In the Western World there’s been a centuries-long expectation of young people: you grow up, get married, and have babies. But looking at this breakdown, you know that things aren’t that simple. Anyone who’s experienced the endless swiping of dating apps knows that finding love can be hard, and even if it wasn’t, not everyone wants to have babies.
Times change, society shifts, and possibly as a result of this, the decision to be childfree is gaining in popularity. But why are fewer people having kids and what are the impacts on society?
Why fewer people are having children
Depending on your outlook, not having babies can seem like a drastic thing to do, but you’re not talking about a small minority here. In Britain, for example, over a third (37%) of people without children say that they never want to have them. Even more interestingly, the number of younger people not wanting children is also on the rise, with 13% of 18-24-year-olds already making this decision – and while you may think that’s too young to know for sure, in the study this number increased as the participants got older.
If you exclude age from the primary reason for not having children, then the most common factors are cost, lifestyle, an overpopulated world, not liking children/not having parental instincts, climate change, the responsibility, not being able to provide good quality of life, health concerns, and finally, the impact on their career.
The cost of raising children
For younger people, the main considerations of a childfree life are cost and impact on their lifestyle. And when you consider that the cost of childcare has risen up to 7.4 times faster than wages since 2008, it’s not hard to see why so many are choosing this route. For some, the financial viability actively excludes this option. Take the Great Recession for example, during this period birth rates among women in their twenties fell by more than 15% and marked the start of a decline in birth rates across the USA.
There’s been many figures thrown around on how much money it actually takes to raise a child to 18, claims range from £20,000 to £1million, but what does it actually cost? Well, according to one study, one child would cost a couple £152,747 to raise to 18 – but, if you’re single this figure increases to £185,413. For many people, having a spare £8,500 - £10,300 a year is far more appealing than raising a child.
Look at this another way – if instead of having a kid, you put £707 each month into a personal pension from your 37th birthday until you turn 55, then you could have £263,242 to start your early retirement.
The impact on your lifestyle
Having kids is a big decision, and it changes everything. One minute you’re having the time of your life, relatively free from responsibility outside work and pets, the next you have to keep this tiny little human alive. It’s a scary prospect, especially if you haven’t really thought things through.
Going down the pub is no longer a simple affair, in fact, just leaving the house becomes an obstacle course. Trying to get the pram out, juggling a baby, and a bag of their essentials, means that you often forget other things like making sure you still look presentable. Before you know it, all your friends are also new parents and all you talk about is nappy rash, how long you’ve been awake for, and how amazing wine is.
The environmental impact of having children
Another significant factor for many people’s decision is the environmental impact. Many people are looking for ways to fight climate change, and studies have shown that just by having one less child can save 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent each year. With an average life expectancy in the UK of 81 (a number that keeps increasing) you could be saving nearly 5,000 tonnes of pollution per child. It’s a staggering figure.
In the last 200 years, the world’s population has exploded – in 1800 there were one billion humans on the planet, now we total more than seven billion. On top of that, people are consuming more and living longer, adding to the resource requirements demanded from our planet.
Mr Earth himself, Sir David Attenborough, warned of a “manmade disaster on a global scale” if action isn’t taken to limit the damage of climate change. While not having children isn’t a silver-bullet to this problem, it does raise an ethical dilemma of ‘is this a world you want to bring children into?’
If climate change predictions are right, and we exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius danger line, then we’re likely to see many natural systems ]go into the point of no return. We’ve been told to expect larger, often extreme, temperature swings, the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, more storms and hurricanes, and millions of people exposed to climate-related risks and poverty.
That’s not cheery stuff, and it isn’t supposed to be.
The good news is that there are things you can do about it – and we’re not just talking about not having children. For example, by investing ethically, you can make your voice heard, encouraging businesses to seriously consider their carbon footprint and make changes for a better future.
Luckily for you, Wealthify makes ethical investing simple. We do all the research, constantly monitor your investments to ensure all the businesses remain ethical and keep your plan on track. Plus, you don’t have to sacrifice performance for doing good with your money – research shows that investing ethically has no statistically significant difference in return when compared to conventional investments.
Is life without kids easier?
Well, on the face of it you have less mess, less cost, less tantrums, but it also means less unconditional love, less funny stories, less family to look after you when you get old. This last one hits hard with many people, especially those who have looked after their older relatives in their final years.
There’s something very comforting about having family around you in times like that, but with the rise in childfree families we’re also seeing improved old age and elderly care homes. These facilities are designed to create communities, encourage activity, and provide for their every need. Granted, it may come at a cost, but if you’ve saved money by not having children, theoretically you should have more left over to look after yourself.
It all comes down to personal choice. Nobody is going to stop you from having children, and equally, you shouldn’t be pressured into having them. The important thing is that you get your finances in order for whichever path you take – whether that’s setting up a Junior ISA to help your child financially thrive as a young adult, or investing in a personal pension to help pay for your dream retirement.
5: This is the projected value for a Confident Plan (Medium Risk Plan). This is only a forecast and is not a reliable indicator of future performance. If markets perform worse, your return could be £205,931. If markets perform better, your return could be £337,802. Values correct as of 16/11/2020
Your tax treatment will depend on your individual circumstances and it may be subject to change in the future.
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