A Financial Burden: Do Children Equal Debt?

by Kristina Tahnyak on November 5, 2010 · 14 comments

Did you know that it costs over a million dollars to raise a child over their entire lifetime? In the fabulous lifestyles of DINKS children are just not part of our perfect equation.  This estimate in excess of one million dollars is only the cost of the actual child including diapers, formula, clothing, extra curricular activities, and college.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have a million dollars just laying around with nothing better do than pop out a couple of children.  I, for one, am not willing to be in debt over children.

On top of the basic costs involved in raising a child, we also have to add on the associated costs in the changes of our lifestyle that come with having children. Along with two point three children the perfect family must also have a home in the suburbs equipped with a pool, a dog, and a stylish SUV.

The one million dollar estimate cost to raise a child does also not take into account the cost of our own time and effort that is involved in raising a child.  When we have a child we become financially responsible for them for the rest of their life or lives. Our mornings become about making breakfast for our children, our evenings become about soccer practices and dance lessons, and our sleepless nights become about potty training and nightmares.  Not only are we financial responsible for our children, but we are also not in control of our own time.

“I can take a nap when I get home from work if I want to and I can eat a bowl of cereal for dinner if I choose to.” I tried to explain my choice not to have children to my co-worker Max, but as a family man he doesn’t really understand my DINK lifestyle.  After my co worker missed his fifth day of work in two months due to his stay at home wife, their toddler, and his new born baby I was definitely thankful for my childless DINK lifestyle. “Yes but you will never have the joy of watching your Children take their first steps, or speak their first works, or experience the joy of watching them grow up.” Replied my co-worker.

Max misses a lot of work and often shows up late due to his family obligations (which are his priority).  I don’t feel that attendance exceptions should be made for employees with families. I am not a heartless tin man; but this isn’t personal…it’s just business.  I can guarantee that if I missed 5 days of work in 2 months I would definitely be spoken to by my direct manager. However, because he has a family and children, Max gets a get out of jail free attendance pass; and I get stuck picking up the slack when he misses work.

(Photo By The Ritters)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 E.D. November 5, 2010 at 9:12 am

I completely agree. Childless employees should not be expected to pick up the slack just because we don’t have kids. We could be taking care of a parent or have other commitments that are just as important to us. I am thankful that my job (and company) does not tolerate absenteeism from parents and that absentee employees are the first to be RIFed during downturns, regardless of their family status.

2 kbdragon November 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

Wow. Your first post in months, and it’s a rant against people to choose to have kids. My work lumps all time off (sick, children stuff, vacation) into PTO (personal time off). When that’s gone, your only choice is unpaid leave. I’m sorry your work’s policy differs from my work’s, but that’s something to bring up with management. I bet if you or your boyfriend were sick your boss would understand. Max isn’t taking vacation, he’s taking care of his family. I subscribed to this blog because AT THE MOMENT my husband and I are DINKs – but we don’t plan to stay that way forever. I just wanted to get some tips about starting out investing and saving with two incomes and not much time. You’ve just insulted me beyond belief and I’m unsubscribing right now.

3 VB November 5, 2010 at 10:46 am

You raise an interesting point and in some cases I know that it’s true. However you do not walk in his shoes and you do not know the exact quality of work he produces and the time it takes him. When I had my child my work life became a lot more efficient. Knowing I had to leave work at a specific time meant I didn’t talk to co-workers as much, didn’t take coffee breaks and I work through most lunches. I think it is harsh to assume that just because he is later than you in the office doesn’t mean he isn’t completing the same amount of work. (however, you do observe his habits more closely than I and this is not true for all cases) As for taking time off, people are given vacation days/sick days for a reason and how he chooses to use those aren’t really your concern. You could also use days as vacation. (but if he just isn’t showing up that is different)

My husband and I just had our first Child (12wks ago) and we definitely debated never having children, because of all the financial responisbilities. I mean who wouldn’t rather drive a Range Rover instead of a Mom Car. But what eventually swayed our decision was thinking about how much we love hanging out with our parents now that we are older, and we just thought what would we do if we were 65 and didn’t have children? You can only take so many vacations on your own but sharing moments with your children are priceless(blah cliche I know).

My two cents thanks for reading.

4 Lola November 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

Just a couple of quick points:

While having children is definitely an expense, it can definitely be done for way less than $1 million. As with anything else, it depends where you do it (I can see where living in NYC will multiply the cost factor) and how elaborate you want to be about it. You don’t need most of the stuff people accumulate these days for even the youngest children, and that includes a fancy SUV or even a fancy stroller – safe, reliable and gently used products are just fine. You do have to put your children first for many years, however, and that is certainly not for everyone.

As far as “family” work policies go, I hope you will consider that even though you may not have children, it’s still a good investment to support those who do have children. After all, we all benefit when children are reared to become contributing members of society. When power lines go down in an ice storm, when you get an infection, when your water heater goes out, etc. – you will be very glad that somebody’s child is there to climb the utility pole in freezing cold weather, have the years of medical training to figure out what prescription will help you out, has set up a business with other people’s children to manufacture a water heater/sell it at some retail outlet/install it in your home or apartment complex, etc. By supporting families in bringing up children, we all benefit by having a huge array of talents and skills available for a very nice standard of living. Unless you want to grow your own food, make your own clothes, gather the fuel to heat your own dwelling, etc. – that will take a LOT more of your time than covering for somebody at work for a few days!

Letting people use time to care for children, giving some tax breaks, etc. are small incentives for the big job of training a completely new human being to offer service in the future. We get off pretty cheap, I’d say!

5 Kristina November 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Thanks Everyone for your Great Comments

VB – Congratulations on your new baby! I wish you and your husband all the best. Having a child is one of lifes greatest joys…so I hear :-)

KB Dragon – I’m not sure if your post was meant for DINKS Finance becasue we are a daily blog. I post on here several times a week.

I agree with everyone that I do not speak from experience since I do not have children. It is not that I don’t like kids. It’s just that I am never around them and when I am it makes me uncomfortable because they seem very fragile.

I do not presently have children, but who knows what the future holds. If I do get pregnant then I will deal with it and my life will become less about me and all about my new baby. I wouldn’t be here today if my parents had the same options towards children that I do.

I definitely don’t think that childless employees should be expected to work harder while employees with children are given a free pass “because they have kids. Max definitely does not pull his weight at work and therefore other employees (with and without kids) are left to pick up his slack…and it’s getting a bit old.

Lola – I agree with you that I do not know how my manager is dealing with this situation and what measures (if any) are being taken. I guess for now I will have to grin and bare it. I will put trust in my manager and hope that these issues are being addressed behind closed doors.

6 Michele November 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm

As a DINK with no plans to become a parent, I do take issue with your post a little bit. There are a lot of reasons why my husband and I have decided that kids are (probably) not for us, and the financial considerations are definitely high on that list. That said, I’ve always been bothered by the figures that people throw out regarding how much it costs to raise a child, because they almost always include the cost of housing, as if without kids, one doesn’t need a place to live. Sure, with kids, some people might feel they need a BIGGER, BETTER house and spend more than they would otherwise, but these figures don’t typically offset the difference between DINK housing and family housing, which is disingenuous and misleading. Also, these figures usually include the cost of higher education, but there is no law anywhere that requires parents to pay for their children to go to college. So if you subtract these two major expenses – housing, which you’d have to pay for anyway, and college – which you don’t have to pay for if you don’t want to – the cost of having a child drops dramatically. It’s definitely still expensive, but not $1 million expensive. The expenses I’m concerned about are ones we don’t have as DINKS, but would as parents. For example: Child care. Now THAT is majorly expensive if you don’t have the luxury of being a stay at home parent, or having a nearby family member who is willing to care for your children for free while you’re at work. Other expenses that worry me: Increased insurance premiums. My company would charge an additional $300 per month if I were to have a child and add him or her to my policy; my husband’s company would charge an additional $100 per month. Likewise, we would most likely feel the need to get a term life insurance policy, which would run us $100-150 per month because we’re already in our 30s, with my husband pushing 40.

I also take issue with your assertion that “when we have a child, we become financially responsible for them for the rest of our lives,” because again, it’s just not true. Some people might FEEL like they’re responsible for their children financially, even once they become adults capable of supporting themselves, and some people might actually WANT to be, but nobody actually IS. Many a parent has cut their adult children off financially at age 18 (including my own) and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

7 kbdragon November 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Well this is the first post since April to show up in my Google Reader, is all. Resubscribing fixed that, but based on what I’ve read I think I’ll go with some other blogs I’ve been following.

8 Tim November 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I agree…notice folks using the word “choice” when it comes to kids. “Choosing” to have kids should not be rewarded at the expense of those who choose not to have kids. Likewise, choosing to be married or single should not be penalized or rewarded at the expense of the other either. part of choices is being responsible in those choices and facing the ramifications for those choices. we end up couching issues dealing with kids, though, as the kids are innocent in all this and you would only be punishing the kids. I’m sorry, it isn’t fair to blame your choice for having a kid on the kid, which is what many people do. i do agree that for some people having kids helps them grow up, and b/c of that they might become more responsible at work because of it; however, that is not always the case either.

back on the debt portion: i really don’t know how people can afford kids. i mean really afford kids, which balances a secure self-funded retirement along with expenses in raising a child and educating them (the latter being a value judgment). my brother has 3 kids, and supports another, so 4 kids. I see how much they make, and just do not know how they do it, because I know that they are one sickness or event away from not being able to afford it. i mean, they don’t have life insurance or disability insurance, things like that. they have medical insurance, but only because his wife has a job that offers it, but he does not, so if she loses her job or becomes incapacitated, then they would be hurting. that is what i think about when i see people with kids. i look at our DINK budget, although pretty substantial, and just don’t see where the money would come from to raise kids without having to sacrifice on retirement or being fully covered insurance wise, and having an emergency fund. i doubt most people who have kids have that security.

i am a supervisor, and i tell you i bent over backwards to accommodate a single parent of two kids. she lived pretty far away, did not have anyone really to be a backup in case her babysitter or daycare fell through, etc. she was a great employee while at work, but she was always a kid getting sick away or babysitter not showing up or daycare being closed, from missing work. i sat down and recommended she have a two to three deep backup plan, because she was single, but it just didn’t work out. she wasn’t willing to move closer to work, etc, so i had to let her go, b/c she wasn’t able to put in the hours we needed her to do. that was not fair for the other folks who relied on her to do her share of the workload. i think about her if i was in her situation and i think about the having kids means being in debt. i mean that is the reality these days.

9 Steve November 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

Kids do not cost a million dollars to raise! Perhaps if the DINKS tried to live a less materialistic lifestyle, they can understand that kids bring far more joy than a window with a view. While they can be a drain on resources, a strain on relationships and impact ones career, they offer love and enjoyment which is far more valuable than money. After all, there is more to life than money. I can come home and eat cereal for dinner, take a nap, or get some exercise watching my kid play soccer. And yes, I will have to work a few more years to pay for college, drive my 8 year old car a bit longer to pay the added insurance premiums, etc. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me and my working wife (working by choice) to pay for the things we want.

10 Honey November 8, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Generally, the term DINKS is not a temporary label for a stage in someone’s life, but a permanent label for people who have chosen never to reproduce. I am a bit confused why everyone is so offended that a DINKS blog would come down on the side of children being a significant financial decision. Most people who have kids shouldn’t have had them because they can’t actually afford it. And no one said kids were evil, just expensive.

If you are not a DINK, then you don’t need to read the posts. But no one vilified kids here, so it’s tacky to attack her for not wanting them.

11 Tim November 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

second that Honey…

@Steve, No one ever said that children cannot give those who choose to have them enjoyment, meaning, or some sort of fulfillment in life. Being a DINK does not equate to being materialistic. there are plenty of DINKS who live frugal lives and within their means. Just as having kids is a value judgment, so is choosing not to have kids. by comparison of materialism, i look at our neighborhood and am always shocked at how much stuff (materialism) all the families with kids have, i mean a good 95% of them cannot fit a car in their garage, and the remaining 5% can only fit one car in their garage. in contrast, my wife and I (the DINKS) are very minimalist in terms of stuff.

12 Tarah November 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm

I do believe they probably cost a million dollars. We are having our first, I’m going from full to part-time and my husband is reducing to 4 days per week. Add to it that we want to pay for their college education, and it’s ALOT of money.

Before I got pregnant, we bought a small house we could easily afford on one income, paid off all other debt, stockpiled a large sum of cash, and took the time to get established in our careers so that we would be seen as experienced employees and be allowed to work part-time. That means we didn’t have kids in our twenties, it was just impossible to get ourselves in a financial state that we felt comfortable with until now (mid-thirties). So basically we just planned for it, it’s not that hard to do.

13 LMN August 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

$1 Million says Kristina will be knocked up in five years OR less!

14 Kristina August 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm

@LMN I might just take that bet :-)

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