People love to talk about how much it costs to raise children. They love to point out the big numbers and talk about how difficult it is to make ends meet when you’re starting a family.
And those things can be true. Babies do cost money and it is a difficult adjustment as you figure out how to manage your new expenses along with your new life. It was hard for me when we had our first and it’s still hard today. That’s normal.
But sometimes I think there’s a little too much focus on the struggle. And I think that causes a lot of people to miss the amazing opportunity that new parents actually have.
With the right mindset, I actually believe that new parents are in the perfect financial situation. Here’s why.
You have stakes
Great people do their best work when their backs are up against the wall and they have to raise the level of their game, or else. Challenges push us to step outside our comfort zone and achieve things we might otherwise have considered impossible.
High stakes are scary. High stakes are uncomfortable. High stakes force us to be better.
Having a baby raises the stakes. All of a sudden it’s not just your own life you’re responsible for, but the life of a tiny little child. Your child.
That’s a big responsibility. It’s a big challenge. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of challenge that can change your perspective and motivate you to achieve great things.
I’ve seen people tackle a mountain of debt when they started a family.
I’ve seen people start a business when they started a family.
When the stakes are high, you don’t have time to mess around. You either handle what’s important or you watch those stakes take over your life.
That’s a scary challenge for sure, but the truth is that we should be grateful for it. It’s exactly the kind of push that can show us just how much we’re actually capable of.
You have clarity
Clarity of purpose is the real key to financial success. Without it, your money has no greater mission. It’s just a thing that comes and goes, and if you’re not careful money itself can become the end goal.
But when your purpose is clear, you can direct your money towards the things that make you truly happy and away from the things that don’t. Your money has a mission, and that mission gives you a clear path forward.
This is why I have a 6-step process to determine what is (and isn’t) important in your life. It’s why I encourage you to think hard about what financial freedom means to you. Your purpose matters.
Having a child has a way of clarifying this purpose for you. All of a sudden, you have a new focus to your life. Things that you previously spent a lot of energy caring about suddenly don’t seem quite as important.
For a personal example, I spent most of my life living and dying with the wins and losses of my favorite sports teams. To be honest, an unhealthy amount of my personal self-worth derived from their success or failure. When the Patriots lost the Super Bowl in 2007, I remember my brother saying it felt like he had just been dumped by the love of his life. That was it. That’s what it felt like. That’s how important it was to me.
Now that I have a family, that stuff just doesn’t matter as much to me. It wasn’t a conscious decision to care less. It just happened. It’s actually hard to admit given how much of my life I’ve spent with sports as a significant part of my identity. I still watch and follow my teams, and I still care, but it’s not the same.
Part out of necessity (limited time and resources) and part out of a change in circumstance, having a baby has a way of forcing you to rethink what’s important and what isn’t. And since personal finance is really all about finding a way to financially support the life you want to live, that clarity of purpose is a huge asset.
Once you understand what it is that truly matters to you, you can start taking the right steps to make it happen.
You have time
No, you don’t have a lot of time on a daily basis when you have a young family. Trust me. I know. Between diaper changes, naps, meals, baths, spit up, block towers and everything else, it can be hard to find the time to pee, let alone get your finances in order.
But you do have a lot of life in front of you, and that’s a huge asset.
You don’t have to fix everything all at once or never fix it at all. You don’t have to cross off choices because you don’t have enough time to make them happen. You’re not staring retirement in the face and wondering how the heck you’re going to make it work.
You have the luxury of defining exactly what it is you want from life and having the time to make it happen. All it takes is the courage to start and the determination to take a small step forward every day. That’s it.
How will you take advantage?
Starting a family is absolutely a challenge. There are a lot of new things to figure out, financial and otherwise, and it can take some time to get your feet under you.
It was a struggle for me at the start and it’s still a struggle today. Still a challenge. There’s no shame in that.
But that same challenge can push you to build a better, happier life.
When viewed with the right mindset, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
How will you take advantage?