At least ten years.
Early retirement never entered my mind when I made the decision not to have kids. But the reality is, as Kari commented on this post, I was able to retire much earlier than I would have, had I chosen to have them.
Retirement is a simple formula: you need to have a nest-egg of between 25 and 33 times your annual expenses, depending on your age at retirement. While the cost of kids never influenced my procreation decision, the simple fact is, they will set you back some serious cash.
While costs vary from family to family, according to this calculator at Babycenter.com, the amount that I didn't spend on raising the average 2.3 kids translates to at least ten years of living expenses in retirement. That's without taking into consideration the possibility that I may have chosen to down-shift my career for kids, consequently saving even less money.
Obviously, a small price to pay if you are among the majority that actually wants to enjoy the experience of raising kids.
Over the last 25 years of my child-bearing years, I've heard it all. You can save your breath because I am already well aware that:
- I will have no one to take care of me when I'm old and decrepit,
- I am a very shelfish, shallow person,
- I am missing out on life's greatest joy,
- I will never know the power that loving a child holds,
- I will never grow as a human being without the experience of having kids,
- I will surely regret it,
- I will never leave my legacy in this world,
- I would make such a great mom (despite my selfishness and shallowness?)
- I must have had a very traumatic childhood,
- I will certainly change my mind,
- I is unnatural that I don't want them,
- It is so rewarding,
- It would make my marriage so much stronger,
- And I am depriving my parents of the joy of grandchildren.
I may have missed a few, feel free to remind me, but know that it's probably too late to convert me. I'm guessing my ovaries are in wind-down mode at this point.
Last night I discovered Childfreedom, a blog by a 43-year old woman that writes about having a fulfilling life without kids. I realize this blog will only appeal to, statistically speaking 7 to 10% of you, although the other 90 to 93% may be interested, if only to gain some insight into your not-so-mainstream, kid-free friends.
The bottom line is that I'm a firm believer that the only people that should have kids are the ones that actually want them. Just as it would be foolish to try and convince people that want children not to have them, it's just as foolish to try and convince people that don't want them to have them, although that doesn't seem to stop most people from trying. (However I do see that as I age, people have become much more accepting of my different lifestyle choice. Or perhaps they have just written me off as a lost cause at this point . . .)
So while I don't really think the financial costs of having children holds much importance when deciding whether or not to have kids, I can't deny that it played a very significant role in my ability to retire at the still-possibly-child-bearing-age of 44.