Congratulations, you’re going to be a parent! Time to create your baby registry. Babyletto or Sniglar? Vista, Yoyo or Bugaboo? The Boppy, Baby Bjorn or Keekaroo? You’ve chosen the right crib, stroller and accessories for your baby, but what comes next? For many parents-to-be, the most essential baby gift may be one that lasts beyond childhood—a gift to support a family’s financial well-being.
On Babylist, the fastest-growing baby registry website in the U.S., in addition to essentials like cribs and strollers, expecting parents can register for an increasingly popular item: cash funds to cover the steep financial costs associated with raising a child. Adding life insurance can be as easy as adding ABC blocks.
“It’s not about having the same stroller as everyone else these days—new parents want meaningful gifts and services,” says Natalie Gordon, founder and CEO of Babylist. A former Amazon software developer, Gordon created Babylist after finding it difficult to ask for what she really needed while caring for her infant son—help walking her German shepherd.
“There isn’t a blanket registry or a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s all about what is significant to each parent. What is going to help you feel confident that your family has what it needs?” Gordon says. “These gifts are great because they can take the edge off for some of these big investments.”
Here are six ideas that parents-to-be are adding to their registries.
Child care costs
One in three families spend 20 percent or more of their annual household income on child care, according to Care.com’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey. Gordon says child care costs, diaper services and home-cooked meals are popular non-retail registry items on Babylist. “A rising trend is getting set up for a night doula once the parents bring the baby home,” she says.
Parental leave expenses
Only 14 percent of private sector employees receive any paid time off during the critical months after a child’s birth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey. While parental leave policies are changing, a fund for covering expenses while on unpaid leave can be a lifesaver for some families. “Our users register for crowdfunded parental leave, along with the essentials like car seats and strollers,” Gordon says. “It’s a way to let your community know what help would mean the most to you at this important moment in time.”
In a nationwide survey of nearly 5,000 expecting parents, Babylist found that 97 percent thought life insurance is important and 61 percent plan to get insurance in the next year. “New parents know this is an essential item to tackle when starting their family, but there is a gap between knowing they need it and going out to get it,” Gordon says. That’s why in July, Prudential became the first life insurance company to partner with a baby registry. Friends and family can contribute to the life insurance premium. A custom tool helps parents decide how much coverage they need, and, after funds are gifted, they can visit Prudential’s website to apply for a term life insurance policy.
A children’s savings account
Many banks and credit unions offer specialized children’s savings accounts that designate parents as the custodian. These accounts (and others like them) come with financial education tools aimed at teaching kids how to manage their savings. Better than a piggy bank.
Stocks, bonds and mutual funds
For every story of a winning investment—a dollar’s worth of Apple purchased on May 21, 1982 (the birthday of this article’s author) is worth more than $800 today—there’s a story of one that turned out worthless. However, parents who understand the risks may try to foster their child’s interest in investing by directing funds toward a stock relevant to kids—Disney and Build-A-Bear are popular examples.
Starting a college fund
According to a recent Prudential white paper, parents of a newborn today may need half a million dollars to pay for their child’s tuition at an elite private university. Parents won’t net that at their baby shower (most likely), but regular contributions to college savings can add up, especially if gift-givers continue giving throughout the years. “College funds are one of those things that you know are important to prepare for but can get lost among immediate demands,” Gordon says.