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.
I have been following your financial website for the past three years now and this is the most accurate and informative article you have posted on your site. Honestly, there are way too many people out there with insufficient income that pop out kids left and right without knowing they are putting a burden on themselves and the rest of society. Although studies found the average cost of raising a child is close to $234k, I believe the true cost of raising a child nowadays is $1 million+ over the course of their lifetime. Anyways, keep up with the amazing work on your blog G.E. Miller!
This is a big problem for society as a whole, actually. People with less money are having a lot more kids than people with more money. Maybe it’s because people with more money aren’t able to have as many kids younger in life with more education and they don’t want a ton of kids starting in their mid-30s, who knows. But richer people spread more money around to fewer heirs and vice-versa, and this leads to more and more income inequality.
And this is true on a macro level too – poorer countries tend to have more kids than richer countries, so theoretically the difference in quality of life between a rich country like the US and a poor country like Eritrea will continue to get worse and worse.
Too many people have kids. People without the means or desire to raise them. It’s sad. The assumption that we’re *required* to want kids is perpetuating a culture where the absence of kids is seen as strange or abnormal. That’s even sadder.
My wife and I don’t have kids and don’t plan to, either. While the absence of kids has DEFINITELY enabled early retirement for us, the financial part was never the reason. I’ve never wanted kids. Ever. I have absolutely no desire to bear and raise children. It’s that simple. Cheap or expensive, it doesn’t matter. They aren’t for me.
My wife had always assumed that she’d have kids, but really, she didn’t exactly have that desire either. Once we removed ourselves from the culture of “You Must Want Them”, it all just comes down to a personal choice. Have them if you want them. Don’t if you don’t.
Dude, is there anything more annoying than people making assumptions about your family planning?? I cannot count how many times I’ve had people that barely know me ask when I’m going to have another baby.
But anyways…Good article! My husband and I have both always wanted kids. I wanted a couple years to establish ourselves as a married couple and to establish myself as a professional before getting started though. We had our first at age 26 after 4 years of marriage. It’s getting more common to wait longer to have kids (and that’s totally fine), but I wanted to be a “young” mom. I want to be able to run around with my kids when they’re little. After my kids grow up, I want to have adventures and enjoy empty nesting with my husband before our bodies fall apart. And if/when my kids decide to have kids, I want to be able-bodied enough to help with the grandkids too! (Obviously physical fitness comes into play, not just age).
While you should always wisely consider your finances when deciding when to have a kid, I think there are a few other things to factor in too. :-)
P.S. I’m glad you mentioned adoption. Adoption is awesome, and you don’t have to be infertile to pursue it!
P.P.S. I know you don’t have kids, but I’d love to see more articles and engage in more discussion on that front – cost-cutting ideas, the expense of childcare, returning to work, how to finance an adoption, how to teach your kids about money, and so on.
No, there is not anything more annoying (although some vegetarian assumptions get pretty close). =)
Having kids is an extremely personal decision, and like you said, it is not in contrast with living a low-cost yet fulfilling life. I am about to become a father myself in a few weeks and the numbers around the cost of raising kids, particularly in a city like Washington, DC, is frankly mind-blowing. There is something to be said about waiting to be in a financially stable position before embarking on that new adventure, but it certainly is not the only criteria to judge your readiness by (no matter what, you never feel ready).
One line that got me thinking was: “he numbers always work out in favor of those making the argument, I think the argument is often misguided or short-sighted”. Of course kids are a cost. We don’t have kids as an investment in our financial future. But one key variable that is often missing from people’s financial evaluations is the price of satisfaction. Children bring many things to your life other than costs, and while not precise, you can assign a financial “value” to that ($X,000 per year). Include the “value” in your financial models, and I bet kids aren’t as “costly” as you originally thought.
Nice article. Given my own stage in life (about to be a father) and someone who focuses a lot of personal finance, I found it very interesting.
I would expect that people should be financially stable before bringing a kid to this word so to answer your question then it a big yes then again I don’t have either
“100% of lifetime career earnings growth happens before age 35 for most earners”
“Besides, maturity and life experience leads to better parenting and lower divorce rates.”
Best lessons to learn from your blog. :)
My answer to this is a definite NO. I am well into my personal finance and growing my wealth, but nothing in this world can ever replace that feeling when I look into my children’s eyes. I’d give every red penny I have for it :)
I fully respect different opinions and views, but this is just my two cents.
Appreciate the sentiment. Sounds like your kids are lucky.
Never knew kids could ever be that expensive … shocking!
Great post. I’m the youngest of 8 kids, but one of only 2 of my siblings to not have kids. The more I observed, the less I liked about the idea. Growing up, it seemed like a lot of people having the kids, had them because they assumed the kids would take care of them in their old age. I’ve rarely seen that actually happen. With an increasingly mobile population it’s even less likely. In our early 50’s now, I’m not regretting our choice not to have kids. It really is an individual decision.