Here's Why the Financial Benefits of Not Having Kids Are Misunderstood

I decided many years ago that I wasn’t going to be a parent, and I’ve spent adulthood listening to a wide array of assumptions about people like me. One that comes up frequently is that people without kids must have gobs of extra money.

On a base level, this supposition makes sense — after all, having children is expensive. Research from The Motley Fool Ascent found that the average cost of raising a child in the United States is over $310,000. And that cost is just from birth to age 17, and doesn’t include any higher education costs.

Even despite saving this much money by not having children, childfree folks are not universally rich or even necessarily financially comfortable. Personally, I spent most of my adult years living paycheck to paycheck without much money in my savings account, until extremely recently.

But it was the flexibility and time I gained by not having children that made it possible for me to improve my financial standing. Let’s discuss why childfree people aren’t always rich in money — instead, the financial benefits of a life without kids come from other factors.

Rich in time and flexibility — but perhaps not in money

Being financially comfortable or even wealthy is dependent on factors outside of parenthood status, like your family’s level of passed-down wealth, having a well-paying job, or even just plain luck (like a Powerball winner). And remember, financial disaster can strike anyone, regardless of whether they have kids. We’re all potentially susceptible to an expensive illness, a major home repair, or a job loss.

If you’re sans kids, you might be supporting other family members with your income. Or you might be working a lower-paying job, leaving you with less cash to save and invest for the future. You might be disabled and receiving Social Security disability payments, which limits how much you can earn from a job.

I know childfree people in all these situations. But they are sometimes rich in another way: They have more time and flexibility than parents often do. And that sometimes means an increased ability to invest in oneself.

What can you do with more time and flexibility?

The short answer is, potentially a lot. I used time and flexibility to turn my financial life around these last few years. When I decided three years ago that my museum career was no longer serving me, I applied for more than 400 jobs in digital content before finally getting hired for one. I took on a side hustle two years ago, and worked a lot more than the typical 40 hours a week to get out of debt. And I’ve kept working hard through 2023 and into 2024, saving money so I can buy a home and keep building my career as a freelancer.

If you don’t have kids, you might have the opportunity to make time and flexibility work for you, too. If getting more education under your belt would make it possible for you to change careers and earn more, you can explore that option. You can take a dream job part way around the world without worrying about the school system in the area you’re moving to. You might even decide to quit your dead-end job and go freelance — even though it means paying a ton more for health insurance. Many people with children would struggle to make any of these moves.

And if the simple goal of greater financial security is something you dream of, it’s likely much easier for you to take on a casual side hustle for 10 or 15 hours a week. The money you earn won’t already be earmarked for bills, so you can use it to pay off debt, start saving for a big purchase (like a house), or even just give yourself more breathing room in your budget.

Don’t fall for the myth that all childfree people take lavish vacations, live in giant mansions, and are somehow above the financial issues that parents struggle with. We all still need the money fundamentals, like an emergency fund to help us cope with unplanned expenses. Childfree people just might have more time and flexibility to save the money to make it happen.

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