Updated on 07.30.14

Reader Mailbag #82

Trent Hamm

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

Do you really believe it’s better for the earth to have more children?
– Kelly

I’m a big believer in what I call the “Idiocracy” theory, so dubbed because of the very eloquent and humorous explanation of the idea at the start of the film Idiocracy.

To put it simply, if you believe strongly in a cause to the point of taking action to push your cause forward, the best thing you can possibly do is have children, raise them to think and be independent, and get them involved in the cause, too.

Many people who are driven to success in life or push themselves toward a cause eschew the idea of having children – they don’t have time, or they’ve convinced themselves it’s a moral wrong. Instead, people who are not driven and not committed to a cause tend to have more children – they do have time and they haven’t convinced themselves it’s a moral wrong.

Thus, the next generation has a higher proportion of people who aren’t driven towards causes, towards self-improvement, or towards improving the world.

If smart and driven people want to make the world a better place, they should consider having children, who will often also be smart and driven. The more smart and driven people there are in the world, the better off the world will be.

If you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.

The only way I can stop using credit cards is to not have them at all. I have balances on my cards though. I just want to close the account & pay down the balance. However, I read that will hurt my score. What is going to hurt more – high balances on maxed out cards or closing the account and paying it off? This really is my only option. I would love to hear your opinion!! Thanks!
– Allie

Your best bet is to leave the accounts open for now, destroy the cards, and pay off the debt as quickly as you can without missing a payment.

In terms of your credit score, one big factor is the percentage of your credit limit that you’re utilizing. The way to do that is to leave your total credit limit alone – not canceling anything for now – and simply keep yourself from using it while paying down the debt. Over time, your percent of utilization will go down and your credit rating will go up.

You don’t have to cancel the account – just destroy the cards themselves (and erase the numbers from any online accounts)!

I was wondering if you have looked into “lifetime webhosting” – how do ensure that your content lives on (i.e. your blog keeps being hosted) without your active renewal, for example, 75 years from now?
– chessiq

For one, I don’t believe the web as we know it will exist in seventy five years. And for another, The Simple Dollar is being archived in several ways – archive.org, for starters.

My intent is to maintain The Simple Dollar as is for a long time, but inevitably, the period of the World Wide Web will wane and be supplanted by other forms of media. When that happens, I may move it to another format if it’s still relevant.

I’m considering some other options for maintaining the content, including a print anthology of the best timeless articles from The Simple Dollar.

Do you ever feel that you have many things pulling at you at once, frugality being just one of them? When purchasing food for dinner, I like to eat some protein (meat), as I go to the gym a lot. I like to eat healthy, so that meat should probably chicken or fish. And, I’m not a big fan of fish, so I find myself eating grilled chicken 5+ nights a week. (I’ll vary rice/pasta and veggies on the side). Without limiting the quantity of chicken, I can’t really get the price down, although it’s usually around $2 a meal. I’d like to be more frugal, but I don’t want to sacrifice my health to save $1/lb on meat, or make my effort in the gym worthless, by eating a protein-free dinner. I don’t too much mind the monotony (although I am open to suggestions), but was more curious if you ever feel the same way?
– Dave

Eating the right foods is an investment in your health. I have no objections whatsoever to spending more on food to get higher quality food.

Think of it this way: most foods that enable you to get a very cheap meal aren’t healthy for you. Over the long term, they’ll cost you in the form of lost energy, health care costs, and other effects.

$2 per meal is completely reasonable in my eyes if you’re eating healthy, high quality foods and eating such foods is one of your key values in life (as it clearly is for you).

One note, though: consider eating more beans. Beans have quite a bit of protein, can be prepared tons of different ways, and are incredibly cheap. I’m a big fan of beans.

When the Security and Exchange Commission fines a business or individual for an infraction or violation of the rules, usually the fine is pretty hefty – sometimes in the millions of dollars. What does the commission do with the fines they receive?
– Steven

SEC fines are rolled back into the SEC’s annual budget, but it’s only a small part of their budget. The rest is funded directly with taxpayer money.

If the SEC grew a backbone and started cracking down hard on some of the grey area securities tactics that many companies use, they could bring in a boatload of money and make the market more open to individuals.

However, they have no real incentive to do that, especially since many people at the SEC are heavily connected in the securities industry. So much for regulation.

My son-in-law has all but given up on his favorite sport, golfing, because of the cost. What is the best place to look for golfing coupons?
– Barbie

My best source for golfing coupons has always been the Entertaiment Book, which is often sold as a fundraiser for community organizations. Most of them offer quite a few pretty nice discounts at area golf courses, as well as discounts and free buckets of balls at local driving ranges.

Since I rarely golf any more, that pretty much takes care of my needs. The only thing the Des Moines-area Entertainment Book doesn’t cover for me is a once-a-year (at most) golfing outing in my hometown with my in-laws.

I haven’t found any other really reliable solutions. Perhaps the readers have some ideas.

We had a company wide re-structuring and everyone got to know their new job title. would it be an acceptable code of conduct to ask people what their new job title is? (Just to know where we stand in the company).
– RU

I think that’s completely appropriate. In fact, I think if such a thing happens in a company, they should require name tags with everyone’s new job description on it and have everyone wear them for a month or so just so everyone can figure things out and get on the same page.

Perhaps you can suggest this. It would be useful for everyone in the company as they become used to the new corporate structure.

One big thing: you need to be completely willing to answer the question if you’re going to ask it. If you ask someone and then don’t respond to their query (or to the query of someone else), it will NOT reflect well on you.

I am a college student, just starting my final year. I was lucky enough to be able to pay for college with scholarships and the help of my parents, so I have absolutely no student debt. I’ve had a checking account for several years, but I have never opened any kind of credit card account as the idea of that much financial room has always intimidated me.

I was wondering what I could be doing to responsibly build my credit/ credit score so that it will be at the optimum point when I look into making significant purchases (house, car) in the future. I am worried about going down the wrong path if I’m not even sure where to start.
– laurenly

Your best bet – the simplest way to start – is to get a credit card. Use that credit card for ONLY one kind of purchase, one you make regularly. For example, if you commute, get a BP card and use it only for buying gas at the BP. If you’re in college, get an Amazon Visa and use it only for buying textbooks. Then, pay off the full balance each month and don’t use the card for anything else.

Doing this will help your credit score immensely. The trick is to not decide that using a credit card is “easy” and start using the card for other purchases – that’s where people get into trouble.

Get a card, use it for one type of purchase, and pay it off in full each month. Not only will it help your credit, but you’ll likely get a bit of a reward out of the card, too.

How can you make phone calls with Skype on your iPod Touch? I’ve heard you can’t use it on there because it doesn’t have an internal mic. Do you only use the messaging feature on your iPod touch?
– ema002

When I first got my iPod Touch, I didn’t realize it was possible to use a mic for it. Then I damaged my ear buds (I cut the cord, actually) and had to go get a replacement pair.

That’s when I discovered the Apple earphones with remote and mic. These plug into the headphone jack on an iPod Touch and function as a microphone on any apps that require it. I can sit there with my headphones on and use my iPod Touch as a Skype client.

I can also use the Voice Recorder and add voice notes to Evernote as well using these things. They’re great.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
– Larry

First of all, I’m going to exclude any places I’ve never actually visited. It’s completely unfair to fetishize some place I’ve never been to and claim I want to live there. Instead, those are places I’d love to visit some day. On that list: rural France, Turkey, and Norway.

But what about living? I’ve visited two places that have really sung to me in a certain way, making me wish I lived there.

One was northeastern Iowa/southeastern Minnesota/southwestern Wisconsin, along the southern edge of where the glaciers reached during the last ice age. It’s very hilly there, with lots of old forests. The people are mostly Norwegian and Swedish, which means lots of calm and friendly temperaments. The weather rotates wonderfully through the seasons, having very nice and distinct summers, winters, falls, and springs. It’s just wonderful.

The other place is Washington state, out near the coast. Here, the temperature and weather is pretty stable throughout the year and the people seem to be very libertarian – in other words, they let you do your own thing without much snooping or prying. Mostly, though, it was the weather and vegetation – the large forests, the great access to Olympia National Forest, and so on.

The only large city I’ve visited that I would consider living in is San Diego. Again, the people are a big factor – it often felt like the sleepiest large city I’ve ever been in, which is a good thing, and the weather was beautiful during almost every season.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. One of us may be missing the point of the first question…maybe you’ve answer sufficiently & I’m missing the point, or it is the other way around, but I think the point of the question was whether or not it was better for the EARTH to have more children.

    If that is the case, I will interject my opinion here and say that “No, it isn’t better for the world to have more children.” I am of the opinion that our earth is reaching its carrying capacity & that if we are unable or unwilling to create a global infastructure which supports the world population we will experience famine & disease which will wipe out a great deal of people.

    While this may not happen today or tomorrow, I do see it happening some day if we are not able to feed & provide adequate health services for the people who need them the most; those in 3rd world countries. The disease and famine will likely affect these places more severely than they might in wealthier nations but a human life is still a human life, after all.

    There ARE signs that our exponential population growth is beginning to slow its pace and has begun to show possibility of leveling off in the near future. I hope this to be the case as it would allow access to resources for everyone instead of just the most wealthy.

    If people reproduce unconsciously without consideration of the future impact that a large population will have on the earth, I feel that is irresponsible. People should have children, they are important but have more and more and more is not conducive to the long term health of our planet.

    I know it wasn’t my opinion which was asked for, but I just wanted to offer an opinion (maybe) more along the lines of the question posed.


  2. Catherine says:

    I think that having children and teaching them well is a wonderful thing. But we also have many opportunities–if we look for them–to teach and influence people younger than ourselves who aren’t our own children.

    A friend once made a comment that, without his realizing it, made me realize how egotistical we are in thinking that we control future generations. He said, “For a long time I felt bad because I had ten children,” referring to concerns about overpopulation. Then he continued, “But now, almost all my children have reached middle age, and none of them have had children of their own.”

    Your ten children could have no children. Your one child could decide to give you twenty grandchildren. Your well-taught child could go astray for any number of reasons. The kid next door you try to help could become President of the country. I believe we should all do the best we can with whatever is put in front of us, but at the same time realize that none of us controls the future. Make a contribution where you can and have hope.

  3. Anastasia says:

    Trent said: If you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.

    I think it’s very short sited to say that because I don’t have children of my own, I’m not leaving my mark on the world. In my case, I work with young people every day. It is certainly not the same relationship I would have with my own children. Teaching is a passion for me though, and I believe I make a difference through my work.

    But what if I didn’t? What if worked in the computer science industry instead of education? All I have to do is look at the things outside my family which inspired me as a child, and I would have many ideas of ways in which I could inspire children – both work related and not.

  4. Johanna says:

    I don’t understand the Idiocracy theory. If you have children, you have to devote a lot of resources (time and money) to raising them – resources that you could otherwise use to influence other people to take up your cause. On the other hand, if your cause is such that the only way you can persuade someone to take it up is to brainwash them with it from birth, then what kind of cause is that?

    I anticipate this becoming a very long and heated comment thread. So…well done, Trent?

  5. Kevin says:

    As for the reader who asked about an organizational restructure: the company SHOULD provide updated org charts – at the very least, to every manager. If it has an intranet, the org chart ought to be posted there.

    As for name tags, in my experience a lot of people hate wearing name tags, and in this instance, I think that would seem extremely impersonal. I think twice before suggesting that. Just my $.02

  6. Kevin says:

    aarrgghhh. Should have read, “I’d think twice before… ”

    Trent, please allow commenters to edit comments for “x” number of minutes…

  7. Maureen says:

    Procreation isn’t necessarily the only way to ‘light other candles’. Teachers and other mentors can have a huge effect on future generations. Scientists and engineers can make huge contributions.

    If you truly raise your children to think and be independent, you may find that they choose paths completely different and perhaps even in opposition to your own. They’re not clones.

  8. kristine says:

    Re: Entertainment book. If you have someone moving to a new town, this is the most practical gift you can buy them. Our principal was leaving in June, so I got him the Entertainment book for his new FLA neighborhood, and he said it was both his, and his wife’s favorite gift. The had fun looking at the places they might go.

    Not to mention I got it for a song, as I bought it online in May, but the coupons were still good till the end of the year. (FYI-you can only buy the local one from the local school).

  9. Kelly says:

    I don’t think that anyone in college should open a credit card. It’s TOO easy to whip it out to pay for Dominos or Papa Johns. I was irrepsonsible in my college years and I’m STILL paying for it. I realize that not everyone is irresponsible as I was but it is TOO easy!!!

    I had no choice but to take out loans in college and would always get over and above what I actually needed for tuition so I could pay for transportation expenses, books, uniforms, etc. Then Discover came to campus offering a FREE college t-shirt if I signed up. Boy, did I? Application was approved and thus began my entrance into the world of credit cards. Wish I had never seen one.

  10. Johanna says:

    Also, to Allie: The whole purpose of credit scores is to distinguish people who have the self control not to spend every penny they’re given access to (whether in cash or in credit) from the people who don’t. Think about it: If you were a mortgage lender, say, would you rather lend to someone who can’t have credit cards without maxing them out, or to someone who has proven that they can resist the temptation to spend more than they can afford to spend?

    I applaud you for realizing that for you, personally, the only way to avoid credit card trouble is to avoid credit cards. But in my view, the fact that whatever you from here is going to hurt your credit score only proves that the system is working as it’s supposed to.

  11. Michael says:

    I like the answer to the first question. Don’t give away our secret to them! Of course, the irony is that having children changes people. It’s hard to maintain backwards, abstract ideologies when faced with something so real, concrete and humbling as one’s own child.

  12. Lisa says:

    Trent, so what is this cause that you so believe in that you are your wife are planning on having 3+, hopefully cloned, kids for? I think you need to revisit nature vs nurture. Using your own resources to support and guide other children/people might yield better results (depending on the cause you believe in).

  13. Otis says:

    So if I hear you correctly, the purpose of having children is to win an arms-race against the stupid people?

    Lodgic fale on a multiple points:
    1. You can’t have more kids than they do and still be a responsible parent.
    2. If people don’t have kids they aren’t a failure in life as you implied. You can influence people in many ways without contributing to their genes.
    3. Just because you have kids and ‘raise them right’ doesn’t mean they’ll turn out the way you hope. I know lots of great parents with kids that are drug addicts/losers/etc.

    Disappointed by this one Trent.

  14. Alissa says:

    I hear you about Northeastern Iowa, Southeastern Minnesota – I went to college in Decorah, Iowa. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it!!!

    Other nearby cities are nice, too, such as Chatfield and/or Preston, MN.

  15. Jesse says:

    @ Alissa

    Growing up, I lived in Preston and Spring Valley, MN. I moved away for college, but my wife and I would absolutely like to move back to an area like that when we have kids.

    Small world!

  16. Little House says:

    If you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.

    What if you’re a teacher and every year, in a class of 20 or more, you influence one or two? If you teach for 20 years, you may have influenced 40 or more kids to think independently about causes that are important to humankind.

    Or, what if you are a summer camp counselor for a few years? I can think of a lot of circumstances where someone else can influence others.

    I agree with #3 Anastasia, maybe teaching other people’s children isn’t the same as having your own, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t positively influence them.

    Bottom line, you don’t HAVE to have children to leave a positive mark on humankind.

    -Little House

  17. By writing this blog you have likely influenced more people than you will ever be able to have children. I know I have.

    Genetics is generally mean-reverting and so the genetic component of intelligent will be the average of the average of the parents and the average of their genes (around 100). For example, two parents of 110 and 120 will have kids distributed around ((110+120)/2+100)/2 = 107.5.
    So consider that if you’re a smart fluke, your children’s children’s … are likely to be just average.

    If intelligent people choose to have more children, it will be good for the intelligent people’s children but not much further than that. Since the earth has overshot its limits for carrying capacity, each additional child will make it slightly worse for all though. You’re essentially looking at the “tragedy of the commons” situation.

    In any case, watch the _end_ of Idiocracy which explains why outbreeding the competition won’t work ;-)

  18. Kai says:

    As to the first, i think that choosing not to have children will enable me to have a lasting influence on far more people, including children, as I can devote myself to more than my own couple.

    As for credit cards, they’re a tool. They can be used well in the hands of someone with a brain, and can be misused by others.

    Kelly (#9) – It’s not too easy to overspend on credit. It’s too easy for you, due to your irresponsibility. Your inability to use a credit card does not reflect on anyone else. I got a credit card around my first year of university. No freebies or special deals; just decided it was time to get one. I’ve never carried a balance, and am still reaping the benefits of a good credit history. I also got a job to pay for living expenses, transportation, books, and all other things that weren’t tuition.
    Many people are irresponsible. If you’re not, don’t let the numbers bother you.

  19. Chelsea says:

    Can’t Laurenly also build her credit score by having an apartment lease, utilities, internet, etc. in her name? Does paying for those things not factor into a person’s credit score as much as a credit card?

  20. Kelly says:


    Gee, I guess I know a LOT of irresponsible people then. A LOT of people in this country have run up a high amt of credit card debt so I think I’m safe to say that I am not alone. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

    Most people I know who use credit cards run up a high balance. It’s too easy to do it. No one EVER said to me, hey you might not want to buy that. They never taught a personal finance class in college or high school. Wish they would!! It ought to be mandatory!

    I too worked a job to help pay for my expenses in college. The student loans only covered so much. It wasn’t my parent’s job to pay for my education. They supported me by providing me a place to live, food to eat and paid my car insurance. I paid for everything else for 5 yrs that I attended university. I’ve got me a good job now thanks to my college education.

    Those student loans are paid off. The credit cards are not. I’m working on that though.

  21. Jen W says:

    “If you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.”


    Actually, those of us who fit the above description DO light other candles – we have nieces/nephews, and we have friends w/ children whom we love and spend time with. In addition, many of us have jobs where we touch the lives of children, in different ways.

    With all due respect, your reasoning for pro-creating is not well-thought out in terms of what over-population is doing to our planet.

    So, to my fellow childless by choicers: thank you for not breeding.

    And to those of you who are breeding like there is actually a Tomorrow and think those of us who don’t are being selfish or are purpose-less “candles in the wind”: My choice not to breed has freed up that much drinkable water for your precious little bundles of joy. You’re welcome.

  22. b says:

    Wow. The answer to the first question is perhaps the most idiotic thing I have ever read on this site… While there are many things I would love to respond to, I will stick with two.

    i) The idea that the only (or even best) way to influence people is by having kids is totally crazy. You interact with way more people in your life than you could possible make by procreating. Moreover, even if you subscribe to the idea that you can only really influence people by raising them, then why *must* you give birth to them? Why not adopt and take care of a child that is already in the world and needs care, rather than making your own new mouth to feed and consume resources? Do you actually believe that intelligence is hereditary? Or is there something magical that takes place as a child passes through the birth canal into the world?

    ii) The idea that your children will adopt your lifestyle, values, and be driven is ludicrous at best. How many of us live the same lifestyle as our parents (you included, Trent)? Your apparent belief in this is doubly unbelievable, given the high position that you expose “the millionaire next door” holds with you. I feel like one of the major items to be learned from that book is that the children of smart, driven, and economically intelligent people are, most often, NOT driven themselves. Really, did you and I not read the same book?

    I am very surprised by this post. I had thought that you were a person that actually thought about the world around him, instead of just ingesting the fundamental Christian point of view and regurgitating it back out. You really should be ashamed, I feel. Though I fear that you will not.

    NOTE: I am not claiming that people should not have kids. Just that, perhaps, there are better reasons for having them than to have them “fight for the cause” whatever that cause may be. In addition, assuming that this is the best way to pursue a cause is just…abysmal thinking.

  23. Debbie M says:

    I’m not a big fan of the Entertainment book. It has very few coupons for places I would go and, in my town at least, some businesses have moved out of my city or gone out of business but their coupons appear year after year.

  24. Johanna says:

    @b: “Do you actually believe that intelligence is hereditary?”

    Well, in his answer to the last question of the mailbag, Trent reveals his belief that personality is hereditary, to the point where people of certain ethnicities are “calm and friendly” compared to everyone else. So maybe he thinks that some ethnic groups are smarter than others – who knows?

  25. Kelly says:

    @Debbie M

    I won’t buy the Entertainment book either. DH and I don’t go out to eat often anymore. The restaurant coupons in this book are places we don’t patronize due to their high prices. So even if we had a coupon for buy one get one. It would still be more than what we want to pay.

    Someone at work was peddling a book of coupons for fast food restaurants in the area for $20. One, I don’t LIVE in the city where I work and two, I don’t eat fast food! The coupons were for Burger King, Wendy’s, Papa Johns, Dominoes. DH and I don’t eat at those places. Needless to say, I did not buy one. I don’t peddle the catalog-o-crap that my son brought home the first week of school at work and I won’t buy either. I just DON’T have the money. Trying to pay off my credit cards and having a DH who has been laid off for the better part of this year, save for 3 weeks in August. The $$ is not there.

  26. Maggie says:

    @#22- I am not sure why you think what Trent is talking about is a fundamentalist Christian ideology, but I am a fundamentalist Christian and have not heard that one before.

  27. Colleen says:

    Turkey, lean beef, lean pork chops or tenderloin, lowfat or fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free Greek yogurt, tofu, quinoa, and paneer are other good sources of protein to check out. I’m not sure how they would compare pricewise for the equivalent amount of protein without knowing more about the chicken dinners, but per pound at least many of these options are close to or less than what chicken costs. At least it’s some interesting variety along with the beans.

    Incidentally, according to the show “Good Eats,” if you eat your beans with their frequent companion, rice, you’ll get a “complete” protein, just as if you were eating soy, quinoa, or an animal source of protein.

  28. Kai says:

    @Kelly, #20

    I’m sure you do know a lot of irresponsible people. I sure do. In fact, our whole society is pretty painfully irresponsible these days, or so foreclosures, debt levels, and defaults would show. I congratulate you on growing up and learning and paying back your loans, but until you take personal responsibility for your mistakes, you’ve a long way to go.
    The fact that many other people make poor choices do not make them any more right or inevitable.

    I agree very strongly, that there should be a personal finance course in high school. We had something that was supposed to be life skills, but it concentrated on all the unimportant things, and left out a LOT of necessary things – like budgeting, and how generally to manage money. I think that would help a lot of people.

    In the meantime though, you don’t need a dedicated course to tell you that if you have to pay your credit card bill every month, you should only use it for as much money as you’re going to be able to pay back. And the first time you screw up, you should realize for the next time that you need to be more careful. Sure, it’s easy to run up a balance, but that’s through poor choices – not necessary conditions.

  29. Marc says:

    RE: #24

    It’s a leap of logic to assume that Trent thinks intelligence/personality is hereditary. Growing up in communities with well-established values and mores tends to impart those to their progeny. While mentors can have huge impacts on the personality development of children, few would deny the immense amount of values, norms and behaviors passed down in a healthy parent/child relationship.

    That said, many think (many would say they know) that dog breeds characteristics include personality traits as well. Why couldn’t it be the same for humans? The nature vs nurture debate isn’t going to be resolved here, but it’s perfectly understandable to expect that at least some personality traits could be hereditary. Let’s also remember that personality and behavior are related but the former doesn’t predict the latter.

  30. Kelly says:


    Thanks for telling me I need to take personal responsibility. I already AM taking responsibility for my poor choices of the past. I’m paying my credit card balances unlike a LOT of other people who chose to file bankruptcy to get a clean slate. I blew the money and I WILL pay it back come hell or high water.

    I took a Life Skills class in high school too. We took four weeks out of PE class senior year. The teacher discussed things like getting along with your spouse. Nothing was ever mentioned about budgeting or money management.

  31. Kai says:

    @Maggie, #26
    I suspect the charge is that the ideology he wishes to support is Christianity.

    “The people are mostly Norwegian and Swedish, which means lots of calm and friendly temperaments.”

    You have got to be kidding. I respect your financial sense, but racism? And it is, in this context. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but that’s not an excuse. To say that because people in an area have a particular background, their temperament is a certain way is painfully racist.
    ‘I’d like to live somewhere the people are primarily nordic, because they share a lot of the cultural traditions I’ve grown up with’ would be one thing. ‘I’d like to live in this area because every time I’ve visited that area, everyone I meet has been really friendly to me, and it feels like a welcoming community’ is equally valid.
    ‘I like to live with people of nordic descent because they are calm’, is racist.
    Careful about that pacific northwest possibility – there are a lot of asians in that area, and I don’t know whether they’ll be bred as calm as you like. I take it you’ll never want to live in the southwestern states – those latin bloods run too hot.

    Please read this as a wake-up call, rather than just negativity. It’s important to recognise mistakes and fix them.

  32. Kenny says:

    I read an article that said organic farming can only sustain five billion people on the planet. If this is true, then buying organic may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Also, organic fertilizers rely upon cow poop, and cows contribute greatly to global warming because of their gas problems.

    Plus, all these animals are getting on the endangered species list because people are crowding them out of their natural habitats. Certainly these people are crowding them out of their habitats because there’s more people who take up space and must go somewhere.

    Overpopulation is truly becoming an issue that will require more study and action. Or perhaps inaction on the part of otherwise healthy and fertile people.

    But a steady world population would mean a stagnant economy with little room for expansion.

    All these things interact with each other and the outcome is far from certain. We can all work to do our best to leave this planet a little bit better for when we leave it.

  33. Kai says:

    @Kelly (#30)
    My point comes out of the fact that this is the first you’ve acknowledge fault. That’s great, and I think it’s important to emphasize that to people. It’s nice that you’re different, but too many see credit cards as just one big vast conspiracy that they had no part in, and it’s not their fault or responsibility now that they have thousands in debt. It’s society’s for getting them into it, and what can they do?

    As for the school thing, I was agreeing with you completely. I had a similarly useless class, and I too think it’s important to change this, and implement a useful course on financial skills. Sadly, the school boards don’t tend to ask my opinion…

  34. Kelly says:

    Kai, this isn’t my first time acknowledging fault. I just haven’t posted comments to Trent’s blog until recently.

  35. Jamie says:

    To Dave, re: protein.

    You really don’t have to stick to chicken and rice all the time. I gave up meat more than a year ago, and protein was, of course, a concern. I was in the midst of training for my first marathon, and I strength train five days a week. One book helped me get over the protein myth, and I keep it handy as an invaluable resource; it’s called “Vegetarian Sports Nutrition” by D. Enette Larson-Meyer. I’m not going to harp about the evils of meat, but reading this book would be a great help for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. There are countless sources of protein other than hunks of meat.

    Additionally, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” has become my go-to cookbook, and is packed with all sorts of protein rich dishes. Lentils and beans, of course, and the requisite tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc. It seems most meat eaters feel tofu is bland and disgusting but, if you take a few minutes to prep it, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s important to remember that many cultures get adequate protein with minimal or no meat at all. Bittman writes:

    “Calling tofu and it cousins ‘meat substitutes’ would be a bit of an insult; it reminds me that there are parts of the world where these assumptions are flipped. In India, for example, you’re either a ‘normal’ eater or a ‘nonvegetarian.’ The point is that one could just as easily call pork a ‘seitan substitute.'”

    And – at least in my experience – seitan, lentils, beans, tofu, and tempeh are considerably cheaper than most meat.

  36. The world is overpopulated now and there are too many unemployed in this country.

  37. Anna says:

    @Kevin #6:

    “Trent, please allow commenters to edit comments for “x” number of minutes…”

    I heartily agree. I’ve been wanting to make this suggestion myself for quite a long time. Thanks for the nudge, Kevin.

    Trent, now it’s up to you.

  38. Bonnie says:

    #22b- Why do you think Trent’s view on children is fundamentalist Christian? Trent’s not fundamentalist Christian and he clearly states that his view is based on or similar to the view espoused by the movie “Idiocracy”. The movie Idiocracy was hilarious, but certainly has nothing to do w/ Christianity. Like #26, I’m Christian & I’ve never heard such a view promoted. Although I believe that people can certainly have an impact on the next generation in many ways, I do think that you have the strongest influence on your own children and the greatest opportunity to impart your values on your own children. You can try to impart values on other peoples’ children, but there’s a greater likelihood that they’ll be overridden by the values of their own family. And, although we’d all like to believe that we’re such “free thinkers”, the older I get the more I’m able to see how my upbringing helped to shape how I view the world.

    Trent, regarding Washington state, by “the coast”, do you mean the Olympic penninsula, away from Seattle? Because Seattle is technically on “the coast” and is a very liberal city.

  39. IRG says:

    Trent writes:
    “f you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.”

    Wow. I can’t believe you’d write something like this. I have to seriously rethink where you are coming from.

    Prejudiced? Narrow-minded? Judgmental? Words fail me.

    I’m still in too much shock. I always thought of you as being open-minded. Seems you aren’t. Talk about ideology.

    Look around the world Trent. Let’s put aside the issue of sheer number of people and necessary resources. Let’s just focus on the quality of parenting that most/many kids experience–no matter how many kids in the family.

    (and let me remind you, that, as you know, big families of the past were a product of need–as in workers/laborers for the farms, etc. and a lack of birth control–I don’t know any women other than a dugger who want all those kids in today’s world).

    Even intelligent, well-educated people –aka “smart” and “driven” in your words–do not make good parents (while plenty of poor, uneducated and fighting to stay alive ones make excellent parents/teachers/guides). The act of giving birth or adopting does not a parent make.

    On the other hand, I can think of many folks who have no kids who do things daily to improve the lot of children everywhere.

    I look at someone like Oprah winfrey (and please if you hate her, that’s your business. But the woman has done a lot with her money to help many, many others). She has no birth children (although she has “adopted” some at her school in africa).

    She, and many others with far less money and resources, are doing a lot each day to make the world a more welcoming and better place for the children who are here. Especially ones who suffer from poor or non-existent parenting.

    Compare that to the many parents who verbally and physically abuse (not to mention kill) their children.

    They “raise” their kids with their own prejudice, etc. and some kids fight to survive even as adults.

    Sorry. But you’re entitled to an opinion about wanting to have lots of kids. But this claptrap article? Seriously. Sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself. Cause you clearly have NOT convinced many others who read this.

    The idea that smart people have smart kids is a laugh. Look around the world, Trent. Lots of very successful and driven people have lazy, dumb (yes, dumb) kids despite their perks of wealth, good education, etc..

    There is NO guarantee with having a child of anything. And the idea that children are here to help you carry out a mission? Repulsive to say the least. (REminds me of the cult-like feeling one gets around some families. They ARE cults.)

    If you’re a parent, by choice or otherwise, you don’t own kids, it’s your total and complete responsibility to raise a responsible human being and good citizen–to be their own person. Too many parents focus on “ownership” and pride issues with their kids–to the kids detriment. The kids are not about YOU. You are a vehicle for their entry, protection and guidance. That’s it. They’re NOT property.

    The child has its own soul and destiny. (Read James Hillman’s The Soul’s Code. You could use some enlightenment on a parents’ purpose.)

    Wow. I cannot believe you think like this.

    Agreeing to disagree. Sorry to be so harsh, but seriously. No logic here. One expects more from a somewhat educated individual, as one presumes you are.

  40. Jill says:

    In terms of food, we end up going with chicken or ground turkey breast 5-6 nights a week. What keeps it interesting for us is learning how to use different types of spices and sauces. Best bet: bulk spices from ethnic market, which tend to be cheaper, fresher, and better quality than the aging glass jars you find in a standard grocery store.

  41. Kelsey says:


    I agree with you wholeheartedly in your response to question #1. While I’m all for protecting our natural resources, it’s shocking to me that people would advocate choosing the earth over the lives of human beings. This is where people’s basic view of what life is all about comes through.

    Many people believe that humans are part of a spiritual life that will far out live the life of this physical earth.

    Also, San Diego is a wonderful (although expensive) place to live!

  42. valletta says:

    Wow, where to start.
    This whole post came across as judgmental and dogmatic.
    The first point is so wholly fallacious (and others have commented already) it doesn’t deserve thoughtful repudiation.

    But I had to laugh at the comment “calm and friendly”!
    This says much more about Trent than about the “calm and friendly” Scandinavians! Risking the same criticism of narrow mindedness I’m making about his post, I’d have to say I always considered our Scandinavian relatives as boring and catatonic! YMMV :)

  43. Meg says:

    IRG #39 said it better than I could have. Trent, since you’re a foodie, let me give another example of someone who’s had enormous influence without having children: Julia Child. She influenced the cooking of a whole generation in America and promises to continue doing so through her wonderful books. I certainly wouldn’t call her a candle in the wind.

  44. Kai says:

    @Kelly (#34)
    I’m sure you didn’t have some big revalation while reading these comments.
    Thing is, I don’t know you. I don’t know your opinions or your habits or your history. So all I know of you is what you write here. So by ‘first time’, I merely meant that it was the first acknowledgement here, for me to read and know. I can’t read your mind thorugh the internet.

  45. Kelly says:


    I can’t read yours either. It felt as though you were slamming me. I was irresponsible in the past but am not any longer. I own it and I’m dealing with it.

    I totally disagree with Trent’s advice about laurenly signing up for a credit card. I’m with Dave Ramsey(and the Economides) on this one. Sure SOME people can be responsible with credit cards but most people cannot. So why tempt it?

  46. Fenton says:

    I was very pleased with this post, Trent. You made good points on all the questions (though some have issue with you having a different opinion than they, and I guess to each their own).

    I personally see nothing wrong with what you wrote, Trent. Keep up the good work.

  47. Michael says:

    “I was wondering what I could be doing to responsibly build my credit/ credit score so that it will be at the optimum point when I look into making significant purchases (house, car) in the future. I am worried about going down the wrong path if I’m not even sure where to start.”

    Also get as many of your utilities and services in your own name as you can. Cell phone, cable, internet, apartment contract etc. They probably won’t affect your score as much as a history of paying off a CC each month, but it will help a bit.

    And…Minnesotans really are friendly. They’re even polite drivers on the freeways of Minneapolis. If you think “A Prairie Home Companion” is a comedy show, you’re wrong — it’s a documentary.

  48. b says:

    Re: the fundamentalist christian thing…perhaps I was a bit too strong in my original statement. I SHOULD have written something that sounds like a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. I certainly should not assume that I understand Trent’s beliefs. But, to me, it certainly smacks as a fundamentalist viewpoint. I say this for the following reasons…

    1) Typically, Christianity is view as the only “correct” faith and so those people that disagree with you are viewed as incorrect. It is explicit that they need to change their ways. So it is necessary to increase their numbers somehow — conversion or breeding, i guess. And I have personally heard the breeding thing from more than one Christian.

    2) Also, it is extremely common for the fundamentalist Christians to think that it is OK to force their views on other people. eg. we have the gay marriage debate, where it is assumed that it is valid to deny rights to people based on your own viewpoints of morality. Despite the fact that those people are not actually interfering with anyone else’s lifestyle. And despite the fact that in the bible legislating morality did not actually work too well (doesn’t ANYONE listen to that Jesus character?).

    3) Intense lobbying and bullying is viewed as a valid way of getting your own way. That is to say that, on political issues, all they seem to care about is getting enough votes to have their way — not to try to reach a compromise. Adopting a breading scheme for increasing the number of people on “your side” smacks as a very similar tactic. Why worry about what other people have to say when you can just out-vote them?

    4) I have heard, many, many times, people within the church celebrate large families in the church because they are (and i kid you not) “taking back the US for God.” Which I find a sickening sentimentality. The idea that you should “breed out” the non-Christians somehow is reminiscent of the “first night” privilege used in the medevil era.

    I wish I was being more eloquent about this. I would like to make it clear that I did mis-speak (type) I am not trying to call Trent a fundamentalist Christian, per se. I AM trying to say that he is espousing viewpoints that are associated most commonly with the fundamentalist viewpoint in America. And it really is sad to see. One would wish that people would perhaps take a more…proactive move towards changing the world. Perhaps action that takes into consideration those that you disagree with, rather than just trying to overwhelm them with numbers.

  49. Kevin M says:

    I find it ironic that a guy who writes a blog that (probably) reaches millions thinks having kids is the best way to advance their cause.

  50. Jill says:


    Kai, I too felt that your initial response to Kelly was a put-down, as well as done in poor taste.
    I would say the vast majority of people understand the concept of not spending more than you have. Very logical. However, when it comes to over-spending (or any other type of addiction i.e., over-eating, drinking..) it’s not so black and white. There are a lot of people who read this blog who have been in Kelly’s position (myself included), whom are intelligent people who made poor choices. The reasons vary from person to person, but you get the point. Some of us have learned from our mistakes and our owning the mistakes. So to say (paraphrasing your initial comment) that “anyone who has a brain wouldn’t get themselves into such a situation”, is definitely a put-down. You may have no problems in your financial world, but think to an area of your life you don’t have control or that could use some work. How would you feel if someone put you down?
    And remember, Trent was in the same situation Kelly and I found ourselves in years ago. He turned it around and now has a successful blog. He certainly “had a brain” and was intelligent when he was in a dire financial state, but he had just made poor choices.

  51. Jane says:

    I didn’t like Trent’s first answer about children either, but I thought the comment by Jen W. was even worse:
    “So, to my fellow childless by choicers: thank you for not breeding. And to those of you who are breeding like there is actually a Tomorrow and think those of us who don’t are being selfish or are purpose-less “candles in the wind”: My choice not to breed has freed up that much drinkable water for your precious little bundles of joy. You’re welcome.”

    First of all, it’s so rude to call someone a “breeder”. I’ve read the anti-child posts online ad nauseum, and they all call women who have children “breeders” as a way of denigrating the practice of continuing the human race. Honestly, I just don’t get the negativity towards people who do what people have been doing…well, forever.

    And the doom and gloom? Since none of us know what tomorrow is going to bring, yes, I will continue to live as if we all have a future. This includes bringing multiple children into the world. They bring joy to my life, and despite what you think, they will most likely benefit you as well some day. They might fix your electricity someday, or clean your bed pan when you’re old. They will pay taxes and fund your social security, etc. etc.

  52. jc says:

    I think you’ve overreached considerably here, Trent, probably on purpose. But candles in the wind? Yikes! Now I do agree that parents who have kids by choice generally approach parenting more intentionally and carefully than those who have kids more or less by accident or default. And they don’t put out clones, as so many commenters seem to be suggesting. Instead, they raise some (but not all!) of the kids most open to being influenced positively by your “candles in the wind!”

    So folks who parent intentionally should be grateful to those who are childless and devote time to positively influencing youngin’s, and vice versa!

    Parents who can make a choice choose to have fewer or zero kids, which is why we’re well past the inflection point and headed towards a stable or even shrinking global population before the end of this century. Better to raise kids (whether they are your own offspring or not) able to raise the sustainable carrying capacity of the earth through brilliance than to try to squelch other people’s biological (and often, spiritual) desire to self-propagate.

    Lastly, the Scandanavian comment was not racist. It’s a cultural thing. If you’ve been around such folk, you’ll understand–in fact, they come with their own brand of passive aggression masked by sweetness that some of us rude, crude non-Midwesterners call “Minnesota Nice.”

  53. Marsha says:

    Re restructuring: I’d be careful about asking people what their job title is – but it’s OK to ask what their job is. Some people may have gotten demoted and might be sensitive – or others could have been promoted, and that might bring up sensitive issues, too.

    Re heritability of intelligence and personality: both show considerable (but far less than 100%) heritability.

  54. kristine says:

    I am of Swedish and Norwegian descent. I am neither clam, nor particularly friendly. And not many of my relatives are either. In fact, I am somewhat, shall we say, spicy? My Puerto Rican godmother used to tell me that deep inside my lily white heart was a teeny weenie little Puerto Rican! I do not know why, but I loved that sentiment as something personal and loving, in contrast to the blanket, and yes, racial statement by Trent. In general, it’s good to avoid generalizations!

    I am a teacher, and mother, and I dare say both roles light candles.

    But I admit that this blog is very conversational, and not guarded as to be excruciatingly PC, which is refreshing- there is an actual flawed person at the other end of it. No one is PC all the time, tolerance is good for the oops as well. I am sure the public flogging has been duly noted by now.

  55. Mol says:

    I am becoming increasingly aware of the inhumane treatment to livestock in the food *industry*. Do you have any recommendations for websites or books to learn more on where to buy organic food and what resteraunts offer it?

  56. Bonnie says:

    I have a comment about Seattle–we might appreciate your redefinition of libertarian, but really politically we are progressives! And we love it!

    Mol-you might want to check out Joel Salatin’s books on farming. Websites about eating well locally and organic include Eatwild.com and Localharvest.org Local Harvest shows everything from CSAs and local farms to grocers to some restaurants.

  57. Joanna says:

    Re #48: Most of the major religions believe that they are the only way to God/heaven. Muslims certainly do. Perhaps you would have been more accurate to refer to fundamentalists in general, rather than specifying Christians. As it stands, you seem to be generalizing and you come off pretty aggressive.

  58. T'Pol says:

    Trent, I am glad you want to visit my country. Istanbul is a must see and we have great beaches along the Aegean and Mediterennean. You can also visit Virgin Mary’s House in Ephessus to become a half pilgrim.

    BTW, I am Muslim and I do not find Trent’s ideas overly religious or anything.
    Extremists in any religion and in any culture can be dangerous.

    As for me, I am a single woman and I never wanted to have kids. I may be a candle in the wind but some people are just not cut out to be parents. I choose to donate regularly to a particular charity with a very specific goal of educating girls as modern, active individuals.

  59. Amateur says:

    Wow, Trent, looks like you rubbed folks the wrong way with Response #1. I think the choice of words may have hurt you there. You’re probably assuming that smart and compassionate folk like yourself would in turn yield equally responsible, smart, and compassionate people who would most likely live the way you do. I’m not quite sure if it actually works out that way for most folks. It may, for you.

  60. Jane says:

    For the golf question. I don’t play golf but a lot of my coworkers do. They have negociated group monthly rates at two courses in the area. The more expensive one is private and $169/month. The cheaper on is a public course that has “monthly” memberships these guys only pay $39/per month for all you can golf as long as you walk. For the other consistent expense balls they search the internet.

  61. Steven says:

    Candle in the wind ~

    Little coal/spark in the woods with a little wind and dry weather -> big ass forest fire.

    Just a thought.

  62. Esme says:

    Good for you Trent! You got just about everyone’s knickers in a twist-about several different topics- in one little article. I must say, I’m impressed! You even got called both ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘racist’, and ‘shocked!’ people. Wow.
    I wonder if you posted this article purposely this way, just to get a rise out of your readers. I know I would (because being sweet and nice and gee-whiz and PC must get so bloody boring after a while), but then I’m always game for a bit of mischief.;)

  63. Does anyone have proof that we have “overshot the earth’s carrying capacity?” Because basically, people saying this have bought the neopagan, earth-worshipping, religion-is-for-followers, I-hate-people-of-color-since-that-is-where-all-the-population-growth-is-occuring-and-it-is-bad,pseudo-science philosophy.

    There is PLENTY of room on the earth (Yes, it’s true, you can fit the entire world’s population in one county of Texas, and have it be about as crowded as Boston, We do throw tons of food into the ocean every year to keep corn prices high, and necessity is the mother of invention anyway–if we need more food, we’ll grow it.).

    Ignore this if people discussing religion in public makes your skin itch:

    Further, if you claim to be Judeo-Christian or Muslim, you subscribe to a religion that says that humans should hold dominion over the earth and subdue it. God told man to “be fruitful and multiply.” Every new soul is a delight to God. So 1.) Humans are good, not bad.
    2.) We’re supposed to have more of them, not fewer.
    3.) Do you really think a loving God would give us the earth, tell us to be fruitful, and then let us die because we followed orders?

    And finally, with all of this “Save the earth, make humans go extinct” nonsense, nobody ever points out that if it’s all about nature/animals, and we don’t believe in an eternal soul, than why shouldn’t the human animals dominate the earth? If Koalas were doing really well, would you expect them to self-sacrifice their numbers to meet some imaginary quota? Why should we?

    And note, this comes from a vegetarian-for-environmental-reasons, cloth-diapering, breastfeeding mother of one. I don’t want people to purposefully destroy the environment, but there’s no need to disrespect the rights of others to exist and procreate.

  64. Katie M. says:

    Well done Trent. I subscribe the “Idiocracy” theory as well. Zero population growth people really haven’t thought things through very well. The only people who think about things like global overpopulation are those who are well-educated. While they limit their children, people in third world countries will not slow down at all. The result will barely put a dent in population growth. But what it will result in is a death in first world cultures and peoples. It’s already happening in Europe. In less than a century these thousand year old cultures could cease to exist because they’re not even meeting the replacement rate. And here’s the crux of the problem-it’s first world cultures that have come up with, and will come up with the solutions to the problems of overpopulation-cures for disease, ideas to fight global warming, new technology etc. So basically by not having kids, you’re doing very little to help overpopulation while at the same time robbing the future of the minds that would have created great progress. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    If you don’t have kids, can you influence other people? Sure. But eventually if everyone stops having kids, there will cease to be a generation to influence, and you’ll have the above scenario.

    Yup, it’s not very PC, but it is very common sense.

  65. Neon Swan says:

    Wow. The response to that first question was…hurtful to those of us who don’t have children for various reasons but hope to influence the next generation nonetheless.

    I understand your impulse to try to rationalize what is really a very expensive venture that does have an environmental impact. You know, if you chose to have children and to raise them consciously and deliberately to be good people, which I’m sure you’re doing, hey, there’s nothing to criticize.

    But why is it that when people feel the need to defend their choice to reproduce, they also feel that it’s necessary to attack others who did not make that choice? That was an unnecessary slam. Being a mentor to a kid who isn’t yours provides a different kind of benefit to them from parenthood–too many parents unconsciously see their children as extensions of themselves and take too personally any difference or failure from what they want (and what they feel the child should want). If you don’t have that kind of vested interest in what the kid does, you can be a lot more accepting of him/her as a separate individual. I think my greatest influences were my teachers and older friends…not my parents.

  66. Shevy says:

    Katie M’s response is a good, clear-headed one. Plus, back in the late 60’s or early 70’s there was a lot of talk about overpopulation, ZPG, etc. The hysteria was that we would be overrun before the 21st century.

    Yes, some areas of the world are very crowded but it’s not nearly the global problem it was supposed to be. Neither have we yet run out of oil/petroleum products, had all our global economies totally collapse and take us back to barter, used up all the silver in the world, etc.

    I take all these doom and gloom predictions with a large grain of salt, simply because (by and large) the negative results have not occurred. That’s not to say that they can’t and won’t, just that the timeline is likely to be longer than proposed and that new options will materialize along the way.

    Trent’s comments were less than PC but they don’t bother me. Very few people are really PC all the time and at least a large minority are not PC at all any of the time! We just don’t talk about those people any more because it’s not PC to do so!

    Oh, yes & @IRG:
    “(and let me remind you, that, as you know, big families of the past were a product of need–as in workers/laborers for the farms, etc. and a lack of birth control–I don’t know any women other than a dugger [sic] who want all those kids in today’s world).”

    Many, many women in First World countries continue to want as many children as possible. A non-exclusive list would include Quiverfull Xtians, practising Catholics and Mormons, the Amish, Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims. There are many communities you could go to in various parts of North America where 7 to 12 kids would not be unusual. I remember the late humorist Teresa Bloomingdale (a mother of 10) who wrote that their family did not make the top 10 of large families even in their Nebraska diocese, since she personally knew at least a dozen mothers of 12 and more families of 10 than she could count.

    And that doesn’t even touch on most of the rest of the world where children *do* still equal a better chance at survival and having a future.

    Don’t pretend that the world has changed that much. It hasn’t. The biggest change has been the chance for middle and somewhat lower income groups to use birth control to limit or space their families *if they so desire*.

  67. reulte says:

    Trent — You don’t have to have children to influence the world and statistically no matter how many children you have won’t make much of an influence anyway. I think a better idea is to try to influce people — one by one. Correlation — you can’t outbreed stupidity because it isn’t genetic condition or even a function of nature/nuture. As I see it, stupidity is pretty much self-determined.

    And Kelly (who asked original questions) – What do you mean by “better for the earth”? Consider your phrasing more carefully. Do you mean: 1. Better for the planet? The planet would be fine even if was as deficit in life as Neptune or Mars. 2. Better for every other life form on the planet (define a life form – are we counting germs? Plants? Insects? Deep-sea thermophiles?). Better for every other mammel? Person? People in a 1st world nation? People in a 3rd world nation?

    I was childless by choice, and child by accident (but NOT default)! However, just because it was so, doesn’t mean that my child-raising is any less intentional or careful — it just means I had to think faster on my feet when I found out and change certain things in my life such as my employment. However and without denegrating anyone else’s choices or trying to make anyone feel incomplete in any way, I would love to have more, more more children and will probably consider adopting/fostering when I’m in a situation conducive to that.

    I totally agree with b (#48), having many children is a fundamentalist viewpoint (not necessarily Christian either). It is also a requirement in many nations where having many children compensates for the ones that didn’t survive to adulthood as well as acting as a form of social security when the parents can no longer work.

    The Scandanavian comment is prejudiced (i.e. a preconceived idea) as is Mighty Letters to Us (#63) comment about neopagans.

    Mighty Letters to Us (#63) — Well, depends on which Texas county, but we don’t want to be as crowded as Boston. According to David Pimental of Cornell University, the carrying capacity of Earth is about 2 billion. Of course, that assumes a comfortable lifestyle as defined by Mr. Pimental – which is probably pretty close to the U.S./European concept of a comfortable lifestyle – and does not propose a major change in agricultural methods or food-distribution methods. Sure, we can crowd more people, but I don’t want to live as cramped as flying in economy class. The ‘proof’ of overshooting the carrying capacity is usually a severe reduction in population to well-below the carrying capacity. Another word for that could be ‘disaster’. Also, as a Neopagan, I’m pretty sure you have trivialized the belief system of neopagans/earth-worshippers into a single dimension.

  68. Viv says:

    “If you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.”

    I don’t know where to begin on this one, Trent. I considered not responding because you’ve had a lot of other responses already along this line but perhaps the more you get, the more you’ll reconsider your words. And if they came out wrong – which happens – perhaps you’ll try the post again. First of all, having kids is better for the earth? I think anyone, as much as they love kids, would find it a stretch to agree with that one. More importantly, the statement that you’re not lighting candles if you’re not having kids is absolutely dead wrong. I can think of two remarkable individuals right off the top of my head – the Dalai Lama & Oprah Winfrey (not that I’m equating the two!) – can you really say that they have not made their mark on this world? Do you really think that raising children is the only way to share our wisdom and gifts? I think you did not think through your answer.

    -A parent (adoptive, by choice)

  69. Michael says:

    It’s funny to read the desperate responses from the no-child crowd. It is obvious that they want to prevent conservatives from having children because Trent is right! This is a high-stakes game for the future.

  70. Amanda says:

    Wow, couldn’t disagree more with Answer #1. For the last question…I ran screaming from that area… I also made a favorable surface judgment about that area of the US. I’d advise looking closer for a longer period of time to see if it’s right for you. (I think that goes for any place on the planet!)

  71. Kevin says:

    @Mighty (#63):

    “There is PLENTY of room on the earth (Yes, it’s true, you can fit the entire world’s population in one county of Texas, and have it be about as crowded as Boston”

    That’s completely absurd.

    First of all, your math is completely wrong. The population density of Boston is approximately 4,850 people per square kilometer. Since there are 6.787 billion people on Earth, that means assembling them together in the same density as Boston would require 1.4 million square kilometers, or more than TWICE the area of the entire state of Texas, not just one county.

    Secondly, if you’re willing to pack people shoulder-to-shoulder, you could fit 149 TRILLION people on this planet, from the edge of an ice shelf in Antartica to the middle of the Sahara, but that doesn’t account for the land required to produce that person’s food/water, and manage their waste. It’s not just about how much space each human body takes up.

    Nice try though.

  72. Kevin says:

    @Shevy (#66):

    “I take all these doom and gloom predictions with a large grain of salt, simply because (by and large) the negative results have not occurred.”

    It’s this type of short-sighted, head-in-the-sand ignorance that will truly doom our planet.

    Why do people seem to think that if the “bad things” don’t happen all at once, then it’s not a problem? If they happen slowly, is it not still a problem? Just because you haven’t noticed them doesn’t mean they’re not real.

    Katrina was real, and a direct result of climate change.

    Diseases are spreading faster and further than ever, due to the increase in population density. This is not “doom and gloom,” these are things that have ALREADY HAPPENED. H1N1 Swine flu, bird flu, mad cow, SARS – these are actual, global pandemics that are real, live threats TODAY – not some nebulous hypothetical date in the future.

    The oceans ARE rising. Don’t believe me? Ask the people of the Maldives, who are at this very moment saving up the cash to buy some land on higher ground and move their ENTIRE COUNTRY. Again, not a fictional, scary fairy tale designed to frighten people. This is an actual, measurable consequence of our wasteful, self-centered focus.

    It’s time we wake up and realize there’s a problem, and it’s not going to solve itself. If you believe in a God, then you have to believe He gave us intelligence and free will in order to solve these problems for ourselves, not just blindly put our faith in His hands to save us from our own gluttony.

  73. b says:

    @ Johanna

    You stated that, “Most of the major religions believe that they are the only way to God/heaven.” Which I find to be a curious assertion.

    By my count (admittedly as an outsider to most of these religions) the vast majority of world religions are inclusive or tolerant of other religions. In fact, the absolute exclusive religions seem mostly to be the so-called Abrahamic religions. Of these, Christianity and Islam are exclusive (and of course Judaism). Though not even all of the Abrahamic religions are exclisive; Bahai is not.

    But once outside of the Abrahamic religions, we find that tolerance or inclusiveness of other religions is the norm. Here is an incomplete list of world religions that are not even remotely as exclusive as the Christian faith…

    Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Folk religions
    The Norse mythology
    Egyptian religion
    The Greek pantheon religion

    At any rate, I just thought that your comment was odd, considering that from a historical perspective exclusive religions are a relatively new thing, in my opinion. I feel like we are skewed culturally in the west to only think about the very large Abrahamic religions. And of course, they are large because they tend to “push out” the other religions of a culture, due to their nonacceptance of other beliefs. This is, oddly enough, not all that dissimilar to the idea that one should breed an army of children that will agree with your positions in life (however, misled that idea itself is), “pushing out” the other ideas in the culture in favor of yours.

  74. Johanna says:

    @b: I believe you mean Joanna (without an h), not me.

  75. b says:

    well, that certainly is a bit embarrassing. You have my apologies, Johanna.

  76. Dar says:

    LOL–I like how the ongoing debate about having kids vs. not-having kids. It’s always fun to see the readership riled up!

    Personally, I’m the youngest of 8, but 5 of us (myself included) have chosen not to have kids. The other 3 siblings have 1, 2, and 9(!) kids, so they made up for the rest of us in any case…

    As for the golf question from Barbie–try GolfNow.com if your SIL is in an area it covers. I get decent tee time prices there all the time.

    I also have found a few courses here (in the Seattle area) that have mailing lists, and they’ll mail out online coupons at various times.

    Certainly, there are twilight and early-bird specials at most courses, and golfing during the week is practically always cheaper than the weekends!

  77. Sharon says:

    Thanks Kevin, I saw those numbers and knew they were wrong. I was afraid I would have to crunch the real ones but you did it.
    I just kept picturing New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the other big cities in the US and knew the numbers were way off. Throw in the populations of, oh, China and India, and then Africa, there will a bit of a problem.

  78. Arthi says:

    Trent, I guess you’ve hit a sensitive spot, with the answer to the first question.

    This is my view:
    A couple who have many children can provide only so much individual attention for every child.

    On the other hand, a couple who have decided to have only one child, invest all their love, parenting and grooming of morals and principles on that one child, who grows to be a moral, responsible and ethical adult, benefitting the world.

  79. Kari Laib says:

    I’ve read this blog for over a year now. I find Trent’s articles about financial topics to be helpful and spot-on.

    I am absolutely speechless about this article…I took it to mean that the only way for ‘smart and driven’ people to make a positive contribution to the world is to have children. To say this is diminishing to those of us who are child free is an understatement.

    And to address this comment:
    ‘The people are mostly Norwegian and Swedish, which means lots of calm and friendly temperaments.’
    I grew up in Northern Minnesota, and I know for a fact that this kind of sweeping racist statement is based on Trent’s beliefs and not my experience.

    Trent has a right to his beliefs, as I do mine. However, I can take action in another way, by choosing not to read this blog anymore. This will be the last time I visit this site. I wish Trent the best of luck.

  80. valletta says:

    I’m curious why Trent has not entered this conversation, as he so frequently does on other threads…

    to #67 Shevy @ 1:09 “Neither have we yet run out of oil/petroleum products”
    Apparently, the oil wars our country is currently fighting, going on 8 years, are not enough of a warning sign for you.

  81. dsz says:

    “If you’re smart and driven and have chosen to not have children, you’re much like a candle in the wind that’s not lighting any other ones.”

    Wow. I already took most of what Trent writes with a grain of salt for various reasons, including the whiff of smug that comes across every now and then but this-well, I have to say I’m disappointed but not really surprised. To my mind this is either a case the myopic attitude of youth or someone who will use any rationale to justify, but more importantly, beatify their choices.
    In either event, I think my days of believing I can gain any useful information from this site are at an end. I’m sure I’ll still enjoy the insightful and interesting comments-this is about the best bunch I’ve run across yet-I’m just done with the ‘headliner’.

  82. reulte says:

    I disagree with many things that Trent says . . . and probably a great deal more with things that he believes but hasn’t had a chance to talk about yet. However, I don’t think less of him for having very different beliefs and, if I find those beliefs based on erroneous information, I try to present my beliefs and related experiences. In my experience with TSD, Trent listens. You can see it through his writing. I try to act as though Trent is someone I’m coming to know as an occasional friend — I expect differences of opinion. I certainly don’t see them as a reason to ‘jump ship’ but rather to enjoy the give and take of conversation and information. Do I occasionally find some his writing smug and condescending? Yes, but I don’t find Trent smug or condescending.

  83. littlepitcher says:

    If you want healthy chicken alternatives, check out bodybuilding sites. These folks are well-versed in nutrition and the combining of ordinary foods for maximum protein absorption.

    YouTube has plenty of videos on how to use the iTouch for Skype, and eBay has economical headphone/mics.

    Four predominant middle-Eastern religions exist–Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Satanism. All either state outright or imply that God blesses you if you successfully steal from your opponents, and all make the subordination of women a primary component of their religion (or is that racket??)

    I’m an American, so I don’t participate in, or empower, any of these. All are tax-and-spenders, all are a drain on American incomes. Even the ones who practice charitable activities do it by forgiving the thieves seventy-times-seven and then doling out crumbs to such victims as survive their individual or social depredations. No, thanks.

  84. Fenton says:

    @littlepitcher #83 –

    “All either state outright or imply that God blesses you if you successfully steal from your opponents…”

    I’d be interested in the text within Christianity that affirms this.

    “…and all make the subordination of women a primary component of their religion (or is that racket??)”

    In Christianity… definitely racket. And by Christianity, I’m refering to what Jesus taught, not what the church has come to believe. Jesus was a huge proponent of equality, and that is seen throughout the New Testament.

  85. IRG says:

    In response to Michael, #69, who wrote:
    “It’s funny to read the desperate responses from the no-child crowd. It is obvious that they want to prevent conservatives from having children because Trent is right! This is a high-stakes game for the future.”

    First, we’re not desperate. We’re merely voicing an opinion, which differs from Trent’s. If he’s entitled to his opinion, so are we.

    I personally don’t care how many kids anyone else has…as long as they can provide for them, as needed, on the emotional, financial and physical levels required. This is not always the case. I care about how the kids are raised and if they get what they need on so many levels, including parenting that is positive and appropriate.

    I would prefer that these children were all “planned” for and wanted. This, sadly, is NOT the case with many instances. This is where I have a problem. Life is tough enough but to have been born to parents who either don’t want you and/or can’t care for you? Please. This is about the welfare of children, not somebody’s right to “breed.” (because frankly in some instances that’s all some people are doing. They are not PARENTING, which is very different from merely having a child. Huge difference).

    The number of children literally tossed away, abused, and even killed because some people should NEVER have had children is unacceptable.

    Again, that’s what I care about. Not how many kids families who can afford to have them have.

    I read a very poignant book a few years ago by a man who was one of 10 kids in a family with births starting in the 40s and going thru the 60s. It was heartbreaking to hear how painful his growing up was. His parents simply were not present for the kids, who were essentially raised by each other, as is often the case.

    again, the point of most of these comments that disagreed with Trent, was NOT the number of kids but that those who chose to not have (or COULD NOT HAVE…) children could make no real contribution to change the world. That’s poor logic to say the least.

    To the person who pointed out that there are “many many” women elsewhere in the world who still want lots of kids: Really? If they had the absolute choice, as in having available birth control, as in not being forced into things by their religion or culture?

    Sorry, do not believe that. Some, maybe, but not “many” Especially in countries where people can’t feed their kids and they die early (oh, maybe you mean they have many children to “replace” those they lost?)

    Finally, having kids cannot be equated with automatically making a contribution or making a difference in the world–other than adding quite literally to a “body count”. Some parents raise monsters. Some people brought serial killers into the world. Gee, what a contribution. Sorry for the extremes here but I simply cannot accept that the sheer ability to produce a child means you’ve made the world better.

    That’s not quite how it works.

    It’s never about numbers, it’s about the quality of how you raise/parent your children. To those who struggle each day to be a conscious, aware, parent, I say: Thank you. THIS benefits us all. Raising responsible humans to be good citizens? Very important and thank you.

    To those of you who have all those kids and who have abused them, mentally, emotionally or physically, shame on you. Whether it’s one or ten or more.

    To those who have children for ANY other reason than a personal commitment, which means there are no guarantees of anything, please, THINK about what you are doing.

  86. Johanna says:

    To build on what IRG said about women in the developing world who supposedly want lots of kids: As I understand it, infant and child mortality has a lot less to do with children starving to death and a lot more to do with deaths due to things like malaria or dehydration from diarrhea from drinking contaminated water. These aren’t the parents’ fault for failing to provide for their kids, since the cures (or means of prevention) wouldn’t be reliably available to them regardless of how many children they had.

    Consider also that people in the poorest parts of the world don’t have Social Security, Medicare, disability or long-term care insurance, 401(k)’s or Roth IRAs, low-cost index funds, or often even a place to safely store money over the long term. If they become too old or sick to work and don’t have younger, healthier family members to take care of them, what are they going to do? Combine that with the high child mortality rate, and maybe they have to have 5-6 children to ensure that at least 1-2 of them will make it to adulthood with their health intact. Presto – there’s your large families.

  87. almost there says:

    In the 1st world I think that parents shouldn’t have children that they can’t afford to raise with a stable home life, well fed and educated. Of course our jails prove that it isn’t the case. I marvel at these pro choice, pro life bumper stickers on cars. I think the more truthful one would be ” Pro Abortion – A Child should not be raised in ignorance and want”.

  88. Shevy says:

    Sorry to be coming back to this so late but I was occupied with the religious holiday of Sukkot, both the preparations and the actual celebration of the first 2 days.

    Johanna has pretty well hit the nail on the head regarding the motivation of the majority of the people in the developing world for having large families, even though they may not be able to provide for them adequately. If you don’t have adult children who will take care of you as you age you will die. There are no safety nets other than having sufficient family members.

    As for IRG’s response to me:
    “To the person who pointed out that there are “many many” women elsewhere in the world who still want lots of kids: Really? If they had the absolute choice, as in having available birth control, as in not being forced into things by their religion or culture?

    Sorry, do not believe that. Some, maybe, but not “many” ”

    You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to believe the world is round or that man landed on the moon either. But your belief seems to me to be based on your limited knowledge of religious communities of all kinds, an underestimation of the sheer number of religiously observant families throughout the world and your apparent distate for organized religion (based on your comments that imply women are coerced or brainwashed into a subservient position due to religion).

    While I freely admit that there are some women who feel oppressed by their religion you cannot brush off those of us who are educated and find deep meaning in our beliefs and practices. I can think of at least a dozen women I know offhand (within my own religious niche) who have between 7 and 13 children. I also know many younger women who will almost certainly have that many over the years, although they have only 3 or 4 now.

    These are not women who are ignorant of birth control. Indeed, some women do use birth control for limited periods of time to space their children, but still ultimately will have many. Nor are they women who are uninterested in raising their children or in participating in the world.

    Many of them work in education, as preschool, elementary or high school teachers. I know a woman who is a high school principal and another who has a pediatric orthopedic therapy practice. I’ve also known women who are pediatric nurses or who teach English as a Second Language.

    They love children. They love working with them and teaching them and coming up with creative things to do with them, both their students and their children.

    Do not put these women (and that includes ME) down. That is ignorant and unfair of you. Go and spend some time in religious communities of various kinds and then you will be in a better position to form an opinion as to what religious women really think and want.

  89. IRG says:

    No one is putting you or anyone else down for having lots of kids–that is you reading into something. Questioning is NOT putting down. If you read what I said, I indicated my concern that parents are able to take care of (on all levels) whatever number of children they have. And that having lots of kids is always by personal choice, and not unduly influenced by anyone or anything (whether it’s society, an in-law, a husband, or yes, religion)

    And you overlook my words when I indicated that I felt that some women did indeed feel this way, but I disagreed with the use of the word “many” (by the way, you are most certainly entitled to your opinion and anecdotal stories, but I’d like to see numbers and research to support some of your contentions here.I speak from opinion and make that clear. I question from opinion. You talk “facts” but are really only giving YOUR opinion, to which you are entitled.) The issue is one of numbers, quantity. (You admit that some feel oppressed. I say that there are many who do feel pressured and would never admit it. This does not negate the fact that many choose more children and are happy.)

    I am not “anti-religion” / I am someone who hopes that every human being questions their choices based on their own abilities and resources and beliefs. Not what they have only been brought up to believe. (FYI: I was raised as a catholic and kept that faith for many decades. And then, after studying other religions, chose to leave it and embrace what was, for me, a more positive way to live in the world. My friends represent all major religions and many of them, interestingly, have changed from one religion to another over the years based on studying and exploring other religions. They remain devout and I deeply respect their choices, which are THEIR choices. )

    I am neither ignorant nor unfair in having an opinion. You however are judging me. I have not judged either you or whatever religion you are associated with. This is NOT a religious issue to me, by the way. As I believe that everyone, including the most devout, considers many things beyond religious doctrine in making a decision about having children.

    I actually give people far more credit for their choices than you seem to want to acknowledge.

    If you’re feeling defensive, as you clearly are, it has nothing to do with what I’ve said. That’s coming from within you.

    By the way, I happen to care enough about children that I believe that having one is perhaps the greatest gift. My concern is that every child is not welcomed into the world and provided for as if they were the real gift they are. For all the wonderful parents in the world, and there are many, there are still far too many who have far too many children who they do not raise appropriately–for the child. That is opinion. I would rather people had fewer children and loved them more. Again, opinion.

    PS: How much study have you done of the children of these parents who have so many? I’d be very interested to hear what they think. Nobody ever seems to bring that up.

    It isn’t about the numbers, but about the quality of parenting, etc.

    You’ve missed that point repeatedly.

  90. Shevy says:

    I agree that questioning is not necessarily putting down. However, I feel that some of your questioning was, at the very least, condescending.

    I also think that a portion of our disagreement may have something to do with the word “many”.

    What constitutes “many”? Is it 1,000 women in North America? 10,000? 100,000? A specified percentage of the female population? Or, more specifically, a percentage of the religious female population?

    Whatever we consider to be “many”, it is clearly true that in society as a whole the birth rate has dropped significantly over the past 50 years. Some of this reflects the availability of birth control, some reflects the trend toward later marriage (and having children later in marriage), some reflects the number of women who are in the workforce and wish to remain there, some of it reflects infertility issues, some of it reflects conformity with changing cultural norms, and so on.

    It is fairly rare to see a non-religious family with more than 4 or 5 children nowadays (since the average number of children is currently below replacement), although this would not have been unusual in the 1950s. So, for the most part, when we talk about large families we’re talking about families that belong to some religious movement.

    Yes, I did not address some of your comments regarding quality of parenting, etc. I did not address areas where I agreed with you because we are both already writing quite enough, discussing those areas where we disagree.

    And I’m not being defensive when I say that a sentence like “Really? If they had the absolute choice, as in having available birth control, as in not being forced into things by their religion or culture?” comes across as being a putdown of women who choose to have large families in general, and religious women in particular.

    Your implication was clearly that, if they had access to birth control their actions would change. Or, if they weren’t being “forced” they would change.

    I pointed out that religious women in developed countries do have access to birth control and many (that word again) use it, at least for short periods of time. I didn’t mention it previously but I recently had a discussion with a highly religious woman, the wife of a rabbi and educator, who talked very frankly with me about young, religious women and birth control. These were not her opinions, rather the knowledge she had gained by counseling these women.

    Also, I find it interesting that you “question from opinion” but that you expect me to provide “numbers and research” rather than my opinion and anecdotal evidence (which you refer to and then say that I “talk ‘facts'” but am really only giving my opinion).

    Well, of course I’m only giving my opinion. I’m not defending a thesis here. I *never* mentioned the word “facts” in that comment. It was clear that I was providing a very small amount of anecdotal evidence that contradicted your assertions.

    I could write much more. I don’t have hard numbers in front of me but I don’t need them. I know many women personally and can see, as their older children have gotten married over the past decade, just how large a family those spouses come from. I’ve walked down the street in Crown Heights and Boro Park. I’ve seen the families walking down the streets. I see the wedding albums of friends of friends and can see the sheer numbers of children in those pictures. And this is just one tiny fragment of the religious population of North America. There are so many, other, larger groups out there.

    How much study have I done of children from large families? I’m not formally studying the topic at all. However, I can tell you that the children who grew up with my adult children are getting married in their 20s and are having children early in their marriages. The ones who have been married for close to 10 years average 4 to 5 children at this point. A friend with 11 children, 5 of whom are married, has 14 grandchildren. Obviously, these kids haven’t all been turned off of large families.

    And, as a mother of 4 children (3 of whom are grown), I have 3 grandchildren and one on the way although none of the adult kids are particularly religious.

    There are other aspects of your comment I could address but I think we’ve taken up a lot of space here already.

    I’ll just conclude with my observation that you have clearly shifted your argument in this latest comment.

    Contrast the quote I listed earlier (beginning “Really?”) with your later comment:
    “As I believe that everyone, including the most devout, considers many things beyond religious doctrine in making a decision about having children.”

    And then: “It isn’t about the numbers, but about the quality of parenting, etc.”

    While the quality of parenting is criticallly important, we were specifically talking about numbers (and religion). As I said, there’s no need for us to discuss the areas where we agree.

  91. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    If no one had children, we would all be candles in the wind. In one hundred years, there would be no human race.

    Thus, anyone that chooses not to have a child is themselves a candle in the wind. They’re relying on others to continue the flame.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *