And How We’re Preparing For Life Without Them
With the legalization of same-sex marriage, queer couples are getting married as fast as they can say “I do.” And many of us are now considering if The Stork should follow Cupid into our newly minted marriages.
On one hand, it’s helpful that children are never a surprise to same-sex couples. On the other, it makes having children expensive. And add to that the fact that no matter how much money a couple spends, having children is never a guarantee.
It’s for this reason that it’s important to include both the heart and the mind in family making decisions.
Why We Chose to Remain a Family of Two
David and I decided not to have children. It’s not because we don’t like them but because of our age and the costs to do so.
We were of the generation when it wasn’t necessarily safe to come out of the closet until you graduated high school or even college.
We moved straight from mom and dad’s house to the gay disco dance floors of the early 2000s and our hearts found our home. Having spent a lifetime living in the closet and feeling second-class, we reveled in our new community and felt like movie stars. We strove for the perfect home, perfect cars, perfect careers and perfect bodies to make up for all the years with bruised hearts.
These desires were a toxic combination that “perfected” us into $51,000 in credit card debt. We were in our mid-thirties by the time we paid off our debt and had little retirement savings and no home of our own to show for it.
By our early 40s when we did own our own home and, more importantly, felt on track for retirement, our heads said the financial burdens to have kids were too great.
We don’t second guess our decision, though, occasionally I see a baby and my heart wants to dress him in overpriced clothes he’ll only wear once.
The Cost of Children
Before you can dress a baby, allegedly, you must first have one. Dressing stranger’s babies and dogs, I’m told, is not okay. Getting your own baby is where it gets expensive for queer couples.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, private agency adoptions can cost between $5,000 and $40,000. Many queer couples in some states, whether married or not, must pay for second adoptions so both spouses have legal parental rights. That can cost an additional $2,000 to $3,000 per adoption.
For queer couples who want a biological child, the costs are even higher. Surrogacy rings up to between $100,000 to $150,000 or more per child.
The financial burden for queer couples to have children is not unlike that of owning a home. As with homeownership, the dollars don’t stop on the purchase date. In addition to the above finances, it costs $245,000 to raise a child to the age of 18 in the U.S., not including college.
Having taken all these costs into account, along with our age and our history with debt, we decided having children was too financially and emotionally costly.
It may seem cold-hearted being so analytical, but we don’t want to be financial burdens on others later in life because of poor financial decisions early in life.
The Costs Without Kids
Because of our decision to not have kids, our main financial concern now is retirement. Though not always, some traditional families rely on their children to take care of them as they age.now is retirement. Though not always, some traditional families rely on their children to take care of them as they age.
We won’t have that option.
Therefore, we will:
Pay Off All Debt
Retirees today are retiring with more debt than ever. Most of that debt is mortgage debt. A report by the Employee Benefits Research Institute showed that between 1992 and 2010, the number of 75-plus age households with mortgage debt increased from 10% to 24%.
This is due to a combination of Americans buying dream homes later in life, upsizing their homes even as they approach or reach retirement and taking loans against their homes.upsizing their homes even as they approach or reach retirement and taking loans against their homes.
The less debt, including mortgage debt, we have before retirement the better. Because of our experience with debt, our plan is to forever be debt free once our mortgage is paid off in seven years.
Have a Clear Vision of Retirement
Today’s definition of retirement has changed nearly as much as the definition of marriage. Some retirees manage their lifelong jobs on a smaller scale. Some take on new careers or take on charity work. Some spend years on the golf course, others on the porch.
We need to be clear with what we choose, so life doesn’t make the choice for us. We, for example, want to travel. Therefore, we’ve estimated our future annual expense for travel into our current annual savings and investments for retirement.
Plan for Long-Term Care
Long-term care (LTC) can range from help at home with basic needs, such as cooking, eating, and cleaning, to retirement villages that handle physical labor, and assisted living that takes care of everything.
Without children, we need to plan for such expenses now; the average nursing home costs about $80,000 annually for a semi-private room. With insufficient finances, decisions on how we’re taken care of may be left to the state or a guardian assigned to our care.
We must know what we want if we’re going to have a chance to live our remaining years on our terms.
Leave a Legacy
Recently, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) surveyed 2,500 Americans between the ages of 45 and 60. Five hundred of those adults identified as queer.
MassMutual’s findings show that 62 percent of queer people do not have a will. Thirty-nine percent have not documented important financial information. On the contrary, 35 percent of those same queer adults surveyed want to be remembered as a good friend and 18 percent want to be remembered as generous.
On an episode of Queer Money, we talked with Mark Sayre, the Underwriting Product Manager for Haven Life, about the desire to leave a financial legacy to people and organizations we love. Whether queer individuals or couples have or don’t have children, today’s life insurance can be a valuable component of a comprehensive financial plan and can address our need to leave our loved ones financially secure.
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Having a Family Requires Both Our Heads and Our Hearts
Because we felt having children would exacerbate financial mistakes we made when we were younger, we chose to not have children. What’s right for us isn’t right for everyone.
Regardless of what queer individuals and couples choose, we all need long-term financial planning for our long-term financial security.
For us, proper planning that considers are minds’ decisions and our hearts’ desires will ensure our golden years are more “On Golden Pond” and less “Grumpy Old Men”.
David Auten and John Schneider are authors, bloggers and speakers for DebtFreeGuys.com and host of Queer Money. Their mission is to build a financially strong queer community.