Financial Responsibility and Reproduction

In a GQ thread about personal financial planning, I said this:

Another poster said this was a “silly statement . . . on so many levels,” and elaborated further. I am responding here since it’s obviously turning into a debate.

That may be true, but as I said to my wife when we got married, it’s not like the children are going to starve to death. And nobody is a perfect parent, at any age. What happens is that you muddle through.

Which isn’t to say it’s a good idea to get pregnant at age 15. But for a 15-year-old, there isn’t much downside to waiting until one’s late 20s. For someone in their late 20s, there is a lot of downside to waiting until their late 30s. Particularly for women, since fertility tends to drop a lot during that time period. Also, their child is more likely to have problems.

Even for men, whose fertility tends to be more stable, there’s value in being on the young side.

It depends what you mean by “financially support.” In a typical young struggling middle class family, the children still have food to eat; clothes to wear; and a roof over their heads. Maybe they will be wearing some hand-me-downs; and not own a lot of toys; and not go on expensive vacations. But still.

Sure, it’s a matter of personal values. But recall that the GQ thread was about acquiring assets. My point is that you can go overboard saving money and acquiring wealth.

Probably you are right, but that’s not quite the point I was making. I’m not saying anyone does (or should) act that way. Just that it’s an unintended consequence some of the time.

Again, it depends what you mean by “realistically plan.” Unless they happen to have a trust fund, most people have to plan on doing some muddling.

We had our kids in our 30s - but our early 30s. We did go through fertility treatments and then adoption - but since I then conceived without help (surprise) during the adoption process, who knows if I’d have gotten pregnant had we tried in our twenties (since we weren’t together in our twenties…).

Risk of infertility does increase with age. But infertility treatments and adoption - while not cheap - are cheap compared to daycare, diapers, formula, food, a house with an extra bedroom, etc. In the overall cost of raising kids, the cost of acquiring them is pretty darn small.

And by the time we needed fertility treatments and adoption, yeah, we could afford them. We’ve also been able to afford the extra room in the house, daycare (or the loss of one income, but we chose daycare), college funds that will get them through a state school already (they are in third and forth grade), summer camp, and our house was paid off before I turned 40.

People say “if you wait til you can afford to have kids, you’ll never have them.” Like most absolutes, its wrong - it may be true in many cases, but we can afford our kids - we could also afford fertility treatments and adoption.

Now, when I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t afford to heat my own house, much less ‘muddle’ along with daycare and kids. I’d have been moving in with my parents when my unstable first marriage fell apart. I wouldn’t have dedicated my mid-20s to 50 hour work weeks that created a lucrative career - because I’d have had a priority in my kids.

I’m not saying I did it “the only right way.” I personally couldn’t have done what two of my friends did and wait until I was 40 (neither of them needed fertility treatments, both of their kids are healthy without birth defect) any more than I regret not having had them at 22.

You make a good argument for older, more established men marrying 20-something women.

“Muddling” sounds an awful lot like “I have no idea how we’re going to pay for this but we’ll figure it out.”

Perhaps. For some people, that may be a pretty good idea.

Almost. Unless you have a trust fund, it’s difficult to map out your budget for the next 21 years.

It comes down to making choices. Kids don’t really need a lavish lifestyle, they don’t need a house in the 'burbs, they don’t need minivans. Those are all nice to have, but not necessary.

If having kids is extremely important to a woman she should try to have them relatively early in adulthood. Doesn’t mean she has to, just that she should really consider it when setting priorities. If kids are not so important, sure, go ahead a delay but understand you are running a risk of being too old to conceive when you are “ready” for them.

Nothing impacts the budget like a kid. Funny - people will talk about houses and 401(k)'s when talking about financial planning, but when to have kids seems a bit taboo.

I’d change that - if GETTING PREGNANT is really important to a couple, she should start as early as she can. If having kids is important to a couple, if they chooses to delay kids, they should plan their finances as “future kid” finances from early - i.e. you don’t have to wait to have kids to set aside money for college. And if you have money set aside for your future children, fertility treatment and/or adoption is affordable.

One of the things that bugs the crap out of me on adoption/infertility boards is “adoption/treatment is SO expensive, we can’t possibly afford it.” Here you have people who have had two incomes for ten years and haven’t set aside money? How in the hell are these people going to afford kids once they arrive? Since adoption often takes a long time - and is paid for as the pieces happen - it isn’t like you need a lot of money up front. The second kid might be expensive to afford, but the first kid - presumably as a childless adult you have a job (ok, maybe not in this economy).


I think the same is true - to a lesser extent - for men.

No kidding, Dangerosa…wait till they see how much it costs to send them to college!

In my opinion, college is just the sort of thing that young, educated, prospective parents shouldn’t worry about too much. Unless you have a trust fund, it’s almost impossible to plan for that sort of a thing, 20 years in advance.

As I understand it, throughout most of human history it was entirely normal for a woman to have and raise kids once she hit her mid-to-late teens or early twenties, and no one would have thought to suggest she wait until she was more “mature.”

Though, in the old days, it wasn’t uncommon for younger women to marry men who were older and more financially stable; there were more careers a man could support a family on that didn’t require years of education; and extended family were more likely to be on hand to offer needed financial help, wisdom, maturity, etc.

That’s because throughout most of human history, the only purpose women served was as a baby factory. Our current modern American culture keeps people in a post-adolecent state for much longer. People live at home longer. They wait longer to buy their own homes or get married. You aren’t even really expected to earn your own living until you turn about 22 and graduate from college in most middle class households. If you plan to go onto grad school to be come a doctor or lawyer or whatever, add some more time to that. Part of it is financial. Part of it is just cultural. There is are entire threads here about adult kids living at home with not job, no schooling and no pressure to build their own lives.

“But the realites of modern life often make if difficult to realistically plan to have kids in your 20s.”

This sort of thing drives me crazy! Modern life doesn’t make it unrealistic to have children in your 20s! The average age to start having children is in the mid-20s, so obviously it is very realistic to do this.

Kids don’t need at least 75% of the stuff we give them. They need food, shelter, a few clothes and lots of love.

I have a family of 6 and one salary supports us (and no, it’s not a 6 figure salary). The kids have everything they need and are happy, healthy kids. Their clothes are either hand-me-downs or from the Target clearance rack. Books come free from the library. We have one car for the whole family. I just don’t see what the big deal is.

My sister says, “I’d rather not have a child than have to buy him clothes at Wal-mart!” And this attitude puzzles me. That ‘need’ is coming from the parents, not the kids.

As for the ‘you have to have a hefty college savings’ meme, I don’t quite get that either. Maybe the kid won’t want to go to college. Maybe he or she will get a scholarship. Maybe He or she will have to get a job to pay for it. Who really thinks, “Since my parents couldn’t pay for my college, I wish I’d never been born!”

Of course, I’ll add the caveat that it’s dumb to have them if you can’t pay for it at all. If you are a 16 year old high school drop-out… don’t have kids.

But you don’t need a lot of money to have children. You just don’t.

This is the second time you’ve said this. My wife and I are in our late 40s, neither of us benefit from a trust fund, we had or kids in our mid to late 20s, and next year all 3 will be in college. I’m not sure why you consider long-term planning impossible.

Or hell, if I have the ability to accomplish the impossible, I’d prefer the ability to fly - or maybe x-ray vision!

Well put, autz. You sound like a wonderful parent.

For all this talk of when people should and shouldn’t have kids-aren’t you leaving out all the issues of

  1. People who don’t find a committed partnership until later in life

  2. An individual’s choice to elect a career that requires extensive education or a significant time commitment

It seems like your OP assumes that people still get married at 22 to 24 then spend their time boozing and stockpiling cash until they’re shit out of luck at 35. This has not been my experience at all-for instance, most of my Ph.d friends are just emerging with their degrees in their late 20s and early 30s and have just started scouting about seriously for a partner. I’d also be very leery of getting married young in these times-I’m beginning to see the first wave of divorces in my age group right now and I don’t much see the point of getting married and having kids and giving up my graduate degree plans only to have my husband leave me for his paralegal after I put him through law school (one of classmates recently did this to his wife) because he’d never had the chance to play the field and was having some sort of upper middle class quarter life crisis.

Anyway, I’m the child of the same geriatric age group you’re talking about and I really don’t remember there being any downside to having oldish parents. My father was 36 when I was born.

Funny, I am, too… and I don’t like it that much. I had no downside, but really, I would’ve prefer younger parents… and I want to have kids ASAP, not when my parents had me.

FTR, my dad had two kids by the time he was 25. I was the result of his second marriage (or rather, I caused him to get married again).

For me, even though my parents are in a sense way more active than others, I feel like they’re more active now, when I’m not there. When I was a kid, they were waay more focused on their careers… Yet they were also older and, in a way, less likely to mingle with the younger parents of my classmates (which… erm… made me less likely to mingle with other kids).

Everybody else in my family was at least 7 years older than me. It wasn’t until I was 10 and above that my cousins started having kids of their own and people in my family and surrounding environment were with younger kids. Apparently I was born in a baby drought.

Another thing was the activity level… Again, even though my parents are more active than others, they were sedentary when I was young. They didn’t have the same energy they had when they were younger (mom even went on hiking trips with her nephews). They didn’t do that with me, they didn’t have the energy.

I rather have one early, and muddle through with him/her, than wait… Because if I wait until I’m fully, completely “financially stable”… I’ll be too old.

My parents were of a similar age when I was born. They’ve been dead over 10 years now, and my kids don’t have many real memories of them. So that’s one bit of a downside.

Of course, my in-laws are still alive and kicking and they’re no great prize! :stuck_out_tongue:

Those are also factors to consider, particularly for a woman. Some women actually do have kids while in college, or while earning a doctorate or MD. It’s a really tough thing to do, but it is doable. Waiting until after schooling is finished is also fine, although if you do that you might want to be sure to get your schooling done fairly early and not drag it out.

Neither path is wrong, it’s just that each has trade-offs.

The physical risks to a child of having a 36 year old father are very different than having a 36 year old mother. Women’s fertility comes to a definite end at a certain point in life, unlike men’s, and she only has so many years to conceive a child.

Yes, there is adoption out there - but it’s not a cure-all. For some women the biological connection is a huge things, for others it’s irrelevant. Some extended families will not accept an adopted child - that doesn’t always stop parents from adopting but it is yet another factor.

This is true.

My only worthwhile and truly grandparent died before I ever met him. I’m pretty sure he’s worthwhile because everyone says my father takes after him and my father is a really great human being. Also, said grandparent survived smallpox and marched with Gandhi so he would have been reasonably interesting by default.

You’re right-my parents’ age and their potential grandchildren are the only thing that concern me and my sister about our choices. It would really suck if I did have kids one day and they never got to meet my father or my mother. I asked my father if he regrets not pressuring us to get married while we were young like so many Indian parents do and he said that our financial independence and ability to walk away from bad marriages means more to him. Again-my parents are awesome :slight_smile:

There are three problems:

First, college is very expensive. Second, college tuition has been increasing significantly faster than the rate of inflation. Third (and this is really part of the first two), for those individuals who do save a good amount for college, the colleges tend to raise tuition even more so as to extract all of those savings and then some.

Frankly, it would be easier to do the planning to purchase a yacht. Because at least a yacht builder doesn’t ask to see your tax returns and set his price accordingly. At least yacht prices don’t double in real terms every 10 or 20 years.

Except my parents were infertile for 4 years before they had me and my sister in quick succession, and my mother was 24 when they started trying. 28/30 is probably average in the US-but I was born in India in the 70s so keep in mind that while today their ages would be considered average-oldish when they had us back then they were considered well on their way to death!

It’s true that fertility decreases with age but it can also come out of nowhere and blindside women who are young and otherwise perfectly healthy (like my mother). Maybe this is why my parents didn’t put much priority on my sister and me getting married or having kids young, and encouraged us to consider our educations first instead.