Sunday, April 14, 2024

Cost of raising a child


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DESPITE THE RECENT APPEAL by the Minister of Education Ronald Jones to Barbadians to be fruitful and multiply, procreation can be a costly exercise, especially in the current economic climate.
      Speaking in the House of Assembly recently, Jones was making a case for a larger population in terms of increased economic development in Barbados.
     But George Griffith, executive director of Barbados Family Planning has pointed out that there are other social factors for women to consider in relation to having children. One such factor is the cost associated with child-rearing.
     Even though many couples long for the thrill of cuddling a newborn or decorating a nursery, the financial gravity of this lifelong commitment can be a bit daunting. Can your bank account stand up to the $14 000 or more a year on average that it costs to properly raise a child?
    “There’s a certain group of people who plan for having children and there are those who end up having children,” said David Simpson, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados. “If you plan for children, then you will know how to budget your finances accordingly, but if you end up having children that’s another story.”
     “People who are actively planning may decide that they’re only having one because the cost involved in having more than one child is too expensive,” he said. “Some people may call them selfish or think they’re only thinking of their careers but they are cognizant of their financial reality.”   
      With the costs of food, clothing, and health care rising but wages not keeping pace with the spiralling costs it can put increased pressure on families, Simpson added.
       “You will have responsibility for a child from birth until 18 or 21 and it will cover prenatal care, baby care and care right through toddler stage, which include health care and clothing which are significant expenses in today’s economy,” Simpson said.
It is suggested that parents engage in budgeting early on in the process and set up a system of savings. What many people don’t often realise is that the costs associated with raising children actually begin during pregnancy, so adequate prenatal care has to be budgeted for.
      “The reality is though I am not sure how many people actually plan for pregnancy, rather than respond to it when it comes,” Simpson said. “In terms of the child growing up and progressing, you should always have savings put aside for emergency health care and regular health care that any young growing child will need.”
    Once children pass the baby or toddler stage, parents also have to factor in the cost of school uniforms, books, and additional educational costs.
    “Education really and truly is an investment so some kind of savings or investment portfolio should be established wherever possible, but it all comes down to what each family can afford based on their household income.”
     What has increased the burden of raising children is that in many instances the extended family has broken down and many parents are struggling on their own.
      “In years past families may have lacked financial resources, certain amenities and comforts we have now but what they had was a large family base to help support and give or share things which we may not have as much of now in some sections of today’s society,’ Simpson said.
     As a by-product of a limited or no extended family, single parents are struggling to make do with the necessities that their families need.
    “One of the realities is that priorities have to be made and a lot of those priorities, especially in this current environment, come down to what you can afford,” he said. “Maintaining a roof over your head and food on the table are key priorities, so health care sometimes for adults and even young children may be sacrificed in favour of health care for smaller children.”
    When parents are faced with the stark reality of meeting basic priorities, saving money becomes impossible.
     “Right now in this economic environment saving becomes very difficult to do as most people would like,” Simpson said.
    “Financially you should start a savings plan or baby fund five years before you decide to have children,” says Sharon Headley, financial advisor at Sagicor. “A life insurance plan with a cash value is a must. You shouldn’t let yourself be at a stage where you’re scrambling.”
      Financial experts from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)estimate that to raise a child born last year for 18 years, it will cost an estimated US$241 080.
    The USDA’s latest estimates include expenses for housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, education and child care, as well as miscellaneous expenses such as toys and computers. However, those estimates do not include the cost of university education.


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