Starting a family is a big decision that impacts the rest of your life. My spouse and I would absolutely love to have children, yet we have made the mutual decision that we aren’t ready to make that leap yet. Before we move from a family of two to a family of three (or more), we want to pay down our debt, advance in our careers, and save a good amount of money so that we are more financially secure.
Of course, these goals are admirable, but they are somewhat ambiguous. Without narrowing them down further, they could push us so far into the future that we may be unable to have children. That is why we decided that it was important to have very specific goals for each of these targets, and to set up a timeline for achieving these goals. In that way, we will be able to make significant progress towards reaching our goals — without sacrificing our desire to have a family.
What Goals We Would Like to Achieve Before Starting a Family
One of our biggest goals as a couple is to pay down our debt. Our biggest debts are student loans and our mortgage. Between the two, paying off our student loans is the bigger priority for us, because we each have some private student loans with higher interest rates than our mortgage. That is why we have set a goal of paying off our private student loans entirely before we begin our family.
While paying off our private student loans may seem like an insurmountable goal, it is very possible, particularly if we focus on the debt with the highest interest rate and make extra or even double payments each month on that loan. By paying as much as possible on that loan, we can pay it off more quickly — and save thousands of dollars in interest.
We can then devote that extra money towards the other private student loans, and pay those off in turn. Once we have paid off all of our private student loans, we can start making extra payments on our federal student loans, and work towards paying down that debt as well. Because these loans have fixed rates and greater protections than private student loans, these are a lower priority for us — but we still want to pay them off sooner rather than later.
Next, both of us would like to advance in our careers before we start a family. We each have demanding jobs, that require travel, long hours and some evening and weekend work. While we can keep up with these schedules as a childless couple, we know that we won’t want to be doing this with young children. We have each set personal goals to rise to a senior or management level in our respective positions within the next several years. In these jobs, we will not be required to work the same type of hours, or travel as much. In addition, we will be more marketable should we choose to leave our jobs for another position.
Finally, we want to save more money before having a child. Financial experts recommend that you have at least three months’ of monthly living expenses in savings in case of an emergency, yet many Americans have less than $500 in savings. We would like to have six months’ worth of monthly expenses in savings so that we can have a substantial cushion in the event that we need to take time off of work due to something related to our child, or another emergency arises.
Our Timeline for Starting a Family
Given these goals, we believe that starting a family within the next three to four years is a reasonable plan. While this will require us to live frugally and dedicate much of our extra money towards paying down debt and saving, we know that it will ultimately pay off when we are more financially stable upon the arrival of our first child.
Three to four years will also give us substantial time to continue to advance at work, perhaps allowing enough time to either secure a senior position, or make a career move to a company where we will have less demanding positions that will allow us to devote more time to our little ones.
While putting off starting a family isn’t for everyone, we believe that by establishing these goals and working towards them, we are setting both ourselves and our children up for a more solid financial future.