Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Life Without Debt: The Decision to Remain Childless

A Life Without Debt: The Decision to Remain Childless
However, not having children does make it much easier to stay out of debt. When one of us loses a job, we only have ourselves to worry about. When creating an emergency fund, we only have to worry about each other, not what can go wrong with several children. Our expenses in every category are less without kids (except maybe housing as we would have this house with or without kids). We don’t have college educations to save for so we are able to put away more for our retirement or other big purchases. Our incomes only have to cover us, not educational expenses, childcare, extra insurance, additional medical bills, lots of clothes, and additional food.

I know friends who have kids that have remained debt free so I know it is possible. They do a wonderful job of balancing the needs of their children with the household needs and saying, “No” when the budget does not allow for extras. But I do know that it is harder for them than for us. They say no a lot more often than we do. And while they have remained debt free, they have not been able to save as much as we have. They have very little in their retirement accounts and a modest emergency fund that would only last two months. It is harder for them and I am aware, when I visit with them, that remaining debt free would have been much harder for us if we had kids.

. . .

I know other DINK’s who are in debt up to their necks, so being child free does not confer an automatic debt free life, either. It’s about the choices you make and the priority you place on remaining debt free. I wouldn’t recommend basing the decision to have kids or not solely on your desire to remain debt free. Kids are about a lot more than money. But there is no denying that it is much easier without kids. It’s yet one more choice and factor that has to be considered when planning your financial future.
Having spent some time on childfree mailing lists and discussion boards, I know there is some resentment towards the assumption that being childfree automatically means one is well-off. Well, of course it doesn't. But - saving a matter of six or seven figures over one's lifetime has a major impact on one's bottom line. Many childfree people see this as an opportunity to choose (I am here exclusing those with unfortunate circumstances or just starting out) a life other people cannot - a career that they love and/or fulfills them, that they would never be able to support children with. Some choose to live lavishly or generously, and end up spending or giving away that same money elsewhere. These two camps end up just as money-poor as those with kids. I'm not quite sure I understand the resentment of the positive stereotype coming from these camps - it seems a great opportunity to point out the alternative one has chosen (or at the least how much worse off one would be with kids!)

I'm happy to remain one who will sit in the public eye reinforcing the positive stereotype. Sure, my discretionary spending month to month on travel and spas (and the amount I ferret away in my 401k and pretend isn't there) leaves my bank account just as sad as anyone elses at the end of the month. But I am free - free at any time to cut back my lifestyle and take advantage of the cheap real estate in my lovely NYC neighborhood. Free, should the economy cost me my bewitchingly fortunate job to reign in my expenses to a ridicously low amount and live on a Starbuck's barista salary once again.

There will always be among us great diversity, both economically and otherwise. However, what will always unite us is that no matter where we are, we are a bit more free than we would be if we had children. I have yet to come across a childfree person (and I have known hundreds) who made the decison for financial reasons. But why let that stop us from enjoying one of our lifestyle's happenstance perks?

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1 comment:

sara star said...

I totally agree with this. My husband and I are both unemployed. And fortunately, because we are Childfree we could move roommates into our spare rooms to get extra cash. We couldn't have done that with kids. And we can cut expenses in a lot of ways childed families can't. Its a relief that we chose not to have kids when I look at our low income finances and know that we still have it better off, even when we are both out of work.