I always knew I wanted children. Being the logical person that I am (or at least that I think I am), I actually took the time to ask myself WHY I wanted to have kids. My conclusion was that I am one of those people who would feel incomplete unless I had kids. I guess it’s just a primal drive to reproduce, to have an offspring. Is it logical? Not necessarily. But the drive was there for me and it couldn’t be denied.
So I knew that I wanted kids, and I knew that I wanted two kids, because I wanted them to have a sibling, but I didn’t feel I should be reproducing more than twice in this overpopulated world. I was trying to do the right thing for me, for the kids and for the world. By some standards I have succeeded, by others I have failed miserably – but I tried.
As you can see, I thought long and hard about having kids. I married at 22 and waited until I was 28 to become pregnant with my first child. Everything was planned, and I was lucky to conceive exactly when I wanted to, with both of my children. But with all this planning and thinking (one might say over-thinking), I did not plan for one important thing: the price tag of having children and raising them.
And the price tag is hefty.
So, How Much DOES It Cost To Raise A Child?
According to MSN in 2001, the cost of raising one child for a family like ours (a dual-parent family with a before-tax income of $65,800 and up) is a staggering $250,000. Mind you, that’s in 2001 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, the price tag is $308,000. PER CHILD!
The table does not take into account college expenses, or the possibility that your grown child would remain at your house even after they turn 18. If each of your children goes to an in-state, public, 4-year college, the price tag for each child can easily reach $350,000.
But Why Are Kids So Expensive?
It’s our culture. Kids used to be a useful workforce. Now they are the jewels in our crown, our pride and joy, our future – and we invest heavily in that future. Note that the table above shows a marked difference between the cost of raising kids for different families, depending on the family’s income. So a lot of that is discretionary. Think private schools, enrichment classes, designer clothes, electronics…
While child labor is still common in some parts of the world, the US Fair Labor Standards Act has limited many forms of child labor. Our children don’t work. They don’t contribute to the household’s finances. We wouldn’t want it any other way of course – but we must accept that under today’s laws and culture, children are an emotional joy – and a financial burden.
It’s Best To Be Prepared
My husband and I waited a long time before we had our first child. My husband is older than I am, so his career was well established by then, including health benefits. We had a good-sized emergency fund, savings, and retirement accounts. Until we had the kids, we were the classic DINKS – Dual Income, No Kids – we were able to lead a nice lifestyle while still saving a lot.
This has changed once the kids were born. There were bills – despite the insurance, our co-pays and deductibles for the births were pretty significant. I had quit my job to stay home with the kids, and did not work for five years. We stayed at our beloved 2-bedroom apartment for as long as we could, but once our second child was born, we moved to a bigger house. Until I returned to the workforce, we managed to stay out of debt, but we didn’t manage to save anything beyond my husband’s 401(k) contributions.
Do You Really Expect People Not To Have Kids Unless They’re Wealthy?
Of course not. I would never tell anyone that they should not have kids simply based on their financial situation. We can’t base our most important life decisions on finances alone, but I do think it makes sense to take a close, hard look at one’s finances and at the average cost of raising kids before diving into this amazing adventure. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be.
Kids are so much more than a price tag. They are amazing. I often say that parenthood is the most intense experience of my life. But kids do come with a price tag – and it’s better to be prepared for how high it is.