How Could You Afford Another?

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:

Naming rights.

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?

If you liked this article, click on “Recommend” to share with your Facebook network.  And please share your thoughts on this article by submitting your comments below.The Editors

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About the Author

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong is married to Patti. Patti is the more famous Catholic author with best-selling books and a contributing correspondent to both the National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor.

Married for 36 years, the couple have ten children and three grandkids so far (with three more due in 2018!).  Mark travels and presents a PowerPoint presentation to retreats, church events, schools and conferences on Our Lady of Guadalupe with a replica image blessed by Saint John Paul II. His writings on Our Lady of Guadalupe are also online here.

Mark and family members also toured Italy in 2010 and again in 2015, including several days during the public venerations of the Shroud of Turin. Mark also writes articles on The Shroud and has an amazing PowerPoint presentation on the Shroud of Turin believed by many to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

He also co-authored the best-selling Catholic book,  Amazing Grace for Fathers.

Connect with Mark on:

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  1. Mark,

    This article brought a smile to my face as I remember my wife and I trying to figure out how to “afford” our first child when we were only a few years into our marriage. Children are a blessing from God and we are so thankful for our kids. I have noticed how everything has worked out just fine over the years and the money just doesn’t seem to matter compared to the immeasurable gifts we parents receive in return.

    Thanks for this great reminder to start my day!

    God bless you, Patti and your wonderful family.


  2. Mark, the other thing you get to do is to proudly answer “yes they are” when people ask in disbelief, “are they all yours??”

    We have 8 children and raising them in Toronto, Canada is expensive, but with God’s providence and St. Joseph’s intercession, money has not been an issue. However, we live a frugal lifestyle and use our God-given inteligence and talents to make sure our kids have everything they need to be healthy, educated and well-balanced……… God’s providence in all things!

    One of the many blessings we have seen is that our children are not materialistic and while they value the importance of money well-earned, it and the stuff it buys are not the most important things in their lives.

    Terry McDermott
    Toronto, Canada

  3. Dear Mr. Armstrong,

    Although this article states many truths about children in a cheerful and upbeat fashion, I find it unhelpful as a serious encouragement to those wrestling with financial stresses and questions about future children, particularly in this economy. Thoughtful readers would probably like to know much more about how you managed financially and how Providence seemed to work for you. Otherwise the message is simply too carefree. I mean this with all respect.

    Also, is there any point at which one simply has too many children? If so, what is that point, and what are the criteria for determining it?

    Yours in Christ,

  4. My father always told me that the best investment you can make is in the education of your children. This was proven true as he has 4 well adjusted children. He invested heavily in Catholic Education, college, and even grad school; selflessly giving his labors toward our benefit. Not sure the financial planner would agree, but his investment has been paying him back for years now!

  5. Greetings in Christ Viv,

    While I did write the article in a “cheerful and upbeat” fashion, you raised some questions about how one could manage in this economy and how does one discern when one has too many children.

    I should tell you that I don’t have all the answers for you. Prayer and discernment are your best weapons in this effort to know what is right. What I can tell you is that we live in a rich society. We are both using electricity, computers and probably have all the modern conveniences at our disposal. We don’t “need” all these things for our material or spiritual survival. Look at our poor brothers and sisters in the developing world. They often have little in the way of material things, but have large families and rich spiritual lives. And in my experience in visiting these so-called “poor” countries they lead rich spiritual lives.

    So then how can we survive in these depressed economic times then, given where we live? For our family it has always been trying to live frugally. My wife Patti is regular at rummage sales. We rarely buy anything new. We try to live as simply as we can. For almost 25 years we bought cars that we could afford, and had no car payment. And Patti has stayed home with all ten kids and homeschooled them until high school (I come home at lunch and teach Math). I’ve seen the math on daycare costs for larger families (not to mention the disconnect with having time together) and it doesn’t seem to really add up to me. And we know a lot of families where we live that practice this same lifestyle….so we are not unique. Good Catholic families with lots of children, who struggle sometimes to make ends meet, but as some who commented on Facebook for this article, “God will provide it you place your trust in Him.”

    As far as how many children to have…that’s a whole ‘nother article! In fact, Patti and I give talks on this topic. Suffice to say, don’t get in God’s way. Be open to life. We have adopted children, been foster parents and do not practice any sort of birth control. Let God have his way with you. Just as Mary said, “be it done according to Your will.” Be that child for our Creator. And let Him create that life he wants for you! God bless you Viv, I said a rosary for you after Mass today. I hope this helps.

    Domino vobiscum,


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