotionally and financially.

Add to that the tremendous childcare expense — the average annual cost for child care in the United States is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition — and it can feel downright impossible, especially if your finances are already tight.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you budget for child care. We talked to Katie Bugbee, senior managing editor of Care.com, a website dedicated to helping families and caregivers connect in a reliable and easy way. She shared some ideas on how to start saving at every stage.

“Obviously, the earlier people can start saving the better,” Bugbee said. “When you have babies on the brain is a good time to start cutting back. As much as you want to celebrate the last few years without kids and enjoy them, you should also really make sure that you have enough money moving forward to live as comfortably as possible with the additional expenses.”

Before Baby Comes

There are a multitude of things you can do to save money before you have a baby on the way. From cutting back on your daily $3 coffee to skipping that new outfit for work and even buying used items instead of new.

You can also save money by using a cash-back credit card for your everyday purchases. Some of the best cash-back cards can help you earn rewards on pretty much everything you buy. Of course, most of these cards require you have good credit. But, if you don’t, it’s good to keep in mind there are credit cards for bad credit and some — like the Discover it Secured card or the Capital One Secured MasterCard — even offer cash back rewards. Even better, they’ll help you build and improve your credit if managed properly. You can see what your credit situation is by reviewing your free credit report snapshot from Credit.com, which updates monthly.

Of course, you can also save in larger ways. Instead of moving into a bigger, nicer apartment or house, stay where you are for now. That way, you keep your housing budget reigned in while you put more money into savings for your new baby.

If you have the cash flow, set up a savings account especially for baby, and consider skipping that fabulous week long vacation to St. Lucia and opt instead for a long weekend visiting friends. Here are 7 other money moves to make before baby arrives.

When Baby Is On the Way

When you know your baby is on the way, it’s time to really get busy with the saving, especially if you didn’t so earlier. One option is to see if your employer offers flexible spending accounts that cover child care. If so, it could be worth setting up and reaping the tax benefits it will provide. You can also ask if there’s a child care subsidy available, or if there is in-office child care.

Now is also a good time to talk to your accountant or financial adviser about how best to plan for your new family addition. Are there additional tax breaks to consider?

You might also want to begin researching child care options in your neighborhood. There’s a lot to consider, and your financial situation will likely dictate what choices you make. Will you want at-home care? If so, a nanny share can be a great way to cut your costs. Will you opt for a family day care center instead? Are there any in your neighborhood that offer a sliding pay scale that fits your financial situation?

“Going and getting the best care for the most affordable option is what you need to charge yourself with,” Bugbee said. “I strongly recommend using message boards for that, because you probably don’t even know half the daycare or nanny options in your area.”

She suggested trying out sites like Bigtent.com to find child care options near your home. These are closed groups that will want to verify you live in the area, but once that hurdle is out of the way, they can be incredibly helpful, Bugbee said.

You may also want to consider Facebook groups for parents, which can also be very helpful in finding affordable child care services through people who have already used them, she said.

When Baby Arrives & Every Day After

Now is the time to start looking for ways to save money on baby gear itself.

“The only new things you really need are cribs and car seats,” Bugbee said, adding that pretty much everything else can be bought used. Be sure to check for recalls on used products, however, as well as expiration dates where applicable. The money you save can be used toward child care.

Bugbee also suggested using Amazon Mom to help save money on things like diapers, sippy cups, bottles and more.And remember that cash-back rewards credit card we mentioned earlier? Putting it to use on essential purchases can help you save even more. (As far as shopping on Amazon goes, you may find a lot of value in their credit card, which we reviewed here.)

At the end of the day, you want what is best for your child. Saving money wherever you can help you provide a better life for them now and in the future. And teaching them to do the same can help them be financially secure even when you aren’t around to watch after them.

At publishing time, the Discover it Secured and the Capital One Secured MasterCard are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: DragonImages

 

The post How New Parents Can Budget For Child Care appeared first on Credit.com.

7 Things You Can Do Now to Solidify Your Child’s Financial Future

There are plenty of things parents can do now to help set their kids down the right path financially.

If you have kids, or are considering having them, you’ve likely started thinking about what that will mean for your finances. But have you thought about how you can help your kids become prepared for their own financial future? There are plenty of things parents can do now to help set their kids down the right path financially. Here are a few.

1. Set up a College Savings Account

One of the most important things you can do is to consider how (and if) you’ll help them obtain a college education. An analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute found that in 2016, Americans with four-year college degrees made almost twice the average hourly wage compared to those without a degree. So a college degree is still important. However, you should never save for your child’s college at the expense of saving for your retirement. Instead, consider whether, and how much, you can responsibly save for both. (You can read this to help determine if a 529 college savings plan is the right avenue for you and this one about how much is enough when it comes to college savings.)

2. Have a Life Insurance Policy

Don’t think of a life insurance policy in terms of what would happen to your kid if you die. Consider it a way to ensure your child is taken care of in the future, no matter what happens to you. Talk to a certified financial planner if you aren’t sure where to start, or which option is best for you. (Or you can read this article that outlines seven essential documents to fill out.)

3. Put a Guardian in Your Will

Putting together a solid will so your child will be taken care of if something happens to you should be a top priority when estate planning. Picking the best guardian for your child is equally important. You can name two types of guardians — one to physically look after your child and one to look after their assets. Think seriously before simply naming your mom or best friend as your child’s guardian.

4. Open a Savings Account for Your Child

When it comes to helping kids become financially savvy, teaching them how to save — and why savings are important — is crucial. Your kid doesn’t have to be walking yet for you to open a savings account in their name. Ask your bank about a custodial savings account. Once your child is old enough for an allowance, you can discuss why everyone should have savings and how much to put away. Many experts say saving 20% of your income is a good way to build up a safety net.

5. Give Them an Allowance

Experts differ on whether giving kids an allowance helps them become financially savvy, how much to give and for what purpose (just to help them save, or in conjunction with chores, etc.). Research from T. Rowe Price, an investment management company, showed that children who receive an allowance are more likely to think they have a good understanding of basic financial topics than those who don’t get one. The important thing is to not give your kid an allowance and let him do with it what he will — you need to talk about money with your kid, as well. Discuss the importance of earning money and how to make it last.

6. Talk About Your Finances

Money is often a taboo subject in families, but it shouldn’t be. Consider talking to your kid about money early and often. A 2014 study from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas found that children pay close attention to issues related to money. Make sure you’re filling them in on the important facts. (View your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com to help see where you stand.)

7. Involve Them in (Certain) Financial Decisions

Your young child probably won’t help you save for a down payment on a new house or have detailed conversations about your debt-repayment plans. However, there’s no reason they can’t help put together a grocery list and come shop with you while you discuss how food costs money and the importance of family budgeting. Or perhaps on vacation, your kid can help decide how family money will be best spent on a few outings or can watch you fill up the gas tank to get an understanding of how much your road trip costs. Teach your kid early that it costs money to do fun things and how saving helps you achieve certain financial goals. You might be surprised how much your kid remembers later from your early — and repeated — money conversations in the future.

Image: szeyuen 

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7 Things You Can Do Now to Solidify Your Child’s Financial Future

There are plenty of things parents can do now to help set their kids down the right path financially.

If you have kids, or are considering having them, you’ve likely started thinking about what that will mean for your finances. But have you thought about how you can help your kids become prepared for their own financial future? There are plenty of things parents can do now to help set their kids down the right path financially. Here are a few.

1. Set up a College Savings Account

One of the most important things you can do is to consider how (and if) you’ll help them obtain a college education. An analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute found that in 2016, Americans with four-year college degrees made almost twice the average hourly wage compared to those without a degree. So a college degree is still important. However, you should never save for your child’s college at the expense of saving for your retirement. Instead, consider whether, and how much, you can responsibly save for both. (You can read this to help determine if a 529 college savings plan is the right avenue for you and this one about how much is enough when it comes to college savings.)

2. Have a Life Insurance Policy

Don’t think of a life insurance policy in terms of what would happen to your kid if you die. Consider it a way to ensure your child is taken care of in the future, no matter what happens to you. Talk to a certified financial planner if you aren’t sure where to start, or which option is best for you. (Or you can read this article that outlines seven essential documents to fill out.)

3. Put a Guardian in Your Will

Putting together a solid will so your child will be taken care of if something happens to you should be a top priority when estate planning. Picking the best guardian for your child is equally important. You can name two types of guardians — one to physically look after your child and one to look after their assets. Think seriously before simply naming your mom or best friend as your child’s guardian.

4. Open a Savings Account for Your Child

When it comes to helping kids become financially savvy, teaching them how to save — and why savings are important — is crucial. Your kid doesn’t have to be walking yet for you to open a savings account in their name. Ask your bank about a custodial savings account. Once your child is old enough for an allowance, you can discuss why everyone should have savings and how much to put away. Many experts say saving 20% of your income is a good way to build up a safety net.

5. Give Them an Allowance

Experts differ on whether giving kids an allowance helps them become financially savvy, how much to give and for what purpose (just to help them save, or in conjunction with chores, etc.). Research from T. Rowe Price, an investment management company, showed that children who receive an allowance are more likely to think they have a good understanding of basic financial topics than those who don’t get one. The important thing is to not give your kid an allowance and let him do with it what he will — you need to talk about money with your kid, as well. Discuss the importance of earning money and how to make it last.

6. Talk About Your Finances

Money is often a taboo subject in families, but it shouldn’t be. Consider talking to your kid about money early and often. A 2014 study from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas found that children pay close attention to issues related to money. Make sure you’re filling them in on the important facts. (View your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com to help see where you stand.)

7. Involve Them in (Certain) Financial Decisions

Your young child probably won’t help you save for a down payment on a new house or have detailed conversations about your debt-repayment plans. However, there’s no reason they can’t help put together a grocery list and come shop with you while you discuss how food costs money and the importance of family budgeting. Or perhaps on vacation, your kid can help decide how family money will be best spent on a few outings or can watch you fill up the gas tank to get an understanding of how much your road trip costs. Teach your kid early that it costs money to do fun things and how saving helps you achieve certain financial goals. You might be surprised how much your kid remembers later from your early — and repeated — money conversations in the future.

Image: szeyuen 

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5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Be a Stay-at-Home Parent

It's a big decision to stay home after having a baby — but doing so isn't an option that is right for every mother.

Sometimes new mothers have a hard time deciding if they want to return to work after their baby is born, especially after bonding with their child during maternity leave. Sometimes there is no choice — like if you’re a single parent or your family can’t afford to live solely on your partner’s salary — and there’s not much left to do but head back to the office.

Women who have the option to stay home with a baby may have trouble weighing the pros and cons. As hard as it is to decide, there might be some fairly obvious signs that you’re actually not ready to be a stay-at-home mom. Of course, these tip offs apply to all those prospective stay-at-home dads, too.

Here are a few signs you’re not ready to be a stay-at-home parent.

1. You Have a Budget But Don’t Follow It 

Having a budget is one thing, but following it is something entirely different. Just because it looks like you have your finances under control on paper, if your credit card statements tell a different story, you might need to reconsider staying home, at least until you can get your spending under control. (Curious how your credit card debt is affecting your credit? You can see a free snapshot of your credit report here.)

Having a baby is bound to bring in even more expenses (according to the Department of Agriculture, the current cost of raising a child through age 17 is a whopping $233,610), so if you already have trouble following a budget — or you haven’t updated your budget yet to include everything your baby will need — you may want to consider seeing what following an updated budget would be like for at least a month before deciding if you can afford to live on one salary.

2. You Haven’t Saved for Retirement Yet/You Have No Retirement Savings Plan if You Quit

It’s no secret that Americans are worried about retirement. In fact, one recent survey found that 56% of Americans lose sleep over saving for retirement, while another found that 38% of millennials find retirement to be a significant financial stressor. Even if you have started saving but it’s been a few years since you’ve checked in on your progress, it may be time for a bump in how much you put away … something that will be much more difficult to do if you decide to leave your job.

Of course parents who decide to stay at home do have options when it comes to retirement (spousal IRAs, self-employed retirement funds and rollover accounts, to name a few). But if you don’t qualify for them, don’t care to look into them or can’t afford to put anything else away if you leave your job, it’s probably best to reconsider leaving until you can. You can read this guide to learn more about IRAs.

3. Your Partner’s Health Insurance Options for You & Your Baby Are Subpar at Best

While the future of healthcare is a little shaky right now, there’s one thing you can safely assume no matter what happens — you and your baby will need some. Newborns spend the first six months of their lives visiting a pediatrician at least once a month (often much more frequently in their first few weeks), and new moms, in particular, will have plenty of check-ups with their OB as well. These aren’t things you’ll want to do without health insurance, so if your partner’s options for you and your child don’t stack up, staying on yours until something better comes along is a good idea.

4. Your Emergency Savings Account Is Minimal

You might think having three months worth of bills covered in an emergency account is great — and it is — but it might not be enough if you’re considering leaving your job. Experts recommend having at least three to six months’ worth of bills covered in an emergency savings account, and that doesn’t really take into account all the extras that come along with having a baby. If you’ll be moving into a house from an apartment for more space, assume that you’ll have random projects pop up that will start draining that emergency fund quickly. If your partner can afford to keep funding the account to cover for any withdrawals you take or to provide you with more of a cushion that’s one thing, but if the account has been stagnant for a while and your family can’t afford to put anything else away right now, maybe a better idea is to stay at your job and slowly build up the emergency account a bit more so that when/if the time comes that you leave your job, you’ll feel more secure knowing your emergency funds are all there.

(And, if you don’t have a savings account at all, you’ll want to start socking away dollars ASAP. No need to panic, though: This piece will help you create an emergency fund in 30 days or less.)

5. You Struggle Spending All Day Alone with the Baby During Work Leave

Let’s be honest — babies are tough to take care of. So if you find it difficult to stay positive while on maternity or paternity leave, that might be a sign that you’re not quite ready stay home full time with a baby. Working is about a lot more than just a paycheck — it’s about having some time to yourself (funny how commutes suddenly become a wonderful thing) and with other adults, and it’s about having a job to do that both stimulates and fulfills you. If you don’t think staying at home with a baby will do all of those things for you, it’s probably best for you, and your family, if you head back to work.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: g-stockstudio

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13 Ways to Save at Babies R Us

Taking care of baby is expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save at the nearby Babies 'R' Us.

Whether you’re a first-time parent or a pro at parenting your multiple kids, the truth is taking care of little ones comes with a hefty price tag. If you’re on a first-name basis with the customer service rep at Babies R Us, you could probably benefit from our list of ways to save at this kids’ goods superstore.

1. Start at the Source

Don’t miss the Babies R Us savings center, chock full of daily deals in the ‘today’s deals’ section.

2. Shop the Sales

It goes without saying that shopping the clearance section will save you some cash, and the Babies R Us clearance section online is a great way to get started.

3. Become a Rewards ‘R’ Us Member

Rewards R Us members earn one point for every $1 spent at Babies R Us and Toys R Us stores, and 125 points earns you $5 in R Us Rewards. You can bank your points up to $200 in R Us rewards for future purchases.

4. Put Together a Registry

If you’re expecting, putting together a registry with Babies R Us will get you up to 10% back on purchases made from that registry if you’re a Rewards R Us member — even if you made the purchases yourself. You’ll also receive a 10% completion discount certificate to finish purchasing the rest of the items from your registry.

5. Search for Coupons in Your Local Paper

Your local Babies R Us may be having its own sales, which you can learn about through your local paper. You can also select your local Babies R Us location online and look for weekly ads containing coupons there.

6. Double Up on Coupon Savings

Check out coupons available directly from Babies ‘R’ Us and on sites like RetailMeNot, then try searching for manufacturer coupons for products you’re interested in. Babies R Us will let you stack your coupons, which could greatly add to your savings.

7. Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Sign up for the Babies R Us newsletter for sales notifications and coupons, and follow the brand on Twitter and Facebook to never miss a sale.

8. Trade in Your Old Baby Goods

At least once a year the company has a trade-in event that could earn you savings. For example, from now through Feb. 20th, Toys R Us and Babies R Us are hosting a Great Trade-In Gear & Furniture Event, where trading in your old gear will score you a 25% off coupon on a new item, or 30% off when you use your R Us Credit card.

9. Provide Your Contact Information at the Store

While it’s frustrating to be constantly confronted with fliers from stores where you’ve given out your email or home address, if you’re hoping to score deals on baby goods, it doesn’t hurt to share that information with Babies R Us. At least once a month a flier comes to my home, and while I’m not always looking for baby gear, the attached coupon that comes with the flier is always appreciated.

10. Open an R Us Credit Card

If you know this store will be on your monthly hit list, it might be worth signing up for an R Us credit card. When you open the card, you’ll start with either 15% off your purchase that day or a special financing option, plus you’ll earn two points per every $1 spent at either Toys or Babies R Us (125 points = $5 in rewards), and you’ll get 10% off on in-store purchases every Thursday when you use the credit card.

Want more details? Check out our Babies R Us credit card breakdown or visit our full credit card review center.

11. Use the Price Match Guarantee Program

Babies R Us will price match your in-store purchase on identical items from any of its competitors, including Amazon, Baby Depot, diapers.com and Target, among others (in-store and online prices are eligible). Find the full list here.

12. Buy in Bulk to Save on Shipping

A purchase of $19 or more will earn you free shipping at babiesrus.com. If you can’t wait the four to six days for delivery you could always opt for the free in-store pick-up option (when available). This way, if your items are in stock, you can pick them up all together in the same day, usually in under an hour. Using this method allows you to pay for your items online before picking them up, meaning if anything is on sale or cheaper online (which occasionally happens), you’ll be able to score that deal.

13. Use Outside Sources

Search discount sites like Gift Card Granny and Groupon, which often offer vouchers or gifts cards for stores at discounted prices. Keep in mind that sometimes these transactions aren’t immediate so they’re best for items you don’t need right away.

Want more brand hacks? Check out our roundup of 7 ways to save at Macy’s.

Image: FatCamera

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5 Things Having a Baby Taught Me About Money

A new mom and personal finance expert shares the new money lessons she learned from baby.

While I’ve always been pretty financially conscious (you don’t become a personal finance writer by not caring about these kinds of things), it wasn’t really until I had a kid that I started putting some of the financial advice I’ve always heard into practice. Plus, I picked up plenty of new tips.

Here are five of the biggest things I learned about my finances after I had a baby. They don’t only apply to people with kids, though. In fact, I wish I’d taken some of them into consideration a little bit sooner.

1. Sometimes it’s OK to Spend Money to Save Time … or Your Sanity

While I’d never advocate for frivolous spending, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s OK to spend a little bit extra on something that will either help save time or make your life just a little bit easier. In my Mom Life, that has taken on all kinds of forms: From big-ticket items like forking over the cash for a nanny (as a freelancer I could just as easily be stingy and try to fit all my work into nap times, nights when my husband gets home or the weekends, but why make it so hard?) to deciding to finish our basement (a large chunk of cash upfront, yes, but with all the visitors we have coming to see the baby, and all the toys that are steadily taking over the house, this is a sanity saver for sure) to the small — and sometimes silly — but necessary, like investing in travel covers for our stroller and car seat so they don’t get ruined when they’re chucked carelessly under planes.

2. Time Really Does Fly, so Start Saving for Retirement Today

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia when you have a tiny baby that depends on you for her every want and need. But every now and then, when I get five seconds to myself, I’m able to look back through the photos on my phone and see how much my daughter has grown. Can she honestly be six months already? You’re probably saying, “I already know time goes quickly. It’s been [insert amount of time here] since I graduated from college,” but really, there’s nothing that sets up a ticking clock quite like a quickly growing child. My point is, although I have always kept the mantra “the earlier you can start saving for retirement, the better,” tucked somewhere in the back of my mind, I now fully grasp the truth behind it.

For example, my daughter was born in July 2016. Had I invested just $100 on that day into a retirement account, by the time I’m potentially ready to retire in 30+ years, that measly $100 could grow to more than $900. Now imagine I invested more than $100, and did so every single month instead of once? Behold, the power of compound interest.

3. Things Change, so it’s Important to Revisit Budgets & Goals

Having a child would be an obvious change to anyone’s budget, but for me, becoming a parent just reinforced how important it is to not only have a budget and savings goals, but that it’s equally as important to revisit those things on a fairly routine basis. Before I was married, for example, my savings goals consisted of essentially two buckets: Emergency and travel. (Ah, the good ol’ days.) When I got married they became: Emergency, travel, move/house. When we started thinking about kids, a fourth “baby” bucket was added. You get the picture. Since buying a house, we’ve added “home repairs” to that list, too, and believe me when I say we’ve already tapped into that one mightily.

The beginning of the year is a great time to check in on your current budget and savings goals and update as needed, but don’t be afraid to shift things around as often as you need to remain comfortable.

4. Finding What Makes You Most Productive Will Be to Your Advantage

I’ve always considered myself an organized person, but I really kicked it into high gear when my daughter was born, and that’s helped my career as well. As I planned to re-enter the workforce after taking a couple months off when my daughter was born, we didn’t yet have a nanny, but I wasn’t willing to wait to get started. Enter the key to my success: organization. As a working mom without a nanny — and then even when we did find one — I realized quickly that if I was going to get anything (let alone everything) done that I wanted to in a day, I better have a plan. For some people (ahem, me) that might mean making daily to-do lists where items can be crossed off. Others might find reminders set for specific times of day helpful, or setting calendar appointments.

The point is, most of us need a little help keeping on task throughout any given day, whether it’s with personal or professional goals. Learning the things that will get you moving more quickly and efficiently will help you power through your to-do list and streamline your day. Remember: Time is money, so make the most of yours.

5. It’s OK to Use Your Savings for What You’ve Saved For

I’ve always felt more secure when I had savings in the bank, which at times has meant going without things I could have really used, even if they were the exact things I was actually saving for in the first place. Silly, I know, but once I was able to start putting money into savings I loved to watch it grow — and I equally hated to watch it dwindle.

Fast forward a couple years and some of those savings buckets have to be spent — hello mortgage down payments, health insurance deductibles to give birth and any number of house repairs. These days it seems like I don’t have the option of whether to spend money in my savings … for the good of my family, money must be spent. And that’s OK. The whole point of saving up for something in the first place is so that when the time comes to actually purchase the item — whether it’s a house, a vacation or that really extravagant computer bag you’ve had your eye on — you’ve done your due diligence and can buy it outright, rather than go into credit card debt over it (and, if you already have, you can find tips for getting rid of those balances here). Coming to grips with this earlier could have saved me a lot of unwarranted angst.

Of course everyone is different when it comes to money management, but hopefully at least a few of the revelations I’ve had about finances over the past six months might be able to help you out, as well.

For more money lessons, visit Credit.com’s personal finance learning center.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: SolStock

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