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The unspoken challenge of parenthood

The unspoken challenge of parenthood

Deciding to start a family is a life-changing experience filled with love, responsibility, and tiredness… Whilst celebrating my daughter’s 2nd birthday this weekend, I realised how quickly she has changed. In just 24 months, she has learnt so much, but what have I learnt?

I’ve learnt how to change a nappy, keep my house going on little sleep, and how to do most things one-handed – all things that we were forewarned of before my little one was born. When starting a family, you get given lots of advice (whether you want it or not) but, despite working in financial services since I was 18, I had no prewarning of the impact parenthood would have on my finances.

After researching this topic, it turns out it is an unspoken challenge with very little guidance on this crucial aspect of planning a family. So here it is – the list I wish I had of important things to consider when starting a family.


Budgeting for the essentials

The first and most immediate financial impact of starting a family is acquiring the essentials required to keep your child happy and healthy. Nappies, baby grows and prams, the list goes on and one of the biggest surprises was how quickly these ‘little’ costs can add up. Everyone will have different budgets and priorities of what to spend money on however it is still important to keep track to stop this spiraling out of control.

I found it useful to make a list of everything we needed and allocate a budget for each item to understand the potential total cost. I had no idea how much a travel system cost but let’s just say it was more than I originally thought.

3am worries

Before becoming a parent, I had a very laid-back approach to what would happen should the worst happen. This changed overnight with this tiny face looking up, wholly dependent on me. It is hard when doing night feeds not to let your mind wander and one night I remember being up for hours trying to work out exactly what would happen if anything happened to me or my husband.

As soon as it turned 8 am I was on the phone with my employer and adviser to make sure my life cover was still active and exactly what would happen. Sorting this ahead of time would have saved me this panic so my tip is to ensure you have a clear understanding of the cover you have and need to make sure your baby is the only reason you have sleepless nights.


Childcare costs

Before I became a parent I had no idea how much childcare cost, and let’s just say it’s a lot.

The average cost of sending a child under the age of two to nursery, 25 hours a week, is £1381. Deciding if/when to return to work and in what capacity can be a challenge and is a decision that is unique to every family. While some people cannot wait to get back to the office and ‘normality’, others want to spend as much time at home as possible and neither choice is wrong.

Regardless of what you decide, it is an easier decision if you know what support is available to you. This government childcare calculator can be a useful place to start as from April 2024 more support than ever before will be available.

It is also useful for both parents to discuss the art of the possible with their employer, something we had never considered when planning was my husband taking time off. Following a conversation with his manager my husband was able to change to compressed hours to have a day a week off with our daughter. If you don’t ask you don’t get!

Moving the goalposts

Before starting our family, we had big financial plans, we wanted to make large overpayments to our mortgage, convert our garage, and spend a lot of time traveling. At the time of making these goals, they were 100% attainable. Over the last two years we have realised the importance of managing our expectations on how long it would take to achieve these goals. It isn’t that we no longer want these things but that we now have new goals and priorities that didn’t exist before having our daughter.

For example, for us, the main driver for wanting to overpay our mortgage was to plan for an early retirement giving us more time to enjoy ourselves, which makes sense. However, after having our daughter we found ourselves in the situation where our increased expenditure, if we were to continue paying at the same rate, would mean we have less disposable income to spend doing the things we love with our daughter, such as day trips, holidays etc.

Yes, our retirement is still important to us, but we realised that our daughter isn’t going to be little forever and by the time we retire she will probably have her own family. Our priorities changed because we wanted to spend more time enjoying her childhood and not defer that happiness to retirement.


Financially secure future

One of our priorities is that we never want our child to worry about money, we both work in finance and have seen daily the impact that worrying about money can have on mental health and relationships. Now I don’t for a minute think I can shield my daughter from this, as I am sure at some point in life everyone will worry about money.

A survey of 2,100 people showed that 62% said the biggest obstacle to buying a house was saving a deposit2 and with 34 being the average age people buy their first house in the UK3 this is something that we would like to support her with. By setting up regular savings into our daughter’s JISA we are helping to support her in the future. Starting right from the month she was born our investments have 18 years to grow and combined with 18 years of compound interest we are hoping this will give her the foundation needed to set her up financially.

Final thoughts

For me proactively budgeting for essentials, considering childcare costs, building an emergency fund, and adjusting my financial goals, I feel well-equipped to face the 16 years left of my daughter’s childhood. It is important to remember that every family’s financial situation is unique, so it’s crucial to tailor your financial strategy to your specific needs and goals. Parenthood is undoubtedly a financial challenge, but with careful planning and the right mindset, you can do it.

For more help and advice, call us on 01482 275540 or, complete our contact form here. We also offer no obligation financial advice in our complimentary guide, covering wealth management, retirement, and inheritance tax planning.

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

The favourable tax treatment of ISAs may not be maintained in the future and is subject to changes in legislation.


1 https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/work-and-childcare/childcare/average-childcare-costs

2 https://www.uswitch.com/mortgages/first-time-buyer-statistics/#:~:text=An%20overview%20of%20UK%20first%2Dtime%20buyer%20statistics%20in%202023&text=As%20of%202021%2D22%2C%20the,%25)%20as%20one%2Dperson%20households

3 https://www.independent.co.uk/money/mortgages-a-mystery-to-many-as-young-people-struggle-to-get-on-property-ladder-b1904330.html

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