Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Raising children

This is one of the best posts I've read in a while.

Most of you have probably read the estimates that put the cost of having a child at more than $200,000 each over the course of a lifetime -- which seems mind-blowingly high. When you break it down, it seems more manageable, but still high: more than $11,000 a year per child spread over 18 years.

Of course, there are plenty of families out there that have a combined income of less than $40,000 a year but have managed to raise three or four or more happy and successful children. (Okay, maybe the DC-oriented people reading this don't know many such families, but I'll get to that.)

In the post above, Trent from The Simple Dollar explains why his family's per-child expenses will likely never come near the estimate. He looks at not only the costs of having children, but also the benefits -- such as tax benefits.

Of course, Trent lives in rural Iowa, and I'm not sure TOO many people reading this are. (Though Meaghan's close!) I'm pretty sure anyone in the DC suburbs would have to pay significantly more for child care, for example, in addition to housing costs that would probably give most Iowans nightmares. But the post and the following comments make two great points:

There are financial upsides to having children, and
Costs vary for every family

In DC, I imagine the average cost of raising children is even higher than the nation's average. Of course, incomes in the area are higher, too.

But averages are one thing, and individual families another. I have no idea what it cost my parents to raise us, but I am pretty sure they did not pay for child care after I was about a year old. Then they bought a house big enough to have my grandmother come live with us, and that grandmother watched us most of the time. The other grandmother filled in when the first one took trips, and one day neither was available, so we had to go over and hang out with the next door neighbor's grandmother.

That's not possible for everyone, and there was a cost (the house), but it shows that there are all kinds of possibilities available. And every family's budget is different. My parents did pay for us all to go to summer camp year after year after year, which was definitely not a mandatory expense, but one that changed our lives.

I've been thinking about this sort of thing over the couple days because of this interesting column about how rising and falling demographics are projected to affect the world in coming years. In a few decades, the U.S. is expected to be the only industrialized nation in the top-12 most populous nations. I guess being the only developed nation with replacement-rate fertility trends will do that...

(I hear there is more to child-raising than financials and demographics, though. I smiled this morning when I read someone's Christmas break recap, and event number one was: "Watched one of my sons give another of my sons a package of stink bombs for Christmas, and realized, in a very horrible moment, that absolutely nothing good can come of this.)

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