I don’t want kids.

There, I said it. I am a late twenty something woman with no maternal instincts, no desire to have children, and no, your children aren’t cute. (And no I probably won’t like the photos of your kids on Facebook. Why do you post so many??? But get a puppy or kitten and I’ll like ALL of those photos. Because puppies are awesome, but I don’t want the work right now, so please do get puppies and post all the photos.) And I’m not sorry for saying this. I will congratulate you on the birth of your child because life changes are exciting and you are so excited about it. I will also get excited when your kids start learning math and you talk about that, because math is cool. Or when you talk about your kids doing things that I can remember doing as a kid. But that doesn’t mean I want kids.

Don’t tell me that I’ll change my mind. I know that you can change your mind on almost anything in life, later on. Maybe that’ll happen. But for the last 10 years, I’ve been confident that I don’t want children and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Getting into my late twenties has been interesting, watching friends get engaged, decide to have kids on a specific timeline, and also quit their jobs and travel the world. Everyone has a different idea of what their ideal life looks like and there are so many options! There are people who have retired in their 30s and 40s and those who kept working and have donated good chunks of their income. It’s been pretty scary watching people make all of these life decisions as I’m a planner and I don’t have any timeline for my future like my friends do. It’s freeing in another way though as I have decades of life ahead of me to learn, to experience the world, and to enjoy life.

A lot of people buy into the American Dream of going to college, getting a good job, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, popping out 2.5 kids, and then working hard until they retire at 65, all in that order. A lot of people aren’t just buying into it – it honestly seems to be what they want. But for those who start to question it, how much of it do you question? What path do you want to follow?

I don’t want to have kids.
I don’t want to quit my job and travel around the world.
I don’t want to work at a startup, unless it is my own and even then only maybe.
I don’t want to move to a small-town to downgrade my cost of living. I like how accessible living in the city is.
I don’t feel closed in by owning a condo already. I don’t mind having so much of my net worth locked up in either my condo or my retirement accounts because I don’t want to move. And if I did, I could sell my condo.
I don’t want to be self-employed. I like the routine of my job.
I would like to have more vacation time than I do. It does sound like it might be possible to get extra unpaid time at my current company, which would be pretty sweet.
I don’t want to live in a house. At least not any time soon. Maybe when we get a dog at some point in the future though and a yard would be cool, but there are parks nearby and off-leash dog parks.

When I was in my early twenties, a coworker told me that he missed being my age, that it was fun times. He spent his twenties partying it up, barhopping and checking out the latest clubs. Now he lives in suburbia with his wife and two small children. I don’t want either of those pictures – him in his early twenties or him in his early thirties.

So many people told me not to buy property when I did (at 23), that I would regret it. That I would regret tying myself down. I don’t, one bit. Buying this condo was an excellent decision and I love this place so much. I am super glad I bought a two bedroom condo with plenty of space for two.

As I’ve watched friends quit their jobs and go traveling for a year, my first thought is how cool and fun that looks (if I’m interested in the places they’re going) and after some reflection, I realize that that life of spontaneity isn’t really me. Our month-long trip to New Zealand this year was pretty fun, but I’m a homebody and by the time we left, I was looking forward to not moving around as much. It was so nice to come home to internet, our home, friends, and our city. Slow travel might be okay in my books, but too fast of travel isn’t. I don’t have much of an interest in traveling for months throughout Southeast Asia, which then makes travel more comparable in costs to living at home. I’ve had good luck in the past with working while traveling (e.g. an internship/study abroad type thing) as it gives me something to occupy my days and also allows me to immerse myself in the local culture and travel.

So what do I see my life looking like in 5 years? I see myself living in my condo with my boyfriend, working at a job, having my Master’s degree, and having knocked a few more items off of my travel bucket list. I’m not particularly concerned over when/if we get married, especially with the marriage income tax penalty we would incur and the fact that due to our incomes and asset levels (hello me being a half-millionaire at age 26 and our combined annual household income being around $300-400k – I love being able to check off the “other” box for household income now) would result in a pre-nup with marriage and a decent separation of his and hers accounts, maybe even of post-marriage assets. I would probably feel differently about marriage if I wanted kids.

Looking at the above list of all the things I don’t want, most people would then see no point in saving. No future goals? No reason to save. That’s not how I look at it. (Thanks to nicoleandmaggie for this tip several years ago – you can just save for the sake of saving and that buys you freedom later!) I can live a pretty luxurious lifestyle on $30k/year plus travel ($18k/year+travel if you take out my mortgage payments) and still manage to bank ~$100k/year. Keep in mind too that vacation time is more of a limiting factor in how much I can spend on travel than money too. Those savings will buy me options in the future for when I do end up making goals that I didn’t have the time to save up for (see grad school that I kept trying to save for, then never applying, and using the money for something else like mortgage pre-payments).

This isn’t an early retirement blog. That isn’t my plan. I’m just living the lifestyle I want, which happens to be relatively-frugal for my income level, and saving the rest.


42 thoughts on “I don’t want kids.

  1. I’ve done the big RTW trip (luckily didn’t have to quit, I got unpaid leave). I’ve had 3 dream jobs and I like being an employee. I haven’t worked at a startup yet though I would consider that (that said my last job was startup like in some senses and my role, definitely) I want a house and kids and a dog. I want it all, basically.

    • That’s sweet that you got unpaid leave for your trip! I want a dog and I love my boyfriend, but I’m happy without marriage. I’ve just never been interested in marriage, even reading APW can’t sway me. I love how you know what you want and you’re confident in it, or at least it seems that way to me. I feel like since I don’t want the default things that it means I have to get more imaginative at figuring out what I want. I’m super stoked for grad school! I loved NZ and would like to go back some day. I liked the month long trip format, not too long or too short. I’m really enjoying my new job though and enjoying the work.

    • Somehow most of the women in my social circle who are around my age have always wanted kids and spend most of their time lately talking about their timeline for getting engaged, married, and having said kids. And ugh to the people at WORK who spend so much time at lunch talking about how wonderful motherhood is. I’m so awkward when people bring their babies in too.

      • Don’t worry, you’ll grow out of this stage as your friends/colleagues get older. My little sister is stuck in that timeline right now too, only she’s the one who has to throw the bridal shower or baby shower (at least 2 a month, it seems like).

        I will say that liking or not liking babies generally is completely orthogonal to whether or not a person wants to have kids. The one of us who doesn’t care for other people’s babies at all loves her own babies, and the one who loves babies has no desire to have any of her own.

        • Good! Well I have yet to be in a wedding party, so no bridal shower throwing for me. I’m starting to doubt I’ll be in one since my close female friends are mostly married now.

          A few people have told me that they didn’t like other people’s kids at any age except within a couple years of their own, but they liked their own kids.

        • I’m going to be in a wedding party for the first time this coming fall. But #2 says I don’t need to throw a bridal shower.

          That is exactly how I feel about other people’s kids. Kittens and puppies are cute though.

  2. For me, it’s about the freedom to choose. That’s why I save. We have a tentative plan on what the next 5 years will look like, but if we decide that isn’t going to make us happy then we’ll change it. But the saving that we’re doing will give us the freedom to make those choices.

    Also, you’re not alone in not wanting kids. I did a lot of soul searching between the ages of 30 and 32 to try and imagine what having kids would be like (since I had spent the previous 15 years not wanting them at all), and they’re not for us. We reserve the right to change our mind (there’s that whole freedom to choose), but right now when we walk past a neighbor’s house that contains a screaming baby, we’re high fiving each other on making the right choice for us.

    • That’s a great way of phrasing why you save :)

      Thank you! I have a feeling that a lot of women in their twenties might not want kids, but aren’t confident in saying that until their thirties. So I’m curious to see what our social circles look like in our early thirties.

  3. I was having this exact conversation with my friend yesterday! She, also high income and only 24, doesn’t really have much motivation to save. Her long-term boyfriend, with whom she lives, already owns his own place that could fit a family of five. And his income is even higher than hers (combined probably in the 300-350K range). No matter what, they’ll always have enough money to live. Unlike you, though,she has vague inklings of wanting a family someday, but even then there really isn’t much point to her saving. No particular dreams of travel, no desire for solopreneurship, nothing like that. That said, I think she’s just saving a lot of money by default since she lives a comfortable but not terribly spendy life.

    • I’m a natural saver, so I’m going to save something even if I don’t have motivation to save for a goal. If I wanted kids, my motivation for saving in my twenties would be so that my SO and I could both stay home with the kids, like MMM did.

  4. I think the most important thing is knowing what you want, what will work for you, and not letting yourself be swaying but what other people think you should want. And it sounds like you are doing just that! I admire your confidence and self-assurance. It is hard to say “no” to things society tells us we need, be it kids or a house in the suburbs.

    • Thanks! It has definitely taken me many years of self-reflection to be okay with not wanting what society tells me I need. It helps that houses are so expensive here ;)

  5. Great to hear from you Leigh!! Love the post. I think we are some how related!! LOL. I have very much the same thoughts and objectives for just living life and being happy.. Getting bills paid and doing what I want to where I live. I’ve often wondered what really happens when I reach a million in assets… That day is getting closer and closer and I’m just not sure that it changes much other than providing me with lots of freedom money..

    I don’t yet have any huge goals I’m working towards.. but flying a small plane around the world or sailing could be fun experiences for a year.. It would be very weird to not be at home though…

    I have yet to make your kind of income, however just this week I received a notice from HR that they were evaluating pay scales and I received about a 9% bump and it put my over the 6 figure status mark for my annual base salary. One of those milestone goals from way back in high school.. The news is awesome and well received by me as I have had some thoughts of leaving due to knowing I could easily get a significant pay increase. But I don’t want to. I Love my job and the people I work for and with. We are doing amazing things opening up the commercial Space market!! It’s a Great time to be an aerospace engineer.

    Have fun getting that Masters degree!! I am currently working on getting my pilot’s license and then not sure what I’ll move on to.

    I am a homeowner, but I currently don’t live in the home. However, it is an awesome feeling knowing I’m providing good quality, affordably housing to my current tenant family!


    What kind of Dogs are on your eyeing list??

    • Congrats! I was really excited when my base salary bumped over 6 figures! A 9% bump is HUGE! I never thought I would make this kind of money either. Even my salary as an intern was huge, if you annualized it, and about as much money as I probably thought I would make permanently from my younger dreaming days.

      I am not sure what kind of dog we’ll get – I have a feeling it’s still several years away. There are so many types to choose from!

  6. Freedom is totally a valid goal! If you don’t know what you want to buy, just know you have choices.

    I do want kids, but not just yet. My only anxiety is when the “ready” will come and nature will cooperate. If not, I guess we’ll move from there. I did know that I had time to raise a puppy into a dog before having kid. Young puppies and babies/toddlers don’t mix, but a dog and kid can work… the puppy will be at least a year (probably significantly more) before any little things are on the scene. Also, “I think we need a puppy” is something no one with young kids says, ever. :)

    Having a dog in an apartment is doable, esp. if you live close places where it can play. It would be harder for a puppy (potty training would be frustrating), but people do it. I have found official off leash areas in my area get so busy (esp. evenings/weekends when I’m free), and I still can’t really take my puppy to them much. The fenced part of our yard is small, which makes me want to do a whole fencing project :)

    • :) One of my friends really wants kids, but never seems to be quite ready (worried about the effect on her career), which worries me as I don’t want her to run out of time on something she wants so much.

      • Yup! I am not so worried about career impact, just feeling… not ready. But I’m aware of the lack of infinite time and the risk of waiting, and i guess that is a bridge to cross if we have to.

  7. I’m also curious about your future dog life now!

    I’m mid 20’s and have a condo, married and a baby and I’ve heard many people tell me how I’ll regret tying myself down as well but I haven’t. I don’t have career aspirations but I’m perfectly happy working at a restaurant or wherever in the world to pay for some slow travel or moving to a different country for a while. Everyone is different and not everything off the go to college-get married-buy a house-have kids- timeline is right for everyone. Don’t listen to others, just follow your own dreams and goals.

    • You’ll have to be really patient because I think getting a dog is at least 3-5 years in the future!

      I’ve been finding it really difficult to figure out what my own dreams and goals are when everyone is giving me so much unwanted advice as to what they should be!

  8. Nice. I am on the same page with almost everything you said – except I am not a huge fan of having a dog (like a lite version of having kids, cats work though as they are undemanding) and at least think I want to completely stop working once I feel financially comfortable (not sure if this part even differs). I do like the idea of traveling the world, but am not sure if I would like actually doing it more than 1 month at a time – have not tried to, so I think I will at least take one indefinite end time trip one day (which may end up not being much more than a month anyway). It will be after I never have to return to work for a living.

    Did anything in particular trigger this post?

    • I know we’ve got a similar post in the queue as a response to the recent spate of personal finance posts about how important it is to find your why (many of which push the things Leigh is talking about here). It’s not actually important to find a why if you don’t have one. Eventually a why may find you. (Just like you don’t need a passion to live a happy life, and the search for one can bring unhappiness!)

      • Exactly!

        Or I’d even say, if you’re already saving, you have a “why” and you’re acting on it. You might not need to figure it out and label it, it’s there in your brain somewhere.

    • A fair number of my close female friends are planning out their kids timelines and the vast majority of people at my new job have kids, whereas no one really did at my last job. I’m tired of people telling me I’ll change my mind or that I don’t know myself well enough to make such a sweeping decision. My boyfriend and I have been going to more weddings and we’ve been dating for over two years now, so people are asking us when *we* are getting married and encouraging us to do so.

      I don’t know if I will stop working once I feel financially comfortable. I don’t feel like I can predict the future on that one. I really, really like routine and stretching my brain. If I could do that without a job, that could work, but when I’ve tried in the past, it simply hasn’t. That said, even if I don’t necessarily plan on stopping working once I feel financially comfortable to do so, that doesn’t mean I won’t find myself disliking my then-job enough to want to quit at some point without another job lined up. I would also consider taking a sabbatical at some point in the future.

  9. We’ve come to accept that when people ask when you’re planning to get married, have kids, buy a house, etc., they don’t mean anything negative by it, and because it’s such a strongly ingrained societal expectation to follow that path, they just assume everyone will and are politely showing interest. Now, when you tell them you don’t want kids and they tell you you’ll change your mind, that’s a different story, but most people still don’t mean anything negatively by it. We know this because we’re in our mid and late 30s and have heard these questions for years (we are married and did buy the house, so it’s mostly the kids question). By now we’re old enough that we don’t get much follow-up beyond “do you have kids?” especially because we answer “nope!” and not some wishy-washy “not yet” or “maybe someday.” When we get these questions, we try to give people the benefit of the doubt, assume they mean well in asking, and try not to respond back in a way that sounds defensive or could be perceived as criticizing their choices, while staying true to ourselves and what we want for our life.

    Good for you for knowing what you want and following that!

  10. I had a tax-season job this winter encouraging low-income taxpayers to save money. As part of it, we asked people who did save to write down why.. Most people gave the same set of answers – for unexpected expenses, for my kids, for retirement.

    A number of people were unable to answer because the idea of not having savings horrified them. Why save? Why breathe?

    But one woman gave the very best answer. “For myself.” That’s all. You might not know what your future self will want to do with the money, but the money will be there for whatever it turns out to be.

    • Whenever I go to yoga and the instructor suggests we set a reason for our practice, my answer is always “For myself; to take care of myself”. You’re right – that’s the only reason I need for saving money too. Thanks for the great insight :)

  11. Great post Leigh. Once people realize that they need set their own course and most likely emulating someone else won’t get them there, the happier they will be. And obviously you are charting your own path. I like taking what works for me from everyone else’s ideas and transforming them into my own Fervent Finance plan. Take care!

    • “taking what works for me from everyone else’s ideas and transforming them into my own […] plan” <- This is exactly what everyone should be doing! I'm so glad you've figured that out! It's taken me a while (somewhat).

  12. I’ve always got the vibe that you’ve gone against the grain. Kudos for sticking to your guns.

    • Thanks! Sometimes I feel guilty that I will have this pile of money and be able to retire early when friends who chose to have kids will retire much later, but I have a plan to slowly increase my charitable giving to a significant amount as I continue working and plan to help fund college for nieces and nephews, which my boyfriend is also on board with. When the first of {mortgage paid off, 4% SWR reached} happens, I plan to increase my charitable giving from its current 1% to 2% of my income, to 5% when the other one happens, and to 10% when/if I reach a 3% SWR. I also will update my will in a few years to donate most of my estate to charity.

      • Things to consider: Is there any sort of common law marriage law in your state? You talk about not wanting to get married to save on taxes, but hoping to live together for at least 5 years. If you guys split up, will you be liable for anything under a ‘common law marriage’ or is the income and savings so similar that it really just doesn’t matter? What about visiting rights if one of you gets hospitalized?

        I don’t think you should feel guilty about choosing a different lifestyle than others choose – we all make our life choices and have to live with the consequences. It’s very generous of you to hook up your nieces and nephews with college funds and it’s also generous to have your $$$ go to charities. I’d personally rather see the fruits of the donations while I was living, but I guess you never know how long you have.

        • Oh I absolutely plan to donate while I’m alive and see the fruits of it, but say, my estate could generate scholarships for far more people than my earnings can while I’m living. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I should do with my wealth beyond just indulging myself. I wonder sometimes whether I really would retire early, so I want to have a plan for what I’ll do if I don’t.. Only time will tell on that, I suppose. I like my routines and having a career of sorts. I like the problem solving part of my career even if sometimes it can be quite frustrating.

          Our income and savings rates are similar that it doesn’t matter that much if you split the post-living together assets, but we did sign a cohabitation agreement stating that we are not in a common law marriage or any other word for it and waiving alimony and such and declaring all income as separate property, just in case.

  13. Nothing about kids is clean or neat. They are actually a germ and bacteria infested animal. And in a restaurant, if they don’t behave, they are very annoying. And don’t get me started on all the taxes I pay to support everyone else’s kids.

    I prefer dogs.

    • Hah! I had a feeling you would say something like that :) I don’t mind paying taxes to support everyone else’s kids. I think it’s important for kids to be well-fed and educated for the next generation.

  14. You sound a lot like half my friends. No kids, maybe pets (depending), lots of cool and different things they’d like to do with their time and money. Totally normal! I think it’s great that we don’t all want the same things. I quite enjoy my boring and stable life because I worked really hard for this stability but I love having my more adventuresome friends over to feed and have them tell me all about the awesome things they’d done which wouldn’t be possible if shackled to pets or children. In turn I happily share my dogs for petting.

    I never needed to have kids but I always had to have dogs. That said, when we decided to have ours, I was happy to learn I liked hir a lot after all. I don’t post any pictures but I take as many as I do of my dogs because this kid is like a puppy to me. Messy, a bit noisy, but cute and fun as ze learns. (As I type, ze is chewing on my shin, angry I won’t let hir chew on my toes. See? Puppy).

    I think it’s a little funny when people are curmudgeons about *all* kids though. Like it or not, someone’s gotta make up the next generation. As a dear teacher (also very childfeee by choice) once told me, if we must have kids, let them belong to those who are going to love and teach them because we need more good people in the world.

    That alone wouldn’t have convinced me to have kids but now I do love my life despite the parts that suck and I do want the whole package but will reserve the right to exchange parts of it.

    • :) I’m definitely fine with paying taxes to put other people’s kids through school and such. I do understand the need for the next generation to be there and all.

      To be honest, I would say that my life is a bit boring and stable too. I’m not someone who goes out drinking every night of the week or anything like that.

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