Because my wife I do not have children, I feel that it's important to bring in outside voices to talk about money and kids. This is a guest post from Cathy, who writes about family finances, parenting, and cooking at Chief Family Officer.
I would never in a million years want to give up my children just because they cost too much. But recently, the cost of having children hit home as I was reading J.D.'s post about the “third stage” of personal finance, which comes after one has mastered the fundamentals of living frugally, saving, and pursuing financial goals.
I have to admit: I grew a little envious reading that J.D. was beginning this third stage. I still consider myself to be firmly entrenched in the second stage — and I've been in this stage for years already, and will continue to remain in it for the foreseeable future.
And I realized that it's because I have kids. J.D. doesn't. Now that he's paid off his non-mortgage debt and begun saving, he can think about grander things.
If my husband and I didn't have children — if we didn't have to provide for them now or worry about providing for them in the future — our non-mortgage debt would be completely paid off, we'd be paying a lot extra on the mortgage, and maxing out our retirement contributions, all while still having a comfortable amount left over as spending money.
Because we have kids:
- We've chosen to have a larger cash cushion.
- We've delayed paying off our debts.
- We've reduced our retirement contributions.
- We have greater expenses in the form of childcare, clothing, medical needs, and life insurance premiums.
I see us balancing saving for retirement and saving for college (and/or paying for private school) for the next 20 years. If we didn't have kids and didn't have to perform this balancing act, I think we'd be making reservations for an Alaskan cruise right about now!
I do not regret having children. You could never put a price on the intangible privilege of bringing new life into this world, the joy they bring into my life, or the way they make me a better person. I wouldn't change a single thing about my life.
My point is simply that this is the kind of financial ramification I didn't think about before my children were born. Sure, I knew kids were expensive. But if I'd realized how much harder reaching the third stage of personal finance would be after having kids, I think I would have been even more diligent about paying off our loans and building up savings first.
In fairness to myself, I don't think that I could have fully realized or appreciated the financial impact of having one child — let alone two. At the moment, each child costs us about $800 per month. That's the total amount for childcare, health insurance, and the additional life insurance policies that we took out when they were born. That's $1600 that we spend each month before adding in the cost of food, clothing, toys, entertainment, etc.
When you add the additional “savings” cost for future education, it's easy to see why I don't feel we're even remotely close to the third stage of personal finance — notwithstanding how well we're doing and have done with the fundamentals. But I'm confident we'll get there — eventually.
For a related discussion, check out the Get Rich Slowly forums: Staying debt free with a baby: Is it possible? Previously at GRS, Cathy explained how to save hundreds by playing the drugstore game. Don't forget to check out her blog, Chief Family Officer.