A recent survey of millennials by Study.com found 28 percent respondents are delaying “major life decisions” such as marriage and having children because of their student loans.
That’s more than one in four young adults who are putting off their futures indefinitely due to debt. Even more concerning, an entire generation of Americans might not ever exist if the issue of student debt isn’t solved.
Here’s why student loan debt is causing so many millennials to avoid having children, and more importantly, how can they overcome debt to start families of their own.
Reason #1: Stress
David Carlson, personal finance expert and owner of blog Young Adult Money said, “My wife and I are absolutely delaying children due to student loan debt.” He explained that it’s caused stress in their lives and he does not want to have children until the family is “1) debt-free — at least everything other than a mortgage — and 2) in a position to save aggressively for their college education.”
Carlson is not alone. A study by the University of South Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles showed “those who owe money for student loans experience an overall increased number of mental health symptoms signaling depression…The study also showed that the higher the debt, the more symptoms that followed.”
For people who feel stressed or depressed because of their student loan balances, the only way to alleviate these feelings is to to start making significant progress in their repayment strategies.
Whether that means refinancing student loans to a lower interest rate, taking on extra work or a side gig, or significantly cutting back expenses, most people do have the ability to pay off their loans quickly by taking an active and focused approach with their budgets, spending, and repayment strategies.
Reason #2: Child Care Costs
Rebecca Stapler, attorney and personal finance blogger, explained that child care costs factored greatly into her family planning. She said, “We delayed having our second child because of our student loan debt. My husband and I met in law school, and have matching six-figure law school loans. We waited four years to have our second child so that we could space out our child care costs, which are over $20,000 per year for infant childcare in our area.”
According to data from the Pew Research Center, average child care costs vary depending on where you live in the United States. For example, in my hometown of New Jersey, annual daycare costs can be up to $12,000 a year per child. Since I have two children, this is one of the main reasons why I only have a part-time nanny.
For parents who don’t have schedules that are flexible, the cost of child care factors significantly into family planning decisions.
If this is the reason why you are delaying having children, there are many options. For example, you can hire an au pair, a worker from a foreign country who comes to the U.S. to live in your home and help with childcare and housekeeping responsibilities. Au pairs work for no more than 10 hours a day, five days a week for roughly the same cost as having part-time help.
You can also join a co-op, where parents volunteer their time at daycares or preschools in exchange for lower monthly costs. You can also get creative, by trading babysitting with other moms, or negotiating a flexible work schedule.
I personally waited to have children until I knew I could be self-employed. I saved six months of solid self-employment income before even trying to have a child. When I had my twins, I worked as much as I could while still caring for them during the day. The schedule was brutal, but today I have more balance with a part-time nanny.
If you are committed to having a family one day, know that there are several childcare options at many different pricepoints. You just have to find the one that works best for you.
Reason #3: Lower Income
Kirsten, an aerospace engineer and blogger behind Indebted Mom, explained that when her husband was finished with his own engineering degree and got his first full-time job, he was only making $30,000 a year with over $100,000 in student loans.
“Our monthly payments were close to $1,500. I couldn’t imagine having kids at that point! How in the world would we be able to afford them?!” she said. “We had to wait until our income grew significantly. After our combined income grew by $50,000, it finally felt like we could afford children.”
It costs an average of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 through age 18. Because of this, many parents like Kirsten want to wait until they feel financially secure enough to have children. This is definitely something to consider, since being financially stable is an important ingredient in raising a family.
If you want to grow your income before having children, there are many avenues you can take. Start by asking for a raise from your current boss, or consider switching to a higher-paying career, taking on extra work, or even starting a side business in addition to your traditional nine to five.
The extra work and extra income can help you combat some of your student loan debt while freeing up some space in your budget to start a family.
Ultimately, there are many people who delay having kids because of their student loans and many others who decide not to have children at all.
As someone who has children and the burden six-figure student loan debt, I definitely understand all the concerns above. I combated them by raising our income through my business, saving an emergency fund before having a child, paying what we could towards student loans, and personally taking on the majority of childcare in their first year of life.
Although it’s been challenging, we are well on our way to aggressively paying off our loans, and we’re very glad we had children when we did. The decision won’t be right for everyone, but if you’re wavering and really want to start a family, know that it is possible as long as you are willing to work through the issues with some of the solutions above.
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