I remember laughing when we were expecting our first child and I heard how much money we needed to save to ensure a proper “nest egg” for our future children and our retirement. I was a radio news reporter at a CBS station in Portland, Oregon. My wife, Patti, was just graduating with honors in a Masters of public administration program at Portland State University. We had met in the Peace Corps, drove a British two-seater convertible and spent our weekends as a young, carefree, childless couple. We cross-country skied the Cascade Mountains in the winter and backpacked on mountain trails in the summer or looked for agates on Oregon’s white sand beaches.
But shortly after we had our first child, most people thought we had lost our marbles. I quit my well-paying job and Patti took her hard-earned master’s degree so we could become Jesuit Volunteers on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Ronan, Montana. We traded in the sports car for a Ford Escort, traded life in a high-rise apartment building in downtown Portland for a tiny crumbling home. It was not the advice the financial adviser had in mind for us.
Trading in the “good life” for something more spiritually meaningful, affected how I experienced fatherhood. Money took a back seat. Like any loving father would say, it was the most exciting, life-changing moment in my life. With most “high point” experiences, people want more. A great meal, a fantastic vacation, or a favorite movie are all enjoyable things that create the desire for more. But when it comes to children, it’s not unusual for people to say “no more” In many cases, it boils down to money: “We can’t afford another.”
I came across a piece on the Internet that the government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 at $160,140.00 for the average family. With a price tag like that, no wonder some families reel from sticker shock. Bargain shopping and economizing make children much less expensive, but even at full price, they are still a bargain
While some financial advisors might consider having another child to be fiscally foolish, it actually depends on what sort of wealth we are talking about. You can put $160,140 into something tangible like land, stocks or some other investment, but it can drop in value (look what happened to people who put all their wealth in their homes or stocks recently). And everybody knows you can’t take it with you. If you put your money in a child, that investment is everlasting.
And since we ended up eventually having ten kids, that $160,140 would have been a whopping $1,160,140 before they even stepped off into college. Not practical financially, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for any “thing” this side of heaven. In facts none of the things that money can buy can go to heaven with you (assuming you of course end up there). Children are the only things you can create on earth that “hopefully and prayerfully” will end up heaven with you. The rest of the “stuff” stays here.
In addition you get:
Someone to give bear hugs to.
Companionship and free entertainment.
More hugs and kisses than an accountant can tally.
Someone to open up your world to the wonder of trees, bugs, rainbows, thunder storms, and garbage trucks.
A true-blue fan.
A partner for flying kites, sledding, and seeing who can make the biggest splashes in the pool.
Someone to laugh at your jokes (well at least until junior high school starts).
A reason to still play at the playground and sled down the sledding hills.
Someone who appreciates the faces you carve on pumpkins.
You have someone to love more than you ever imagined was possible.
A reason to celebrate Father’s Day.
You get to be a hero just for being taller and stronger than mom.
You can witness home runs from the comfort of your backyard hit over the fence with a plastic bat.
The opportunity to be the best baseball or football coach in the world and influence them on which professional teams to actually root for!
You get to hear Dada’s intended just for you.
A front row seat for driver’s training. (Gulp)
You get a free education in the assembly of bikes and large plastic toys from China. (And your children sometimes get an education on words they shouldn’t hear until they get older!)
In the eyes of your child, you rank right up there with God. In fact, you get to speak for Him as you love and discipline your child.
You have more real power than superheroes to fix things, take the family on a vacation, police a teen, ground them for eternity and then return their freedom again.
You get to hear a child squeal: “I love you, Daddy!”
Then, as if that were not enough, your investment pays dividends—you receive grandchildren to keep the love going.
Add it all up, I think it is worth a whole lot more than $160,140! Besides, money can’t buy you love and the children you do have give back love to you for free! Really, how could afford not to have another?
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