The 2016 Financial Checklist For Parents
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The 2016 Financial Checklist For Parents

  • Create an emergency fund that can last 3-6 months.
  • Make a budget and a college savings plan.
  • Protect your family by buying life insurance and writing a will.

Is 2016 going to be the year you finally get all of those financial tasks crossed off your to-do list? If you’re a parent, there are a handful of financial priorities that aren’t the most thrilling to tackle, but they’re extremely important for the financial security of your family.

Lucky for you, spending even a little time on our 5-item checklist will save you a significant headache (and fortune) in the future. So get started on the list, and make a toast to a financially great 2016 for you and your family:

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1. Create An Emergency Fund

According to a recent study by The Pew Charitable Trusts, 40% of Americans say they would rely on credit cards to help cover an emergency if their checking or savings accounts couldn’t cover it. The study also revealed that 41% of respondents wouldn’t have enough cash savings to cover a $2,000 surprise expense.

But, this gamble can be avoided if you just prioritize your savings. Start small by opening a $500 savings account, and then grow it slowly to $1,000 and beyond. The ultimate goal is to have an emergency fund with 3-6 months of expenses. I personally have one with one month’s worth of expenses in it (about $6,000) and I’m actively trying to grow it. I try to plan for as many surprises as possible in my regular budget, like small car repairs and unusual medical bills, but I’m glad I have the emergency fund if something bigger were to happen, like having to purchase another car.

I know saving this amount of money can seem impossible, especially if you’re used to living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s attainable if you have a great plan in place. Remember, emergency funds help prevent the cycle of debt and can be such a comfort especially if you have young children. Start today by putting even a small amount away and adding to it over time. If you’re disciplined and save at the beginning of each month when you get your paycheck, you’ll be surprised at how fast your fund grows.

2. Write A Will

One of the most dreaded tasks on parents’ financial checklist is creating a last will and testament. This is commonly viewed as the most confusing and costly item on the list. However, there are ways you can DIY the task by purchasing forms online, especially if you don’t have too many complex factors to consider.

Digital wills are becoming more popular these days, but experts have some concerns about storing all of your vital financial and end-of-life planning documents online. A good compromise if you don’t have extensive assets would be to create a will online inexpensively (there are a number of companies that offer this) and then be sure to print out all the documents and store them in a place where your family members could find them. You could also leave them with your attorney and make sure your family members know the name of your attorney. Be sure to list any important passwords or other information your family should know should something happen to you.

Many people forget to create a will, and it’s important to understand that a will isn’t necessarily for you so much as it is for your survivors. Creating a will allows your wishes to be clearly stated, and it helps your children to divide your assets and take care of any outstanding debts. Essentially, the more information you provide in your will, the better off and less stressed your children will be should something happen to you.

3. Obtain Life Insurance

Buying life insurance to cover you and your spouse and protect your kids is easier than ever before thanks to the Internet. Most of the time you can compare quotes and rates online and even obtain a policy without ever leaving your house. For some reason many parents lack life insurance or have an inadequate level of coverage. But once you have children, it’s so important to make a modest monthly payment to ensure your children have the life you want them to have in case anything happens to you.

It’s not fun to think about, but if you have someone that relies on you financially to feed and clothe them, then you need to have life insurance. I personally have over a million dollars worth of coverage because my children are very young, and I want to be sure they have resources available to them for many years to come.

4. Start A College Savings Fund

One thing my husband and I have prioritized (even though we’re still in debt from his medical school degree) is saving for our kids’ futures. There are many different ways to save for your children’s futures. One favorite is to open a 529 college savings account, or you can open a more general savings or investment account.

Saving in a 529 might not be the best fit for every family because it can only be used for qualified education expenses. While we hope college is something our kids choose in the future, I wanted their savings to be more open ended in case they decide to pursue other dreams, like starting a business very young or traveling the world. If you haven’t started a savings fund for your kids yet, make 2016 the year to get started! A little goes a long way, especially if your children are young. Remember, the power of compound interest is on your side, so the earlier you start, the better.

5. Begin A Budget

Many people know they should budget their money, but they don’t know how to start. Luckily, the process of starting a budget is relatively simple. All it takes is knowing how much money is going in and how much money is coming out of your accounts. If you simply track your money for one month, you’ll see how many categories you need. Then just remember to factor in expenses you’ll only encounter once or twice a year, like car or health insurance. Also, keep those miscellaneous and unexpected expenses like home repairs and car repairs in mind, too.

Start Tracking Your Spending

When most people hear the word budget, it has a nagging, negative connotation. However, a budget is really just a tool to track your spending and make sure you know where your money is going. Obviously, if you find that too much of your money is going to things you don’t need or can’t afford, it’s wise to cut back, but it’s the knowledge a budget brings that can make you more aware and involved in your finances than ever before.

Ultimately, the vast majority of parents have a list of financial tasks they know they should complete, but the chaos of raising children always seems to get in the way. But, tackling the five financial tasks above one at a time will not only make you feel incredibly accomplished, it will also ensure your family is secure and financially safe for anything that comes your way.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Catherine Alford is an award winning personal finance writer who contributes to several online publications. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech.
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Let us know…

This year, my top financial priority is:

Building my emergency fund
Paying off high-interest debt
Budgeting better
Saving for a short-term goal, like a vacation or new car
Increasing my investment contributions
Maintaining status quo - I’ve got this under control

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