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.
Pro: 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.
Con: Your Age and Health are Factors
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!
Pro: Investment in Your Field of Work
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.
Con: 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 reeducated, 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 give also 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.
Are you putting off having children for financial reasons? What’s your reason for having kids when you did?