Defining Your Future Goals
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
The period of time ramping up to your child’s birth is the ideal time to take stock of your financial situation. It’s also when you and your partner should start thinking about your financial goals and vision for your soon-to-be family. Will you need to make changes to your home to accommodate your child’s condition? Do you need to look into therapy?
That’s why it’s important to plan ahead for these unexpected costs. To help you prioritize what steps to take first, here’s a list of five important considerations.
1. Establish a Timeline for Your Family
Think of your current situation and where you see yourself throughout the phases of your child’s life. Who will care for your child in the event that something happens to you or your spouse? Depending on your child’s needs, will one of you need to stay at home to care for your child, or will you hire a caregiver?
These types of considerations should influence your timeline. To construct a timeline, think of all the financial expenses that you face going forward. How will you pay for these expenses as they arise? Plot these expenses along your timeline with a date, and start thinking of how you will prepare for each phase in the months (or years) leading up to it.
2. Take Your Financial Situation into Account
After you’ve established a general timeline for your family, you need to think of how you will cover those costs. Make a list of your financial situation, including everything from your household income to the cost of medical expenses and therapy. Here is a quick list of financial considerations to get you started:
Calculate your total monthly costs, which should include any recurring payments, like your mortgage (or rent) and your car bill. This number should also include the average amount you spend on groceries, dining out, and gas.
Determine your personal net worth by subtracting your liabilities (debts) from your assets (items that can be converted into cash).
List your income sources and total net income.
Include the cost of supplemental needs for your child, such as medication, therapy, medical supplies, and anything else related to your child’s needs.
If your child is the recipient of a fund or federal benefits, include their income as well.
3. Identify Potential Gaps in Your Timeline
To be clear, gaps are any place in your timeline that you foresee money or other types of support being an issue for your child. These gaps could be the result of a lack of savings, the premature passing of you or your spouse, or due to potential problems securing funding from federal and state benefits in the future.
4. Make a Plan to Fill Those Gaps
Planning to fill potential gaps is always easier said than done. It’s important to consult your family and close friends ahead of time if you think you’ll be unable to care for your child at any point.
If your financial situation is not stable, start creating a financial safety net as soon as possible, even if you can only contribute a small amount each month. Here are a few steps to get you started:
Create an emergency fund. Financial experts suggest stowing away $3,000 to $6,000, or three to six months of living expenses.
Deduct 20% of your monthly earnings for savings or to pad your emergency fund.
If necessary, downsize expensive items like your car so you have more cash flow.
Having an emergency fund in place will give you more confidence in making tough financial decisions. Without one, you’ll likely have to use a credit card or loan to cover unexpected costs. These options often come with high interest rates and can evolve into debt that stays with you for years.
5. Periodically Review Your Timeline
Once you’ve formulated a plan, it’s important to review it from time to time to make sure you’re sticking to your goals. Of course, life happens and you will inevitably stray from your timeline at some point. If this happens, simply adjust and move on. Having a general timeline of your financial goals will serve as an anchor that will help you prepare for any storm life throws at you.