The trend of American women delaying childbearing is undeniable and due to multiple factors. According to The Atlantic, there is a rise among women in their 30s and 40s for several years in terms of fertility. Especially given the rapidly advancing science of fertility treatments, this is not a trend that is likely to be reversed anytime soon, if ever.
The decision to grow your family later in life is one that comes with a handful of lessons. Here are three key takeaways that might help older parents.
1. Planning is more important than ever
On multiple fronts, having children later in life intensifies the need for deliberate financial planning. Conventional wisdom suggests that the longer you hold off on having kids, the further advanced in your career you’ll be – and therefore better equipped to handle the staggering financial burdens of parenthood. According to a 2015 study, American parents spent, on average, $233,610 on child costs from birth until the age of 17, not including college.
However, some take a more contrarian view, where having children later in life creates more financial complications than it does even for the younger new parent set. As an example, consider the plight of what’s known as the Sandwich Generation: those sandwiched between caring for their own children and caring for aging parents. Those who delay childbearing are more likely to be caught in the middle, when parents need financial support at a time when daycare expenses exhaust any extra cash flow.
Additionally, retirement planning gets real right about now. A concept that for so long seemed light years away is suddenly just around the proverbial corner, but on top of that now there’s college to think about, increasing life insurance and even long-term care planning to consider. With this confluence of need, having a sound financial plan is crucial.
2. Retirement is that much further off
- You may worry over when/where/how you will retire.
- Will you downsize and move somewhere cheaper, perhaps with no state tax?
- Will you make an abrupt exit from the work world, or will you gradually ease into a less demanding work schedule?
- Will you continue working purely out of desire to remain intellectually engaged rather than out of financial need?
Having small children makes these options almost completely hypothetical, regardless of how one’s finances play into the analysis.
When we discuss retirement planning with clients, I often hear some variation of how they’ll wait to see where the kids end up then decide whether to follow them there. But for older parents, that familiar scenario may not be an option since their children may not have settled at all when they get to a point where they want to slow down.
3. You have permanently distanced yourself from others in your age group
When you take on the mantle of parenthood, you unwittingly enter a cohort of breeders to which you will belong for the duration of your kid’s childhood. These are the folks you see dropping off the kids at school, in the playgroups, and making rounds in the birthday party circuit. In your case, you may be among the oldest of that group.
Older parents may also see their own childhood friends, schoolmates and siblings much further along in the journey than them. While their kiddos are taking their first steps and playing with dolls, other children are learning to drive and inching startlingly close to full-fledged adulthood.
As a further consequence to the age discordance among fellow parents, forming friendships within the immediate parent circle is particularly challenging when there’s a lack of commonality beyond the ages of one’s kids.
Without a doubt, parenthood at any age adds complexities to one’s life. Oftentimes, delaying this phase only adds to these entanglements. At the same time, renewed focus is achieved. Priorities in life are clearer, and the knowledge that time is limited is understood more profoundly.