I‘ve been reading a lot of discussion lately surrounding the topic of having kids, and whether a couple should wait to have children until they get out of debt. I thought it was an interesting debate as just about everyone has a different take on the topic.
A recent poll on BabyCenter.com asked, “ Should people get out of debt before having kids?“. 48% said “Yes“, 40% said “No“, and 12% said “I’m not sure“. When asked if they had waited until they were out of debt to have children 68% said “No” and 32% said “Yes”. So as you can see, there is a pretty even split when it comes to those who think you should and shouldn’t wait, yet quite a good number of people who thought that waiting was a good idea, nonetheless went ahead and had kids without being out of debt.
I should throw in the disclaimer that my wife and I ended up having our son only after we had gotten rid of all of our debt, but it wasn’t necessarily because we believed we should wait. To the contrary I’m one of those who believe that having children shouldn’t necessarily be purely a financial decision. Sure it should factor in to some degree, but there are a host of other things to consider.
Today I thought I’d look at some reasons why I think it isn’t always the best idea to wait to have kids until you’re completely out of debt.
The Joy Of Having Children
Having children has been one of the single most joyful things to ever happen to my wife and I. It’s amazing at how much having a son has changed our lives, and how much happiness and joy it has brought us (I mean, look at that face above!). It has brought our family closer together. There is nothing quite like walking through the door at home and having a smiling happy little boy running towards you for a hug. Why deny your family that same joy?
If You Wait Too Long, You May Have Increased Health Risk Or Infertility
One very real concern that a lot of folks have is that the risks of having children grow the longer you wait. The risks for someone having a child in their mid to late 30s versus in their 20s are quite different, for the mother and the child. The child ends up having higher risks of certain birth defects, while the mother may having higher risks of miscarriage and infertility issues. Both the mother and father may have infertility issues as both the number of egg and sperm tend to decreases after the age of 30.
Babies Aren’t As Expensive As You Might Think
One objection to having kids I hear quite often is that they’re so expensive, and that having them while you’re in debt could jeopardize a debt reduction plan. What I’ve found in our lives is that our son isn’t nearly as expensive as I thought he would be. Yes, there is the baby food, regular doctor visits, clothes and other things, but the costs aren’t nearly as high as I might have thought. We also didn’t have to pay for childcare, so that is something to consider.
I’ve also found that there are a ton of ways to cut back on baby spending – and I’ve discovered that a majority of the baby spending is often to please the parents – and not the child. There are a ton of ways to cut back on baby expenses if need be. Yes, when the children get older the expenses will rise, but hopefully by that point you’ve been working on that debt reduction plan and are in a better place financially.
Having Kids Can Help Focus Your Efforts
Having kids can really give you the reason you need to kick things into high gear and fast track your debt reduction plan. I know when we had our son, even though we were debt free, it was still a wake-up call that we needed to get certain areas of our finances under control. Having kids really has the effect of focusing your efforts, and giving you the added determination and inspiration you may need to make necessary changes. You don’t want your kids to have to suffer for your poor planning or efforts, and I know it gave me the inspiration to work extra hard.
There Is Never A Perfect Time To Have Kids
If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. Ecclesiastes 11:4-10
Life is almost always going to be busy and hectic, and there most likely is never going to be a perfect time to have kids. Waiting for the perfect time could mean that you’ll be waiting for a long time. If it isn’t a problem with too much debt, it may be a problem of attending grad school, or not having enough money saved for an emergency fund, or wanting to travel before having kids, and on and on. There will probably never be a perfect time. You can try to choose the ideal time, but you can make yourself crazy finding reasons why the time just isn’t right.
Make Sure To Plan Ahead If You Do Decide To Have Children
While I’m firmly in the camp that says that it’s OK to have children while in debt, I’m also a big proponent of making sure that you do plan ahead for parenthood when you’ve decided to head down that road. Make sure you’re doing your best to plan for the expenses of having a child, getting your finances in as good a place as you can, and making sure you know what you’re in for, especially if you’ll be living on one income. Also make sure that you’re in a good place in your relationship with your spouse and that having children is something both parents agree to.
So what are your thoughts on the topic? Should people wait until they’re out of debt to have children? Did you wait or are you planning to wait?
Sandy - yesiamcheap says
I guess you know I feel about it. I don’t think that you have to be completely out of debt but at least be in a financial situation where having a child doesn’t make it worse. I don’t know what there’s ever a “perfect” time for a baby, except for when you feel like you’re emotionally ready for one.
Peter Anderson says
Yeah, there are definitely some severe situations where people might be well advised to wait a while – and it’s important for the child to be coming into a healthy/stable home with 2 emotionally available parents. :)
Bryan at Pinch that Penny! says
The idea that there’s never a perfect time is the most compelling argument for me, and one that I keep coming back to. Though my wife and I are, essentially, debt-free, there are always arguments for putting off trying to have kids (focus on career, grad school, etc.). However, we think that the joy of having a child will outweigh those concerns.
We don’t have any kids yet, but we’re starting to try.
Peter Anderson says
If we had waited for that perfect time our little boy probably still wouldn’t be here! :) We’re glad that he is.
Sustainable PF says
For generations adults have had debt (mortgage for one) and had kids and made ends meet. If we were to wait for every adult to be 100% out of debt prior to having kids the population in North America would dwindle increasingly fast.
Peter Anderson says
You’re right about that. I think most of the posts i’ve read, and mine included are assuming debt free except the mortgage. Not many people are able to be debt free without a mortgage unless they’re renting, living with a family member or have been making extra payments like crazy for a few years..
True, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that I think few generations have had the staggering levels of debt that many people have today. There just weren’t as many things to buy, and no Internet to search them out.
Market Maker says
In this case I think that balance is key. Certainly don’t have a baby when you are neck deep in debt, but you don’t have to wait until ALL of your debt is paid off to have a baby. For me it is personal preference to have all debt paid off. However, I have the time to wait (or at least I think I do).
John @ TheChristianDollar.com says
We don’t have kids yet, but want to be a bit more financial secure than we are now. We’re thinking 5 more years… we have an emergency fund now, and are getting Courtney through college, but in 5 years our income will probably be going up and we can better afford to have a child. But, I hear what you are saying about not waiting for the right timing, because there truly isn’t any right timing.
Thanks for the great insight Peter!
I agree that maybe you shouldn’t have $100,000 worth of dept but having a little is not so bad before having a child. My husband and I will try and pay off all our school dept before having a child but we if we don’t by the time we are 28ish then we are going to have a child anyways. It’s also important to have steady income and a good savings. With both of those, you can pay off what you need and pay for a baby. Just in my opinion.
Don’t forget that once you have a kid, you stay in a LOT more. So that’s something.
Our situation was unique while we were paying down debt. It was from student loans and health-related expenses. By the time we got married, I was on disability and my husband was on unemployment. We received about $3,000 a month, so it would have been irresponsible for us to have a kid at that point.
Once I got a job (working from home, the only kind I can do), we finished paying off the debt pretty quickly. Then we could look at having kids. Unfortunately, we have had a series of miscarriages. You could argue it’s from waiting, but it could just be bad luck. There’s really no way to know.
Currently, I’m 7 weeks in and we did actually find a heartbeat. So we’re very hopeful that this 5th time will be it. If not, we may just have to accept we weren’t meant to have kids. (Adoption and foster care isn’t an option for various reasons.) But I think we made the responsible choice… for us.
I used to think that no one should have a kid until they were out of debt. I’ve softened a bit over the years. Like you, I think a game plan is vital. Be aware of the expenses that it will incur, and have strategies to keep your efforts strong. But I think it can be done responsibly.