We all have pictures in our head of our perfect futures: a beautiful home, a loving partner, beach holidays in Mauritius and, oh, one or two or three kids.

The specific number of children is a hugely personal preference usually influenced by personal choice, family history and negotiations with your partner. But the most important factor, the one that should support all of this, is often not considered.  

When deciding how many children you’re going to have, the number one consideration should be cost. It’s almost as if we collectively forget how much raising a child costs when we’re painting our perfect picture of the future.

But providing for a child requires a huge financial outlay, and each additional child even more so. So when you’re dreaming of your big house, it might be a sensible idea to plan to fill it with fewer people.

There are unavoidable costs to raising a child

No matter how frugal you are, having a child costs money. As soon as you add your new baby to your medical aid cover, that’s an extra R1 000 to R2 000 per month.

When they start school, you’re looking at anywhere between R2 000 and R10 000 per month for a decent to high-end education.

And that’s before you’ve fed them, clothed them, entertained them or put a roof over their heads.

While children thrive on love and attention, unfortunately the best things in life aren’t free and you’ll need a significant income to provide for them.

Each additional child adds to these unavoidable costs (although you can hand down clothes and toys), so it’s important to do a realistic budget of actual costs when you are planning your family.

You need to take care of yourself first

There is no point in bringing children into this world if your long-term plan is to burden them with your financial upkeep.

That’s a selfish reason to have kids. You are your own responsibility and you need to be saving a significant amount of money each month towards your retirement.

If you spend R3 000 a month on a child, that’s a R1 800 000 nest egg you could have accumulated towards your old age (calculated at 10% return over 18 years).

And we all know that R3 000 a month is probably only half of what you spend on your child. So before you start planning the nursery, plan your monthly retirement contribution, and make sure you have enough left over without hurting your future.

The environmental cost of having children

While damage to the planet isn’t strictly a budgetary concern (although as resources become scarcer, we will keep having to pay more for them), it is also worth thinking about the bigger picture when you make your contribution to expanding our population.

According to Population Matters, a UK-based thinktank, having a small family is a step towards sustainability.

Every human being has a carbon footprint, so having fewer children is one of the most environmentally friendly steps we can take to reduce our impact on our planet.

Will your children get the attention and support they deserve?

Population Matters points out that with fewer siblings, a child experiences less "resource dilution" – which means that they benefit from more attention from their parents and support in academia and other pursuits, as well as the financial support their parents can give them.

There is no perfect number

While there are lots of reasons – many of them financial – to consider keeping your family small, no one else can fully understand your own particular situation or dictate to you what you should or shoudn’t do.

Having children is a very personal choice and every family weighs up their own circumstances when making their decision.

But if you want children or are considering having another one, think carefully about the cost implications before you go ahead – this is a step that will impact your budget for the rest of your – and a good part of their – lives.

Article by 1Life Insurance

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