New baby? No doubt this new arrival has turned every aspect of your life upside down in the best possible way. Now is the time to make sure your financial house is in order. Here's a 10-step account and financial checklist to lay the groundwork for your little one's successful future.
New Account Checklist for New Babies
- Apply for a Social Security number for the baby: An SSI number is the linchpin to open a bank account in your child's name, purchase savings bonds, obtain medical coverage and access government benefits.
- Review your life insurance: If you don't have life insurance, you should get coverage as soon as possible. If you already have a life insurance policy, check to make sure it's adequate to cover the needs of the new addition to the family.
- Pick a guardian: Choose a family member or close friend who is willing and financially able to care for your child, should you or the other parent pass away or become incapacitated before your child turns 18.
- Set up powers of attorney: Put in writing your legal power of attorney, which sets out who will be responsible for your financial and personal affairs should you be unable to make those decisions for yourself. You also should set up a healthcare power of attorney that makes your wishes known in the event you become seriously ill and are unable to participate in decisions about your care.
- Write your will: It's not just wealthy people who need a will. Every parent should create a document spelling out how his or her estate should be handled. The will may also include or reference legal guardianship and powers of attorney.
- Open a savings account in the baby's name: Choose a no-fee, no-minimum balance, online savings account. You can link the savings account to your checking for automatic withdrawals.
- Set up an emergency fund: You should put aside money from each paycheck into a savings account with the goal of having sufficient funds to cover living expenses for six months.
- Review your work benefits: Confirm how much paid (and unpaid) maternity leave is offered through the birth mother's employer, and whether paid leave is available for the other parent. Determine how you will obtain health benefits for the baby, either through an employer or government plan. Consult with your human resources office on flexible spending accounts and other benefits that may apply to your situation as a new parent.
- Check in with Uncle Sam: You can claim a tax credit of $1,000 for your new baby and take an annual tax deduction of $3,950 for each dependent child. You can also receive tax credits if you adopt a child and/or if you pay for child care. You should review your withholding status, which could mean that more take-home money is available to increase your emergency fund every month, for instance. Single parents may be able to claim head-of-household status.
- Start saving for college: Set up a 529 savings account, which generally is not subject to federal and state taxes if used to pay for college tuition. (If the funds are used for other purposes, earnings may be subject to a 10 percent federal tax penalty.) Details on fees and other aspects of the 529 plans vary by state, so do your research.