Advertiser disclosure

Terms and Restrictions Apply
Physician on FIRE has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Physician on FIRE and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. POF does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Credit Card Providers determine the underwriting criteria necessary for approval, you should review each Provider’s terms and conditions to determine which card works for you and your personal financial situation.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

Preparing for and Protecting a Child’s Financial Future

As busy parents and grandparents with all that has been happening around us during the pandemic, it is easy to overlook many aspects of our lives as we focus on our day-to-day work and related issues.

Safeguarding the financial future of your family through financial planning is one of those things that is easily overlooked or put off.

Financial planning for your family, however, can increase security, reduce anxiety, and have a profound impact on your family’s future and well-being. And your children should be a particular and intentional focus for that.

This guest post is from David Rosenstrock, the Director and Founder of Wharton Wealth Planning, LLC. He earned his MBA from the Wharton Business School and B.S. in economics from Cornell University. He is also a Certified Financial Planner™. David lives in Manhattan with his wife and their two very active children.



The average cost of raising a child today from infancy to age 17, excluding college and higher education expenses, is approximately $275,000 based on inflation-adjusted U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. That’s a lot of cheddar.

There are numerous steps you can take to help set your children up for a successful financial future and defray the significant costs you as parents incur raising them.


Saving for Educational Expenses


Education costs are one of the highest expenses you will face as a parent or your child will incur in the form of debt upon graduating college. Published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year universities averaged $10,740 during the 2021-22 school year, compared with $38,070 at four-year, private nonprofit universities. The average cost of college tuition & fees at public 4-year institutions has risen approximately 180% over the last 20 years for an average annual increase of about 9%.


529 Accounts


By electing to save for your child’s education in a tax-advantaged 529 investment account, you can prepare children for college or graduate school tuition. This account allows your money to compound over time (if appropriately invested), and you don’t have to pay taxes on the earnings if the money is used for qualifying education expenses. More than 30 states provide some measure of a tax deduction for 529 account contributions. If you’re fortunate enough to live in one of those states, then you can also reduce your state tax bill. Grandparents can also contribute to a 529 plan.


Custodial Accounts


Two types of custodial accounts exist, and they are most commonly referred to as the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) and the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA). These accounts can allow parents and/or grandparents to start investing for a child today. A UTMA or UGMA account is similar to a brokerage or taxable investment account for minor children. Since children are not eligible to own property directly, UTMA accounts allow parents and grandparents to invest for a child’s future while they are young. You have access to a very wide range of investment options — unlike 529 plans which may have limited options. Your state of residence will determine the age your child will be able to access the funds; however, the age of majority for most states is generally 18 or 21 years old. State law can vary with respect to these accounts and some states have tax benefits for you contributing to a child or minor’s 529 accounts.

Both of these are similar in goal; however, the UTMA can hold a variety of different asset classes such as real estate and artwork. The UGMA account is limited to financial assets such as cash, securities, bonds, and mutual funds. These accounts are a good, flexible option for those parents who want their children’s money to grow but don’t want to restrict the funds specifically to education-related expenses.

One common concern from parents regarding UTMA or UGMA accounts is the age at which their children will be able to access the funds. With respect to UTMA accounts, capital gains, dividends, and interest accrued in them are taxable to the child’s parents regardless of who owns the account. However, these accounts are tax-free or taxed at a low “kiddie” rate for the first $2,300 of earnings in 2022.


A Custodial Roth IRA


A custodial Roth IRA is another type of investment account that should be considered depending on the circumstances.

This account is just like a regular Roth IRA but is intended for a minor child earning income. It is subject to the same contribution limits as a regular Roth IRA ($6,000 in 2022) and income limits (2022 modified adjusted gross income of under $144,000 for single filers or $214,000 for Married Filing Joint filers). Your child needs to have earned at least the amount you contribute from a W2 or 1099 job in the year you make the contributions.

A custodial Roth IRA account might be for you if you have an older child who is already earning an income, or you have already set up a 529 or UTMA account for your child’s benefit. One advantage of this account is that the funds are contributed after tax and can grow tax-free for decades. As a retirement account, one drawback of this account is that you will be investing in highly long-term focused accounts for young children and they may not be able to access the money before retirement age without incurring a penalty.


Paying For Your Minor Children


Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (or DCFSAs) are tax-advantaged accounts that let you use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible dependent care expenses. A DCFSA is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. A qualifying dependent may be a child under age 13, a disabled spouse, or an older parent in eldercare. DCFSAs can be combined with a standard FSA or an HSA. DCFSAs do not impact HSA eligibility. In general, for 2022, the maximum annual contribution limit is $5,000 per household or $2,500 if married, filing separately.

You can use the dependent care FSA to pay for eligible Pre-K childcare expenses tax-free including nursery school, pre-school, or similar programs below the level of kindergarten. Expenses to attend kindergarten or a higher grade aren’t eligible FSA expenses, but childcare expenses for before- or after-school care of a child in kindergarten or a higher grade up to age 13 are eligible. The care provider just can’t be your spouse or another dependent child.

Generally speaking, high-income families will benefit more from an FSA than from the Child and Dependent Care Credit (you can’t receive the full benefit from both). However, if you have two or more kids under 13 and spend $6,000 or more on child care, you may be able to partially benefit from both. A potential drawback is that the IRS requires money contributed to a FSA to be spent during the plan year. If the money isn’t used, it’s forfeited. A tax professional can help determine what’s best for your situation.

Bonus tip: If you are the owner of an LLC or a business, one strategy you can pursue is to pay your child up to $12,950 for work done as an employee without them being taxed for the year and receive a deduction for it as an employer. You should consult your accountant or tax advisor with respect to qualifications and your circumstances.


Estate Planning and Children


Planning for the care of children in case of unfortunate circumstances is one of the most important things parents can do. Estate planning could mean the difference between stability and chaos for bereaved children.




The sooner a permanent or temporary guardian is appointed in these situations, the more quickly the child can adjust. Wills and trusts are important because they help inform your family how you want your assets distributed when you die. An essential part of a will, if you have minor children or children with special needs (regardless of age), is to appoint a guardian. The guardian will be the person appointed to take care of your children after you pass away until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 or 21 depending upon the state they live in. The guardian will be responsible for caring for your children; in essence, they will act as your child’s parent. If you do not appoint a guardian, the court will appoint one for you, who may or may not be to your liking.

Each U.S. state has its own guardianship requirements. A family lawyer can help you navigate the process in your state. No matter what, don’t assume whom guardianship of your child would go to after your death. Guardianship would only be necessary if your child’s other parent is also no longer alive or unable to care for your child sufficiently. In many states, courts have the final say on who becomes a guardian. They base the decision on what’s best for the child and may let older children weigh in. In these cases, your role as a parent is to tell the court your wishes and any relevant facts ahead of time.


Special Needs Trusts


In certain instances, a special needs trust may be prudent. A special needs trust is a document you create to provide for a beneficiary who has a disability, chronic illness, or injury and relies on government assistance. A special needs trust helps to improve a disabled individual’s life by increasing the longevity of funds using government benefits. It also pays for expenses that are not otherwise covered by government assistance.

A person with a disability may be rendered ineligible for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other public benefits if they receive an inheritance or simply accumulate too much money in their account. Any amount over $2,000 in assets will negatively affect benefit eligibility. An individual special needs trust offers a way to protect the assets of a person with a disability while preserving their ability to receive public benefits. Funds can be distributed, as needed, to pay for extra care beyond what the government provides. An individual special needs trust may offer a way to pay for: personal care attendants, home furnishings or modifications, out-of-pocket medical or dental care, education, recreation and vacations, transportation, rehabilitation, and many other ways of improving the quality of life for a person with a disability.


There are two main government benefits that putting money in a trust can preserve:

  • Medicaid. This program helps individuals and families with disabilities pay for health costs and is the principal source of long-term coverage for many. This includes skilled nursing facilities and in-home caregiving support (depending on the state).
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This taxpayer-funded program is allotted to those with disabilities to help them pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.


In general, there are two types of special needs trusts (SNTs):

  • A first-party special needs trust, also referred to as a “self-settled” trust, is established using assets of the person with special needs. The beneficiary of the trust must be someone with special needs or who is disabled. The trust is actually established by a parent, grandparent, guardian of the person with special needs, or by a court; however, it is funded using assets owned by the beneficiary. This type of special needs trust is most frequently needed when someone with special needs (or a disabled individual) receives a lump sum of money. For example, if the individual received a settlement for injuries in a personal injury accident or received an inheritance. With a first-party trust, any assets remaining in the trust upon the death of the beneficiary must be used to pay back Medicaid (assuming the beneficiary was a Medicaid recipient). By contrast, with a third-party special needs trust there is no need to worry about repaying Medicaid.
  • A third-party special needs trust – a third-party special needs trust is established by a third party with assets owned by the third party for the benefit of a person with special needs. This type of trust is most often established by a parent or other family members for the benefit of a child with special needs. A third-party special needs trust is funded using assets gifted by the parent, grandparent, or other family members. This type of trust must include specific language and must be worded such that the assets in the trust are actually distributed to a third party, such as the parent, to be used for the benefit of the individual with special needs. Because the assets held in the trust are not available to the beneficiary, those assets do not disqualify the beneficiary from eligibility for assistance programs such as Medicaid and SSI.


Both first-party and third-party SNTs must be properly drafted to protect a beneficiary’s right to receive means-tested public benefits. The tax consequences of SNTs are very complex. To best protect the government benefits for which an individual with disabilities may be eligible, it is important to discuss which type of SNT should be used in a specific situation with an attorney who is proficient in special needs planning.

While the rules governing your special needs trust will depend on your circumstances and the funds you have available, there are some general special needs trust rules you should know related to qualified disbursements and record keeping. Learning these will help you preserve your or your loved one’s Supplemental Security Income and/or Medicaid, as well as create and administer your trust properly.



Properly Insuring Children


Life and disability insurance need to be evaluated properly with respect to your children’s needs.

Life insurance can pay for the things you’d like your family to have, such as a paid-off mortgage, school tuition, or other significant expenses. Life insurance can help protect your growing family by making sure financial resources are available to them if you’re no longer there and can provide peace of mind for your partner and loved ones.

Disability insurance can also be a major help if one or both parents become unable to work due to a disabling illness or injury. While you may have employer-provided disability insurance, it is important to ensure that it will be enough to cover essential expenses like your mortgage, debt, childcare, and household expenses for a reasonable length of time. Some policies may pay benefits only if you can’t perform any work at all, rather than being unable to do the specific type of work you currently do.


The Last Word


All of these are strategies that can help you plan for the future and safeguard your child’s well-being. Taking many of these steps can help provide peace of mind knowing that your children will grow up financially secure. Saving money to secure your child’s future can help give them the advantage they need to succeed in life. All of these are strategies that can help you plan for the future and safeguard your child’s well-being. Taking many of these steps can help provide peace of mind knowing that your children will grow up financially secure. Saving money to secure your child’s future can help give them the advantage they need to succeed in life.



Share this post:

5 thoughts on “Preparing for and Protecting a Child’s Financial Future”

  1. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  2. There’s absolutely no need for children’s life insurance, don’t let your insurance sales people or financial planers persuade you otherwise. Especially avoid cash balance insurance products


Leave a Comment


Doctor Loan up to 100% Financing

Related Articles

Subscribe to Physician on FIRE

If you do not see a subscription box above, please navigate here to subscribe.

Join Thousands of Doctors on the Path to FIRE

Get exclusive tips on how to reclaim control of your time and finances.