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With about 9,000 millennials becoming parents every day, it’s fair to ask, How are they doing so far? Life insurance startup Haven Life recently conducted a survey of parents with children ages 0 to 5 to better understand what this new generation prioritizes when it comes to raising their kids. (Full Disclosure: I’m the marketing and communications director for Haven Life.)

The findings paint a fascinating picture of parents who are invested in raising smart, compassionate children, but who are financially unprepared for their family’s future. We’ll look at three areas with room for improvement.

1. Saving for College

According to the study, only 13% of millennial parents identified college savings as one of their top child-related financial priorities. Maybe it’s because college seems so far off for their young children. Still, tax-saving programs can (and should) be taken advantage of now. Even an early, small contribution has the ability to compound and grow over time.

“By making college savings such a low priority, parents are missing out on the benefits of compounding investment returns from tax-advantaged programs like 529 Plans or even minimally aggressive investment accounts,” said Bobbi Rebell, author of How to Be a Financial Grownup. “That is more money potentially left on the table that isn’t being tapped.”

With the average total cost of a four-year public university degree expected to balloon to more than $205,000 by the year 2030, parents need as much time as possible to save if they plan to cover this expense.

2. Saving for Emergencies

Unforeseen expenses like car maintenance, home repairs or medical emergencies can be costly. If you’re not financially prepared, the effects can result in high-interest debt. (You can see how your debt is affecting your credit by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

About 53% of millennial parents have $5,000 or less in savings, and 34% have $1,000 or less. According to AAA, the average car repair bill is between $500 and $600, so a high-end repair could deplete a savings account almost instantly.

One of the best ways to avoid this is by having a nest egg that serves as a backup plan for the unexpected. Most experts recommend building an emergency fund that can cover at least six months worth of expenses, and possibly more if you have several children. Budgeting services like Mint and You Need a Budget can help identify opportunities to free up more cash for emergency savings.

3. Life Insurance

If the risk of a sudden and significant emergency isn’t scary enough, consider this: Few emergencies are costlier or more unpredictable than death. A recent Parting.com article indicated that a funeral and related burial services for the average family can cost between $8,000 and $10,000. And that’s on top of the mortgage, child care, debt repayments and other expenses survivors might have to pay.

Haven Life’s study found that just 15% of millennial parents consider life insurance a financial priority. Of those who have life insurance, 70% have less than $250,000 in life insurance, and 20% have none at all. With an average household income of about $81,000, the majority of millennial parents surveyed were underinsured.

Life insurance needs vary from family to family, but typically experts recommend coverage that’s at least five to 10 times your annual salary. An online life insurance calculator can help you determine what the right amount of coverage looks like for your family.

Stay-at-home parents should consider obtaining life insurance as well. While they don’t technically take home a salary, it’s estimated that the work they do accomplish can equate to an annual salary of $113,000.

If providing a comfortable upbringing is a primary concern, a life insurance policy is virtually a necessity to help protect loved ones. The proceeds of a life insurance policy can help your spouse or the guardian of your children cover day-to-day bills, future schooling expenses, child care, debts you leave behind and more. (You can learn how much debt is too much by going here.)

Millennial Parents Have Good Intentions but Need Financial Discipline

Haven Life’s survey shows millennial parents have good intentions when it comes to raising their children. They dedicate the majority of their time and resources to raising kind, well-rounded little ones.

College savings, emergency savings and life insurance coverage are three important components of a financial plan that helps provide stability in children’s lives. Without improvement in those areas, parents risk falling short on what most consider to be the ultimate goal: to provide their children with more — more education, more money, more love and more time.

Image: Lacheev

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