A Nine-Month Plan for Getting Your Family's Finances in Order

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On the other hand, you may feel strongly about maintaining long-term perks like your company 401(k) plan. "By staying on the job, you don't compromise pensions, benefits, or your career track," says Faith Wohl, president of the Child Care Action Campaign (CCAC) in New York City. Finally, there are the psychological factors: Do you both enjoy your work and feel it's important to continue? Or is it better for your family to have one parent at home?

Do the daycare shuffle. If you plan to return to work, your second trimester is a great time to evaluate childcare options -- before your energy wanes and mobility becomes complicated. Child Care Aware (800-424-2246; www.childcareaware.org) offers a free service that will link you with a local resource and referral agency. These nonprofit agencies keep close tabs on the types of childcare available in their region, including center-based and family care, and fees charged by local providers.

To get the most bang for your buck, check nannies' references or confirm that daycare administrators have degrees in early childhood education, staffers receive child development training, and caregivers don't come and go with the seasons.

Sixth Month

Buy life insurance. Most expectant parents should insure themselves for at least six to eight times the amount of their gross annual salary to cover the anticipated dependent, says James H. Hunt, a life insurance actuary for the CFA. Cash-value policies like whole life, variable life, and universal life are quite complicated and often a bad deal -- especially when you can earn interest through other means, such as tax-deferred and tax-free investments like retirement accounts and college savings plans. Hunt advises parents to stick to term life, preferably 20 years or less. A 30-year-old woman in good health can buy $750,000 worth of coverage for about $300 a year.

You can investigate insurance rates at www.term4sale.com. A Buyer's Guide to Insurance, which Hunt co-wrote, offers straightforward advice. The booklet costs $5 from the CFA (202-387-6121).

Write a will. Though you may be loathe to decide who would raise your child and manage her finances should both parents die, it's easier to write a will and choose a guardian before the baby is born, says Dennis Belcher, chairman of the Chicago-based American Bar Association's section on real property, probate, and trusts. "A couple is less emotional before the children are born," he says. (Expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a will not complicated by tax-planning issues.)

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