As you start a family, your probably also going to start thinking more about certain financial matters. Things change when you have kids, so the right kind of planning can assist in making the transition less stressful down the road.

Parenting presents you with definite and sudden financial needs that must be addressed. If you choose to focus on those needs today, you will give yourself a head start on meeting critical financial goals in the future.

To adequately prepare for family life, we’ve assembled a to-do list, which can help jump-start your financial preparations. If you’re ready to start planning for your financial obligations as a parent, your list should include the following:

Life & Disability Insurance Coverage

If you or your spouse (or both of you) cannot work and earn an income, your household could struggle to pay your bills. With a family to support, the expenses you need to plan for may include education and medical expenses in addition to your usual monthly bills.

Disability and life insurance payments could provide some financial support in such an instance, you were to become disabled or suddenly pass away. Some employers provide these types of coverage through group or supplemental plans, but that coverage may not be sufficient to cover all of your needs. One in five Americans have a disability and more than 25% of 20-year-old Americans will become disabled before reaching retirement age. One in eight working people will identify as disabled for five years or longer during their pre-retirement years. Could you imagine your household going that long on only a fraction of its current income?

Generally, the earlier you buy life insurance coverage, the cheaper the premiums will be. The biggest savings await those consumers who buy coverage before age 30 and before they marry and have kids. After 30, high blood pressure and cholesterol problems may begin to show up on blood tests as well as other health problems that can surface with age. As an example, a single, child-free 25-year-old in good health purchasing a 30-year term policy with a $500,000 death benefit may pay a monthly premium of less than $75. The premium for the same policy jumps to around $115 for the typical 35-year-old married parent in good health. If you’re struggling to find a suitable plan for your needs, a financial planner can be a valuable resource to assist you in determining your need for life insurance.

To anticipate the unforeseen, it’s advisable to purchase disability and life insurance as soon as you’re comfortably able to do so. If you can prioritize this expense before you marry and have children, it will set you up for a more affordable payment plan that will continue to provide coverage after you engage in these lifelong commitments together.

Estate Planning for your Family

Is it too early in life to think about this? The answer is no. Having a will, healthcare directives, financial power of attorney and a living trust are all smart financial moves. These documents will prove especially crucial if you have children with special needs. That said, if you have health concerns of your own that may shorten your life or lead to weaknesses in your body or mind, you will want to make sure these documents are on hand and continually updated.

If you are considering designating a guardian for your children in the event of the unthinkable, whoever you appoint needs to be comfortable with the possibility of taking legal responsibility for your child. That person must also have the financial wherewithal to be a good guardian, and his or her family or spouse must also agree to it. Make sure you have these discussions early in your child’s life and check-in every few years to assure these arrangements are still suitable for both your children and your chosen guardian.

The most important point we can stress when discussing estate planning is the need to return and revise your documentation regularly. We cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure that your information reflects your current situation and the needs of your dependents.

Also, make sure those who are most important in your life understand your last wishes and know where to access this information. Nothing is harder in a time of distress than finding oneself at a loss for the proper paperwork to assure a beloved’s state of affairs are in order and the execution of their last wishes are properly executed.

College Planning

What will a year at a public university cost in 2035? Vanguard conducted an analysis and projected an average tuition of $54,070. (The 2035 projection was $121,078 for a private college). So, the message is clear: start saving for college now.

As a parent of young children, it may be difficult to envision a day when your children will be old enough to seek a college education. Despite the fact that you may deny that this is possible, the day will come and it’s important that you prepare for it. You may intend to pay for your children’s education in full, partial, or not at all. Regardless of your approach, it’s productive to disclose your intentions so your children have the opportunity to plan accordingly.

Saving and investing for college through a 529 plan, a Coverdell ESA, or other accounts that offer the potential for tax-deferred growth and other potential benefits may give you a better chance to meet future costs. Offering these solutions for the costs associated with higher education will alleviate the stress involved and allow your children to make a decision that sets them on a path of success.

An Emergency Fund

Often, individuals are not prepared for the unexpected. As a young, single adult, an unanticipated cost can create a speed bump in a budget. For a family, a lack of financial backing for an unexpected cost can be catastrophic. That’s why families must prioritize creating an emergency fund.

Ideally, your household should maintain a cash cushion equivalent to about three-months and up to six-months of your living expenses. For a family with two or more sources of income three-months might be just fine, but for families with a single source of income ehr on the side of caution and consider six-months. This cushion should include mortgage payments, household bills, debt repayments, gas and grocery expenses, and any other recurring payments you make each month. While it can be difficult to set this money aside, untouched, in the event of a crisis such as loss of employment, medical issues, or otherwise, this fund will serve as the necessary safety net to keep your family afloat.

Three to six months of expenses may seem like an intimidating amount. However, if you build it a little at a time your progressive growth during the coming years will surprise you.

The Bottom Line

When you begin to enter the stage of life that you decide to plan for a family, be sure to include these important financial precautions. Addressing these priorities now will lower your chance of financial stress in the future and safeguard your family against unnecessary hardship.

If you feel overwhelmed by these necessary steps, contact a financial planner. They will help you tackle the process of determining the best way forward for you and your family. Asking for help is the first step toward preparing for your future, and the best way to assure you’re protecting your most prized possessions – your loved ones.