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A New Mother's Guide to Money

Jeanne Kelly

Dear New Mom,

Congratulations on this new stage in life. It will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced — a mix of joy and sorrow that will sometimes feel overwhelming but will always feel rewarding. And right now, there’s a good chance that you’re wondering how you’re going to keep your wits about you through the next couple of decades as you raise this child (and perhaps others to come) in a complicated world. You’ll want to protect your children, and of course you’ll do your best, but you’ll often feel helpless.

Motherhood is wonderful and complicated all at the same time.

And I know you have a lot to take in right now, but can I add one more thing? As a mother myself, this is something I wish someone told me when I was in your stage of life. It might seem like this is just one thing too many to remember but tuck this piece of information away and it WILL help!

I want to talk to you about credit for a moment. Yes, credit doesn’t seem like the most relevant thing to your life right now, which is probably taken up with feedings and diaper changes and too little sleep. But as you’ll see in a moment, credit is something that is absolutely essential to help you as you raise your child.

Credit will impact your family.

First, let me point out that your credit matters. It might seem to take a back seat to the little bundle of joy but your credit really does matter. Credit helps you to provide for that bundle of joy. In the best of times, good credit ensures that you have a roof over your head and a car to get to doctor’s appointments (and eventually day care and then school, and so on). And in the worst of times, good credit ensures that you have access to money in case of an emergency.

The decisions you make as a mother will affect your credit. You want to buy your child everything (I know! I was in your situation!), but overspending can lead to missed credit card payments and that can lead to negative items on your credit report and ultimately a lower credit score. When you need to access your credit — perhaps for a medical emergency or even for something more wonderful, like a mortgage for a bigger house for your growing family — you’ll need to rely on a good credit score to help you.

You can check your credit report once annually from each of the major credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com, or you can check your credit score using the free Credit Report Card.

So even though you want to buy the world for your child right now, remember that careful credit management today will allow you to support this child and any future children in the years to come.

It’s important to pass good credit behaviors onto your kids.

It’s never too early to teach your children about credit. Good habits are formed at amazingly young ages, so children who learn something positive in the next couple years are more likely to take those successful habits through life.

If you want your child to grow up to be a successful, contributing member of society — someone who you can be proud of and will go on to provide for their family someday — then one of the best things you can do in the next few years is to learn about credit and teach it to your child.

Yes, it may seem bizarrely young to start teaching about credit. But too many parents wait too long to talk about credit and to instill good credit habits (or they don’t bother teaching these essential skills at all) and they raise children who will struggle with finances for many years.

Of course I’m not suggesting that you get them started with a credit card while they are teething. I mean: Teach them skills like saving for something before buying it, and weighing the consequences of their actions. Later, teach them about credit and why good credit is essential.

Moms, I know you have a lot to think about and this might seem right now like just one more thing. But trust me when I tell you that you’ll enjoy motherhood so much more when you have the confidence that you can access credit if you need it, and that your child will grow into a credit-savvy adult someday.

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