Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pay off the house or have another child? No contest

Not everything comes down to money. At least it shouldn't.

Many times the people I counsel through my church's financial ministry face hard, but fairly clear-cut, choices regarding their finances. Serious about getting rid of that $40,000 in credit card debt? Then consider selling the brand new car with the $400 monthly loan payment, I might say.

But not all decisions come down to just money. Some things in life aren't meant to be about money very much at all.

Family decisions
Terri Cullen, the "Fiscally Fit" columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote in the October 5 edition about the process she and her husband undertook to decide on having another child. Both approaching the age of 40--their mutually agreed upon cutoff for having more children--they felt time was running out for the chance to give their eight-year old son a brother or sister.

Together, they made a list of pros and cons to help them decide. The pros list was "short, but powerful," Terri wrote, starting with giving their son (hopefully) a lifelong companion. The list of cons was longer, not surprisingly, and largely money-related. Another child, Terri pointed out, would cut into their ability to save for retirement and pay off the mortgage early. Plus, there were the added costs of things like formula, diapers, and day care to consider again.

Sure, having kids costs a lot, as Terri says. But I was surprised at their ultimate decision. "I'd love to have one more child, but it doesn't make sense for our family," she wrote. "So it's official: Gerald will be an only child."

Kids not worth the cost?
M and I are both approaching 40. We have a 2-year-old son together, in addition to one daughter each from first marriages. For the last several months, we've been weighing the decision to add to our family, so I took special interest in Terri's viewpoint.

And I can't disagree with her and her husband more. When it comes to deciding whether to have a child, money and financial goals are fair considerations--but keep them in perspective.

My father is fond of saying that M and me are the kind of folks who should be having more kids. His point--aside from the fact that he'd love more grandchildren--is that today's world needs as many children with stable homes and loving parents as it can get. Instead, like Terri and her husband, many couples with dual careers and good incomes are deciding that the "cost" of kids is just too high.

Let your heart be your guide
Having a child, whether your first or fifth, is a very personal decision. No one--last of all me--has the right to judge the choice anyone makes. But I would encourage that it's a choice to be made mostly from the heart.

If you would love to experience the joys--and honestly, the many, many trials--of parenthood once again, go for it. Learn to manage your money well and your mortgage will get paid. You will find a way to finance their college somehow. You will retire someday, maybe with the financial means to live out more dreams than you thought possible.

Apples-to-oranges comparison
M and I will be fairly close to retirement age by the time our son graduates high school. We've adjusted to living on one income, but don't have much money to spare. We can't afford a single-family home in our area, and we might never be able to. And we'll need to replace our Honda Civic with a van if our family gets any bigger.

We don't relish these thoughts. Still, are they good enough reasons to hold us back from creating another child for our family to love, and be loved by?

Money is money. A child is a child. You can't make a more apples-to-oranges comparison.

So it's official: M and I are going for it. We're not expecting yet, but God willing, we hope to have to buy that van very soon.


Anonymous said...

The joy of more children will far outweigh any financial cost-also today there are many ways for a child to go to college-and even have the costs paid.
The positives of more kids far exceeds the alternatives

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My Dhaba

Tiredbuthappy said...

I agree that this is a very personal decision, and I commend you for doing what feels right for you.

However, I'm with the columnist who cited money as a reason to have only one child. I have made the same decision.

With two working parents, my son spends a lot of time with other people. He is happy and well-adjusted, but he starts acting out very quickly if we work extra hours for a week or two. I already feel that I don't have enough time for him. If I had to divide myself even more, to give attention and love to another child, I think my son would feel it as a loss. Sure, he'd be gaining a playmate (and an opponent) but I just can't imagine having to miss another child while I'm at work all day. If we could afford to have one of us stay home, I'd probably do it, but we can't. Decision made.

Anonymous said...

I thnk that the parents have a responsibility to their exisiting children to consider first, and only then the joys (whatever they are) of having another child.

If the exisiting children don't have enough attention already, I think it is irresponsible of the parents to make more. Plus, with the addition of the new child, the entire family's standard of living is dropping. Unless the parents can afford to living on one income and and the money are never a problem.


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