What we'd do differently if we had kids // Our Next Life // We achieved early retirement and financial independence as DINKs (dual income, no kids), and of course having kids would change a bunch of things. Here's what we think they'd change. What did we miss?the process

What We’d Do Differently If We Had Kids

Mark and I are child-free by choice (though perhaps influenced by things that aren’t by choice), which has no doubt made our journey to save for early retirement much faster than it would have been if we had kids.

But we believe ardently that we’d still be on this path even if we did have kids (both of our dads retired early, after all, though under different circumstances), and that it’s every bit as possible for families or single parents with children, just on a different timeline. Look at our friends the 1500s, Northern Expenditure, the SSCs, A Gai Shan Life, the Frugalwoods, the PIEs and plenty more. (And Go Curry Cracker, though Jeremy and Winnie became parents after retiring early.)

It’s something we’ve thought about a lot, though – what we’d do differently if we did have kids. And while we would never pretend to know what parenting is like, we can at least share how we’ve thought about it.

(And parents, chime in! What do we have wrong? What do you think is different about your journey because you have kids? Tell us all in the comments.)

What We'd Do Differently If We Had Kids // Our Next Life // We achieved early retirement and financial independence as DINKs (dual income, no kids), and of course having kids would change a bunch of things. Here's what we think they'd change. What did we miss?

Reflecting on Our Own Childhoods

It’s impossible to think about what we’d do as parents without reflecting on our own upbringings, and we both had the benefit of highly engaged parents who valued education. Mark had a partial scholarship to college but his parents paid for most of the rest (he also worked), and while I got a scholarship that paid for college and most of my living expenses (I also worked in college), I had the benefit of not working in high school because school was my job, which allowed me to earn that scholarship. And if I hadn’t gotten it, I know my dad would have done everything possible to help me pay for college.

At the same time, we both went to public school for every day of our education, and private school was never an option. Nor were name brand clothes, late model cars or regular air travel. There were fewer things to spend money on then – thinking mainly about electronics – but I never had a Nintendo, and Mark’s was the last family he knew to get a computer, a CD player, a microwave and nearly all the things that just seem normal now.

And we both turned out just fine.

(Or, at least, we turned out just fine after maybe making up for some lost time during our baller years. But we got that out of our systems.)

While we both would have liked to have gotten to do more things as kids than we did (going to Space Camp comes to mind), neither of us feels like we were deprived of anything that was truly important to us. But more than that, we’re grateful that we weren’t spoiled. And we admire our parents for striking that balance of saying yes to plenty of things, but saying no enough. We’d hope to emulate that, something that I think gets harder when your kids can see that you aren’t working, so must clearly have plenty of money. (Props to the financially independent parents out there who pull this off!)

Lengthening the Timeline

Whether you believe or not that kids cost $233,000, it’s safe to say that you need more money when there are more people in your household. Health care costs alone for a family plan vs. a couple can add up to several thousand dollars a year, and that’s not counting everything else that goes along with raising kids.

It does strike me that having a kid now would be cheaper than having a kid while we were working. We would have had to pay for child care, and might have had to say no to some business travel when we were both away at the same time, or perhaps paid for overnight help. (And saying no might have come with career opportunity cost.) Now we wouldn’t need child care, and don’t have business travel demands anymore, so would save a lot of that expense, at least until said kid decided that they wanted to go to school (like Jeremy and Winnie’s son recently did).

But we’d still need to save more. And given my risk aversion, I’d probably aim pretty close to that average kid cost figure, even if we didn’t end up needing that much. Unless we’d managed to do our saving in our 20s instead of our 30s and plan to have the kid after we were fully financially independent, so we’d know the child care costs at least would be lower.

We were saving pretty quickly those last few years, so adding the cost of an average kid wouldn’t have added a ton of years to our timeline, but it would still have lengthened it. Especially because we would also have had ongoing kid costs that would have decreased our savings rate to some extent.

Securing (Imaginary) Kids’ Financial Future

At FinCon in October, I was on a panel on FIRE that also included Scott Trench from Bigger Pockets. And Scott had a super interesting idea for providing for the future of kids: for each kid he has (obviously he’s not the one having the kids), he plans to buy a rental property on a 15-year mortgage. That way, by the time the kid is ready for college, the house is paid off, he can turn that property over to them, and they can either live there rent-free, rent it out and use the rental income to pay expenses or sell the house and use the proceeds for their big life plans. So his view – albeit in a perfect world in which you can plan these things – is that he’s only ready to have each kid when he has enough saved for the down payment and closing costs on that rental property. It’s a cool idea. Sort of similar to a seed money for children idea I saw floated by New America many years back.

Whether it’s seed money or a paid-off rental property or a trust of some kind, we’d want to do something like this, so our imaginary kid or kids would go into adulthood with some level of financial security. As Warren Buffett calls it, “Enough to do something, not enough to do nothing.” Though we value our financial independence, we’re proud of having earned it ourselves (with boosts, of course), and wouldn’t want our progeny to have everything handed to them.

And a big part of that would be some sort of cost-sharing on college. We wouldn’t be in the boat of “you’re on your own for college, kid” parents, nor would we pay for every penny. Despite having a generous scholarship, I still came out of college with $10,000 in student loans, and I’m actually grateful for that. It gave me some skin in the game, and having to pay those loans back was part of what got me right in the head about my money. If it had all been paid for, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get responsible with my finances. So maybe our contribution would be that rental property, or a seed fund or trust fund built up to help offset college costs, but we’d want to be sure our kid didn’t leave college strapped with crushing debt that takes a generation to pay off.

Modeling a Good Work Ethic – When You’re Not Working

Aside from all the financial stuff – how much to save, how much to help them – something I know we’d struggle with is how to instill a strong work ethic in our kids when we aren’t working in a traditional sense. I really admire the parents who are working through this, and I’ve heard from lots of you over time who’ve managed to strike a good balance. Those notes have helped something click for me that didn’t before:

Just because you’re working doesn’t mean you’re modeling a good work ethic.

If you come home from work and complain about work constantly, you’re teaching your kids that work is bad, and that they should delay adulthood as long as possible. It’s only in showing the upside of hard and dedicated work that you’re instilling the right understanding in them.

And it feels like we could do that, showing them how hard we work on our passion projects, and modeling the value of always trying your best, not phoning it in. But there’s still this nagging feeling I have that part (all?) of my motivation to retire early came from seeing my dad do it, and that Mark’s motivation came from seeing his dad do it. That’s the positive way to put it, but what I really wonder is: Did we both feel entitled to a shorter career because that’s what we witnessed growing up? Like did we feel too good to have to work forever, like everyone else? (That’s the most negative way to put it.)

We can’t ever know the answer to that. But if we had kids, we’d redouble our resolve to show them the value of work, not just the value of not working. We’d have the luxury, though, of showing them through the lens of work we choose to do, not work we have to do. And they’d get to see the value of building something and owning something fully, which has its own merit.

Deciding Where to Live

Here’s the hardest admission of all: If we had kids, we’d probably move.

We love California with all our hearts, but the schools consistently rank among the worst in the country. Even without kids, I struggle with this topic a lot because the unspoken thing behind school quality is that schools in very white states tend to be better, while schools in more diverse states tend to be worse. (That is shorthand, and the quality of individual schools varies a ton. But we’re talking average outcomes and educational attainment. And there are obviously a ton of good and bad reasons for the differences which I’ll not debate here.) But when families seeking better schools move to where the better schools are, they make the worst schools that much worse. It’s a horrible cycle, and the last thing we’d want to do is contribute to it. But we understand why it’s such a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We would want our kids to grow up in a diverse place, surrounded by different languages and different cultural traditions. (That suggests staying in California.) But we’d also want them to be prepared to take on college-level coursework, and to be able to get into college in the first place. (That suggests moving.) I always cringe whenever I hear the phrase, “I want my kid to get ahead,” because I think, “Ahead of whom?” (That suggests staying.) I get it, of course, though, because you can’t change everything for everyone, but you can change things for your one or two or three people you’ve created. (Moving.) Like I’d like to be able to eliminate poverty and inequality for everyone, but I can’t do that alone. So I can at least make sure that my financial house is in order, help family where I can and give to causes working to make change at the systemic level. That’s the macro version of the “where to put a kid in school” question.

And in our case, the question is made easier by the fact that where we live now is not, in fact, diverse. California as a whole is super diverse and culturally rich and wonderful, but the mountains around Tahoe are white bread central. It’s our least favorite thing about the area. So non-diverse and underperforming schools? Easy decision. Move.

Instilling Non-Money-Obsessed Values

When we lived in LA, we always said that if we had kids, we’d definitely move. And there it wasn’t even about the schools, though they are less than stellar, too. It was about the general values of the region. LA is a place where you see conspicuous wealth on display every day. Where money – who has it and who doesn’t – is obvious in a million different ways. Not like the rust belty Midwest where I grew up, where everyone looked pretty similar, and income inequality was comparatively minor. Sure, someone might drive a slightly nicer car, but it would only be a degree or two nicer, not 10 degrees nicer. I didn’t grow up knowing what a Veyron or Maybach or Huracon was, but you actually sit next to those things in traffic in LA. (Okay, not the Veyron very often.)

There are plenty of down-to-earth, non-status-obsessed people in LA. And tons and tons of normal people. But the stuff that stands out and that must influence young brains are the ostentatious minority who flaunt that massive money. Even we felt it. We never got sucked into the status stuff, but we definitely forgot that $100 on sushi on a weeknight wasn’t normal for a while there, because that’s what we were surrounded by. And that’s not what we’d want to raise kids around. We’d want them to appreciate a splurge as a special occasion, and to not think about money and who has more or less of it every day.

In Many Ways, It’d Be a Different Life

So in this imaginary world in which we have kids, we’ve left California (or at least found a happy medium between money-obsessed LA and non-diverse Tahoe), we’re working a little longer and we’re focusing more on our own passion projects to demonstrate a good work ethic. That would look quite different from our lives now.

Now we have no problem wasting a whole day doing nothing, if that’s what we need. Would we feel that same way if we had kids watching us? We can’t really know, but it’s hard to believe we wouldn’t at least be asking ourselves that question. We can travel for a big chunk of the school year right now without blinking an eye (in fact, we plan to travel more when school is in session to save money and deal with smaller crowds), and that would have to change, because we’d want our kids to go to traditional school, at least for most of their education.

There’d no doubt be countless other small ways our lives would be different, and I’m sure in some ways our lives would be better. There are trade-offs to every decision, just as there’s no such thing as a risk-free life, and while we’re happy with our choice and grateful to have been able to make it, it’s always a good exercise to try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think through how that would change your thinking.

Share Your Thoughts!

Tell us, friends – what did we miss? I’m sure the parents can tell us 5000 things we haven’t thought about, because there’s no way you can know some things until you’ve lived them. And for our fellow child-free peeps, what would change in your planning or journey if you had kids? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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141 replies »

  1. One of the coolest things after we had our son was how much more valuable early retirement life was. He came after I had left work for five years already so I was into my groove of just writing, playing sports, traveling, and relaxing. But now I wake up every morning super excited to hug and play with him. His existence gives me a renewed appreciation of never having to commute or go back to work again.

    The only thing I wish is that we had him sooner. How old are you guys again? And are you guys dead set on not having kids?


    • I would agree with Sam, but coming from a slightly different perspective. I think having our daughter actually accelerated our path to FI substantially. Before her, we had FIRE dreams and wanted more time. After her, we realized that we needed more time. She was our “why” to figure things out with investing, coming up with a real plan, and taking action. While kids do add costs to life, that is only one piece of the equation. To me, the key to achieving FI is having that clear “why” that drives your day to day life.

      • I love this, Chris! Especially because I know your little one wasn’t in your original plan, so it’s interesting to hear how she inspired you guys to speed things up. And you certainly showed that you can still get to FI quickly with a kid!

    • My wife and I are on the FIRE track. We started a 4 years ago, before we had a baby, and are now into our second year of the journey with a kid. I would say the biggest difference is this: before the kid, we had tons of mental and physical energy that we could devote towards being frugal, getting excited about seeing the net worth increase, finding new ways to save more money, etc. Now that energy is spent on our little guy. It’s not a “negative” in any sense at all but that passion we had, which we used to focus on FIRE challenges like a laser beam, has been replaced by the realities of solving other challenges. We still save a lot each month but it is certainly not “optimized” the way it was before. And that’s been something that’s hard for us to come to accept, although we are getting there.

      • Such a great point. I think it’s probably healthier for you anyway not to try to optimize *everything* but certainly having a little guy made that not even a question or choice. ;-) I appreciate, though, that that must be a tough adjustment, feeling like you’re possibly wasting some money, but I’m sure it’s worth it in the grand scheme of things.

      • Cool. Definitely enjoy your travels! We’ve decided to ground ourselves until he turns two and just drive to Napa or Tahoe, 3.5 hours max away. The jet lag and stuff would be a bummer for him.

      • Have you ever actually made it from SF to Tahoe in 3.5 hours?!?! I demand to know how. ;-) (We can always make it down the hill in that time, but then it’s at least 5 to get home. Every. Single. Time.)

    • Their age is irrelevant and it’s odd you don’t take their word for it when they say they do not wish to have children.

  2. I don’t have kids but I might want them one day. And now that I’m semi-retired, modeling a good worth ethic is the big thing that I’ve been thinking about myself. Like you and Mark, my Dad worked his butt off and I watched him come home from work every night and it left a massive impression on me. He didn’t complain about his job, although it was clear that he was living a hard life. He was a blue-collar guy who had to work far away because we couldn’t afford to live closer to his job and he just did what he needed to do for us. But the years of work and the commute took their toll in the end.

    I do think it would be possible to model a good work ethic with side hustles, passion projects, and charity work, but I think it would be a bit more of a challenge. It’s something I think about quite a lot and it’s one of the things that makes me nervous about an early retirement.

    Thanks for the great post Tanja!

    • Same here! I witnessed my dad drive a terribly long commute for years, and just that part of it alone made a big impression. Never mind the long hours, the stress and all the rest. And I agree it’s possible to model a good work ethic — it’s just something that you have to be more intentional about.

  3. Kids (I’ve got 2), while often rewarding, certainly come with a price tag and can act as a bit of a financial anchor.

    The main cost is the nursery years, either in childcare/nanny fees or in the opportunity cost of a parent looking after them instead of working. The former option doesn’t scale too well when there are multiple kids under school age.

    The compounding effect of that additional cost can be vast over an investment lifetime.

    The additional food/clothes, travellong in peak holiday periods, etc are real but not that noticeable compared to the above.

    Housing costs in good (i.e. it is actually possible to get into college from there) school catchments is another significant cost factor. There is a lot to be said for maintaining a notional address inside the catchment circle while actually residing somewhere commutable that represents better value and quality of life.

    Some favour home schooling as an alternative, but to me the idea of spending every waking moment with my kids is the stuff of nightmares (for both them and me!).

    The values and setting examples points you less of a challenge. Live by example sure, but if that isn’t genuine kids see through it pretty quickly.

    My view: teach them problem solving, research skills, right from wrong, and to think for themselves. If they can do all those things they can figure the rest out on their own.

    • Lots of great points here. It’s funny how we all define nightmares — for you it’s full-time with the kids, and for me it would be having to do a long drive to get kids to school every day! Noooooooooo! ;-)

  4. Great post! I totally agree with the 15-year mortgage idea. I have got three places… all bought at different times, but all mortgages run for another 15 years, when our oldest child turns 18. A lot can change in 15 years, but I feel that this at least gives us the luxury of choice when that time arrives.

  5. Appreciate the topic and I’m always impressed by your self awareness / humble approach to topics. I’ll try in this comment to avoid generalizing about kids because every family is different but you might find some general themes in my story.

    I was 32 and my wife 27 when we got married. We were both early in our careers and had a good start financially. I was 36 and my wife 31 when we had kids — twins. And here’s the first thing about having kids: there’s no way to predict how it’s going to go. Having twins was a complete surprise! Our family instantly doubled. Awesome, and crazy.

    I’m not sure how to describe what happens next, but the best way to think of it is a combination of intellectual complexity, physical challenge, and emotional testing. Jim Gaffigan has a joke about what it’s like to have 4 kids: “Imagine you’re drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” I’d say imagine you’re drowning, someone hands you a baby, and to get help you need to solve a calculus problem while singing a song about farm animals. Every issue suddenly has this level of parental juggling.

    So we’ve decided to keep our careers and raise 2 kids in a high cost area. The alternative is either changing careers or moving so far out of the city that we see our cars more than each other. Before preschool we had nannies, then we paid for preschool. I wrote a post on how easy it was to spend $250,000 by age 6 on twins. Here: https://www.pennyandrich.com/rich-will-spend-1-million-on-his-kids-easily/

    Now they are in public school and you’d think we’d finally be able to save like crazy but not so much: $1,000 per month for extended day (because school gets out at 3:30, too early for us), $500 per month on day camps (there are non-school days frequently — teacher conferences, etc), and 2 months of summer came ($8K for 2 kids), and add in activities, sports, and any special programs you might opt for. Now it’s easy to stop me here and say none of this is necessary, and maybe that’s true, but when you’re a parent and you see that your kid loves soccer or needs help with writing skills or has a health issue or whatever, you think long and hard about what’s important to you and what you’re willing to pay for.

    And now I’ll remind you of the complexity: this financial calculus is taking place while you’re physically tired, you’re working through emotions you’ve never had related to the raising of irrational developing humans, you may be in the midst of prime working years, and you’re trying to help your spouse (remember that other human in the mix, the one who processes all these new factors differently?) through the same reality. Not to mention whatever happened to your hobbies!

    I’m not complaining. I have a good life that I’ve chosen, and I love my boys. I just can’t overstate how complex life becomes very quickly with kids. I’m writing this comment at 530am for a reason. I will not have a spare 20 minutes the rest of the day.

    If I had to guess, we’d probably be on track for early retirement right now sans kids. But now it’s not so much a financial question as a matter of priorities. Education and family vacations and suitable housing and safer cars are all more heavily weighted as we solve for x.

    Again, appreciate your article and I can certainly see the appeal of DINK early retirement. As Vader once said, “It’s too late for me now, my son.”

  6. Here is something that also adds to the complexity — what if you have a child that is not ‘normal’. I’ve got one with lots of learning disabilities and some pretty serious health issues. Every time we felt like we were finally swimming with the river (to continue the drowning analogy), some new challenge popped up and poof! there goes that chunk of money and most importantly — time.
    Thanks for an interesting post.

    • Gosh, yes! I think folks take for granted oftentimes that their kids will be “normal,” or high achievers or whatever else they envision, and certainly that’s not always true. Thanks for this important reminder!

      • Growing up you always hear people say they just want a healthy baby and you are like “blah blah” until it’s your time to have a baby. Then you realize how true of a statement that is.

  7. There’s a lot here to digest. I think the most important thing is that these are your feelings and you’ve clearly put some time on the introspection. I doubt there are 5,000 things that you haven’t thought about.

    One thing I would say, is that they are a tremendous draw on energy. It sounds easy to we might miss some opportunities here and there, but depending on your energy level, it could be like ALL the opportunities. Volunteering at FinCon? Obviously people with kids manage it, but that’s laughable to me. (And by almost all accounts, we seem to be blessed with easy kids.)

    There’s less time and energy… and the increased costs. Costs of actually raising kids are all over the map. We get more toys and clothes from grandparents than you can shake a stick at. Our kids don’t seem to believe in eating, so those costs are low too. For my sanity, we have day care times 2 (it’s actually pre-school and pre-K now), which is about $25K a year. It’s probably more because it doesn’t cover summer or any after-school activities.

    We’re making the decision to continue to $25K for private school for some of the reasons you mentioned. Moving isn’t an option due to my wife’s active duty status (plus we love where we are), but the schools are terrible and there’s no diversity. With a generous, grandfathered the active duty discount, it’s actually a lot less than most people pay. So it lengthens the timeline quite a bit.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned the Scott Trench rental property plan. I had never heard it before, but that’s exactly the way we’ve been thinking of our rental properties. We have two nearly identical ones (same condo complex) which could be for each kid and a third one, which could be supplemental rental income for us. (There will be no 3rd kid.) They are all on 15 year mortgages (about 10 years in) along with our primary residence.

    • And certainly, as you pointed out on Twitter, there’s a lot more we could have covered here! The energy drain is a huge factor, and it’s impossible to know how that would play out in our lives. And the rental property mortgage thing is interesting — there’s something intuitive about it, so I’m not at all surprised that you independently came up with the idea.

    • The energy problem is real! We’re a little more than a year in right now, and while we’ve actually done a *better* job at saving money, managing our time and energy is a real hurdle right now. We’re working split shifts right now to avoid the need for expensive childcare, but it doesn’t leave us much time or energy for side hustles or even basic chores. If we can figure out the secret to managing energy and time, well, we could actually accelerate our path to FI thanks to the increased motivation and drive from having a kid (and tax credits don’t hurt)… but that’s a big “if!”

      • That makes total sense! I can see the conundrum of being more motivated to get to ER because of kids, but also feeling slowed by the energy drain of them. Sending you lots of good vibes! :-)

  8. We are only 6 months in, but, yeah, they change things. Of course, everyone’s experiences may vary, as do parenting styles and context. We pay out the nose in property taxes to put us in a top- tier district and a stone’s throw from family. I lost out on $18k on my leave. We also wonder and worry and save for his health. I seem to have traded one chronic illness for another. He’s too young for us to know if he will have it, but he’s not too young for us to try to guard against it financially.

    I know people love to say that it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it is, especially compared to living as DINKs. We loved our time like that, and we are loving this even more.

    • I’m STILL mad about your unpaid leave. >:-( I think you’re smart to plan more for health expenses, especially given the direction health costs are going generally (I think everyone should be doing that, honestly), and I’m SURE you’re right that it costs much more. Maybe if you live somewhere with lots of family support and low cost of living it’s not a ton, but that’s not reality for a lot of folks!

  9. Great post – I’m definitely looking to have kids, but the amount is what I’d like to keep low lol!

  10. Love this post!

    We (me 38, my Taiwanese wife 35) have retired from last summer. We have two kids, 4 and 6. After having quit my job, we relocated from Singapore (Asia) back to Switzerland.

    What was different to accumulate our nest egg compared to not having kids?
    Well, I think for us having kids was one of the reasons we decided to pull the trigger. Memento mori. Our time is limited and we can best shape and teach our kids about life when they’re young. If you’re busy working 24/7 and travelling the world for business trips, one day you’ll realize your teenage kids only know you as the $$$-provider and don’t know you too well as a person.

    For parents: Kids don’t listen to parents telling them “how” to live a life, they watch you live yours and learn from your actions!

    As you’ve written, the cost of raising kids while working is mostly higher then if you can raise and take care of your kids yourself. In Singapore, education for our two kids set us back 30k each per year for private schools – that’s an annual 60k you’ve got to earn first.

    Similar to the Financial Samurai, I’m very grateful that we can enjoy and focus much more on our family life now. Thanks to our savings and choice of lifestyle to safe, we can do amazing trips together. We went RV-ing in New Zealand, travelling through Taiwan and Switzerland together with no fixed time schedule. I truly enjoy exploring the world actively together with my kids as their sidekick.

    Being “FI” allows you to think more about the “why” in life and how to nurture it in the next generation.

    Happy travelling!!!

    • Thanks! Your new life situation sounds pretty incredible — how great that you get to go on extended travel with the kids and spend real time with them, not just be a money provider. Did having kids motivate you to speed your progress in the years before you pulled the plug, too?

  11. When we married in 1990 we had a plan – retire at 50. We decided have the kids early so college was done when I was done working. My wife retired when the second child was born, best financial decision we ever made, not just because we saved on day care but it allowed me to take on some big assignments early in my career that paid big dividends down the road

    Adding up the cost of K-12 private school for both and private university for both and education alone ran 600,000, add in Tanja’s 233,000 per kid and the kids top over a million for two decades – a number some FIRE folks would say is the number needed to FIRE themselves with.

    As for the buffet quote I made a deal with both kids to help them learn about saving and investing. When ever they worked and made money, I funded their Roth IRA’s. For every dollar in college scholarship money, I put a dollar into their own investment account and we talk about how to invest.

    The girls have been fortunate to have been in the market during this bull run and the oldest is buying a house this month before graduating in May. The youngest intends to do the same thing. We encouraged both to pursue their passions, never telling them what they should hope to become. I believe the example of my hard work, and more so their mothers hard work as wife, mother and house CEO will serve them well all their adult lives

    We ended up with two years of OMY syndrome because the impact to our nest egg was substantial. We left CA last fall – returning to the Midwest which is more our speed and where our friends and family are, I announced my retirement in December and my last day is a few weeks away.

    We did what we set out to do and having kids made the plan even more worth while for us since we have an endless supply of priceless memories

    I realize it’s much harder to have kids and retire at 35 than the way we did it and that there is no right way to FIRE, but I would say that to Tanja’s point the addition of children will have a major impact on FIRE plans and the least anyone can do is make sure that you don’t approach FIRE as just the parents goals, it should be part of a comprehensive family financial plan

    • Your daughters are able to buy homes before graduating from college?!?! That is AMAZING. You guys clearly did a ton right as parents, and I want to stand up and clap for you. I love your point, too, that kids and FIRE should all be part of a comprehensive family financial plan. I’d probably even drop financial from that and make it the comprehensive family plan, because it really should encompass all the non-financial decisions as well.

  12. Another thought provoking post, Tanja, thanks. My daughter is 27 and interesting enough I actually did some of those paying for college approaches you and others describe for her. I used a rental house as her college fund that I had bought when she was 2 and was paid off when she graduated high school. We also made an agreement that we would split the cost of her attending university. I would pay for the first two years and she was responsible for the rest. We made this agreement her freshman year so it gave her enough time to save and plan. I also wanted her to value and have to pay a portion of her education as I had to do when I got my degree (first college graduate on either side of the family!) I definitely think that having my daughter in my early twenties was the best situation for me. First, I had the energy to work and be a single mom. I didn’t realize how much energy a child can take. But having my daughter made me a better person, not so selfish, and made me want to make the world a better place for her. It also made me focus on what I wanted to do with my life long term.

    • The rental house thing is genius — I love that you did that for your daughter! And making her have skin in the game — I’m fully in support of that. And on the energy… yeah. When people ask if we’d ever change our minds, I think, “I know I technically could still do it, but I don’t have the energy for that anymore!” ;-)

  13. Thanks for the shout-out and putting these thoughts together !

    Kids will drive you crazy, make you smile, make you cry, make you laugh. And that’s even before breakfast.

    Expect the unexpected and don’t get too hung up on a plan. We talk in the blogosphere about flexibility and adaptability pre-FIRE and post-FIRE. That is required in massive chunks with kids.

    It took us some time to realize the hamster wheel of faux kids parties, endless trekking from one event (sporting, party or otherwise) to another was not for us or our kids. Or the notion of putting them into private school that many of our peers are doing with their kids. If that is a choice parents make, it’s OK. And it will cost you MMY (many more years) to FIRE unless you are on very high incomes.

    What became apparent was the love of the outdoors that we provided for our kids and they got the bug as much as we did. That often provides endless free fun, stories and laughs. And of course a few bills with the skiing apparel and passes…..you know about that don’t you.

    One thing you also learn from kids is their incredible resilience. Our kids have been AMAZING with plans to uproot them and move to a new school and state this summer. I think they are handling the stress levels better than Mr and Mrs PIE. There are lessons you get every single day that are provided free of charge (LOL….) from your kids.

    One other thing, those air-miles will be used a helluva lot faster with a family of 3, 4 etc moving around the US and the globe. Wanna donate some to us….??! :>)

    Hope you are loving the freedom and relaxation of this special time post FIRE. [BTW, I loved your podcast episode on Talking Money with J! ]

    • Of course! Happy to give you guys a shout. :-) I love reading everyone’s stories, and yours did not disappoint! ;-) Your point about resilience is really important, and I didn’t write this here, but I actually think it’s good for kids to be uprooted once or twice while growing up. We moved several times, and I think it made me a lot more flexible and adaptable, plus able to go into situations with all new people and be okay. The kids I knew in college who got most homesick were those who had the same living situation their whole growing up time. So I’m glad to hear your kids are taking it well! I think it will be great for them… and for both of you! ;-)

  14. Very good topic, Tanja and Mark. You covered it very well, and didn’t miss a thing.

    I have one kid. He is an adult now. To me, being a parent is lots of joy, worry, stress, and sometimes guilt. Oh, money, too. When Jeremy of Go Curry Cracker posted “Daddy, I want to go to school”, I could really relate to. When my kid went to the day care on the first day, it was like sending him to a war zone. It ripped the hearts for him, and for me. I had to work for money, and felt guilty for leaving him at the day care. It was a hard feeling. Glad it’s over. I just hope he takes care of himself, and has a good life.

    By the way, that’s a nice picture. Is it the Chinatown in New York or San Francisco? Quite a lot of restaurants. I love to eat.

    • Thanks, Helen! And I can only imagine what that’s like to send a kid to preschool. I was a camp counselor and remember the anguish of some of those parents, dropping their adolescent kids for just a week! ;-) And that pic is Taipei! From the trip we’ve just wrapped up.

  15. Thanks for the mention! “In many ways it would be a different life”. Duuuude, I’d say in EVERY way it would be a different life, lol. Even looking back at what we imagined kids and life would be like, we had no idea. I mean sure, some idea, but man, it’s the non-monetary things that surprise you way more than any money related facet of kids.

    I mean, imagine having to Facetime/Skype with your little one during all those trips and hearing “I miss you” or them crying because you’re not home. Or knowing you’re both gone and they’re with a grandparent/nanny, etc… and you can’t read them a book, or say goodnight, or tuck them in, or say good morning or get a good morning hug… For me it was when I fell completely in love with them and my focus wasn’t on more career opportunities and moving up and being able to say yes to work. I saw my old manager do that and he is now divorced at 58 and figuring out the single life because work always came first. I love the fact that I have a great paying job, basically 11 weeks of paid time off, and I rarely (maybe once a year, or if you count work trips) work over 40 hrs a week, travel much, or stay in touch after hours. It helps a lot, but I’d still rather not be working, lol. :)

    It’s the kids that made us focus more on getting to FIRE or at least a Fully Funded Lifestyle Change. Even now when we talk about working another year or 2 or even, gasp, work until I’m 45 (5 more years, egad!!) to make a bigger, safer, cushier, retirement nest egg we keep coming back to the fact that the kids will be 5 yrs older. They’ll be pushing 9 and 11. That’s a lot of time to miss out on. We’ll figure out a way to make it happen sooner than later and it’s mainly due to the focus on the kids and wanting to spend more time with them.

    We’ve got enough saved for them for college, or at least a state school. We too feel they need some skin in the game, like Buffett’s approach, “enough for something, not enough for nothing”. We want them to be surrounded with diverse peep’s like they are now, but that will probably change out in Canyon Lake. And we planned to be in a “commuter” style neighborhood for free public schools rather than live closer to work and pay for private school for elementary school for goodness sakes. That would be about $3k/month for both of them… No way. We’re almost to public school for both, but like others mentioned, there will still be after school care and other camp fees, due to SO many non-school weekdays that will need to be covered.

    Except for having more contingency plans, and making sure they’re accounted for in our plans, the kids are still the main reason we started working to FIRE. Our biggest worry is that we leave our comfy setup, good incomes, etc… and fall flat on our face and they bear the brunt of it. Not a likely scenario, but still as a parent, it’s always a worry. So much worrying… :)

    • Love reading your take as always! And that’s even with you having the cushiest job ever! (For readers, Mr. SSC *DOESN’T CHECK HIS PHONE DURING THE EVENING.* I have witnessed this myself. It is CRAZY.) ;-) I love your point that the kids keep the pressure on to hurry up and retire already because you don’t want to miss a big chunk of their growing up time. I can’t imagine trying to do all that work travel with kids back home, to your point. I would have had to find a different job, honestly, and that would have slowed our progress big time.

  16. Really interesting topic. First of all, I am a teenage mom, got pregnant at the age of 17, midway through high school. I still graduated on time, stuck through 5 years of college, got through being a single mom for a while and ended up with a great paying job. And I think it all worked out perfectly, because I did not have to stress over little kid while working, by the time I started my work, my son was at school, so many of the issues, like career pause, cut in earnings while parenting, or expensive daycare did not apply.

    I live in Poland and our system here is very different: we don’t pay for university education, but if parents can afford it, it is not unseen to buy your kid a starter home, and pay for good private school (pre-uni). My parents got an apartment from my grandpa, that they graduated from to their own house, and which they left me as my starter home. So basically, I had a smooth start: no student loans or first mortgage. But, I have never had a big allowance, never had fancy brand clothes, big vacations or gadgets.

    This is how we are raising my son. He gets really low allowance, and if he wants more, he needs to be entrepreneurial. At the age of 17 he and his friends started a clothing brand, and he learned to be very good with his money that he only gets from us on special occasions.

    Now, he sees us working our way to early retirement. He also sees us working from home, and watches his dad working in the office and fighting daily commute. He understands the value of money in the form of working hours that it costs us, and hours of future freedom. He also sees the model of less then frivolous spending patterns and I hope it gets engraved in his head for good.

    One and only thing I always spend money on him is education (especially languages), and books. He knows these are his priorities, and we are happy to pay for his private school.

    We will follow the family tradition and get him a starter apartment, and I hope that between this and his education, and early retirement mantra at home, he will be equipped to tackle the world.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Agata! So interesting to read your story. I’m so intrigued by this concept of parents buying kids a starter home, though it makes sense with no university expenses, which are the biggest drain in the U.S. these days. But how wonderful for young people to have housing provided for them — that must take a lot of pressure off in their early career years, especially if they also have no student loan debt!

  17. “If you come home from work and complain about work constantly, you’re teaching your kids that work is bad, and that they should delay adulthood as long as possible.” I love this!

    My mom worked her tail off, so I learned that a good work ethic was integral (as were side hustles, since she freelanced a bunch too). My dad, on the other hand, came home constantly complaining about his colleagues and interpersonal reactions with them. It made me pretty hesitant to deal with coworkers. I think I was probably trepidatious in general about work in an office for that reason.

    I like to think that if we’d had kids I would have stifled some of my complaints — I’m in customer service, it’s hard not to hit at least one pissy person at some point during the day — but honestly I’m not sure whether it would have occurred to me what kind of example I was setting. Maybe just to avoid customer service at all costs? But I suppose the subject is moot anyway.

    • First off, 10 points for trepidatious. ;-) And yeah, like you I don’t know what I would do or say with kids around. I tend to vent my negativity to let it go, and that has at times sounded a lot like complaining about work! Instituting the work complaint ban in our last few years of work was life changing for us, but it never occurred to me that it could also benefit kids, if someone has them!

  18. Definitely an interesting perspective! My BF will be 42 in a few weeks and he retired five years ago, at 37. While he isn’t retired per say (that man has a tonnnnn of projects at any given time), he doesn’t have to worry about taking a job he dislikes and has options many of us can only dream about.

    This will definitely influence when we start trying to have kids. For instance, I will have the option to stay at home or not stay at home. We won’t have to struggle about day care and we can be flexible about where we live in regards to our children going to school (we are tentatively planning for them to go to school in either NJ or PA). I am aware that if we choose to have kids, we will have a lot of options others wouldn’t. due to choices her made earlier in his life. I do recognize this privilege though.

    • Hi Athena! That is a privilege you guys have, but no need to apologize for it or feel bad. Enjoy it! You have the incredible gift of not stressing about money, which is something few parents can say. :-)

  19. Now we have no problem wasting a whole day doing nothing, if that’s what we need. Would we feel that same way if we had kids watching us?

    I had to laugh a little when I read this because if you had kids – at least young ones – this would never be a problem! As soon as they saw you trying to do nothing, they would engage you to play, or read a book, or take them somewhere, or keep them from scaling the furniture.

    I actually don’t agree with the idea that you have to have absolutely everything in your financial house in order to start having kids. For people who want children, there will *never* be a perfect time. There is always a reason to postpone it. And sometimes what at first seems to be the wrong time can actually work out pretty well. We had our oldest child while my husband was finishing his PhD. We had little money, didn’t own a house, etc., but having a kid really helped us clarify what we wanted out of life: where we wanted to live, the types of jobs we wanted, etc. Had we not had a kid yet when we made those decisions, we probably would have made different (and I think probably less optimal) decisions.

    The other thing about kids (and I have three, aged 5, 3, and 2 months) is that they don’t necessarily have the same interests as their parents. I see a lot of benefit of giving kids some help getting started in the world, but saddling them with a house (when they may want to live in a different part of the country or not want to be a landlord or the house might lose value) just because the parents like real estate investing seems like a bad idea to me.

    As for the cost of kids, I don’t think that being retired would necessarily cut down on childcare costs as much as one would think. If you want to do anything that requires concentration or being in an adult environment (working on passion projects, volunteering) either the other parent has to provide childcare or you have to outsource it (either via a babysitter or a willing relative). This is expensive when kids are little but better when they are older if you are in a good public school district. We are lucky that we live in a part of the country (Central Florida) where housing in good neighborhoods is pretty affordable (at least compared to someplace like NYC).

    One also has to think about the benefits of childcare. I know the line is that daycares, etc. are like “kid zoos” or “kid prisons” but our older kids LOVE their preschool. They get to do things that would be hard for me to provide for them as a stay-at-home-parent, particularly the regular social interactions with friends. Honestly, I work to supplement our family income *so* they can go to preschool; and this, in turn, allows me to work on projects that interest me as an adult. I wouldn’t be writing this comment right now (or at all) if I didn’t have childcare!

    • I think with the “doing nothing” note I was thinking about older kids. ;-)

      So many great points here. To clarify with the real estate idea, I don’t think Scott even meant buying a property in the same place where you live. It would just be an investment property, and the kid could choose to have a property manager keep managing it and just collect the rent, or to sell it and have the proceeds for college or whatever else. It certainly wouldn’t tie the kid to a place. But your point is well taken that parents shouldn’t assume kids will have the same interests! And I’m totally with you on the benefits of preschool and school generally. It’s why we wouldn’t home school or road school, because we think the social benefits are super important. And I loved my preschool, too. ;-)

  20. New empty-nester here – my youngest is a college freshman. After watching not only my kids, but also my friends’ and neighbors’ kids, grow up, all I can say is: you never know what you are going to get with kids. We were lucky in many ways: our kids don’t have expensive lifestyles at all; they both chose relatively inexpensive colleges (one in-state public U, and one nearly-full-ride scholarship); and they’re both on track to leave school with marketable skills. I would say that about 20% of all that is due to how they were raised, and 80% was sheer luck on our part. I have watched friends take the same approach to child-rearing, with vastly different results. Different kids have wildly different needs. Some kids develop serious physical or mental health issues. Some discover passion and talent for a very expensive sport or other pursuit. I have several friends with kids who will never live independently due to Down’s syndrome or other significant developmental issues. Another has a young-adult child who will never be independent due to mental health issues that did not become apparent until mid-teens. So, especially if your kids are not yet grown, I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t predict and don’t really have that much control over what your kids’ needs will be. Maybe you will get lucky, as I did, but maybe not. And if your child is suffering or floundering, all you will care about is getting your child the help and support they need — whatever the cost.

    • I appreciate so much your humility and recognizing that luck plays a roll in how kids turn out. I’m sure we’ve all seen families where one or two kids are seemingly perfect and one is troubled in some way. Same parents, same home, etc. But something tells me that your kids doing well is more than 20% thanks to you. ;-)

  21. Do you & Mark ever thought about adopting? I know you’re not having kids due to some personal health reasons, but adopting might be a great way to help kids that need loving parents.

    Having kids may give FIRE even more worthwhile. My dad retired when he was in his early 40’s and I definitely saw the benefits personally.

    • We’ve *very* briefly talked about fostering, but not adoption. At this point, we’re happy on our no kids path and don’t feel like we’re missing anything, or at least that whatever we’re missing is made up for by what we get to do instead. ;-)

  22. I don’t know that kids have this effect on every potential FIREr, but Rob and I certainly have an elevated sense of our financial privilege. We’ve chosen to have close friends watch our kids (and in the last two years for just 12-15 hours per week). As Kenny approaches kindergarten age, we have the privilege to decide among many approaches to education (unschool, homeschool, montessori, etc.) instead of having the choice of a meager income and homeschooling (a choice which is common among some of my friends) or a local public school.

    For us, earning (and saving) a lot of money right now isn’t as important as having lots of time right now. I don’t want to act like there’s a complete dichotomy between the two, but many parents face far tougher choices than we do. It’s nice to be able to turn the lever up and down on the income and work so to speak.

    Finally, I would say I’m very unconcerned with securing our kids future financially. Far better to help them develop skills and character, so that they can become financially independent from us as early as possible. I would love to help my kids financially (I think we will), but that’s totally unnecessary to being a good parent.

    • I love your perspective on all of this, as usual! I 100% agree that securing kids’ financial future is not remotely required to be a good parent, and neither of us got that in a direct way, beyond Mark’s parents helping him with public college. And it’s easy to say we’d do that given that we don’t actually have kids and it’s not a real decision. ;-) Your other point about becoming more aware of your privilege is super interesting, too, and one I hadn’t thought about!

  23. The biggest thing I see missing from the conversation when it comes to the idea of “just wait to have kids until you’re FI!” is that I for one NEED to work while my son is young for my own sanity, but even 2 days a week of childcare costs us $700/month (our parents cover the other 3 days). If we weren’t working, I’d have had a very tough time convincing myself to put him in childcare anyway, which would have been a huge detriment to my mental and emotional health. I just need some adult time in my every day life.

    Also, as much as we love our area, we’d maybe consider moving if it wasn’t for our son. As it is, he has a super close relationship with both our mothers plus my grandmother, so we would never rip him away from them by moving elsewhere. Obviously this is different with a more distant family relationship in general, but for us, he is the major anchor that keeps us exactly where we’re at. We’ll see what happens at 45 when he turns 18 and graduates high school though 😉

    • Thank you for adding this! That’s super important, and we have some friends who are the same way: they NEED kid-free time even though they love having their kids more than anything. And that’s not free for most people! I’ll be curious to know if you guys move or stay put after you no longer have the same anchor. ;-)

      • Honestly I didn’t ever expect to be a SAHM, but I didn’t realize either HOW MUCH I do need that time. He’s only turning 3 next month, so we’ll have some time before that anchor loosens at all 😉 And we do love him more than anything – we’ve only spent two nights away from him his whole life, and prefer to vacation as a whole family (also, more expensive because we bring a family member with us as babysitter so we can go out just us one night).

  24. I’m on the fence personally about kids (a kid, really) and whether or not that happens depends on a whooooooole lot of things outside my control, like any potential partner’s views on that subject, for one. I can’t say I’ve given much thought to the whole kid thing beyond the money aspect, so this is an interesting post of things to consider.

    • Oh gosh, don’t look to me as a resource on kids! hahahahaha ;-) Though I’d definitely make the case that it’s fine to have just one kid, and that only children don’t always wish they had siblings. ;-)

  25. This is a great topic and one near and dear to my heart. Money is such a crucial part of FIRE, but so are the other resources we have at hand, eg, time, family, community.

    Having kids resets your financial baseline, as making many major life decisions does, and we are no different from many other parents in wanting college and a financial boost into adulthood for our kids. Dig deeper though, and we realize many of our lifestyle choices have only a little to do with money. Working remotely gave us the flexibility to live almost anywhere in the US. Having one parent stay home and homeschool opened the door to realizing our vision of a homestead out in the country. Imagining the ideal community to raise our kids nudged us toward a small town where kids, adults and the elderly can all thrive together. Yes, we have to spend more to live out here (the island equivalent of your town, Tanja) and earn less, but having kids has helped us clarify our values in ways we never would have thought of before kids.

    Full disclosure, much of our soul searching came after our kids were sleeping through the night. Parents in the trenches of infanthood, hang in there!

    • I’m glad you threw in that note at the end. ;-) I think you may still have gotten to a point of considering your values without kids, but your point is well taken that having kids at least forced you to expedite that process. Good for you guys for making some big decisions and living a life that must feel a bit unconventional these days!

  26. I’m 47 and my wife is 48. We have 3 boys in high school. She stayed home early on for about 8 years, so yeah… no woes of paying child care out of two salaries for us, instead we were living solely on my rather anemic one salary. My wife slowly began back to work part time as a parochial pre-school teacher for several years. In fact, it’s only been the past 4 years that we paid off our home, my wife returned to work full time teaching kindergarten and my salary (through changing employers) achieved long overdue growth… finally punching our COMBINED income into the low six figures and making it possible to get crazy with our savings. We’re on track to at least semi-retire in our early 50s when the boys are in college. Health care for us and them (until they have jobs & coverage of their own) will play a critical role in determining when we fully retire.

    Modest salaries and having kids definitely lengthens the timeframe to achieve FI, but my biggest learning over the past several years has been that I’m not sure how shortening it would have benefited us. Our sole reason for wanting to retire early is to be able to LEAVE HOME… to pack up our tent, bikes and kayaks and travel all over this country of ours. Until our kids are at least through high school, we really can’t do that. Their lives, even in the summers, are incredibly busy. Even scheduling a one week vacation can be a challenging.

    So… yeah, retiring earlier, when our kids where in elementary school, middle school or even high school would certainly have had some nice benefits like volunteering more, etc… but I think most days would have seen us hanging around at home waiting for the bus.

    We’re truly enjoying these fleeting last years. Soon, they will be off to college with jobs over the summers, maybe perhaps not even living at home but closer to wherever they may intern or co-op. I think my wife and I will be able to slow down then. We’ll align our jobs to have summers off for a few years… and then we’ll both bow out fully when the time feels right. Hope is for five good years before aging parents and eventually grandchildren bring new adventures our way.

    • Thank you for sharing this! I don’t think I’ve heard your perspective before, that retiring before the kids graduated from high school wouldn’t have helped much, so thanks for that. I hear a lot of parents wanting to retire before their kids start school or while they are in elementary school, and fewer mention middle school and high school. So yeah, that must be the point when the kids just aren’t around much anyway anymore!

  27. Do not panic! Los Angeles is a wonderful place to raise imaginary hypothetical children.

    We are raising kids in Los Angeles. They attend public schools (gasp) and are doing great. There are extensive magnet and charter school options available, as well as excellent community colleges with high transfer rates to four year schools.

    The food/arts/culture scene, and the weather, can’t be beat. Public transportation continues to improve and LA is more walkable/bikable than it gets credit for. Housing is expensive, I’ll grant you that.

    Yes, there is money. We have seen it all, including over-the-top celebrity kid parties. But in general I do not feel wealth is particularly on display. The only thing my kids have ever whined for, “because so-and-so has one!”, is a dog.

    • Don’t get me wrong… we love LA and miss a lot about it! I think the trouble was more with how WE were in LA. We liked the expensive stuff, and wouldn’t trust ourselves to give that up and show kids a more normal upbringing. ;-)

      • That’s a good point… :)

        But another secret about children: they HATE restaurants! Because going to a restaurant means they have to put on pants and sit still and behave. Every once in a while I try to get my kids out for a weekend brunch and they complain. “But we can just make pancakes at home!” So in a bizarro way they are saving us money (and calories).

  28. Ah, we were just having a conversation the other day on twitter about having kids! There’s certainly a whole bunch of things to consider! I agree that there’s certainly a way to be FIRE even with kiddos, by being flexible. And making some sacrifices probably ;-)

  29. Note – Chelsea’s right – you’d never get away with just doing nothing in front of kids :D

    It’s a great point that if you’d chosen to have kids and did so after retirement it’d be cheaper because you wouldn’t have the cost of childcare which is so expensive here it’s nearly prohibitive and is the FIRST objection I had (and have, thinking of future kids) when we considered kids.

    I’m struggling with the school thing right now, and this is a long post in the making but in short, because we value diversity, we are giving up the “advantages” (supposedly) that we could give zir by being in a mostly white school district. Ours is terrible. But I don’t want to be that person who only seeks what’s best for her own kid without regard for the world that kid lives in either.

    I give up a lot for my kid, too. Daily, weekly, annually. In the end, for this kid, so far, I think it’s worth it but good grief I hope that bears out for the rest of zir life. I look at my sibling and think, if I did all THIS and ended up with THAT? Depression, 100%.

    Honestly, here’s an answer you might not expect – if I didn’t have a kid, I might never have wised up and realized that ER mattered. I would always have looked for FI but I wouldn’t have consciously and conscientiously examined the value of my life. I wouldn’t have realized that having better quality of life without killing myself working was a worthy goal. I came to that well after having a kid, not because I was a mother but because motherhood helped me stop being a workaholic and THAT opened my mind to the idea that living my best life that is undefined by my job. And I’ve embraced that in a way that I would never have predicted. 12 years ago at the early part of my career, I would have laughed out loud at the thought of choosing to stop working early.

    I do wish I’d come to this earlier in my life because I’d really like to have more choices right now, but things happen as they’re meant to, to some degree, right? I’ve been really lucky so far, and I’m going to hope that there really is such a thing as karmic payback for all I invested in the wrong places most of my life. Also even if we had retired first, and then had kids, JB still would have cost us money :D Ze wanted to socialize before ze was 1 and LOVED daycare. Absolutely loved it. Had a complete meltdown on the days that ze wasn’t going to school and PiC was leaving without zir. So in hindsight, we’d have been paying something no matter what :)

    • I meant OLDER kids! ;-) And I want to respond to everything here (kudos for going with the less than ideal school! “all this and THAT?!” and more!), but I’ll focus on the surprise point. It’s actually NOT a surprise to me that you and probably plenty of others would figure out ER after having a kid and getting a major reorientation of priorities. It’s like how my dad says he doesn’t regret getting his disability because it gave us more time together when I was in middle and high school. (That’s still crazy to me because it has limited him a lot, but I’m also totally touched by it and of course also valued that time with him!) So I don’t think you’re weird or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking. ;-) Or, I should say, you’re weird in plenty of ways, but not in that one. :-D Hahaha

  30. Ah kids! You never know what you are going to get! The emotional changes that come with having kids are the biggest change I was not expecting – especially when you deal with health issues.

    We have done the approach of working for a bit, take a break, work, break, etc. We worked 4 years, took year off for MA, worked 4 years, “reverse retired” to be with kids for a few years (gave birth to second child abroad). We are back to working (they are 6&8 now) and only 2 years ago is when we got serious about FIRE. The purpose of my blog is to write about this balance.

    They have gone to private pre-k (in two countries) and now in public school. Now, we could stay put and retire in about 10 years but by then they would start college so instead we are now considering doing a round the world trip with them in about 4 years (world school) and then work 4-5 more years and quit for good.

    This approach has worked well for us as we get to do a combination of travel, giving them roots and stability and gaining unique experiences. We also get to do some work we enjoy knowing it wont last too long, giving it urgency to do it right and avoid burnout.

    College – we front-loaded $25k for each on 529 and will let that grow. We will help them as much as we can with college (we are mentally putting aside another $50k each post tax) but will def push them to find alternatives to reduce their expenses like going abroad or graduating in 3 years etc (and what if they dont even want to go to college or going is a terrible ROI? – flexibility is key).

    For now, trying to teach them about why we can have it all, but just not at the same time. We try hard to teach them proper management skills which they don’t learn in school (though we lobby often for this) but most importantly to be compassionate and empathetic – and for that I find travel a great tool, among other things like practicing gratefulness and giving to others.

    That said, I am definitely willing to work a couple of extra years if they want to do some sport or activity they just love that requires $ – my parents did it for me and I cannot possibly thank them enough. And the year of travel, we hope that is the best inheritance we can give them and us as a family.

    And finally when we FIRE we want to be nomadic but will have to see what the kid situation is then…..

    • I get dizzy trying to follow all of your travels and mini retirements! ;-) I am positive that you’re giving your kids an amazing gift with all that travel and adventure. At the very least, they will learn resilience and flexibility from needing to adapt to changing circumstances, and that’s crazy valuable. It’s also clear how intentional you are about it all, and I’m sure that translates into all of your parenting. Lucky kids. :-)

  31. For me, early retirement is a key part of being childless by choice. Because I’ve decided not to experience what many consider the most wonderful human experience, I feel obligated to do something different with my life and find some of that joy elsewhere (and I’m certainly not finding that joy at the office). No children = more wealth = more freedom = big life changes coming this spring.

    • And research supports you in this! There’s no happiness gap between those who have kids and those who don’t, and no evidence that the child-free among us will wake up full of regret one day. So enjoy those big life changes!!

  32. Many personal finance bloggers choose not to have kids because of the cost. I think that’s a pretty big mistake.

    As a father of two, I know well the real world costs of kids and I still reached financial independence by 38. Kids cost money, but it’s not as bad as everyone thinks. The worst part (as others have noted) is the cost of childcare. If you’re not already FI when you have kids this really puts the breaks on your savings rate.

    In our case, we not only chose to save more than what we needed to FIRE, but we chose to fire with enough to cover larger child costs in the future.

    • I agree with you completely. Our decision not to have kids has never been about money, and it seems sad to me to make the decision because of finances. (But I also understand how someone could feel that they can’t afford kids. I’m empathetic to that, for sure!) You guys are another great example of folks who had kids, paid for child care and still hit FI early. So awesome!

  33. Having an 11-year old daughter was definitely a motivator for me retiring before her teen years (when the last thing she’d want to do is spend more time with her parents). There was a financial burden associated with that, of course. She’s got a 529 plan in place for college, and a trust to help out afterwards. But being retired and having the means and availability to spend quality time as a family right now is a big deal. The alternative of working long hours and missing my daughter growing up is painful to imagine.

    Yes, we’re spending 50% more than if it were just two of us, and that applies to day-to-day living as well as any adventures we might go on from time to time. That was all baked into our financial numbers; we can choose to be frugal in some areas, and less in others to make things balance out.

    I’m impressed that so many of us are concerned about diversity for our kids. It’s why we decided not to put her in a private school. When I was growing up, it didn’t even occur to me to consider someone’s color or ethnicity as criteria for making friends or working together. I’m happy to see that my daughter is feeling the same way (except for boys, of course). We’e fortunate to be in a good school district, and whatever shortcomings our public school system may have we can compensate for by being present and mindful of our daughter’s needs.

    • Snaps on sticking with public school and thinking about diversity! And I’ll add to your story by saying that my dad’s disability is both what allowed him to retire early and what limited our household income, and I would not trade any bit of how things unfolded: If I could have done more things that cost money but had less time with him, or could have graduated with no student debt but had less time with him? No way I’d take that deal. Even if he could have bought me a house after graduation or something big and crazy like that, I wouldn’t take that deal. More time with him while I still lived at home was priceless.

  34. Great post! We have two kids, ages 7 and 10. The biggest surprise for me had been that it hasn’t been feasible for both of us to work. After our older child was born, my husband became a SAHD so that he could take care of the baby and I could focus on my career. I have a much higher earning potential. And, once 2008 hit, he couldn’t find any work in his field. After the second child was born, the cost of putting two kids in day care didn’t make sense (he wouldn’t make enough for it to make sense). Now that the kids are in school, he is in charge of driving them to and from school because we don’t have bus service in our area. Also, there aren’t many after school options for child care around here. We don’t have any family nearby to help out either. My husband has struggled to re-enter the workforce. And that’s why we are a single income family of four (plus some support to extended family members). Our path to FI is slower. Our savings rate is not super impressive. I never imagined things turning out this way.

    Your discussion about schools and choosing what’s best is right on. I attended the “good”schools as a child. In our situation, I had to lower my standards. I have to say that it’s been okay. Education is what you make of it. Parental expectations and involvement are really important in determining a child’s success. I think that having a SAHD had given my kids a lot of stability and support. Our school community is diverse (we’re located in the Central Valley) and there’s great leadership. I’m glad to be a part of it.

    • Thanks! And thanks for sharing your story! I love that you guys are sticking with public schools despite the challenges there — Mark and I also always had the benefit of living in the “good” school districts, so I think I can understand that it’s hard to make the choice not to give that same thing to your kids. But I’m positive yours will benefit from the added diversity, and your engagement will in fact be the difference maker. ;-)

  35. I am laughing out loud and nodding in agreement at so many of the comments. Love that and your thoughtfulness on writing this post.

    For us I think the Great Recession is probably tied with our three kids as the biggest impact on the finances. Four job losses in six years plus more pay cuts, insurance rate hikes and at least one memorable time my husbands boss just flat out said he couldn’t make payroll that month was really tough financially. But it reset our baseline spending at a much lower level which allows us to add back some luxuries now that we’re both employed and still have a high savings rate that is going up as they each start in public school. I recently found the first budget we did back in 2002 in our DINK years where we thought we were frugal to save our house down payment. Our monthly expenses were actually higher than now! Partly because we were still paying car and student loans back then and partly because we spent more on things like setting up a household, entertainment, hobbies and eating out that we don’t have time for or just doesn’t seem like fun anymore since everything tangible breaks too fast or I would just spend the time apologizing to our wait staff and nearby customers for the dropsies, noise and awful table manners and saying don’t touch that at least 30 times in 10 minuets because kid #3 somehow didn’t think it applied to her when I said it to kid #2 30 seconds earlier.

    I think the biggest impact the kids and recent market/employment recoveries have influenced us is that we now turn down more than a few days a year of work travel or gigantic amounts of overtime and no longer care what impact that has on our long term careers. It gave me the courage to approach my boss with a proposal to go part time which is more enjoyable for our whole family. Realizing that life right now is too precious to burn yourself out and neglect your loved ones even for three or five more years at a job that sucks the life out of you. Pushing to incorporate more dreams today and not save them all for someday. Basically losing motivation to kill it at the office to grind out until FIRE and realizing that is not the only possible path. This probably lengthened the timeline the most.

    • And I’m laughing at your recounting those dining experiences with three little kids! ;-) Your last point is especially well taken in my case. I’ve written about how we were able to grind out those last few high pressure years knowing the end was in sight, but reading your note makes me realize we wouldn’t have been able to or wanted to make that decision if we had kids. We would have had to slow down, which might have meant not being able to do the jobs we had and taking lower paid ones. Either way we would have been on a much slower path that way! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  36. Thanks for writing this! My husband and I are DINKs just starting out our path to FI, and the question of whether or not to have kids is a tough one. On the one hand, we love to travel and enjoy our free time. We are both impatient to stop working ASAP, and both think there is also a moral question to having kids in this day and age. On the other hand, we are both very close with our families and want to continue to have that kind of relationship in our lives after our parents pass on and our siblings are off being busy with their own families. It’s a tough decision.

    • It IS tough! And I feel like it should be tough, given how important it is. I appreciate, though, that having kids doesn’t seem to hinge on money for you. You’re looking more at life factors, which is as it should be!

  37. I loved reading this, especially as nearly retired but not with kids (yet, or ever?). You’re spot on about how kids combined with a big career and some of the other goals you mention quickly lock someone into a very expensive lifestyle. We also live in a massive city in a state/county with under-performing schools, which is sad in a place with the most robust economic growth in the country. Parents either move way out into “white-bread central” suburbs with an expensive commute, fork over money for private schools, or move into the most protected in-town area of $2mil houses and an entitled upbringing. All are nearly loosing situations without a diverse upbringing. People with a lot of business travel even end up with an Au pair because its more cost effective than daycare + overnight care if they don’t want to give up the opportunity cost of earnings.

    Personally, I’ve lived in two college towns and would end up back in one if we have kids. They tend to have reasonable costs of living and exceptional public school systems because of the parents involved in higher education being involved in the schools/school board.

    • Yeah, I get that parents are making tough trade-offs, but it does seem that you’re always missing something as a kid. Either a great education or time with your parents or the benefits of diversity. And I love the college town idea, though those tend to be more expensive than surrounding areas, too — but it’s all relative and depends on the town!

      • Costs are relative for the early retirement/millionaire crowds, we tend to be a lot better than a college professor. I’ve been in business in two college towns, I’ve always been amazed at the push/pull between affordable housing and restrictive real estate development policies. Restricted development policies and high rent demand do drive up housing prices even in the rural areas.

      • I assume “be a lot better” just means “earn a lot more”? ;-) I would definitely not say that we’re better than professors and am grateful that people devote their lives to academia and increasing our shared knowledge. ;-)

  38. We are raising our son in Chicago (*gasp*), navigating the public school system takes a PhD, but it can be done – I’d imagine the same is true in LA. We ended up paying 20% more for our house to be in a specific neighborhood filled with other children (lots of cultural diversity actually, but limited economic diversity). Staying in the city is deeply controversial in my family as both my husband and I were raised in upper middle class suburbia, but we love the walk-ability, short commutes and all the fun city stuff.

    We lived up our DINK-dom, similar to your baller years, then buckled down on saving a couple of years before the little man. We could’ve FIRE’d in our early 40s, but now it looks like that’ll push for at least one of us to late 40s/early 50s. Children do add more complexity to FIRE planning, we’re projecting college tuition costs and how much to front-load his 529 plan (he isn’t even 2 yet). The front-loading has eaten into what we’d normally dump into our taxable accounts, but I’d rather give college funds the time to grow. Childcare costs ARE nutty, but it’s one of those expenses that we don’t bargain-shop and accept that its just going to add working years.

    Now that we have a plan in place, the debate is to blow it all up again with a #2. Ha!

    Also thanks for the links to other bloggers with kids, I just knew of MMM and Frugalwoods

    • There are so many great FIRE blogs written by families with kids, so I’ll keep sharing ’em! I think the big city school thing comes with its own challenges, though I do think Chicago is more down-to-earth and normal about money and status stuff than LA is. That’s the bigger issue to us than just the schools or the high cost of living. (We didn’t escape HCOL in Tahoe, after all.) And it sounds like you guys have a very reasonable view about it all. You’ve made choices based on your priorities and are well aware of the tradeoffs you’re making.

  39. Another very thoughtful analysis, Tanja! I’m looking forward to having kids in the future, especially since I’ve saved so much already. I’ll be starting the entrepreneurial life here soon which will be ideally suited to adding in kiddos. A large portion of my boyfriend’s motivation to hit FI is so he never has to worry about money and can provide for his family without sacrificing time. Kids will definitely add some expenses to our lives, but the intrinsic value added will more than outweigh that (from what I’ve heard, anyways haha).

    • Thanks, friend. ;-) One consideration for ya will be the challenge of leaving work “at the office” when you’re living the entrepreneur life. When home is the office, it’s much tougher to step away and be fully present at home, and that’s true with or without kids. Just offering that so you can throw it into all the things you’re thinking about for the future. ;-)

  40. You’ve put a lot of thought into this to be sure. I don’t blame you for not wanting to raise kids in CA if you had had them, haha.

    On the college front, the one thing I know for sure I’d do is pay for tuition at an in-state public school. If they wanted to go to an expensive private school, that’d be on them to figure out how to pay for it. If they didn’t want to go to school, or earned scholarships, that money would be theirs to use how they saw fit.

    But alas it’s a moot point; like you, no kids.

    • I mean, the other part is that we would LOVE for kids to grow up in CA. ;-) It’s very diverse and multi-cultural and there are tons of different types of outdoors landscape to get a kid inspired. But the cost and schools make it tough. ;-)

  41. I think a lot about these issues. We are also in California (Bay Area). I’m from here and love much about it, but struggle with costs, traffic, schools. We’re evaluating now what to do with the next stage of our lives. Without kids, we’d likely move up where you are. But as you mention, no diversity and little “opportunity” for kids in terms of schools, programs etc. So we’re looking outside of California. Without kids, we’d certainly be fully retired. We’d likely live internationally. But with two small kids, we think putting down roots is more important. I really struggle with not spoiling our kids, yet giving them opportunity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Oh yeah, you’re living the real life version of our thought process on this! I totally see what a conundrum it is for you guys. Though living internationally could be amazing for kids, too!

  42. Similar to your experience, I often wonder how my minimalist journey would be different if I had children. We are childfree (by some combination of choice and by circumstance), so I often struggle to address certain issues/challenges in minimalism because I don’t have that specific experience. I’d like to think I’d still be a minimalist, but I’d imagine it would be more difficult, but also much more worth it. Of course, we can never really know without having done it, but it does make for an interesting thought experiment! Thanks for being so thorough in your analysis. Since I’ve never wanted children, there is so much in this post that I’ve literally never thought about. Thanks for broadening my perspective!

    • Glad it was helpful! And yeah, I’m sure it WOULD be harder to stick to minimalism with a kid, just as I think it’s harder to stick to anything when you throw a whole bunch of new variables in there. ;-) But I’m sure you’d find a new balance.

  43. Schools: thank you for being so candid about how having children would make you move out of your low-ranking school state. We just faced this same decision. We moved from the city to a small town and from a higher ranking public school to a much lower ranking public school. There are two elementary schools in this town of under 5000 and one is considered the ‘good’ school (ranks higher) and the other is the ‘bad’ school and ranks lower. Many of the students at the lower ranking school have special needs and the majority are from economically challenged families.
    We decided to send our kids to the ‘bad’ school for a few different reasons. Our oldest has a learning disability and is on the Autism Spectrum and the school has more support in place. Our other children are neuro typical but will go there as well. We want to be good citizens of our community and one way we can do that is support the school that has more needy students. Not just by financial donation but by sending our kids there. This is the annoying liberal blind spot I wish we would talk about more. If you want to increase the quality of your local public school send your kids there. Our children already have a lot of advantages and a ‘leg up’ so to speak because they were born to parents that are college graduates and they have good financial and emotional security. I want to teach them compassion, empathy and to see life through a less homogenous lense. Going to an economically diverse school will help them with that.
    DesignMom.com has lots of interesting posts about her experience sending her kids to a ‘bad’ school in Oakland. Might be relevant to American readers.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this, Rachel! I admire you guys so much for making this choice, and I’d like to think we could make the same one, but don’t really know. I think you’re right that your kids will learn empathy and the value of different perspectives in that environment, and will be better for it.

  44. We’re going to get to see just how many of our approaches/decisions change along these lines in the next few years. We did move where we did due to it being close to a good K-8 school, and a pretty good high school. It just happens to be in a pretty diverse part of the valley, too…and a little liberal pocket of AZ. We’re happy here now…but it’ll be very hard to predict whether we actually go forward with the “RE” part of FIRE for some of the reasons you mentioned in the post.

    We want to spend time with the future kiddos, too. But I don’t necessarily want them thinking we’re independently wealthy, or that they’re entitled to a ton of advantages.

    Stuff we’ll probably have to figure out as we go.

    • I’m sure the world is envious of you for managing to find a good school that’s also diverse! If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth reading the other comments on this post. It’s interesting and something I hadn’t thought about before that parents may want to ER either when kids are little or after they are out of high school. Because once they get to middle school or high school age, they aren’t around much, but you still can’t travel or do lots of things because they are in school. All stuff that was new to my mind, though it’s obvious in hindsight. ;-)

  45. I’m not retired (yet) and my kids are all in their 20’s now. Three still live with me, one has been independent for over 2 years now.
    Yes, kids are expensive. Even for me, who separated from their father while they were all under 5, (and therefore cheap), and who didn’t lead a lavish lifestyle. Teachers with families rarely can! Your retirement date would have been put back by years, particularly with the massive amounts your colleges ask for education. (Australia is rapidly catching up to in this, unfortunately.)
    Still, even given that they’re expensive – you should see how much food, water and electricity our house consumes! – and ugly, smelly and not that bright – I blame their father –
    I think that having them was the best thing I ever did. They make me laugh every day and we’re a tight unit. Plus, they can help me with downloading things.

  46. I have a lot of thoughts on this one but I’ll try to keep it brief (ya, right). I have a 10 year old, live in diverse and sunny southern CA, and my kiddo attends a public magnet school. I pulled the plug last year and she has $65,000 in her 529 plan. I felt like I could have worked another 3-4 years to bolster that account, but decided not to do so as I think 3-4 years of more focused time with me is worth more than having a more well funded college education. Plus, I was so done with work and not sure I could have continued on that breakneck pace for much longer.

    In theory, I like the idea of “giving” her that money when it’s time to make college decisions and letting her make some important and hopefully well-informed choices and perhaps some errors. Who knows what that amount will grow to and I plan to throw a little more money at that account here and there, though unfortunately 8 years until college coincides with the 5-10 years that’s most important to get through in the early retired life to combat sequence of returns risk.

    She is intellectually curious, a great student (so far) and, most importantly, a kind hearted, “woke”, and polite person who has a decent amount of grit (in the Angela Duckworth mindset) already. She is thriving in a severely underfunded public school system where she doesn’t get proper amounts of PE, art or music. But, we try to bolster those areas with activities we do as a family and having her pursue the sports she has a passion for currently. She tried piano and guitar classes for awhile but didn’t want to practice but we will support her taking music classes again when she gets a little bit older (if she wants). She has done some theater classes and some summer art classes. My opinion on public schools is that parents with kids like mine who generally go with the flow and can handle the larger class size should try to commit to the public school system as that is one of the best ways to help make it stronger. But, if your kiddo has learning disabilities or any type of issue that makes public school difficult, I don’t blame you for choosing a different option. Yes, her school is underfunded, but somehow she is still learning a TON and she is surrounded by a diverse student population on an ethnic and socio-economic level.

    I was brought up in the “getting ahead” type of environment and I went to a fancypants private liberal arts college because either Ivy League or Liberal Arts was the path that I was supposed to follow. When I look around at the people with whom I grew up and the ones I admire the most now, it didn’t matter where they went to school.

    Since she is 10, I think she will remember how hard I worked in my career and she sees the effort I put into other areas of my life even during my current decompress time. Isn’t it a yoga saying, how you do one thing is how you do everything?

    I’m totally open to her going to community college for a couple/few years and living at home. And frankly, I don’t even know if that is her path – she knows that we have high expectations and that she has to do something, but I try my best to be Buddhist about things and let go of forcing my own wishes on her. I want to let go of the results and let her find her way. I also like how your parents made school your job. I don’t think that’s a bad way to handle things and I think there is a way to balance that and teach the value of money.

    I’ll shut up now. But know this, plenty of kids do amazing in public schools here. On paper, they look terrible but in practice, I’m impressed with how much learning and growing is happening.

    • “On paper, they look terrible but in practice, I’m impressed with how much learning and growing is happening.”
      A school is so much more than a ranking. If you’re a parent out there concerned with the quality of your local schools, please, please, please got visit them. They’re filled with KIDS and teachers and they are places of learning and community.

    • Good job with the short comment! ;-) hahahahaaha

      And I didn’t want to get too much into work stuff, but I have seen firsthand many of the amazing things happening in CA public schools in particular, including in some areas that would especially surprise people. So we absolutely know that’s true, but also know you can’t bet on that, and in our area in particular, you do get some socioeconomic diversity, which is super important, but not much racial or ethnic diversity, and that would make it hard to want to roll the dice. But moot point anyway in our case. In your case, I’m stoked it’s working out so well for your daughter and admire you for practicing all that aparigraha with regard to her path. ;-)

  47. Wow-you touch on so many good ideas/questions, and I love reading all the comments. We made many of our most important life decisions over the past 20 years based upon the individual needs of our three kids and our family as a whole. We moved away from a HCOL city in the Northeast, which gave us less opportunity to move around in our jobs. Our focus was on our family, so we opted out of jobs that likely would have paid more, but required high travel or longer hours. We both worked full time, which meant we paid a lot of money for a live-out nanny, after school care, and track out camps to accommodate a year-round school schedule. We exposed our kids to all kinds of activities to spark their interests, which change as kids grow and explore the world around them. We are fortunate, because we both work, to be able to support activities our kids love. We channeled a chunk of money into 529s so we would have options as college drew near. Our kids have been responsible for managing a clothes budget and paying for their own amusement from money they earn working, which each child has done since they were 16. They see us model good money management and understand that you prioritize and make choices on how to spend or save your money. While we are not focused on leaving money behind for them, they know that we are saving for ourselves, so as to not burden them with our care later in life. You have a good point about modeling a good work ethic. While I have always been proud to live a life that shows my kids how you can manage the responsibility of work and home life, while ensuring we are a tight knit family and “good” citizens, we find ourselves complaining more about work as we get closer to a somewhat early retirement. We are working to rein that in a bit ;). We have lived a full life despite working and raising kids. We joke that we would have been retired long ago if we did not have children, but we knew that was not the best life for us. Before we started our family, we never could have imagined what our life would be like. We never envisioned how challenging, fun, scary, and enriching it would be. We all make the most of each day based upon our choices, and I am happy to have grown as a person, gaining great humility and grace, through my children. Having said that, we are preparing for an empty nest and looking forward to finding new footing in our world as we move towards the next phase of life. We’re really excited to be a couple again. I love your blog and am excited to hear more about your adventures in early retirement. I learn something or consider something in a different way with every post you make. Thanks!

    • Thanks for this sweet note, Marie! :-D I love one of your lines the best: “We’re really excited to be a couple again.” I’m sure that has a lot to do with your kids, but we see that as something we looked forward to with early retirement, too, because work took us away from each other so much of the time (or took away our attention, even if we were physically in the same place). Love that. ;-)

      And I love hearing your story of how life has unfolded in your family, with your kids! It sounds like you’ve been wonderful parents and will have so much to be proud of when your time comes to pull the plug on your careers — how well-earned your early retirement will be!

  48. “But when families seeking better schools move to where the better schools are, they make the worst schools that much worse.”

    Kind of like how when smart and motivated people leave poor countries to immigrate to the U.S., right?

  49. Great comments above about how the FIRE lifestyle is different with kids! I’d like to share another angle from the perspective of an older person. One of the reasons that I retired a bit early at age 60 was so that I could move to live closer to my grandchildren and my adult children. My life is incredibly rich and satisfying, and part of that is because of the strong relationships I have with my kids and grandkids. I guess the point that I am trying to make is that having kids doesn’t just affect quality of life during the years that you are raising them, but also impacts the rest of your lives. It is possible to end up lonely and alone in one’s elder years with or without kids, but perhaps the risk is greater with no family.

    • Thanks for sharing that perspective, Dr Sock! We know people in their 60s who have wonderful lives living near grandkids — and wonderful lives without them. ;-) Or, as my dad would tell you, having a kid is no guarantee you’ll get grandkids. Hahahaha. But I appreciate you sharing this, and am thrilled for you that you have those strong relationships!

  50. To put a realistic damper on things. Maternal mortality is very high in our country. If you chose to have children by giving birth, the risk of death, serious complications, or post-partum depression is high compared to our “peer” countries. Pursuing FIRE with these unexpected happenings would be even harder, I imagine. Financially and emotionally. If only one parent was around to raise the child while also dealing with grief, that is even harder still.

    In a less drastic vein, I have a hard time envisioning you and Mark not modeling a strong work ethic in anyone you raised. Those 20 hours a week Mark gives to his nonprofit board is work. Even if non-paid.

  51. I had a side hustle a little bit before I became pregnant, and was determined to save enough for a mini-retirement. Well I changed careers instead. I never realized how much having a little being in my life could change me so much, and I’m even more adamant that I optimize my money so my son could get the benefit of having two loving parents as present in his life as I could.

    I’m guilty of sometimes complaining about the long hours and getting constantly distracted working from home, but snuggling with the kiddo during nap times makes it worth it.

    • Hi Sarah! I love hearing your story. I can definitely see how having a kid would change your perspective on, well, everything! Especially your time and money. And we all complain sometimes, so no shame. ;-)

  52. We had kids late. I was 38 for the first one and 42 for the second (2 years ago). I don’t think they pushed out FI significantly. Budgets change and so do priorities. They kind of fitted in financially speaking.
    For the longer term, real estate investments certainly do help but putting a little bit aside and letting compounding do its magic is certainly strong as well. 18 years is a long time.
    I see my kids as my prize in a way and watching them grow, learn and have fun is more rewarding than pretty much anything else I can think of. People always told me that before I had kids and I always rolled my eyes – now not so much ;)

  53. I’m assuming you didn’t live in South Gate or Norwalk when you lived in “L.A.”. There are plenty of working class neighborhoods in Los Angeles with rust-belt lower working class lifestyles. Don’t generalize.