Here’s a Mother’s Day gift of financial wisdom for all those new moms.
Life insurance company MassMutual asked mothers: “What is the biggest financial mistake you made when becoming a first-time mom?”
The No. 1 mistake: Overspending on non-necessities like clothes, toys and gadgets (40%). Approximately 16% of mothers said they continued to spend on non-necessities like restaurants, self-care and new clothes like they did before they had a child, and 15% said they should have saved more for a college fund, while 4% said paying for a full-time nanny and sending their child to day-care was a financial mistake. One quarter of moms said they didn’t make any financial mistakes.
Overspending on non-necessities like clothes, toys and gadgets was the biggest financial mistake made by mothers with their first child.
Of those who did start saving in a college fund like a 529 plan, 56% of the mothers surveyed said they’re investing between $50 and $250 each month. If a parent of a five-year-old child has no college savings, his or her parents will need to save $641 per month to cover the estimated cost of $174,000 to attend a public 4-year in-state college starting in 2032, according to MassMutual’s “College Savings Calculator.” (Over 1,000 mothers were polled.)
And surprise costs? Some 29% of moms say disposable baby items were the most unexpected cost when they first had a child, while others were surprised by the cost of child care (16%) and medical costs (16%). The majority of moms (87%) changed their financial habits when they found out they were pregnant, including cutting back spending on non-necessities (63%) and increasing savings (39%). But 29% of respondents say they now have more debt.
Mothers are less open to talking about family finances than fathers, according to a separate MassMutual survey of 10,000 U.S. adults released last year. Some 69% of mothers said they talk about finances at least once a month with their spouse or partner compared to 78.5% of fathers. That may reflect a generational divide where men, particularly older men, are more likely to view themselves as the breadwinners, the researchers speculated.
Fewer mothers than fathers had emergency funds and paid down credit-card or student-loan debt. Financial planners say couples should have an open and candid conversation about budgets and money goals before getting married and, especially, before having a child. It’s also wise to discuss expectations about their lifestyle post-marriage. (For instance, the majority of mothers in the latest MassMutual survey said extra-curricular activities for their kids are worth the cost.)
Those results are backed up by data released last year by UBS Wealth Management USA
That survey of 1,474 people over the age of 18 found that 56% of married women leave investment and financial decisions to their husbands and 85% said they believed that their husbands know more about financial matters and investment topics. (More than half of divorcees and widows discover financial surprises like outdated wills and debts, UBS said.)