Childfree by Choice: A Generational Gap

If you’re of child-rearing age, many people of the older generation expect you to have children to protect the family’s legacy.  Hearing that you do not intend to produce offspring and fill the imaginary ancestral throne with little heirs and heiresses is often met with accusations of selfishness. After all, their generation had kids so if we just prioritize like they did, we should too.

Settle down, buy a house, it’s never the right time to have kids, these things have a way of working out…

There’s no substitute for experience, and older people obviously have that in spades.  The fact of the matter is that it’s almost always a good idea to seek advice from our elders. Almost. There is a generational gap at play that just may skew their outlook.

Making a Living is Hard(er Than They Might Think)

A recent study based on US Federal Reserve data indicates that millennials have a median household income of some 20% less (after adjustment for inflation) than their baby boomer parents did at the same stage of life. This is despite the younger generation being better educated and more likely to be in a dual income household.  Their net worth is about half that of Boomers, home ownership is lower, and student debt is drastically higher.  With so much financial insecurity, it should come as no surprise that the interest in having offspring has seen a downturn.

The importance placed on securing a strong lineage has been declining and, whether or not it is acknowledged, it’s not just on the part of the younger generation.  The percentage of American Boomers who are concerned with leaving something behind for their children has dropped from 63% to 46% in the past 5 years, according to one study.

This isn’t just a United States issue either.  Another study found that 86% of Canadians over 55 would choose not to abstain from a major luxury purchase in order to ensure their children receive a healthier inheritance.  Without any possibility of help with college funds, housing, and the many other expenses incurred while raising a child, the financial viability of having a child becomes far murkier.

The transfer of wealth from one generation to another is drying up due to hyper-consumerism.  The reality is that the older generation is afraid of their offspring blowing their inheritance, so they typically decide to spend it on themselves, which is totally within their rights.  The point is, the investment put into the continuation of the family legacy is low from top to bottom, and today’s young adults are not the only ones contributing to the disinterest, whether people of their parents’ age realize it or not.

The American Pipe Dream

The housing market has picked up some, but its rise is not steady enough to project the kind of return on investment that our parents had when buying a house. Chances are you won’t be able to sell your “starter” home for twice the amount you paid for it after a decade or so of paying your mortgage and property taxes, private sector employers that offer pension plans are about as rare as hen’s teeth, and Social Security is in constant threat of going extinct.

All of these things have lead today’s young adults to look into alternative lifestyles, many of which are not conducive to raising a family. The tiny house movement is attractive due to its financial viability. With the possibility of retirement looking bleak anyway, Millennials and Gen X will naturally seek to work less, or at jobs that provide more psychological benefits than financial.

My wife Brittany and I are fortunate to have parents that fully respect our choice to remain childfree. This is not the case for everyone, however.

What has been your experience with the older generations?  Have you found them to be understanding of the decisions you’ve made regarding raising children, buying property, or taking on traditional forms of employment?

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  1. Pingback: Why I'm Choosing Dogs Over Children (And Yes, I'm a Millennial) - the rinky-DINK life

    • L
    • July 21, 2017

    This is a great article. My parents need to read this. My mom understands my desire not to have kids, but doesn’t understand our financial situation as well as my dad does. Despite this, my dad still really wants grandchildren. Frustrating.

    1. L,

      Thanks for your comment! I feel for you – my parents still struggle to understand at times. It seems a lot of baby boomers fail to realize that it is genuinely harder for us to make a living than it was for them. We live in a time that doesn’t always recognize hard work, unfortunately.

        • L
        • July 22, 2017


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