By Mike Barnett
Invest in a really nice house or have a baby—the choice is yours.
A recent report by USDA says a middle-income family with a child born in 2011 can expect to spend $234,900 in today’s dollars to raise that child for 17 years. That’s comparable to the cost of a nice four-bedroom, three-bath house with a three-car garage in my neighborhood.
Of course I would not trade my babies—now grown women with children of their own—for anything. But I do admit, raising kids is an expensive proposition.
The 2011 projection is a 3.5 percent increase from 2010 and a 23 percent hike from 1960 when the cost of raising a child was pegged at $191,723. The report says costs of housing, food, education and transportation ate up most of those dollars.
Food stood at 16 percent of the total, meaning you’ll spend $37,584 to feed that child for 17 years. Now that sounds like a lot of money, but consider this. If you figure 365 days a year for 17 years, food costs total about $6.05 per day—a little less if you consider leap years.
That’s quite a bargain, true, and you can thank America’s farmers for that abundance. But it’s not enough for me to want to start a new family. I’ve paid my dues, and I look at the money spent raising my kids as an investment that’s paying huge dividends today.
Those dividends number four and the interest I earn on them is worth more than gold. Grandkids, as most grandparents know, are much more fun than the originals. I get the best times without the responsibility. We can misbehave at my house and they pay the consequences when they do the same thing at home. When I get tired, they go back to momma. When they break something, a quick patch suffices until mom fixes everything. I can buy them a kazoo or set of drums for Christmas because I know they’ll be taking them home. I get all the benefits without the expense.
I sympathize that my girls will spend huge six-figure sums on my four grandchildren before it’s time for them to leave the roost.
But life is life. Kids are expensive. And they’re worth every penny spent.