The average age that Americans become parents has been steadily climbing for years. Today, more women between the ages of 30 and 34 are becoming first-time mothers than their counterparts aged 25 to 29,according to data from the CDC.
Overall, the average age when women have their first child is 28. That marks a significant jump from previous years: In 2000, the average age for first-time mothers was 24.9 and in 2014 it was 26.3.
As Americans wait longer to have kids, they’re also giving themselves additional time to build a financial cushion. It costs approximately $233,610 to raise a child from birth through age 17, so giving yourself as much of a head start as possible is key.
Even in your 20s, experts recommend saving 25 percent of your overall gross pay, which includes direct contributions to a 401(k) or Roth IRA, any company match you receive and any cash savings, including an emergency fund. Greene says you can also count any funds you’re putting toward credit card debt and student loans in that percentage as well.
There’s no way around it: Having kids is expensive. One parent who tracked every dollar found that she spent $20,000 in the first 18 months alone. And that’s on the low end. Households bringing in $200,000 can spend $52,000 just in the first 12 months of their newborn’s life, according to a report from NerdWallet.
Add in the rising cost of college and, if you’re middle-income, have spending patterns that are similar to your fellow parents, have two children (the average family has between two and three) and send them to an in-state public school, you could spend $514,200 total on your kids.
By the time you’re ready to start a family, you can never have too much in the bank, so get in the habit of putting money away for the future as early as possible.
But remember: Even as you begin to divert some of the funds once reserved exclusively for retirement toward other goals, such as having a baby, you should find a way to continue to contribute to a retirement account. While debt can be repaid and prospective college students can apply for scholarships and take out loans, your retirement savings are much harder to replenish without the benefit of time.