How Much Money Do You Need Before You Have Kids?


For the most part, this site reflects my values and my experiences. That's natural. One of the first rules of writing is to “write what you know”. This is one of the main reasons I've brought staff writers aboard here at Get Rich Slowly - their experiences are different than mine, and they bring different perspectives into play.

Sometimes I have big blind spots in my life (financial and otherwise). One rather large blind spot stems from the fact that Kris and I have opted not to have children. Because of this, I have nothing in the way of real-world experience to bring to discussions of how kids affect finances. (Well, I do, but parents aren't inclined to listen to non-parents, so I just keep silent.)

Still, this is an important issue to many folks, as is evidenced by this question from Andi, a question I'm not qualified to comment on. Here's what Andi writes:

When do you know when you have enough money to have kids? My husband and I both are excited and feel “ready” emotionally to have children. (We're in our early thirties, married five years.). We're pretty financially stable now. We both have good degrees, and only about $15,000 in student debt between us, and no credit card debt. We also have some retirement savings (around $60,000) and some cash on hand in an online savings account (about $40,000). We don't own a home. We are living with my parents until we move to a different city in a few weeks.

Here's the thing: We're in the process of re-jigging our careers and moving. We're finally ready to try to “follow our dreams” (to be cheesy). For my husband, that means transitioning to a lower paid job (about $40,000 a year - hopefully will get higher in the future) and for me, it means freelance writing and part-time work. I could find a job in my field that pays a lot of money, but it's miserable drudge of work, and I know I would be unhappy at it. (Still, it's very tempting.)

At this time of transition, we're just not sure if we can “afford” kids. What if our new jobs don't work out? We're pretty frugal and aren't the kind of people who would want a lot of “stuff” for our kids, but daycare, etc. is just so expensive. People who make a lot more than us say they struggle. I wonder whether we should just wait until we're more established. (We also tend to move a lot, and my husband's job isn't permanent). I'm also worried that I'll have kids, and just freak out about money, and give up on my own personal ambitions in favor of security. But we definitely want kids, and that clock is definitely ticking.

Any thoughts?

I think this is a great question, and I'm glad that Andi and her husband are willing to take the time to ask it. I wish more people were willing to think this through.

That said, as with anything, I think there's a delicate balance of wants vs. needs when it comes to children, and how people cope with this determines how affordable kids can be. Trent at The Simple Dollar does a great job of documenting how he and his wife have been building a family without drowning in debt. Many other folks have built families on small budgets.

But, as Andi says, there are people with solid salaries and substantial savings who struggle. I think a lot of it depends on what you think your kids need need in order to prosper and be happy.

My own opinion as a non-parent? I think the time and attention you spend on your children matters a hell of a lot more than the money you spend on them. The money you spend is irrelevant. Your kids don't give a fig if you're dressing them in the latest fashions or buying fancy toys or sending them to the best schools. They'd be just as happy wearing hand-me-downs and playing with a ball and a stick. I'm not kidding. What they want most is attention and affirmation from their parents.

But, as I said, I don't actually have kids, so I'm only making a judgment based on watching other families (and on my undergrad studies into child development). I think Andi wants some real-world advice. That's where you come in, readers.

What do you think? How much money do you need before you have children? How can you know you're ready to start a family, both financially and otherwise? And what sorts of things can Andi and her husband do to become better prepared for kids? What advice do you have for them?

The original article can be found at the Readers: How Much Money Do You Need Before You Have Kids?