I read an article recently that centered around statistics that indicate Millennials (the generation born between roughly 1980 and 2000) are waiting longer to have children.
One of the main reasons they give for waiting is their financial situation. Or more specifically, how much debt they’re in or how much money they want to save.
More than any previous generation, Millennials are ladened with thousands of dollars in student loan debt and less initial wealth when they become independent.
The plan to wait at least a few years after graduating college to pay off loans, and settle into a career before having children makes sense financially. But does it really make a difference?
Before making the decision to wait to have kids until you can afford them, make sure you understand the entire situation. Here are a few pros and cons.
Waiting Means More Time to Save Money
The longer you wait to have children, the more money you can save, and the more debt you’ll be able to pay off.
This makes sense because we all know children are expensive! Very little saving or paying off debt is likely to occur (without concerted effort) while raising kids, especially within the first few years.
A two-income household can greatly benefit from trying to live off one income and stash the other in savings. This is smart not only to prepare for the budgeting constraints of one income but to create a bigger savings cushion/dent in your debt before kids come along.
Your Age and Health are Factors You Can’t Ignore
On the flip side, having kids within the prime of your life is ideal, and your biological clock might not be in time with your financial goals.
Consider how much debt you have, and how much income you have to work with (in addition to the fact that you’re likely still building your career). You may still not be able to reach your financial goals before worrying whether or not you’ll miss your best window of opportunity for having children.
This is especially true with women, who often complain about feeling their biological clock ticking. The best way to deal with this challenge is to avoid an all-or-nothing approach to your financial preparedness for children.
Do the best you can to become financially stable, but it’s unlikely you’ll be exactly where you want. There’s rarely ever a perfect time to have a child. Accept that this is okay. After all, many other people are in the same situation!
Investing More in Your Field of Work Will Lessen the Impact of Leaving
Women who work on their careers longer, before having kids, have a greater likelihood of retaining their income levels and/or positions when they reenter the workforce.
Being out of the work field for any length of time jeopardizes the relevance and competitiveness of your education and skills. But this is especially true if you haven’t yet worked your way into a secure, well-supported position.
The greater the longevity and work history you’ve created, the more likely you’ll be able to jump right back in after you’ve taken time off to have children.
This is not to say women should sacrifice their biological timeline for career security. It’s just something to consider.
Either Way, Time Off Will Affect Your Income
Taking any time off at all will affect your competitiveness in the job market, so you’ll need time to re-acclimate, become re-educated, or enter a different field. Knowing this ahead of time can help you prepare; for instance, you might be able to do some freelance work on the side to keep up your skills and credentials, or work part time from home.
Keeping in touch and on good terms with old colleagues and continuing to network while you’re off can also give you the edge on job opportunities more quickly to make up for any disadvantages.
The most important thing to remember when weighing finances into your decision of when to start a family is that you won’t regret having children, but you might regret letting finances dictate how soon, and how many years you get to enjoy them.
You may even be surprised that your kids can sometimes help you save. It’s really not all doom and gloom. Here are 10 ways your kids can even help you save.
- We have 5 kids, and until the youngest one stopped sticking french fries up his nose, we dared not even attempt to eat at any restaurant that didn’t have a clown in its logo. This saved us HUGE on eating out bills because we never went to fancy restaurants.
- Nights spent sipping the finest champagne in dark, smoky clubs held zero appeal after the first time trying to take care of a baby while nursing our own hangovers.
- Once you realize you are going to have to slipcover anything that comes into your house, why not just do your furniture shopping at the curb?
- I stopped asking “What is new and fabulous at Anthropologie?” whenever I bought clothes and started asking “Can I breastfeed in public in this top without causing a commotion? What color fabric best hides sticky hand-prints?” Turns out navy blue sweatsuits are both cheap and functional. Who knew?
- As for my husband… Out: package deals to Formula One races. In: staying at home with the kids on the weekend so the wife can go to the grocery store and maybe, just maybe, get some peace and quiet.
- Once you give in to the idea that they will only eat Cheerios, plain chicken, and plain green beans, you can buy pallets directly from the factory for big, big savings.
- No need to pay for a pricey gym membership when you can get your exercise by walking a 15 lb baby around in circles for 2 hours every night. Bonus: if he or she likes to play airplane, you can develop some massive guns in no time.
- Before vacations included jetting off to a foreign country for gourmet meals and power shopping. Now, it’s leaving the kids with grandma so that you can sneak off to the Comfort Inn for a power nap on sheets that don’t have goldfish crumbs ground in them.
- Entertainment costs drastically reduced as they are not only happy with watching the same Dora video over and over again, they downright insist upon it.
- Once the kids start hitting preschool, you will no longer need to buy any jewelry or home decor items as they will make them for you. Pier One can’t hold a candle to a frame made out of cardboard and buttons!
Of course, this is all very much tongue in cheek. Children are a huge financial responsibility and it should be taken seriously. However, it’s also important to realize that as your life changes, you are more than capable of making adjustments and finding a way to make things work out.
It’s true that even with choosing less expensive alternatives like thrift store clothes and public schools, raising a child will cost tens of thousands of dollars but parents manage to do it by making sacrifices and keeping focused on their goal. Now, imagine what could happen if you took the same approach to any of your financial goals.
We are all capable of achieving so much if we can get in the mindset that our sacrifices are part of a bigger goal. Whether you want to retire early, start your own business or travel around the world, if you can nurture that idea like how a parent nurtures their children, you can achieve what seems to be an impossible goal.
Are you putting off having children for financial reasons? What’s your reason for having kids when you did?
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