Why Are You Waiting to Have Kids Until You’re Financially Stable?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 19 comments

wait to have kids

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.

financially secure kidsWaiting Means 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.

Your Age and Health are Factors You Can’t Ignore

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!

Investing More in Your Field of Work Will Lessen the Impact of Leaving

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.

Either Way, 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 re-educated, 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 also give 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.

You may even be surprised that your kids can sometimes help you save. It’s really not all doom and gloom. Here are 10 ways your kids can even help you save.

  1. We have 5 kids, and until the youngest one stopped sticking french fries up his nose, we dared not even attempt to eat at any restaurant that didn’t have a clown in its logo. This saved us HUGE on eating out bills because we never went to fancy restaurants.
  2. Nights spent sipping the finest champagne in dark, smoky clubs held zero appeal after the first time trying to take care of a baby while nursing our own hangovers.
  3. Once you realize you are going to have to slipcover anything that comes into your house, why not just do your furniture shopping at the curb?
  4. I stopped asking “What is new and fabulous at Anthropologie?” whenever I bought clothes and started asking “Can I breastfeed in public in this top without causing a commotion? What color fabric best hides sticky hand-prints?” Turns out navy blue sweatsuits are both cheap and functional. Who knew?
  5. As for my husband… Out: package deals to Formula One races. In: staying at home with the kids on the weekend so the wife can go to the grocery store and maybe, just maybe, get some peace and quiet.
  6. Once you give in to the idea that they will only eat Cheerios, plain chicken, and plain green beans, you can buy pallets directly from the factory for big, big savings.
  7. No need to pay for a pricey gym membership when you can get your exercise by walking a 15 lb baby around in circles for 2 hours every night. Bonus: if he or she likes to play airplane, you can develop some massive guns in no time.
  8. Before vacations included jetting off to a foreign country for gourmet meals and power shopping. Now, it’s leaving the kids with grandma so that you can sneak off to the Comfort Inn for a power nap on sheets that don’t have goldfish crumbs ground in them.
  9. Entertainment costs drastically reduced as they are not only happy with watching the same Dora video over and over again, they downright insist upon it.
  10. Once the kids start hitting preschool, you will no longer need to buy any jewelry or home decor items as they will make them for you. Pier One can’t hold a candle to a frame made out of cardboard and buttons!

Of course, this is all very much tongue in cheek. Children are a huge financial responsibility and it should be taken seriously. However, it’s also important to realize that as your life changes, you are more than capable of making adjustments and finding a way to make things work out.

It’s true that even with choosing less expensive alternatives like thrift store clothes and public schools, raising a child will cost tens of thousands of dollars but parents manage to do it by making sacrifices and keeping focused on their goal. Now, imagine what could happen if you took the same approach to any of your financial goals.

We are all capable of achieving so much if we can get in the mindset that our sacrifices are part of a bigger goal. Whether you want to retire early, start your own business or travel around the world, if you can nurture that idea like how a parent nurtures their children, you can achieve what seems to be an impossible goal.

Are you putting off having children for financial reasons? What’s your reason for having kids when you did?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ashley says:

    Where I live it seems most people wait until their late 20s or early 30s to get married because of graduate school and careers. Once they’ve tied the knot, the rush is on to get pregnant before you turn 35. Looking back, that whole time is such a blur!

    • David@MoneyNing.com says:

      Medical advance has pushed the dates back, but no doubt the biological clock is putting pressure for families to have kids too. You also have more energy to play with/take care of the kiddos when you are younger.

      The first couple of years are really stressful, so in a way it’s good that it’s a blur!

  • Papa Foxtrot says:

    Not to dampen the idea of having children fairly early, but research has shown that having children in your thirties tends to lead to better mental health for the child. Being in a more stable condition tends to lead to less outbursts and fighting so the child will not be too exposed to that. Considering the fact that now financial problems tend to be the number one source of marital problems now you should try to aim for stability.

    I know many people are able to pull off things that are nothing short of miracles during tough times, but not everyone can. Everyone in my family who had a child in their 20s was fine because they lived close to family who could provide to some degree. Far from everyone has that.

    • David@MoneyNing.com says:

      You are right of course. The later you have children, the higher the chance that you’ll be financially stable. On the other hand, the later you have children, the higher the chance that you’re already accustomed to certain niceties in life and you may not want to make the financial sacrifice to have children.

      It’s good to hear that everyone in your family is doing well with having kids early though. I think the earlier you start, the harder it’ll be at the beginning but when they grow older, I bet it’s super comforting to know that you’ll be done financially supporting your kids relatively early when all your friends still have years to go.

  • Alex says:

    Not sure I agree with this entirely. On an emotional level, no one is ever ready to have kids. But having a plan to have children is crucial. I know many people who have winged it, only to struggle(Many have gotten divorced) and realized that they should have more of a financial plan and a stable career before doing the deed of multiplying. It is an enormous financial commitment. But well….let’s face it. AMERICANS are awful at being financially responsible.

    • David@MoneyNing.com says:

      You are right Alex. Many people do struggle financially once they have kids, but I think the main problem is not being financially responsible. Many families who end up struggling had plenty of income to make things work.

      It does take sacrifices though!

  • terdralyn says:

    My mom always said if you wait until you can afford it to have kids, you’ll never have any.

  • Paul Dabuco says:

    I couldn’t agree more. As part of Gen Y, there are so many things that hinder not to have a baby, not just financial matters.

    Autonomy and mobility are the main reasons why Gen Y’s don’t marry yet. They want more time to experience other things and travel with no obligations or whatsoever.

  • Tim Seidler says:

    It’s extremely scary to purposely bring a child into the world without a stable financial footing, but I hardly think that’s a good reason to hold off on that life milestone.

    In general I don’t think there are a lot of people, regardless of income level, that would ever say they have enough to feel comfortable.

    I also think it’s beneficial to have kids early on so that you can enjoy more of your mid-life without the challenges of a young family.

  • Taylor Lee says:

    I am putting off kids for a few years (~5) until I have enough money to feel comfortable. I’m doing this for a couple reasons including financial instability in my own childhood which was terribly stressful and I don’t want perpetuated for my kids as well as the knowledge that finances (particularly, strained finances) is the #1 cause of divorce — which would really put a damper on the whole family thing. Worrying about money now is my way of preparing myself to really be able to focus on what’s important to me, my family, in the future.

    • Daniel navarrete says:

      My wife and I married at 20 years old
      First home 21yr
      First kid 22yr
      Second kid 23yr
      Third kid 24yr
      We just purchased our SECOND home at 27
      We live in Northern California and make $250,000 year
      We took a step of faith and won

      • Ondrea says:

        Sounds like you had some help from your parents…

      • Kay says:

        You “won” because you likely had some privilege factors at play to help you out- such as help from parents/family, or you came from a place of wealth. There’s really no other way one can get their first house at 21 (unless you somehow won the lottery, I suppose). Your situation is the exception, not the rule.

      • Caroline Bowman says:

        And that’s great, that really is. But what if you hadn’t?

        You’d have been a pair of 24 year olds with 3 kids and no way to support them. Obviously many factors came into making this work out well, probably a lot of sacrifice and determination and maybe some parental help. Suggesting just ”take a leap of faith” isn’t necessarily practical for most people.

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      The only time to have a child is when you feel the time is right. Of course, there may be consequences for deferring into your mid-late 30s (or there may not be! Lots of people are perfectly able to have as many children as they want later on), but unless you are likely to be 35+ before you even start trying, you get yourself to where you feel ready, financially and otherwise. There may not be a perfect time, so it’s reasonable to not get hung up on perfection (which never happens!) but equally, you know your situation and it’s a huge commitment to undertake if you’re not really sure.

  • Brian says:

    The correlation most likely has the most to do with formerly unprecedented levels of student loan debt. Millennials aren’t waiting longer– they simply can’t carry out the same life milestones yet.

    • Kay says:

      You “won” because you likely had some privilege factors at play to help you out- such as help from parents/family, or you came from a place of wealth. There’s really no other way one can get their first house at 21 (unless you somehow won the lottery, I suppose). Your situation is the exception, not the rule.

    • Kay says:

      Whoops- Replied to the wrong comment. Ignore that.

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says:

    I had our Little Miss in my late 20s. For us it was a matter of wanting to have our kids on the younger side of things. I think many millenials are putting off kids because of debt just beacause the debt makes traditional steps along the way tougher to achieve. Getting married a buying a house are both tougher with heavy debt loads. Not to say that those are necessary to have kids, but for a lot of people following the set baby path, it’s going to take longer with student debts.

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