Updated on 06.21.10

The Big Choice

Trent Hamm

In today’s reader mailbag, I answered a question about digging out from under a pile of debt with some comments about a big choice people have to make in their twenties:

The problem you’re having is the problem a lot of people our age have: we want everything but we don’t have the resources to pay for it.

Many people solve that problem by taking on an absurd amount of debt, an amount that they’ll spend most of their life repaying. It’ll cause them to walk a financial tightrope for most of the rest of their lives, making it impossible to do anything but work at whatever job will pay the most, at the complete mercy of their boss.

I prefer the other solution. Put off some of those “needs” until you’re a little older. You don’t need the new car and the new house and the kids immediately. Live cheap when you’re in your twenties and early thirties and channel everything into your career and freeing yourself from your student loan debt.

It’s a decision most of us have to make at some point. I think many people dive into the first choice without reflecting on the consequences – but I think that solution sometimes ends in miserable lives. You have an opportunity right now to figure out which path you want to take.

All throughout the last several days, as we had family visiting and we spent some time with several of our friends, this choice kept popping into my head. I kept looking at the decisions various people had made in their twenties and how it affected their life today.

John, for example, chose to put off his “needs.” After college, he got a very good job right in his career path and he could have easily afforded a shiny car, a nice house, and the like. Instead, he spent his twenties living in a small apartment in a poor neighborhood, driving a beat-up used car, and focusing on succeeding in his career path. Where’s he at today at age thirty two? He owns twenty acres of land – and by “owns” I mean he doesn’t have a mortgage. He has absolutely no debt. He has tens of thousands of dollars in savings. He has a very strong position at his current job. And he’s only thirty two.

I chose a different path, at least at first. I also got a great job in my career path (based on the degree I earned in college), but I got married very quickly. We had an expensive honeymoon. We racked up credit card debt left and right. We had kids very quickly. Eventually, we had lots of stuff, but we had no financial foundation at all. I had a career path that had no flexibility. We didn’t have money for a house down payment. We could barely cover the bills we had.

The truth of the matter is that one path is very easy at first and the other is harder, but not impossible. It’s easier to just say “yes” to all of the credit and live the material high life. The problem, of course, is that a person’s early professional income rarely matches up to all of the stuff that they want, but the tools are available to simply put those payments off to the future.

The problem is that if you follow that easy path, you absolutely shackle your future opportunities. Since you have so many debt payments – the house payment, the student loan payments, the car payments, credit card debt – coming at you in addition to normal monthly bills and living expenses, you become tied to the highest-paying job you can get, with that money all channeled into paying for all of your stuff. That job can be punishing – at such a job, you’re often doing nothing more than working or thinking about work. You can’t change careers. You can’t lose your job. And you’re stuck.

On the other hand, if you take the road less traveled right off the bat, you give yourself tons of opportunities down the road. John, for example, has enough cash in the bank that if he chose to go back to school and change careers right now, he could without skipping a beat. If he loses his job, it’s not panic time – instead, it’s time to sit back and just think about what comes next in his life, calmly and rationally. If an emergency happens, he can deal with it without skipping a beat. If he decides that he actually wants something, he can buy it – but the first few years of his professional life helped him to learn a lot of personal restraint, so he only buys stuff he truly wants and will get value from.

From my perspective, the real truth of the matter is we all have a choice to make in life. Do we want freedom or do we want stuff? I’ve tried both paths and freedom is a lot more enjoyable.

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  1. Roger says:

    How often do you see this lesson and advice in the mass media? Approximately never. Instead we are saturated with images of the heavenly pleasures of immediate gratification in ads backed by any number of studies on how to persuade people to respond, and embedded products and situations that establish a standard and expectation of high consumption.

    One counter is what my daughter calls a life-plan. If you have a plan for your finances, as John did, you can stick to it and be insulated (somewhat at least) from impulses.

  2. Courtney says:

    While I agree with your overall point, I have two comments.

    The first relates to education. If one is contemplating a job that requires a high level of education (law, medicine, etc), it is often considerably easier to get the education when young. This is for a number of reasons but include not having a spouse and kids at that age and needing substantial physical stamina to get through the rigorous course of study. I think it’s important to make sure that you minimize any loans you need and also to make sure that it’s a field you want to go into for life.

    And second, putting off kids until your thirties and beyond is also a risky venture. The simple fact is that fertility declines. If someone does want children at that age, very expensive fertility treatments and/or an expensive adoption may be required. (I speak from significant experience here. It cost us over $10K to have our son and we’re one of the incredibly lucky couples because we have insurance that partially covered our treatments).

    That said, I think many people today struggle because they want the things that their parents have after a lifetime of work and they want it immediately. Then they promptly get in trouble with a credit card and it spirals down from there.

  3. Moriah says:

    Great encouragement for someone early in a career slogging away for the long term success! Thanks!

  4. Daniel says:

    This was probably the encouragement I needed to see today. Just switched to a very cheap wireless plan (dropped my expensive smartphone), and thinking of completely dropping home TV *and* Internet service. All told, I’d be saving about $170 per month. That’s a huge amount of money to someone my age (22) and I have $50,000 of debt, so it would go towards paying that debt off. Everything acts like I’m a freak when I talk about dropping stuff like this – but I’d rather have freedom from the debt, too.

  5. David says:

    Best post I’ve read today.

    I’m in the middle of a ton of these decisions right now, and trying to keep those “needs” (which aren’t, really) in check as much as possible.

    The benefits of making that choice hit early for me. I had a decent, seemingly secure job. I could have “afforded” a nicer apartment, a car payment, some stuff, etc. But I chose to put it off (thank goodness). The company was hit hard by the downturn and the dream job only lasted a few months.

    BUT – Because I had limited my expenses, I was able to stay in the area long enough to find an even better dream job and a great relationship.

    On the other hand, if I had opted for the nicer apartment or the car payment, I couldn’t have afforded to do the best thing for my career or my relationship: I would have been stuck moving immediately to take whatever job I could find.

    In short: wise advice, worth heeding.

  6. gail says:

    i agree with most of this post. except about the timing of kids. if you’re going to have kids, you need to think about more than just the finances involved. being an older mom, i had my son when i was 36 (not by choice–infertility was an issue) and now i’m in my late 40’s. speaking from experience, its much more exhausting to raise children when you’re older. ask any young grandparent who is raising their grandkids and they’ll agree. its much easier energy-wise to have kids in your early 20’s. just another consideration in the whole scheme of life.

  7. David says:

    I know a problem with my generation is that we see our parents with new furniture, nice car, stuff, etc. But we forget that it took them a long time to get there.

  8. Evangeline says:

    It is so hard to make some of these choices when the people you love, respect and admire are positively aghast at those decisions. It takes a lot of determination and thick skin to handle those choices, and yet that is exactly what you have to do. My MIL just about fainted when she realized I did without a dryer for a year. Oh the horror not to mention the embarrassment because I was ‘too poor’ to afford a new one. She nearly fainted again when she learned I had the money the whole time and *chose* to wait deliberately. You have to stand firm and make choices the way Trent’s friend did….and your life will be so much better for it.

  9. Romeo@howwepreventwealth says:

    I absolutely agree but, unfortunately what I’ve come to realize is that even if you were taught or have taught yourself to sacrifice financially ( not necessarily being as frugal as Evangeline :P ) most of us need some sort of wake up call. We need a “boy, what have I been doing to myself for the last ten year?” Good for John.

  10. lurker carl says:

    The 800 lb gorilla was ignored in both of today’s posts. The absurd amount of debt (education) was taken on before credit cards, houses, cars, children and marriage were considered.

  11. Malisa says:

    Another thing that often blinds younger people who are in ‘want’ mode is windfalls. Whether they be inheritances, bonuses, the rising value of real estate or even selling something of value. When you start to get near the brink of financial disaster and something always seems to come along to ease the pain, it’s easy to unconsciously think that something will always come along and bail you out.

    As you get older, you realize that the sources of these windfalls is not inexhaustible and you need to spend less than you make REGULARLY. Relying on them is a hard habit to break.

  12. Ken says:

    Choose freedom or stuff…well put….I made some of your same mistakes…I have learned from most of them….young adults just won’t say ‘no’ to stuff and the marketing attached. It’s sad to see so many put themselves so deep in the hole just starting out. Good post!

  13. Leah W. says:

    Trent, totally agree as to “stuff.” I totally disagree as to kids. If you know you want kids, have kids. Bring kid home to tiny apartment. Drive kid to public school in paid-for beat-up car. Buy kid second-hand or hand-me-down clothes. But if you know you want kids, have kids ASAP. I do want financial freedom, but not at the expense of missing out on having kids because I waited too long.

  14. Kelly says:

    I agree with Gail on the kids issue. When DH and I married we had decided on a few kids…well pregnancy didn’t happen right away..we had our only child 5 yrs after we married. I would love to give him a sibling but given that my husband will be 47 in a few weeks,he is dead set against more children because he says he is ‘too old’. If infertility hadn’t been an issue I am sure we’d have more than one child. I feel horrible that I’m not able to give my son a sibling.

  15. Rowenna says:

    I agree with the first comment – it makes me very uncomfortable for marriage and children to be lumped with having an expensive house or racking up credit card debt. Not only is it often better health-wise and energy-wise to have children a bit younger, if you plan to have more than one or two kids, you certainly have to start sooner. In a post earlier today as well Trent suggested that someone should put off having kids, like it’s putting off buying a big screen TV or something frivolous. He said there’s the easy route, or the route that’s going to be harder, but if you really want to have a family, I don’t think any “easy route” will make up for depriving yourself of that.

  16. Nate says:

    This was a wonderful post. Really enjoyed it.

  17. Kelly says:

    @Rowenna..right! The longer one waits to have kids, the harder it is…especially in women! Being that I was 30 when I got pregnant with my son, it was a lot harder tto get pregnant than if I’d have gotten pregnant while still in my 20’s. I did wait until I was 26 to get married, thinking that children would soon follow but life doesn’t always work out that way.

  18. Kristine says:

    Young people have the spirit of being able to do anything. Once the loan payments kick in or the credit card bills are too high, their created reality will start to weigh down on them. At that point, it’s up to them to learn to take the other path…to financial freedom.

    I guess the funny thing is that all of this happens for a reason. Without these lessons, one can’t really learn from them. Of course, it’s nice to get a head start on the obstacles by learning from other people’s mistakes. :)

  19. SP says:

    You can have a little bit of both –it isn’t so cut and dry.

    Many of us have choices. So, have the kids now and sacrifice the big house and the unnecessary stuff. Or wait to have kids and have a nice honeymoon that you couldn’t afford with kids and also couldn’t bring kids with on.

    Skipping the law degree she’ll never use is the obvious answer, but hindsight is 20/20

  20. Tammy says:

    We chose a completely different route, focusing on family (marriage and kids) instead of chasing the dollar *or* stuff. One of us always stayed home to be the parent and handle life’s lunacies, and while we went without a lot of things living on a single income, we budgeted well and are now – in our 40’s – doing GREAT. So, so many of our friends are miserable and struggling, with both finances and their marriages. For us, it just gets better and better.

    Different people want different things and I think it’s important to decide what you want to focus on, whether or not it’s a common or popular choice.

  21. This was a really great post, that made me think about so many of the choices I have personally made. Thank you!

  22. AndreaS says:

    One option not mentioned is adult kids continuing to live with parents. I realize it is not “cool” to do so, and surely many adult kids turn into mooches. But it works for us.

    In our family those who did choose to delay moving out left in much better financial shape, than had they moved out as soon as earthy possible.

    We have never charged them room and board. But we expect them to use this gift to save money and pay off loans. If they didn’t, I would boot them out, or at least charge room and board. We expect them to contribute to the work load of the house (such as lawn mowing, washing dishes) and also respect the house rules.

  23. KT says:

    The biggest choice my husband and I could have made was not to live in a high cost of living area. We don’t have tens of thousands of savings – we have hundreds in our mid-to-late twenties. We’ve lived on the cheap – paid-off cars, sharing spaces with roommates to save money, a honeymoon almost covered by a generous relative, used furniture, and most everything bought used, on sale, or with a coupon (if we couldn’t find a free source). Yet we still find that we cannot afford much of a home of our own within an easy commute and allow one of us to stay home with any future children. Sure, both of us could work like many in our area and be in a financially plumb position, but wanting “it all” sometimes includes things that aren’t money. And sometimes even the most careful financial planning in your twenties leads you struggling to get there, not 32 and owning 20 acres of land outright.

  24. Kevin says:

    Here’s a crazy idea: What if you don’t have kids AT ALL? Ever. Just think how much easier life would be if you simply choose to NEVER take on such a burden. Let me tell you from personal experience that a lot of financial missteps can be easily recovered from without the burden of children weighing down your life and budget.

    You can have the freedom AND the stuff, if you’re willing to skip the kids. I think a lot more people are coming to this realization than in past generations. People feel less inclined to give in to societal expectations, and are realizing that life has so much more to offer than just being a walking incubator.

  25. Sandy L says:

    I know it was already brought up by other posters, but I can’t stress enough how real fertility issues are for women in their 30’s. I know more than my fair share of professional women and many of them waited to have children, including myself. Most of them had this to say “If I knew it would have been this hard, I wouldn’t have waited this long to try to start a family.”

    Not being able to have children when you really want them is gut wrenching. Many of the women I knew went on to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility specialists, in-vitro, etc.

    In the end it all worked out and I’m glad that we were on stable financial footing before starting a family. I think though, if I were still trying to conceive 5 years later with no kids to bounce on my knee, I may have a different opinion about my choices.

    Actually, the flip side to this is that I also believe you shouldn’t bring a baby into this world unless you have a means to support them. My mom was one of 10 and often went without a proper meal, clothes or heat. She was always bitter that her parents kept having kids even though they had no way to provide for them all.

  26. I have the freedom AND the stuff (as much as I want anyway) – and I have 2 kids and have never been married. I wish people would stop blaming children for their financial state. I can tell you from personal experience that I recovered from my own financial missteps BECAUSE I had kids and someone to be responsible FOR. Kids don’t spend money, parents spend money. Since I’ve semi-retired this year at 44, it’s not impossible.

    I totally agree with others that it’s much easier to have kids (or be an “incubator” as a previous commenter said) when you’re younger. I had my oldest when I was 22 and my youngest at 35. Far preferred the 22 y.o. experience in every way apart from having more patience and being more conscious as an older parent.

  27. Ben says:

    When you get reader questions at this age range, it’s often the I am between a rock and a hard place, which one should I pick?

    By mid-20s, I fear, many are already under water in a house they shouldn’t have bought and paying on student loans they’ll have for decades to come.

  28. J says:

    @#13 Kevin
    Exactly. That’s been my plan. No debt, no worries, abundant freedom. Win.

  29. Sara says:

    I agree with lurkercarl. This totally ignores the fact that now we have to clear debt before we can start saving for a house and family. In the 1950’s, you could graduate high school at 18, save for 3 or 4 years, and buy a house at 22. With a 30 year mortgage, you’ve have it paid off by 52. Now most people go to college (figure 4 years) and then have to pay off student loans and credit card debt – which, let’s say takes them 10 years (reasonable for basic 4 year degree – but probably not realistic for the letter writer). That puts them at 32 – 10 years behind. Then they have to save for a down payment – say that takes 4 years. They don’t end up buying a house until 36 – so with a 30 year mortgage they won’t have it paid off until retirement.

    I think that’s what a lot of late 20-somethings/early 30-somethings realize. They realize that the traditional advice of paying off all debt and saving for a 20% down payment, a 6 month emergency fund, and fully funded retirement will take over a decade. It’s not about instant gratification of wants – it’s about realizing that instead of the 3 or 4 years their parents rented a cheap apartment, they will have to wait decades before starting a family or buying a house. And on the family bit, I totally agree with other posters that having a baby is more than a financial decision. Being a parent when you’re older has its own set of challenges, including (but not limited to) conceiving.

    Both purchasing a house and having a baby are also changes in lifestyle, not just financial decisions, although there is a financial component to both. However, people need to consider their ages and maturity, not just their financial positions before they buy a house or have a baby. And because of the added burdens of student loans and debt, people are realizing that they now have to juggle when they’re financially ready and emotionally/mentally ready to either buy a house or have a baby – this sort of situation didn’t exist before when people bought houses, got married, and had kids straight out of high school.

  30. Stephanie says:

    I agree with everything but the kids piece (for people who want them). A very dear friend is now in great financial shape and now wants and can easily afford the wife, house and multiple children- he is also 40. The women his age that he knows either have had their children, are having problems having children or never wanted them in the first place. So he is dating a solid decade younger than he is because he wants children. We have had multiple conversations and he wishes he had started settling down ten years ago with someone his own age.

  31. ITGuy says:

    This article kind of hits home for me. My wife (30) and I (32) have 2 children, and would honestly like 2 more. We got married young (22,24) but decided to wait 5 years before having kids. During that time, we both focused on each other, our careers, and our hobbies. We have an amazing marriage and we are one hell of a team. I think this gave us a great foundation to expand our family. We are both very active, so keeping up with these little monsters isn’t an issue. It all depends on what you want out of life. Would I love to have a 30k fishing boat, sure, who woldn’t. But the look on my son’s face when fishing from the shore with dad…priceless. For me, life isn’t about the stuff, it’s about the experience. Both my wife and I work very hard, but we enjoy life and our children are taken care of and don’t have a care in the world. Granted, they don’t have all the newest and greatest toys…but they don’t seem to mind.

  32. Gretchen says:

    I don’t think it’s so black and white.

    I don’t want 20 acres (not the least reason being not everyone can own such a large parcel) but I sure did enjoy my honeymoon and Europe.

  33. Matt says:

    What happened to this blog? I’ve been following it for some time and really enjoyed a lot of the backlog such as specific money saving tips and especially the recipes. Now it’s just become a series of posts about the same “Don’t buy stuff you don’t need” platitudes coupled with obscure book reviews and really really specific Q&A’s. Does anyone really need to read about someone’s overly detailed and exclusive situation?

    In regards to this post, is John happily married with children? If it is wrong to envy someone’s possessions, isn’t it wrong to envy his lifestyle and land holdings? I hope his twenty acres of land keep him warm at night…

  34. Matt says:

    What happened to this blog? I’ve been following it for some time and really enjoyed a lot of the backlog such as specific money saving tips and especially the recipes. Now it’s just become a series of posts about the same “Don’t buy stuff you don’t need” platitudes coupled with obscure book reviews and really really specific Q&A’s. Does anyone really need to read about someone’s overly detailed and exclusive situation?

    In regards to this post, is John happily married with children? If it is wrong to envy someone’s possessions, isn’t it wrong to envy his lifestyle and land holdings? I hope his twenty acres of land keep him warm at night…

  35. Lauren says:

    I think this an issue that you can’t always plan. Biologically it may be better to have kids when you are 24, but what if you don’t meet the right person until much later? It just isn’t very helpful to tell people to have their children when they are young. I’m 30 and pregnant with my first child. My husband and I haven’t even been married a year, so we couldn’t have really gotten pregnant much earlier in life (unless we weren’t married or had kids with the wrong partner when we were young). I was expecting it to take a long time, but we only tried for 3 months. I shudder when I think how miserable I would have been if I had married and had children with my college boyfriend.

  36. sp2 says:

    @ #6 Kelly

    “I feel horrible that I’m not able to give my son a sibling.”

    Please don’t look at it that way. All of the folks I know who are only children have grown up to be astute, intelligent, interesting people. They tend to have better language skills because of hanging out with adults all the time, and they are well educated because their parents had time to take them to interesting places and didn’t have to struggle to put multiple children through college. Please look at it in a quality vs. quantity aspect: it’s not how many children you can have but the quality of time you can spend with the one(s) you’ve got.

    Conceiving a second child as a companion for the first one isn’t always in the best interest of the second child. I am a second child and was well aware when I was younger that I was brought into the world mainly for my sibling’s convenience, and I spent much of my childhood being forced to entertain my older sibling and was discouraged from following my own pursuits. In my mind, it would have been better for me to not have been born at all than to be an afterthought.

    After my parents divorced, I became like an only child (I stayed most of the time with the parent that didn’t have my sibling) and the quality of my life improved greatly.

  37. GJW says:

    Is having children in your 30’s really considered that late? We had been married for 5 years when I had my first at 31, and the second at 34. Barring fertility issues which of course can take time if you start in your 30’s, and which I was fortunate not to have, I really didn’t feel that was that old. Most of my friends had kids at the same age (and one of my best friends had her kids at 40 and 42, but infertility was an issue there) and I had at least 3 male friends who had their first at age 40 or older, and only one wife was significantly younger. None of us comment that we feel or felt too old to keep up with them!

  38. My Freelance Road Trip says:

    Amen! Freedom is a lot more enjoyable!

  39. momcents says:

    Wow, Trent, it seems like you really touched a nerve with the women who read your blog. I was going to comment that it takes a bit more than financial planning for a woman to decide to have children, but it looks like they beat me to it.

    I used to work with an organization that facilitated finances for approx. 80 fertility clinics. I talked with dozens of older women daily about trying to conceive. The overwhelming chorus was that they would have been willing to struggle financially and start their families earlier if it meant never having to go through the multiple miscarriages, the daily injections, and all the other painful processes they associated with fertility treatment.

  40. chacha1 says:

    I think on the coasts it’s more “normal” to start families in your 30s, in the heartland people tend to start earlier. But #10 SP has made the most germane comment.

    If you really value having kids early, you need to CHOOSE to do that and you need to understand that by so choosing, you are, very likely, simultaneously choosing not to be able to buy a house, new cars, expensive degrees, luxury vacations, and a lot of other things until much later in life – if ever.

    As J.D. says over at Get Rich Slowly, you can anything you want – but you can’t have *everything* you want.

    Kids are expensive. If you’re truly happy to live a very modest lifestyle, or if you are a high earner, then go ahead and pop those kids out before you’re 30. We sure seem to hear from a lot of young couples with a bunch of kids and money troubles, though.

    Personally, I believe a lot of people just have kids whenever they happen to come along and don’t actual think this through or plan anything out. Just as a lot of people get married without talking about finances.

  41. LeslieH says:

    If you even remotely have the urge to have children, for women, you’re better off starting well before 30. There are statistics upon statistics showing that fertility problems increase with age. They can bring lots of heartbreak and financial disaster if expensive fertility treatments are needed.

    I’m a prime example. I had two children in my early 20s and had a hard time getting pregnant. They told me I had “slight fertility problems”. I learned later on, after a miscarriage and several rounds of fertility drugs that I had PCOS. I’m blessed with the two that I have, but I wanted more. Had I waited until 30 to start my family, I most likely wouldn’t have been able to conceive. Just be aware that there can be hidden issues that can prevent your having a family the old fashioned way.

  42. brad says:

    i hope this post was a lead to a followup with john’s campground WITH pictures. i mean its been almost a year!

  43. Sarah says:

    Add me to the group who disagrees with waiting to have children. We “waited” until I was 25, had a house (with a affordable mortgage) and good jobs. My doctor told me, at age 27 that “time is against you”. Waiting will just make it harder to conceive and more expensive (yeah, IVF costs increases by age sometimes).

    Sometimes waiting for something is a missed opportunity completely.

  44. Marie says:

    I am in my mid-twenties and doing what AndreaS (#12) talked about: living at home in order to pay off a gigantic amount of student loans (this in spite of grants, scholarships, going in-state, etc.). At this point I am so sick of debt that I would have a hard time ever financing something in the future besides a house.

    I agree with the posters who say it is strange that kids are tossed in the conversation as if they were equivalent to buying a shiny new sports car on a whim. A lot of my friends (and myself) are aware that if we want kids, we do have a biological window after which it gets much, much harder. Only one couple I know has a child right now; the rest of my friends seem to be very purposeful about using this time to travel, become financially fit, etc. before they take the leap.

    So, I guess I just want to say that I agree with a lot of the commenters thus far and enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughtful comments. I also want to say that not all 20-somethings are spendthrifts who are easily seduced by marketing and never think about the future!

  45. Sandy says:

    I disagree with JD…I believe one CAN have everything they want…but for most of us, we can’t have it all at the same time.
    My husband and I married at 26, waited 5 years and travelled worldwide, then we decided it was time to experience parenthood. We were 31 when our first came along and 36 when #2 came along.
    Now in our late 40s, we have been able to raise these 2 girls without ever going into unmanageable debt, by buying a regular house, and keeping our cars till they were done, and really, by saying “NO” to ourselves many times over the years. Now, we’ve paid off the mortgage (helpful as the oldest will start college in 2 years)and are planning to spend some money to remodel the house a bit, and buy my hard working husband a great car that he will love to drive. Time to say “YES” to ourselves after many years of making other priorities. If you can practice that bit about delayed gratification for stuff (big house, new cars every few years, shopping for entertainment,etc..) and realize that a big house with a stay home parent may not go hand and hand, but a smaller home and a stay at home parent can. I guess it’s all in what’s important to you.

  46. Andy says:

    I think the overall idea of “do we want freedom or do we want stuff” is a really great callout.

    I agree with a lot of other folks that when to have kids isn’t a decision that’s going to be purely driven by finances (at least for a lot of us). BUT, I think your point is that it’s going to be a personal decision as to how you balance your life decisions with your financial ones.

    If it’s important to you to have kids in your twenties, go for it! But be mindful of what else you need to do to financially balance that choice out…drive a used car, buy a cheaper house, drink the free coffee at work instead of buying it out, etc. etc. If you find a good balance, you can hopefully have freedom, but still not compromise the things that matter most.

    Good post, Trent!

  47. SJ says:

    Kevin said it best. If you’re focused on acquiring stuff and having the easiest life possible, kids are not the way to go.

  48. Quatrefoil says:

    I’d have to add my voice to those saying that having children is not something you should put off – or at least not for very long. If you’re lucky enough to have found the right relationship in your 20s and you know that you want children, it’s far better to have them sooner rather than later. I have far too many friends who have endured the heartbreak of infertility because they believed that they needed to have all their ducks in a row (debts paid off, house bought, career on track etc.) before they could have children. Unfortunately the biological clock is a finite thing and it gets much harder the older you get.

  49. Lauren says:

    Kids are expensive, yes. But doesn’t this seem like a false dilemma to anyone else? You don’t have to choose between a solid financial foundation and procreation. Sure, it’s harder to save when you have to spend a bit more, but it has been done before. It’s just a matter of priorities.

    As for the rest of your article Trent, I completely agree. My investment adviser told me once to, “live like no one else today so that you can live like no one else tomorrow.”

  50. triLcat says:

    I think that people are absolutely right – delaying kids is not a decision that can be made on a purely financial basis. If you can’t feed and clothe them reasonably, you shouldn’t have them, but otherwise, you really need to prioritize in order to have them earlier rather than later.

    Getting the Wii five years down the line instead of now means that you’ll get a newer model and you’ll probably get it cheaper. Having children five years down the line might mean that you’ll be in better shape financially, but it might mean that fertility issues will make the choice for you and it might mean that you won’t have the energy for your children.

    I think, btw, regarding the making the choice, that there’s plenty of room in between. My husband and I (and 2 kids) live in a medium apartment (that we’re getting super-low rent on) without a car, but we decided that we need a dishwasher and we don’t have the time/energy to devote to hanging laundry. We have some other toys and gadgets to play with (though no Wii, even though we both drool over the idea of it)

    We’re also taking the family to Finland this summer.

    We wouldn’t be able to have all of those things and no debt and money in savings if we owned a house and a car. In fact, if we owned a car, we’d be overspending our earnings every month. Without one, we’re managing to save a bit even though we’re going through a financial rough patch right now (b/c I’m unable to work due to health issues)

  51. Caroline says:

    I wish everyone had to read Your Money of Your Life when they’re 17. Young enough to really benefit, old enough to understand what you’re about to get into.

    Even without reading that book til I was 27, I can’t thank my 23 year old self enough for deciding to live with my grandmother (who was kinda bitchy and crazy) for a year instead of living on my own immediately after college. It really set me up for the good life I have now (though I’m actually currently saving over half my income to be able to go to grad school abroad).

    I don’t have any big money mistakes in my 28 years of living, but the little things certainly add up. I probably could have taken a couple more trips to Europe if I didn’t buy those unnecessary things (most of which I’m now getting rid of on a crazy minimalistic quest) or gone out to eat so much!!

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