The pursuit of FIRE involves careful, conscious consideration of a seemingly infinite number of potential lifestyle choices. When you consider the big questions with such great stakes, like “when is the right time to have a child,” a slight existential meltdown is to be expected. So, to ease your potential suffering, I brought in a good friend who can explain why one of your likely biggest concerns is moot.
Please welcome our latest guest poster, known only as B.D.V., as he explains the tenuous relationship between children and financial independence!
You can’t have children and still be financially independent.
That’s right, my friends. Children are expensive.
Daycare? Say goodbye to half your take-home pay. Toys and equipment for extracurricular activities? Plastic crap with 600% markup. College? Costs are rising all the time, forget about education for the middle-class American. Health care? Kids break everything, so be ready to drain those “emergency funds” in the emergency room. And don’t get me started on childproofing, car seats, painting the baby room, repainting the baby room when she writes on the wall…
When all is said and done, it costs the average middle-income American about $233,000.00 to raise a child to 17 years of age. And that’s not including college – or your recent graduate pride-and-joy moving back in the house after college!
If you can’t afford to finance a quarter-million dollar decision, pass on children. You aren’t doing yourself or the child any favors if you can’t give it the upbringing it deserves! That’s how crime begins.
What’s more: If you have a child, you can’t invest as much – and that really cuts into your goals of saving millions. (Literally – it costs you millions in potential gains!) You can’t travel the world while paying for daycare or while Junior has school. Not that you have the money to travel, anyway; it was all spent on that trumpet he never plays anymore.
All of the power of compound interest: Gone. You’re cutting back on savings in the most important year of your life: This one!
If you’re planning to be financially independent, it’s about time to start considering the effects of all your life decisions, not just avocado toast and taxes. Children should give you more than a little pause, because for the average American – who earns only about $1-2 million over a lifetime depending on education – can’t afford to drop a quarter million on little Lillith. The typical American would spend a quarter of their lifetime earnings on a child and not retire until at least 65 – are you confident that you are more than 25% better than the average American?
If you want to be financially independent, leave the children to those less driven. Children simply don’t play well with FIRE.
Congratulations! You just learned the Bush Doctrine!
Did you notice what our guest poster failed to address?
Like the fact that there are plenty of FIRE parents? Or the fact that most people intentionally pursuing financial independence don’t spend like an “average middle class American” on anything?1 Or, more importantly, that there is no consideration given to the goals of the reader: What if you don’t want to travel the world? Or save millions? Or what if your central goal is to be an active parent?
B.D.V. – or the Bush Doctrine Villain2 – presented to you what is called, by more educated folk than us, a “false dilemma.” (Well, technically, it’s a false dichotomy, since “dilemma” implies the two options are equally unappealing – but I’ve already called it a dilemma all over this blog, so…moving on.)
A false dilemma is the following pattern of “reasoning”: The speaker presents two possible options, both of which may be false. The speaker then reasons that because one of the options is false, the other must be true. Think of George W. Bush’s infamous statement that “Either you are with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” There was no grey area, no Team C, no way to be helpful without providing exactly the kind and scope of help that Dubya wanted. For a more recent example, search out any social media post mentioning “Charlottesville” and “free speech” in the same sentence – the poster is about to be brazenly accused of implicitly supporting Naziism, which has been the classic false dilemma of last resort since 1945.
B.D.V. presents a similar false dilemma between having a family or having financial independence. To B.D.V., FIRE apparently means exclusively a lifestyle of travelling or partying 24/7. There’s no life worth living aside from that of James Bond. And while that’s cool and all, I don’t think there are many parents who would agree with his assessment of “life”!
Now, as much as I’d like to be able present my own history of spending on a child to explain how “average American spending” is in no way a restriction on your ability to have both financial independence and a family, I can’t. I haven’t achieved either of those things yet. But, for anecdotal evidence in conflict with B.D.V.’s statements, you can take the word of these other random internet strangers who are at various stages of FI and parenthood:
- Root of Good (couple, 3 kids, FI at 33, RE since 2013/2016)
- Chief Mom Officer (couple, 3 kids, stay-at-home Dad and still approaching FIRE!)
- Cantankerous.Life (couple, 2 kids, in an expensive city, FI under 40)
For now, I can’t offer the perspective the above bloggers can. But soon, I will be joining the ranks of those brilliant parents: Mrs. Vigilante and I are having a Lilith of our own!3 Be prepared for February 2018, because:
After our mini-Vigilante is born, our FIRE progress is expected to continue at roughly the same lightning pace it has been, assuming raises coming our way and our willingness to take advantage of hand-me-downs from Little Vigilante’s cousins and future friends. That said, obviously we will make slower progress than we otherwise would have. That’s just the opportunity cost of having a child: Some money has to go to daycare, diapers, and little socks that make people lose their freakin’ minds. But we’re confident there will be zero regrets – prices are amazing economic signals and free market music to a Vigilante’s ear, but some things can’t be adequately expressed by a price tag!
This is the first of a series of “guest” posts where I will debunk several common misunderstandings about financial independence. Since many of these misunderstandings can be traced to one – or more than one – of our Villainous Fallacies, I thought it would be appropriate to just let the Villain in me do the talking. I hope it’s as enjoyable for you to read as it is for me to conjure up the ideas!
- A hint of statistical bullying, perhaps?
- Before I’m accused by my fellow patriotic Americans of writing a partisan blog, let me point out another favorite fallacy of mine: the Clinton Misdirection fallacy. I, Vigilante is an equal opportunity disparager of all those in the public eye.
- Not to be named Lilith: As of the date of this post, a girl has no name.