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Financially Wise to Wait to Have Children?

wait to have childrenHave you ever thought about how wealthy you could be if you didn’t have kids? Without the cost of childbirth, baby food, diapers, insurance, clothing, and all of the other necessities that sneak up on you, how wealthy could you be right now? Would it have been wise to wait to have children? And how much of a financial impact would this have made on your bank account?

For those of you that do not have kids just yet, but are thinking about it, I’m sure this thought has crossed your mind. What if you would wait just a couple more years to have kids? Would it be a wise move financially? Is it a better choice since you would likely be able to better provide for your child by waiting?

These questions are certainly hard to answer, and I’m definitely not going to answer them for you, but I can provide some compelling facts and figures surrounding this topic: Is it financially wise to wait to have children?

The Cost of Having Children

According to a post in the New York Times, the average cost of having a child is about $13,000 per year. Over the course of 18 years, the total amount spent per child is roughly $240,000! Of course, these are all just estimates. Some families experience a lower cost and some spend far more on their child each year.

My friends Greg and Samantha (fake names, but a true story) had their first child a couple of years ago. His job paid about $46,000 a year and hers paid around $35,000. Together, they earned good money (much better than the family average), but as her due date approached they began to wonder whether it was worth her going back to work. Basically, it was her income vs. the cost of daycare, but there were also other expenses to consider: gas to and from work, car maintenance, work clothes, etc.

When they added it all up, it turned out that Samantha would only earn about $3 per hour if she were to go to work and put her child in daycare. Sure, it would have been something, but they ultimately decided that this meager income would not be worth her going into work every day and leaving her child in daycare. From my viewpoint though, by being a stay-at-home mom, she just increased her expenses of having a child by more than the average. To be exact, she was increasing their bill by that $3 per month she was throwing away. Instead of $13,000 a year, their expense will now be more like $19,000 per year. What if they waited a couple more years? Would they be much better off today?

The Loss of Investment Money

If you have ever looked into the benefits of investing, you know that it is better to start early than late. If you are able to start investing when you are 18 years old, compound interest can do amazing things to just a meager investment. In fact, this early investment, while meager, will likely outperform a larger investment that is placed later in life.

I wonder how the numbers would play out if, instead of having children, young adults focused on investing?

Let’s lay some assumptions on the table for this calculation:

  • All of our couples have magically started their lives together without debt of any kind and have a net worth of zero
  • Our young couples have a disposable income of $13,000
    • This can either be used to raise a child or invest, but not both
  • After 18 years of supporting their child, they begin to invest their $13,000 again until they are 65 years old
  • The investments will earn an 8% return each year

What If You Wait Two Years to Have a Child?

So what if, instead of having a child right out of college at age 22, you wait until you’re 24 years old? What kind of financial impact will this have on you and your spouse? Take a look at the chart below:

Waited 2 years to have kids

2 year table

By immediately putting money toward your child instead of your investments, you would not be able to start your retirement account until you and your spouse are 40 years old. Yes, your money starts to grow fast from that point on, but it will never catch up to the couple that invested $26,000 in those first two childless years together. At the age of 65, the couple that had a child immediately has saved up $1.1 million, while the couple that waited two years amassed an amazing $1.65 million.

What If You Waited 5 Years to Have a Child?

So it looks like the financial advantage goes to the couple that waits to have children (not a big shocker for you I’m sure), but how much more of a difference would it make if a couple waited 5 years to have their first child?

Waited 5 years to have kids

5 year table

Whoa! So, if you waited five years to have a child you could amass $2.34 million instead of $1.1 million like your friends that started their family early.

What If You Waited 10 Years to Have a Child?

Ok, let’s get crazy here. What if, instead of having a child at age 22, you wait until you are 32 years old. If you were to invest heavily in those first 10 years because you had no children, how much would your retirement fund be when you reach the age of 65?

Waited 10 years to have kids


10 year table

By waiting 10 years, you will have earned yourself almost 3x more than those that decided to start their families early. That is a HUGE difference! With $3.23 million, it’s pretty safe to say that you would have a peaceful and fun retirement. Would you have ever thought that the difference would be so large?

What About the Non-Monetary Costs?

Okay okay, so life is not all about amassing millions of dollars. While it is financially advantageous to wait to have children, there are plenty of downsides to waiting as well. Just off the top of my head, here are a few negative results of pushing back parenthood:

  1. You won’t be able to be as active with your kids in your old-ish age (in your 30’s instead of your 20’s)
  2. You will still have kids in your home in your 50’s and 60’s
  3. You may not live long enough to enjoy your grandchildren
  4. If you do have grandchildren, you certainly won’t have the energy to enjoy them
  5. Many of your friends will have children before you, leaving you a lonely couple until you have kids of your own
  6. You will not mature as fast as your friends that understand life is not all about numero uno

This list could probably go on and on. There are definite advantages to waiting on kids, but there are certainly disadvantages as well. Whether the pros outweigh the cons are purely dependent on the cost you place on the negatives above. If you would love to have an empty house in your 40’s and if you want to see your grandchildren grow up, then you should probably opt for having kids early. If, however, you just want a honkin’ pot o’ gold, then maybe postponing parenthood would be the best choice for you.

What are your thoughts? Should kids be enjoyed immediately? Or should a couple wait to have kids until they are more financially secure?


AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. Derek something just can’t be compared with money. We have been married for 10 years without a child.Ask us what really the cost of having no child is. We have everything in world except that precious gift. But this is my situation, there are people who can wait a few years to have a baby, just to be in financially well footing

    • You are exactly right SB. It all depends on the person. If a couple is not sure if they really want children, then it would probably be wise to wait (both financially and emotionally). If, however, a couple really wants kiddos, then they should absolutely ignore the costs and just go for it. I wanted kids at a young age, but it just didn’t work out. Instead, I have a decent sized bank account. It’s not exactly what I wanted, but there are worse things in life.

  2. This is purely theoretical. Most 22 year olds are trying to finish school, not invest. Also, i’ve never met a parent that said their child wasn’t worth more than all the money in the bank. Personal finance as it relates to children should simply be a matter of choice, not ability. Money will come later, but fertility may not.

    • I love your point Kenny. Sure, money could be saved by postponing children, but is it worth the risks? Probably not. This question is definitely growing in popularity these days though.

  3. My husband and I are 26, and we could technically have children now but it would be very tight. We do plan to wait a few years to get a solid financial footing and accomplish some career goals. If we wait a few years, we’ll be 30 or so. Hopefully our bodies will cooperate with us then. On average, fertility doesn’t decline by a huge amount between 26 and 30 so hopefully we will be OK.

    • I hope so too Jenna! With the huge debts young people are incurring today (mainly from college), the expenses of a child are often just too much! We are living during tough times, but hopefully those that want to have children will be physically and financially able.

  4. I think it’s wise to wait to have children if you can’t support them financially right now. But having children is more than just about money – you have to factor in if you’re ready mentally, your relationship with your spouse, your fertility now and a few years down the line, if you want to travel, etc. I’m 26 and financially ready to have a child but no where near mentally ready. There’s just so much more I want to do in life before settling down with a family.

    • It is amazing how different each person’s viewpoint is on this topic! I understand that many people want to experience life before they have children, but they don’t know how long their fertility will last since everyone’s body is different. This is a tough game to play.

  5. I agree with Connie that it is just as important if not more important to wait until you are emotionally ready for children. And if you are having a girl, you can triple that amount!

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