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Editorial: Raising a child today costs bucks

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Sometimes, when we're looking for something we tend to stumble over something else that causes us to pause and think.

Such was the case last week when we came across a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report detailing what it costs to raise a child. USDA's Center for Nutritious Policy and Promotion has been doing the study annually since 1960.

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So what does it cost to raise a child over the next 17 years if born in 2009? The study says it would cost a middle-income family $222,360 in today's dollars, or $286,050 if inflation adjusted. That's a lot of money!

It represents only a 1 percent increase from the previous year, due to the economy, but it shows that raising a kid isn't cheap. A quarter of a million dollars is quite an investment, one we must take seriously.

For 2009, per child annual child-rearing expenses for a middle-income, two-parent family ranges from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child. And the range really didn't vary that much for single-parent families. Both had one thing in common - costs per child rose as did family income. Still, it is a sizeable portion of income.

Housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging $70,020 or 31 percent of the total cost over 17 years. Child care and education (for those with the expense) and food were the next two largest expenses, accounting for 17 and 16 percent of the total expenditure.

Parenting is serious stuff, and as we see, expensive. It's also why we need to protect our investment, with the best quality education from early childhood to higher education. We also need to protect our investment from gangs, drugs, alcohol and teenage sex which more often than not leads to teenage pregnancy.

And our kids need to know that they're worth something - not just in terms of dollars and cents - but that we have made an investment in them to be the best they can be and at some point become a contributing member of society to help repay that debt.

We parents today are a product of the investment of our parents. In 1960, it cost on average $25,229 to raise a child to age 18, still most of us have acknowledged that investment in us and are paying it back manyfold.

Costs have risen in real terms since then, to $222,360. We love our children no more or no less because of it, but we all want the best for our kids.

We want our money's worth.

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