If you were playing a word association game, it wouldn’t take long for somebody to put the words “children” and “expensive” together. According to Time Magazine, the average cost of raising a child born in 2007 to age 18 is $204,000. And that doesn’t even consider the fact that few parents cut the financial strings at 18. So we can all agree that the cost of having children is astronomical.
This thought dawned on me after (thankfully, not before) my first daughter was born. As a matter of fact, we were living and working in Israel at the time. It was then that I learned how expensive children were. I was working two jobs and quite literally could barely afford to pay for diapers after rent and food.
I was at my evening job when a nice man walked in and we started talking. After a while, he asked me how many children I had. I told him we only had one daughter and he asked why. I told him my diaper saga. He smiled and told me something I’ll never forget.
“Birds don’t starve because G-d loves them. You think G-d loves you less than the birds? Go have more children.” I’m a man who knows how to take direction. We went on to have two more lovely daughters.
Is faith a financial plan?
Regardless of your religious status, this man had a very powerful argument. At some point in all our lives, we have to have faith (and something else which I’ll get to). Because of my background growing up very poor and financially insecure, I was never willing to spend money I didn’t have. As a result, I was very reluctant to start having lots of kids before I knew I could afford them.
The need to be financially prepared may be absolutely correct in most aspects of our lives. For example, you may have great business ideas. But if you don’t have the money to launch the business, you better wait or find the money fast. You may really want to go to Paris, but if you are in debt up to your eyeballs, it would be a huge mistake to go. Is having a child before you can afford one any different?
Yes and no. If you decide to have kids even though you don’t all have the money right now, I’m all for it as long as you don’t rely on someone else to pick up your tab. And once you make that decision, you have a de facto new set of priorities in your life. You’ve declared that your children come first. That means you work out a plan to make more money if you need to. You may not have the dough right now, but you better have a strategy to get that money. Maybe it’s time to change your career. You think it through. You figure out how much money you’ll need and you work out how you’re going to get it. That becomes your priority above your other personal financial goals.
Everything in Proportion
I’m not talking about having enough money to send your brood to the most expensive prep schools and colleges. And I’m not suggesting you owe your children a high-end life style either. I know many wonderful families who still struggle financially. Just because you struggle doesn’t mean you can’t have kids.
I’m saying that when you have children, they become your financial priority. As long as that is true and you have a plan to support your family, go for it. Even if you are underwater now and need to get out of debt, I’d still go for it so long as you have a plan to fix the problem and you can execute that plan.
Where do you stand? Did you wait to have children until you knew you were financially stable, or did you go for it? Why or why not?