One of the most common questions I get when people learn I’m childfree is, “Who’s going to take care of you when you’re older?” The presumption is that by having children, one is guaranteed to have an end-of-life caregiver.

The problem is, it rarely works out that way. So not only is having kids for such a self-serving reason selfish, it’s also downright irresponsible.

Here are the reasons that having kids is NOT a retirement  plan.

1. You Don’t Need Kids to Have Happy Golden Years

Earlier this year, one of my company’s clients became terminally ill. She was a single woman with no children. As her illness progressed I would regularly hear my co-workers say things like, “I feel so bad for Ann. She never had any kids… no one to take care of her now.” To me, this was a perfect example of the confirmation bias people have when viewing childfree women. Because Ann actually had a truly devoted friend and caretaker who saw her through everything. Her friend was a younger woman who was in no way related to her and in no way obligated to take care of her during her illness. And yet she managed all of Ann’s finances and the details of her life for no payment. They were friends, and that’s what friends do.

It always make me wonder how unlovable people think they are to believe that they must bind someone to care for them through filial obligation.

2. Having Kids Is No Guarantee of Care

I can say for a fact that Ann was cared for much better than many elderly mothers I’ve come into contact with during my career. If you’ve ever known an older parent, you know what I’m talking about. Poor old mom sits lonely in a nursing home while her children have the nerve to mind their own lives and care for their own young children. Or worse, she’s abused or abandoned.

Having Kids Is Not A Retirement Plan

3. Kids Are Not Responsible End-of-Life Planning

The final major flaw with this line of thinking is that, frankly, it’s a bit irresponsible. I know many cultures believe it’s the child’s responsibility to care for the parent. And at one time, the only way you could ensure you’d be looked after in old age was by bearing children. But this isn’t the neolithic age. Today we have an advanced society, the ability to work, and currency. There’s no reason most adults should depend on their kids to give them money, comfort, or companionship.

Because here’s the thing: kids grow up to be humans. (Okay, they’re always humans, but most of us don’t see them as actual individuals until they age-out of childhood.)

Having children so you don’t have to make provisions for your own future is lazy and selfish. And probably one of the reasons your grown kids (if you have them) will come to resent you.

What You Should Do Instead

If you don’t have children, consider not having them. Take a portion of the fortune you’d spend on raising a child and invest it in your future.  I mean literally invest it. Like through a bank or an investment company. Instead of relying on someone else, rely on yourself! Make all of your own decisions, including the kind of allowance you’ll give yourself in your retirement or possible illness.

Instead of creating children and then planning to be a financial burden to them later in life, just create your own financial freedom. As to having another person by your side to help you navigate those waters when they arise, come on. You are not such an unlovable person that you need to resort to guilt-tripping a child to avoid end-of-life neglect. People end up alone when their kids abandon them because they invested everything (emotional and financial) into one person who never agreed that they owed them anything.

Having Kids Is Not A Retirement Plan

If you don’t want to end up alone, be kind and have friends. If you don’t want to end up broke, start planning your retirement and end-of-life finances now.

Whatever you do, don’t plan to be a financial and emotional burden to someone who never signed up for that.

Why Having Kids Is Not A Retirement Plan

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6 thoughts on “Why Having Kids Is Not A Retirement Plan”

  1. This was such a great post! Very helpful for both single and married childfree women. I’m happy I found your site via our Pinterest connection! Can’t wait to read more articles.

  2. I’ve had the “who will look after you?” question, too, and it really frustrates me. It’s sad to think that the people asking that question had children or are planning to have children simply because they’re afraid of being alone. I think that’s a poor excuse for bringing a child into the world, a world that is already heavily overpopulated and doesn’t need those extra people anyway. I couldn’t agree more that having kids is no guarantee of care. I like the alternative of creating your own financial freedom so that retirement and old age aren’t stressful. I think that’s the best policy to adopt, kids or no kids!

  3. I think these strategies don’t account for how long people live these days, and with it typically comes cognitive decline and needs that can last for years. The aides in assisted living or nursing homes only handle daily needs: food, bathing, dressing, and laundry.

    Someone needs to become responsible for everything else, from buying toiletries and weekly supplies, to buying new clothes/shoes, taking the elder to doctors, paying their bills, and advocating for them. Not to mention getting them things they enjoy.

    I worry about all of this because we are those people for my in-laws, who are in their 80s and in a care home for four years so far because of physical and cognitive issues. Their well-meaning friends dropped off years ago due to their own health problems.

    Friends are great for a crisis but how realistic is it for them to become responsible for a friend’s life, especially if they are the same age? I don’t know what the answer is, but I worry about it a lot.

    1. In the industry I work in, I see care providers on a daily basis. These people are incredibly skilled at what they do, and do in fact take their patients to the doctor, hairdresser, etc. And they also purchase and provide them with what they need to live and thrive. Sadly, I see many other elderly people who do without these things because they opted to depend on their children instead — and their children don’t care for them.

      As to friends: The two friends I mentioned in the post were about 30 years apart; why would adult friendship by limited by age group? It’s sad for me to think that friendship is so disposable these days that only blood relatives can be bound to one another for care. That hasn’t been my experience; often I see that people who genuinely care about each other are more likely to continue caring after one falls sick than a family member who is called upon to fulfill an obligation.

      You do bring up some good points that I wasn’t able to get to in this post. I’d like to write again soon about the need to appoint a healthcare proxy. This is something that everyone- even people with children, need to do. Blindly relying on children to follow a parent’s unstated wishes is just as dangerous as having no plan or caretaker at all.

      The point in my article was not that WE children shouldn’t care for our parents, but rather that WE adults should plan properly, instead of choosing to become a financial burden to our future children

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