I run a personal finance blog.
And I do not have kids.
When people find out these two facts about me, many of them jump to the conclusion that I don’t have kids BECAUSE I run a personal finance blog (“this dude watches his money, therefore he’s stingy, and limits spending on things that lead to joy and fulfillment, like kids”). It’s a derogatory thing to assume, but whatever, I’m use to it.
The USDA estimates the average cost of children to be $233K. Nobody says you have to be average, but even if you believe you can do it for much less, the cold hard math behind having kids is still fairly brutal and full of red ink.
I can tell you, unequivocally, that finances has never once entered my consideration set in my decision of whether or not to have children. The same goes for pets. If it was, I never would have adopted this bundle of joy! Look at him! “Who’s a goo-boy? Yeah, you are, that’s who.”
My canine companion has added far more to my life in terms of mental and physical health benefits than he’s cost. A new study suggests that dog owners walk an average of 22 more minutes per day compared to those who don’t own a dog. For me, it’s at least 45 more minutes per day. I’d probably be a couch potato without this guy. And all I have to do is look at that freaking ridiculous face to get instantaneous shots of dopamine.
I see the “no kids or no pets because of the cost” sentiment on other personal finance blogs and in message boards quite often. And while the numbers always work out in favor of those making the argument, I think the argument is often misguided or short-sighted to begin with.
Life is much more than numbers. And the bottom line is this: you only live once. If you believe kids and pets will have a positive impact on your life (and you on theirs), then go for it. Make the finances a secondary decision. Find a way. Nobody looks back at the end of their life and says “you know, I wish I would have never had kids so I could have retired a few years earlier.”
This is not a blanket blessing, however. There are two big caveats, in my opinion:
#1: you have the responsibility of needing to be able to afford it (at least making sure that basic needs for good mental and physical health are met for every living creature under your roof).
If you can’t, you’re putting an unfair burden on yourself, but more importantly, on others. And that stress could potentially sour the entire experience for all. And as a recent emergency pet expense experience taught me, you owe it to your pet to have the finances to cover emergency costs.
#2: wait until the time is right for you.
WHEN you decide to have kids (and to a much lesser extent, pets) is critical, in my opinion. I’ve seen people return from parental leave a completely changed individual. It is hard not to change your how you prioritize and value your career when you have an attention-craving life just waiting to interact with you at all hours of the day at home. Cranking out an extra hour of emails seems a whole lot less important when you have a wagging tail and smiling face staring you down for an extra long walk (I can only imagine the draw to spend time with kids would be even stronger).
Consider that 100% of lifetime career earnings growth happens before age 35 for most earners. In that regard, at least, the optimal time to have kids would be age 35. If you want the best of both worlds, bust your ass until your early-to-mid 30’s, boost your earnings, set you and your family up for financial success, then enjoy kids. Or, adopt later on.
Besides, maturity and life experience leads to better parenting and lower divorce rates.
Additionally – nobody says you have to have multiple kids. 1 kid can be plenty enough for many couples.
Procreate (and adopt) wisely, my friends. Just don’t avoid it altogether solely because of the money.