Monday, May 01, 2017

Don't Do Things You Can't Afford

Matt Walsh writes a lot of good stuff. I follow him on Twitter. I haven't listened to his podcasts or read his new book. Every once in a while, I disagree with what he writes, and this is one of those time.

This time, Walsh wrote to encourage people to go ahead and have children young. Walsh is greatly disturbed that so many people his age are still living with a parent, but even if they're not, he's still bothered that they're not marrying, and not having children. And it probably bothers him a lot (though he doesn't say it in this column) that most of them are fornicating and/or masturbating.

I generally do think people should move out of their parents' home when they finish with college or before, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest that people are not marrying and not having children.

I was 27 and broke when we had kids.
And that was irresponsible of Walsh.
They were twins, so we became a family of four right out of the gate. We didn’t really know anybody where we lived, and we were about 600 miles from the nearest family member.
Bad planning.

I wasn’t making much money at my job, we had nothing in savings, and we were pretty far in the red because of medical bills and my wife’s student loan debt.
This is what you SHOULD NOT DO, kids.
...it’s clear that we were not in what our society would consider the “ideal” position to get married or have kids. We weren’t ready. We couldn’t afford it. And yet we did get married and we did have kids.
Which was irresponsible.

And here we are. All of us (five of us now). Still breathing, somehow.
Yes, it is called debt, handouts from family, and, for a lot of people, public assistance in one form or another. If Walsh avoided all three of these things, I'd be very surprised.
My generation has been stuck in neutral for years, not wanting to get married, not wanting to have kids, refusing to move out of mom’s house and be adults, always insisting that we aren’t “ready.”
People can be living on their own and still not want to get married and even if they do want to marry, still not want to have kids.


We don’t have the money. We don’t have time. We don’t have an entire checklist full of things that we’ve decided we must have in order to be functioning grown ups.
All true, in many cases.
We’re waiting. We’ve been waiting forever. Waiting for a voice to come from the sky telling us, “Now’s the time. Go forth.” Waiting, especially, to “afford it,” as if growth and maturity are pricey consumer products you purchase at Target.
It takes money and time to raise children. And people can "grow" and "mature" without marriage and kids and and without wanting marriage and kids.
Of course, various institutions have actually come up with price tags for adulthood and parenthood. Depending on where you look, you’ll be told that the entry level fee to be a mommy or daddy ranges anywhere from $13,000 to $15,000  a year per child. Over the course of a kid’s entire young life, the media claims we’ll have to cough up a quarter of a million dollars for one kid.
Whether or not those numbers are right, kids cost a lot in time, money. energy, and freedom. You may say the kids are worth it, but not everyone feels the same. And honestly, was it worth it for someone to raise Charles Manson?
If you’re spending $250,000 to get your child to the age of 18, I can only assume you bought him his own house, a butler, and you’re serving him caviar smoothies in a silver chalice sippy cup.
Private school alone can cost that much. But there's needing to buy a larger automobile and maybe an additional one, car seats, a larger place to live, furniture, higher utility costs, clothes, diapers, foods, toys, medicines, recreation and entertainment, extra travel costs, missed work days/hours, birthday parties, activities (sports, music, etc.), pets and vet costs, tutors, doctor visits, medical tests, hospital stays, therapy, lawyers, accountants, don't forget pregnancy and delivery costs (even more if there are complications or the child has a disease or disability). Also, some parents save for their kids' higher education.
They’re nonsense, trust me. Yet they’re the kind of nonsense that utterly terrifies my peers and convinces them that they can’t have kids, let alone get married, until they’ve got six figures in savings. The problem is that they probably won’t ever have that kind of money in the bank, and if they do it won’t be until they’re AARP eligible. They’re waiting around for a “stability” hardly anybody attains when they’re in their 20s and early 30s, which, incidentally, are the ages where women are actually fertile.
And so what? What if they don't marry and have kids? I'm sure Walsh has an explanation about Social Security or the labor force, or whatever, but I suspect his real concerns are different.
This all raises the question: did God get it wrong when He set up our biological clocks, or do we have it wrong in how we approach marriage, parenthood, and adulthood?
We've built up our culture a certain way, is all. And individuals have to deal with the culture as it isn, not as we with it to be.
We’ve got it all backward. We think we should get through young adulthood, establish ourselves, build a life of some sort, and finally begin the process of finding spouses and becoming parents once we’re safely ensconced in the protective cocoon of middle age.
While middle age is too late to have children, the statistics are that people who marry in their late twenties are far more likely to have a lasting, stable marriage than people who marry before the age of 25.
It was never meant to be that way, though.
Oh really? People who don't actually have a Theistic worldview or some holy text that says so are going to dismiss "meant to be" wording right away, but Walsh generally has a Roman Catholic worldview. I'm not aware of anything in the Bible that indicates what is "meant to be" as far as when people marry. Maybe the RCC leadership has said something authoritative over the years that I haven't heard?

What was going on in the days of Joseph and Mary? From what I understand, girls were marrying around the age of 13. I doubt that's what Walsh is advocating. Weren't the guys typically a bit older, and, since the grew up learning their father's trade, in most cases, they were established? These days, I'd like to see an accountant get away with taking his seven year-old son to the office every day and having him do some of the work, rather than having him in school.
There should be a few people who haven’t gotten married or had kids by 30, not millions.
Depends on what you mean by "should". Given the conditions of life today, I'd commend a 30 year-old man who is child-free and hasn't ever been married.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a lot to start a family. You don’t really need anything, honestly. A roof over your head helps. Health insurance is good. A car would be nice. But a bunch of money in savings? A cushy job? A house that’s already paid off? Why in the world do you need any of that right away?
You don't need a house that's paid off. An apartment is fine, but children tend to need stability.
You’ll get there, maybe, but not anytime soon. And, if you start a family now, the whole fun and adventure of getting there is that you’ll do it as a family.
Ah yes... "fun" and "adventure". Yes, it is fun and adventure to fight with your spouse about money and to struggle to buy new shoes for your kids. That's so much fun!!!
It’s kind of a sad idea that a man would “make a life for himself” all alone and then inject a wife and kids into this thing that’s already been constructed without them.
Sad? Well then maybe guys shouldn't get married and have kids at all then? Kids are just fine, even better off, if they come into a constructed life. The kids need stability. If they have a father who has already established himself then they have a father who doesn't need the family to keep moving. They have a father who doesn't need to always work late or work weekends. Does Walsh, or will he, solicit his kids' opinion on whether or not to buy a certain house? Ridiculous.

As for the wife, I can see Walsh's point, but it is to a man's advantage to already be established and to own a home outright before signing a legal contract with a woman. If he's built his life and has things the way he wants them, and a woman is willing to climb aboard that ship, it means she wants what the man has. If a guy with nothing marries before he builds his life, he's going to constantly defer to his wife's preferences and whims, and he's going to, most likely, have a life that is completely unlike what he really wants.

Ever notice how animals build nests before having offspring?

Dr. Laura keeps reminding us that "in the day" a man couldn't even begin to date/court a woman unless he'd demonstrated to her father that he could provide for a wife and children. Walsh is dismissing that.
This strategy leads to its own problems, too. The man will often begin to resent his family because they’re intruding. This is not their life, it’s his. He can’t look to his wife and kids and say, “They were with me when I had nothing. We were together from the beginning. We climbed to this point together.” Rather, he says, “I built this on my own. I did all of this myself. I climbed without them. This is mine. They don’t know anything about it, the freeloaders.”
Here we have what's really going on. People like Walsh are afraid men are going to figure out that they don't need a wife. And if we're honest, a man who has his act together and is established really doesn't need a wife. Getting married and having children is, in many ways, a man sacrificing himself. He used to be rewarded for making that sacrifice, but that has mostly gone away.
And I think this is probably one of the reasons why people who get married in their 30s have higher rates of divorce. Walking the bumpiest parts of the road together, struggling, sacrificing, suffering, going without — this is what brings a family together.
Hey guys! Why aren't you eager to unnecessarily subject yourself to "struggling, sacrificing, suffering, going without" with an irrational, moody creature who has the power to ruin your life?!? And while Walsh says it brings a family together, it quite often - usually, in fact - does the opposite.
It’s an edifying experience if you have the right heart about it.
You see guys, Walsh has the right heart about it. What is that, anyway? The heart that says, "Life could be so much better if I made better decisions, but I just need to endure this because... well, because this is what I decided?" I literally pray for Walsh, that his wife never divorces him. Because she can. And she can take everything from him, including his children. And she can take his earnings on an ongoing basis.
By modern standards, my parents couldn’t afford to have even one kid by the time they had three, and they could never afford to have the six kids they eventually produced. Yet they managed to raise us all, send four of us through college (I declined the invitation), and now they have six adult children who are all established in life, and 15 grandchildren. They couldn’t afford it, but here we are.
What kind of retirement savings do his parents have? What happens if they are disabled and need professional care? The answer, most likely, is that Walsh and his siblings will probably have to spend obscene amounts of money taking care of his parents when the money should be going to his own retirement or the education of his kids. And I'm sure all of the spouses of Walsh and his siblings will be ever so happy about that.
We had to make sacrifices. Not huge ones, in the grand scheme, but sacrifices.
Sacrifices. And Walsh is trying to get you to marry, and marry young.
We didn’t go on exotic vacations. We only had one TV. We didn’t have our own bedrooms. We wore secondhand clothes. We almost never went to restaurants. We got our Super Nintendo when everyone else was playing Nintendo 64. We ate off-brand cereal.
I'm already regretting not marrying younger.
I think when most people say they can’t “afford” to have a family, what they mean is that they don’t want to live like I lived as a kid.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
What my generation has decided it “needs” is to live a luxurious, fashionable, Instagramable life.
How about just a more secure life? Since Walsh doesn't mention it, I'm going to assume that his father didn't get hit by a bus and none of his siblings struggled with a severe illness or disability. Something like that can devastate a family that is just making ends meet.
They’re missing out.
Yes, missing out on worrying as much about their finances. People say I'm missing out because I don't run marathons. I'll miss out, thank you very much.
If you’re waiting until you can “afford” the next step in life, you’ll be stuck at the bottom of the staircase forever.
Wrong! First of all, who says marriage and parenting is a the next step? It might not be, for someone. Secondly, if someone strategically plans, including for emergencies and disruptions, they will be able to afford the next step in life.
I’m not even sure what people mean when they say they aren’t “ready” to get married or have kids.
Maybe it's an entirely subjective concept, kind of like how he earlier wrote that his modest lifestyle as a kid "built character"?
It’s like saying you aren’t ready for the sun to rise.
Not so. The Sun will rise whatever we do. Getting married and having children are active, deliberate choices. We don't have to do them, and we can choose when they happen.
You can’t know exactly what the day will hold for you, but you embrace it fearlessly because that’s what it means to be alive.
You can usually have more of an idea what will happen if you don't have a wife or kids, because then it is more likely that what happens is something you decided. For example, when I was a bachelor, I knew for sure I was not going to be spending my day in the emergency room because of something a kid did to themselves.
You can never be prepared or “ready” for marriage and parenthood because you have no concept of what those things mean until you’re knee deep in it.
Then people shouldn't do it. People should not voluntarily opt for such significant changes, especially changes that will involve other people, if they can't prepare for them. Seriously. To what else in life does Walsh apply this thinking? "Well, you can't really know what it would be like to fly in that airplane with the gaping holes, but let's take off in it anyway."

We weren’t “ready” for our newest baby to be in and out of the hospital four times in the span of a week shortly after he was born, but he was, and we adjusted. And we weren’t “ready” for him to cry for five months straight — and we’ve had two infants at once so we thought we had it figured out — but we handled it. And I wasn’t ready for all the times I’ve been puked on and covered in various unseemly fluids, but it happened, God help me.
What are you waiting for, childless people and unmarried men?!?

I sure hope this isn't the case, because I sincerely want Walsh to be happy, but this column smacks of something that someone writes when they're trying to convince themselves that they did the right thing, when deep down they have regrets or question if they really did.

The truth is that nobody is ready, all right? Nobody is prepared. Nobody has any idea what they’re getting themselves into. Most people can’t afford it. Most people aren’t in the ideal position.
And again, he's trying to sell you on (young) marriage and parenthood. If this is the sort of thing he'll admit, imagine what he's not telling you.
We’re all in the same boat. You’re no different.
Well, no, people who decide not to marry and procreate young are not in the same boat. They are different. And often they're much better off as a result.

Now let's look at some of the comments. (Scroll down to the bottom if you want to jump to my concluding comments.)


IncognitoMan on said:


I got married right before I started law school. We had our first two children in law school and my wife stayed home to raise them. People told me to get welfare to pay for our kids’ birth and then their diapers and I refused. I worked part time as a mover, doing legal research, and teaching at the university all while going to school full-time.
This means those kids never saw their father awake.


Dogger088 on said:
I have ten kids I also have two of my own businesses which my kids all worked in one time or another since they where 7 years old.
Child labor? It was on a farm, apparently.


AlabamaRichard on said:
It would be dumb to say we weren’t ”ready” at our house. We were in our mid 20s, dual income of over $120k.. Had the great house, good cars, even a boat… Good jobs. Great daycare.
He warehoused his kid(s).
It would be dumb to say we weren’t ”ready”. And our first child was honestly easier than I expected.
Well sure! Someone else was raising that kid.
I have a close friend who has delayed life in general until he’s ”ready”. He’s 30 something, lives at home with his mom and dad, no wife or even prospect of, cushy job but making half what he should be. It’s honestly depressing to me.
I'm with this guy on the living with mom and dad thing, but free of a wife and has a cushy job? That's not depressing, that's a dream!
JackieTreehorn on said:


What exactly is to be gained by encouraging people who don’t feel ready for kids or aren’t yet mature enough or for whatever reason don’t want them yet, to have them anyway?
A cynic might say: 1) misery loves company and 2) more tithe-payers in the church.
ShakenandSpeared on said:

Matt thinks only the rich spend $15,000 a year on a toddler, which is ridiculous. For many, day care costs can easily run $1,000 per month, that’s $12,000 per year. And, that’s not for expensive places to live like the most big cities. That only leaves $3,000 for diapers, clothes, food, medical bills, etc.
Yup.


pduffy on said:


This entire society has been programmed to believe that children are a liability instead of an asset.
Financially speaking, that is a fact, not a belief.





blarman40 on said:

By the time I received my undergraduate degree I had three children and during that whole time I was taking 15 credit hours AND working 40+ hours a week while maintaining a 3.8 GPA.
So his kids never saw him awake. Hey, there was a stretch in my life where I was consistently working over 70 hours per week. But I wasn't married and I had no children.
And knowing what the big bad world was like, I went straight into my MBA from there. When I finished, we had five children, had bought a starter home from the 70’s, and had two used vehicles, but no student loans and no loans except our home – due to my wife’s outstanding financial management.
And how much did his kids see him again?
Jamescm on said:
It is no mystery that the second commandment anyone ever received was ”Have children”, and it is no mystery that those who further the work of the devil (whether or not they believe that one exists) find any reason they can to put down or villain-ize the idea of having children.
_
The importance of this can be outlined by the fact that other commandments have had divinely instructed exceptions: Abraham lied about his relation to Sarah, Hebrews stole from Egyptians, Israelites killed Canaanites. Never has the command to have children been rescinded.
How many children did Jesus produce (through intercourse, rather than special creation)? I know Mormons believe otherwise, but most Christians believe Jesus never married, nor had children. He certainly wasn't immature!!!

I addressed some of these issues when I responded to the late Frank Pastore's radio musings about whether or not Christians should marry younger.

There's a basic financial thing called interest, and especially compounding interest. For those of you unfamiliar with the particulars, it is that debt tends to bring more debt. Profit, wisely invested, tends to bring more profit. A 25 year-old who wisely invests $1,000 has the potential to generate far more money than a 65 year-old wisely investing the same money, because of time. Time really is money. Conversely, if someone gets into debt when they are young and making less money (and thus have less ability to pay off the debt quickly), they're going to pay more fees and interest costs than someone who is older, has better credit, and can quickly pay off the debt.

People who get married young and have children young (let's say under 25), even if they don't go into debt, are limiting their financial prospects severely compared to someone who does these things when they are older. This is because the younger person who spends $1,000 on diapers or other expenses generated by children could have invested that $1,000 and, in ten years, have much more than $1,000. The "older parent" will have the money to spend on the diapers and the extra money for something else.

That doesn't even take into account the limiting of professional opportunities and earning potential because someone can't take those better offers with another employer, can't as easily move, can't spend more time networking or making sales.

Telling people who are waiting until later to have children they should go ahead and have them now and that "The Lord will provide" is a recipe for having bitter people raising children. Do you really want people to raise children with such a mindset?

I'm not one of those people who thinks nobody should have children young and everyone should avoid having a lot of children. Have all the kids you want, as early as you want. Just don't drown them or stick them on a television show to cover your expenses or come to me, Mr. Taxpayer, with your hand out. It's been a long time since I've listened to Hank Hanegraaff, but he used to point out to callers concerned about whether or not to have (a lot of) children that he has a lot of kids and that he and his make it work. What he doesn't mention is that he and his wife draw hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from CRI on a yearly basis. Sorry, in most of the country, it just isn't the same for someone who's making $60,000 per year.


It is highly irresponsible to deliberately conceive children before you're financially stable. If that means you never have kids, so be it!

Also, I'm sure Walsh agrees that children should be raised in a stable, lasting, happy marriage, so there's another reason not to have children at all.



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