We’ve Discovered the Secret to Wealth: Don’t Have Kids

The average cost of raising a child is terrifyingly expensive. So how much does it cost to raise a child? The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported the average middle-income couple can now expect the cost of raising a child to be approximately $241,080 for a child born in 2012 to age 18. In some parts of the country, that’s more than the cost of a house. And, by the way, that number doesn’t include the cost of sending the child to college.

Considering 57 percent of Americans have less than $25,000 in total household savings or investments, choosing not to have children might actually be an intelligent financial move. And it seems like plenty of Americans agree, because the number of coupleschoosing not to have childrenhas grown in recent years.

Related: The 8 Hidden Costs of Parenthood

cost of raising a childCost of Children Too Great for Some Couples

Lauren Sandler’s Time magazine article, “Having It All Without Having Children,” finds Americans are increasingly choosing to remain childless in order to save money for other goals.

In fact, Sandler writes that the current birthrate in the United States is the lowest ever recorded; about 1 in 5 American women never give birth, versus 1 in 10 in the 1970s. However, this trend was evident well before the last recession hit.

For instance, according to another Time magazinepiece, birthrates fell significantly during the Great Depression, as well as during the stagnation experienced in the 1970s. Mark Mather, a demographer for the Population Reference Bureau, told the magazine, “Fertility rates drop in periods of economic stress.”

Weighing the Cost of Raising a Child

Unfortunately, many parents don’t stop to consider whether they’re financially ready to have kids, simply following the expectation that it’s not only normal, but required for two people in a relationship to eventually procreate.

“Making the decision to have a child gets so emotional for so many people,” explained Diane Polnow, author of Baby Debate: Everything You Need to Consider Before Becoming a Parent. “You’ve got to make it a logical and a financial decision as much as it is an emotional one.”

Often, when couples think about having children, they consider only what they want and how great it would be for them to be parents. “I’m trying to get people to think about what kind of life they would give their child,” Polnow said. “Think about the child first and not necessarily what you want.”

Polnow noted another major problem: Most parents only plan for the baby stage, forgetting that some day they’ll eventually have a two-year-old, and then a four-year-old and then a teenager. Parents must be prepared financially for at least 18 years out, which, in truth, few are.

“How is it that people can logically afford to have a child if 76 percent of our country is living paycheck-to-paycheck?” Polnow asked. “People go and try to get qualified for a home to get a loan, and if they don’t have the money, they can’t get a house … so what would happen if we started making people qualify financially to have children?”

There would likely be a lot fewer children.

Related: Don’t Let Your Adult Children Ruin Retirement

Benefits of Not Having Kids: Is the Choice to Not Have Kids Selfish?

benefits of not having childrenThe idea that having children and being a parent is what we all should strive for is deeply engrained in American culture, leading many to label those who choose to remain childless as selfish.

And perhaps they truly are — but putting your own needs and desires first is not necessarily a bad thing. Kristina of Dinks Finance (Dual Income No Kids) agreed. “I think that the decision not to have children for financial reasons is selfish,” she said. “But then again, aren’t all personal choices selfish?”

Kristina explained that the decision not to have children is a personal choice, based on the lifestyle she wants to have. Whether it’s having the time to grab drinks with friends after work, flexibility to eat cereal for dinner or money to travel three times a year, the benefits of not having kids allow for that freedom.

“I don’t feel guilty about my decision not to have kids because I have no obligation to repopulate the world,” Kristina argued. “However, now that I am getting older, I am starting to wonder if I will eventually regret my decision not to have kids … I don’t want to wake up in 15 years and regret my decision to remain childless. Besides — why am I saving all my money if I have no one to share it with?”

Having children and growing a family is a goal millions of couples strive for, and an admirable one at that. However, couples who don’t feel they have the money to adequately support a child, or who would rather put their money toward a more comfortable lifestyle or retirement savings, need to seriously consider the option of remaining childless.

As Polnow concluded, “Parenthood is not a given, it’s a choice. To me, the most selfish thing is to bring a child into this life who is unwanted, unplanned and is with parents who aren’t ready to be parents.”

  • Brian Huber

    Okay, so now that I have plenty of household savings and have discarded the selfish ways of my existentialist youth, it’s a little late to consider having children. When you have family, you have people to cherish your heirlooms and memories of you. As you get older, you realize that that this development might have been worth an investment when you were young.

  • Tahnya Kristina

    Hi Brian, yes that may be true. Sometimes I wonder what my life will be link when I’m older if I don’t have kids. I am almost 33 years old and kids have never been in my plans, but as I get older I am starting to wonder if I made the right decision. This past year 3 of my friends had kids, and I’m wondering if it’s soon to be my time. Thanks for reading.

  • JT

    Is it crazy to feel a reaponsibility to populate the world with intelligent, hard working people? While those of us who have enough personal responsibilty to stop and make a decision on procreation are holding off, the idiots reproduce without thinking.

  • Wealthy old people who suddenly want kids should just adopt. Duh?

  • Hawkman

    Make sure you’ve spent a few years on that 6 figure job before you crap one out

  • We have a term for this-DINK status- “Double Income No Kids.”

  • Doyno

    This article resonates with the money-above-all mindset that is beginning to define this country. Yes you will have to spend enormous amounts of money to have a child, but I feel we’re losing touch with the fact that money is a means to an end, with growing a happy household being that end.

    Having said that, I agree that it is irresponsible to have children you can’t afford. Not having children just so one can “get rich” seems like a priorities that were never really thought through.

  • K

    I think it would benefit you to watch Demographic Winter prior to completely endorsing this line of thought. Children are only cripplingly expensive if you buy into the idea they need all the gear and things the world tells us they do. Let’s face it, a two year old will be happier with the box and some spoons banging on the pots and pans in the kitchen than your best toys, and when all clothes are grown out of so quickly they don’t need new ones. If the choice to remain childless continues there will not be a workforce to support us when we are in our old age and thus no one to contribute to our Social Security benefits. Think about that too.