This is part of an ongoing series where I dissect and discuss the reasoning behind various facets of my lifestyle. Through this, I’m attempting to separate the money aspect from the decision-making process, showing that I live a lifestyle that’s largely divorced from concerns about money whatsoever. Essentially, this is a lifestyle that I’d live regardless of my income/wealth. These facets thus aren’t about the money at all, but rather the result of thoughtful choices based around what I value and what drives my happiness.
Perhaps growing up under extremely difficult circumstances colored my view. This is in regard to both nature and nurture.
Surviving extreme poverty and racism in the 80s in Detroit certainly provided me with some tools that I’ve used to my advantage in terms of putting myself in an excellent position to become financially independent at a very early age. Working at eight years old just to be able to eat teaches you a lot about the value of hard work and the appreciation for the little things.
But studying the nature versus nurture debate has led me to the belief that the split is somewhere around 80/20, in favor of nature.
Indeed, I think a lot of the traits that my drug-addled mother possessed were passed down to me; however, I decided long ago to use the best traits and discard the rest.
Well, interestingly enough, my mom never actually wanted children.
She had some personal issues. And she stated on occasion that she had children only because she was lonely. Of course, that’s, in my view, not a very good reason to have kids.
Nonetheless, I’m glad she had kids anyway, as I wouldn’t be alive otherwise. But the circumstances definitely weren’t auspicious. There was almost no way that my mother was going to succeed at motherhood. And so us children were put in a tough spot right from the start.
We were later adopted by another family member, ushered away from Detroit. And that was a real blessing.
But my mom fought the idea of giving us up until she finally relented.
Her reason for fighting?
She didn’t want to give up the state benefits that four children provided her with.
So I guess, in the end, my lack of a paternal drive isn’t terribly surprising.
I realized I didn’t want to have kids many years ago. Probably as early as the thoughts of actually having kids enters one mind.
I looked inside myself way back then for whatever desire might be there – and there was just… nothing.
There have been occasions over the years where I revisited that place inside me just to see if something developed. But time and again, I found nothing.
And so, much like I turned the natural disadvantages my mom passed down to me (through both nature and nurture) into advantages, I also long ago decided to properly own up to the lack of paternal desire/instinct by doing what my mom never could.
I’m childless by choice.
That’s right. I could easily afford to have children. But I don’t have kids by choice.
I say to each their own when it comes to most life choices. If having children makes someone incredibly happy, I say go for it. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the right place (physically, mentally, financially, etc.). Otherwise, that’s great. Have kids.
In fact, having children can lead one to the ultimate form of happiness by way of self-transcendence. So child rearing can be an incredible experience that’s mutually beneficial in many ways.
However, I’ve personally decided on philanthropy as my ticket to self-transcendence.
Now, there are a number of studies and resources out there that have estimated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 years old at about $250,000.
One could argue that’s too little or too much, depending on your individual circumstances.
In my view, it’s probably pretty accurate as an average.
So my decision to not have kids has been a financial boon, regardless of the estimate you want to place on the endeavor.
But I can tell you this: the cost could be $0, yet I would still not have kids.
That’s because I fundamentally believe in not bringing children into this world unless it’s something you’re completely and totally prepared to selflessly devote yourself to. If your heart (let alone wallet) isn’t in the right place, you shouldn’t have kids.
I saw so many kids in terrible circumstances when I was growing up in Detroit. So many people were having kids, even though they clearly should not have been. And it’s just a terrible thing. It’s a drain on society. And it puts the kids in a tough spot they didn’t ask for. Moreover, it leads to an endless cycle that just continues on… generation after generation.
And so I decided to lead by example by shutting down the possibility of any of that in my own life. Just to make sure that path is completely closed, I got a vasectomy a number of years ago.
The nature and nurture that has shaped me has led to a couple of great revelations, though.
First, I’ve decided that a significant chunk of my philanthropic efforts over the course of my lifetime will be devoted to disadvantaged children, especially sick children. My childhood is something I don’t wish on anyone – and I didn’t even have it nearly as rough as millions of children all across the world. So I plan to rectify as much as I can through that avenue.
Second, I always knew that if I had changed my mind on this later down the road, I would simply adopt. Maybe I’d meet a woman with a child or two already. Or maybe my significant other would want children right about the time something inside me sparked. In case any of that happened – and only if my heart were truly in the right place – I would take on that responsibility. I could either take on the father role for someone’s children, or we could adopt a child in the more conventional sense. Being adopted radically changed my life for the better. And that’s something I always knew that I might want to reciprocate somehow, in case I did want children down the road.
Although my significant other, Claudia, has a son that lives with us, she has always preferred to make all of the decisions regarding her son alone. Her interest in my input is pretty much zero. Seeing as how my heart is honestly still not in the right place, it’s an arrangement that has worked out pretty well for both of us.
I’ve been asked many times over the years whether or not I had ever planned on being children. It appeared to be this “gotcha moment” that a lot of people seemed to think they were holding over my head. As if I could only live this lifestyle if I didn’t have children, and so all of it was some huge sacrifice.
Well, that’s actually not the case at all. Regardless of the cost, I’m childless by choice. In fact, that choice was made long before the idea of early retirement ever entered my mind.
Again, I say to each their own. If you want children, and if you’re in the right position to have children, I say go for it. Our civilization couldn’t continue without procreation.
So I’m actually incredibly grateful to all of those people out there having children and raising them correctly. It’s just not a passion I share.
The pursuit of happiness is something I take very seriously, and the lifestyle I now enjoy has been customized and crafted for and by me. It’s wonderful. But not having children is by design. Not having kids is actually part of the pursuit of happiness for me. The fact that this decision is probably going to save me a ton of money is totally irrelevant, as I’m likely just going to give away any money saved by way of philanthropy anyway.
I’m having this dialogue with you readers in order to point out that the lifestyle one creates in order to become financially free at a young age doesn’t have to and shouldn’t lead to a decline in one’s happiness.
Not only does spending more money not automatically lead to more happiness, but spending less money can actually lead to more happiness.
It’s counterintuitive – which makes it that much more amazing. For some reason, people largely believe that money and happiness operate under a constant 1:1 ratio where the increase or decrease of the former always leads to the equivalent change in the latter. But it’s just not true.
And that’s not just due to the permanent shift in one’s internal “happiness thermostat” that one attains after becoming financially free, but it’s also due to the realization that the creation of a more robust lifestyle that concentrates on life and experiences more than stuff and money alleviates oneself of a silly and undue burden. This can actually improve the world around you, which simply compounds the benefits.
Finally, being in a position to make lifestyle decisions not based on money but rather the pursuit of happiness is, in my view, a wonderful way to approach life. I’ve found that I think not about money when I make decisions but instead about whether or not something makes me happy. And it just so happens that what makes me happy doesn’t cost very much money. It’s an incredibly virtuous cycle that’s part of an overarching holistic lifestyle that feeds into itself. Once you open your eyes to it, it’s almost like you can’t help but succeed, become financially free, and live life on your terms.
What about you? Plan on having children? Already have children? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.