This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviser. He is married, has three kids and plans to retire at age 35. Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.
I have three young children, ages 2, 4 and 6. They are a big part of my life, and all I know about trying to retire early is intertwined with having children. In some ways, having kids makes it harder to retire early, but in other ways they make it easier. There are lots of ways that parents could spend bundles of money based on having children. On the other hand, children prevent parents from spending bundles of money on themselves. Without suggesting that there is any one “right” way to do it, here is how we approach saving money while having kids.
One of the choices we made early on was not to get cable. It reduces our monthly costs, but there is also the benefit (as I’ve noticed when the kids watch shows on cable elsewhere) that they don’t see advertising. This past week, while we’ve been on vacation, my oldest has sat in front of the TV while each advertisement for toys plays, saying “I want that, I want that, I want that.” There is no chance that we’ll get cable at home. Instead, we watch DVDs, some of which we bought at garage sales, some of which were gifts from grandparents, some of which we borrow from the library. In each case, there is little or no cost, but the kids still get to enjoy watching many different shows.
The library is actually one of my favourite places. For a nominal annual fee of $12, we have almost unlimited access to books, CDs and DVDs. It’s an indoor place to go during the winter and has the additional benefit for the kids that if they learn to love reading, it will boost their academic performance. We have internet and a computer at home, but if we didn’t, the library also provides access to computers with office software and internet access.
We take our kids to a variety of local playgrounds. In fact, we chose our house based on it’s proximity to a large playground and a community lake. Having these amenities nearby avoids wanting to build a playground in the back yard or wanting to put the kids in activity classes. Eventually, they’ll probably play community soccer or basketball, but we won’t put them in expensive and time-consuming sports like hockey. They can develop social skills while playing in an unstructured setting outdoors.
We are very fortunate to have high quality public schools, which our kids will attend. In each of these areas, we benefit from public goods and programs which are free or almost free and available to all. I want to be able to spend time with my kids while they’re young, not only when they’re teenagers and no longer want to be close to their family. It reduces the cost of programs and nannying, but it’s also what makes early retirement worthwhile for me.
The children do impose some limitations on the things I would otherwise choose to do with my time and money. I won’t take them to eat in expensive restaurants because they wouldn’t be well-behaved, but also because it would be wasted on them. I wouldn’t take them on vacation to Europe for sight-seeing, because the airfare and hotel cost would be prohibitive and it wouldn’t be memorable for them. Instead, on the occasions we eat out, it’s generally fast food (or Asian food) that is quick, inexpensive and casual. Our family vacation has been to Phoenix during spring break, where we have friends and cousins for the kids to play with, family activities and people to stay with.
There seems to be little comparison to retiring early with and without children. Both are possible, but each will be a different journey. Without debating whether or not a person should have children, which is a personal choice, how has having or not having children has affected your journey?