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A toddler reaches for a rubber duck during a swimming class for babies at Lane Cove pool in Sydney, Australia.
A toddler reaches for a rubber duck during a swimming class for babies at Lane Cove pool in Sydney, Australia.

Invest for Life part 4

Having kids? Pull out the wallet and get set to invest Add to ...

This article is the fourth in a series on personal finance and investing at different stages of your life. As some issues may overlap the different stages of life, they could be covered in a prior or subsequent article. For the full series go here.

Having kids? Here are 10 money tips to guide you.

After entering the work force and getting married, the next stage to start in life for many people is parenthood. Get the wallets out for this one. Parents have to dole out cash to insure yourselves against mortality risk, to start a college fund for the children, and to buy a family home.

These imperatives call for smart investment decisions - choosing where to allocate your funds to maximize returns for a given level of risk.

Here are 10 tips to help out with the decisions. They might not turn a parent into a Warren Buffett but could nonetheless leave their kids saying: "Thanks, Mom and Dad!"

1. To insure or self-insure?

"One of the first things I did when I found out my wife Edna was pregnant with my eldest daughter was to rush out and get some life insurance," notes York University professor Moshe Milevsky. As he discusses in his book, Wealth Logic: Wisdom for Improving your Personal Finances , his own father had died early without life insurance while several of his children were still dependent on his income.

Mr. Milevsky and his siblings were nevertheless spared destitution because their father had accumulated a sizable estate through frugal living and investing in a diversified portfolio of financial assets. "In the insurance lingo, my father had decided to self-insure," Mr. Milevsky reports.

The Invest for Life series:

  • Part 1: Ten money tips for young people
  • Part 2: Ten money tips for people entering the work force
  • Part 3: Getting married? Ten money tips
  • Part 4: Having kids? Pull out the wallet and get set to invest for the future
  • Part 5: Married, with kids? Ten investing tips
  • Part 6: Financial tips as you climb the financial ladder
  • Part 7: Preparing for retirement: 10 tips
  • Part 8: The retirement years: 10 financial tips

Self insuring can be riskier than buying life insurance right off the bat. If the father had died earlier, his estate might not have been sufficient. However, someone who had aggressively saved prior to marriage (see Part 2 of the Investing for Life series: ) would have minimized this early-stage risk (with a will in place). An aggressive saving and diversified investing plan early in a marriage might be another option for couples with frugal tendencies and an aversion to insurance premiums.

2. Best place for an education fund

One of the best places for a child's education fund is inside a registered education savings plan (RESP). The government throws in grants of up to $7,200 through the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) plus additional grants for low-income families. Funds compound tax free and are taxed at the child's lower marginal rate when they are withdrawn for post-secondary education.

It helps to become familiar with how the plans work. For example, some have higher administration fees than others. And not all providers transfer the low-income grants into the plan - so if your family is of modest means, "first ask the provider if they offer the extra grants before you sign up," warns Mike of the Four Pillars blog.

In short, it is a good idea to know the nooks and crannies of RESPs. Sources include the RESP section on the Four Pillars blog, online discussion forums, CanLearn, and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. And get an early start on opening an RESP to give time for the compounding of returns to work.

To weigh in on the Globeinvestor Personal Finance forum on what you would do with some extra cash, click here.

3. What will the kids think?

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