Things Kids Ruin: Add Retirement To That List

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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You survey the vast expanse of Lego brickwork, do some mental arithmetic, and somewhere, off in the distance, you hear a soft sound. You strain to make it out. That sound is your bank account, and it’s crying like a little bitch.

It weeps, too, maybe a little harder and more frantically, when you see those trunks spilling over with American Girl clothes, with the horse trailer, with the tea set, with the vacuum and the authentic Depression-era kerchief and the pony and the archery set and the American Girl doll’s American girl doll. The toys have won, and your bank account cries in mercy. We won’t even talk about what it does when you calculate the costs of travel soccer or volleyball.

Your bank account is on life support, man. Kids will do that to it.

According to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, kids “reduce household wealth” and “moderately increase the retirement risk for older working households.” Bloomberg News says that about half of Americans are in danger of retiring without enough to maintain their current lifestyles, and citing that study, says kids are at least partially to blame. Thanks a lot, kids.

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The National Retirement Risk Index from the Center says that half of Americans are “in serious danger” of “falling short of their financial needs” by at least 10% once they hit retirement. Of course, some people compensate for having kids by spending less on themselves, but those people are what we call “fiscally responsible.” They do not know the joy that is a pair of Lululemon pants or know the transcendental meaning of the word Sephora because being responsible isn’t very much fun.

Oh, and it gets worse. Your bank account is going to really hate this little tidbit: If you have rugrats, you’ll make less cash and have less of it by the time you want to make the slide into those happy golden years. That’s right, according to Bloomberg News, the study reports that “households with children would be expected at the end of their work-lives to have less income and lower wealth.” Just great.

This sucks most for parents in their 30s, who see a 3.7% drop in income and 4.5% drop in wealth — per child. Y’all, I’ve got three kids. No wonder my Mastercard hides when it sees me coming.

One of the biggest reasons for all this lost income? The motherhood penalty. Basically, working women with kids earn about $9,400 less per year than working women without, says Bloomberg. Moms are also “12% less likely to be working for pay.” These stay-at-home mom numbers soar when you take into account childhood, especially early childhood: 35.3% of women with kids under 6 stay home with them, as do 25% of moms with kids 6–17, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So congrats, moms. You thought you were doing the hardest work of all, but really, you were just fucking over your chances of spending old age in fashionable pants and splurging on Botox. Should have thought about that before you tossed out your birth control, ladies.

But seriously, Bloomberg is a total buzzkill because it says the “financial damage of being a parent multiplies the more children you have. And the chances of falling short are higher for the middle class than for other groups.” So anyone who chose to have more than one kid and doesn’t have a money tree in the backyard is basically fucked. Have three kids or more? Working as a teacher or social worker or in a blue-collar job? Good luck.

But even after the kids GTFO already, they don’t stop sucking us dry because, as a Boston College study finds, “many parents continue to donate time and money to children well into adulthood.” 31% of adults say they give moolah to their grown kids (Thanks, Mom and Dad! We love you!!!), with an average of $3,084. That’s a lot of cash they could be saving for retirement.

If we end up doing the same — and we will, for the same reasons we bought that stupid Ninjago Lego set and the American Girl dolls — that’ll take a serious chunk out of our retirement savings. And unless we raise a business tycoon or a money tree sprouts in the backyard, the cost of raising kids could even reduce the quality of nursing home care in retirement — because there’s nothing like living out your final days with less-than-ideal care. Sigh.

Unfortunately, most parents can’t count on their children for financial help in their golden years. Last year, only 9% of parents took cash from their adult kids. C’mon, folks. That woman birthed your ass. The least you can do is buy her some old lady capris to camouflage the Depends.

In other words, what we already knew has been confirmed: Kids are expensive AF, and they take all our money if we let them.

But retirement is also real; it will happen one day, and we need to be prepared. And that means saving, saving, and saving. And dropping those extra pennies into a savings account wouldn’t hurt either, because if these reports tell us anything, it’s that parents with kids, especially multiple kids, need to be saving every.damn.penny.

Of course, saving money is a luxury that some families simply do not have. Many families are living paycheck to paycheck, and making tough choices between clothes for their kids or keeping the lights on. We see you, and we understand your struggle.

But for those of you who can save a few pennies, or maybe even a dollar, by cutting back on those Target runs or Starbucks lattes, now’s the time to do so. Because none of us are getting any younger.

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