The path to becoming a smart mom starts long before the birth of your first child, and even before the double lines of a pregnancy test appear. Just as prenatal vitamins help us build our reserves of iron and folic acid, certain money habits adopted early make us stronger and better prepared for the financial shock of family life. Many of the moms I interviewed had been saving money since their first job, practicing frugal habits until they became second nature, and even making investments while still in their twenties with their futures in mind.

When I asked two moms—both lawyers in their mid-thirties who earn the biggest paychecks in their marriages and who have seven kids between them—just how they got so comfortable with money, ...

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