To what degree should finances affect life decisions?
Last week, I listed some some of my poorer financial decisions. Unfortunately, the picture that I inserted into the post seemed to give the impression that I viewed having children as a poor financial decision. That was not the intent and I took a little heat for that decision. But the discussion did start me thinking about the relationship between life decisions and money.
Are finances a reason to delay going to college?
Obviously, everyone’s situation is different in regard to college and most kids would be wise to delay going away to school by attending a cheap local college for at least the first two years. There are other ways to reduce college costs: take college level courses in high school, take online courses, enroll in summer school, and more. I’m not sure if completely delaying enrollment in college is all that good of an idea. First, because college costs are always going up and the longer you wait, the longer it costs. Two, because it is much harder to go back to school once you have taken a year off. Third, because under most insurance policies, a dependent must be in school in order to be eligible for medical coverage. Kind of stinks that a person should be forced into college even if they do not want to go, but that is the world we live in.
It is possible to go to school and emerge completely debt free, but if you can get your eight semesters done in four years and emerge with less than $15,000 in school loans . . . you are in pretty good shape (as long as you don’t have credit card debt and a car loan on top of that). So, to answer the question: it depends.
Are finances a reason to wait for marriage?
This one is interesting. I made a joking reference in my last post that marrying my wife was a bad idea because of all her college loans. That was a joke. Her loan amounts were relatively low anyway and if they had been large, that would not deterred me anyway. But should you delay marriage because of the debt that the other person might be carrying?
I think yes.
Not necessarily because of the debt itself, but because of the lifestyle and attitude toward money that it might indicate. Almost all marriage problems are made worse by differing approaches toward spending and saving. It is important to remember that good money compatibility does not necessarily translate into a good marriage. Good marriages are built, they don’t just happen.
Are finances a reason to wait to have children?
It is true that children are expensive over their lifetime, but I trust in the biblical promise that children are a blessing.
So, in other words: no.
Rearing children can be difficult and require planning and hard work, but it is worth it. Furthermore, the more children you have, the greater chance that one of them will be a doctor or lawyer or professional baseball player who can support you in your old age. Seriously, though, I am glad that we had our first child early (17 months after we were married). There is never a perfect time to have children. You can always come up with a reason to delay this big step. I think that a part of the decision to get married is the discussion of whether or not to have children. If you say, “We are ready to get married, but not ready for children” then I suspect that you might not be as ready for marriage as you might think . . .
There is another aspect to this decision that needs to be mentioned and that is that strong finances do not always equal good parenting. In fact, there is a part of me that is quite thankful that I grew up relatively poor. I would love to be able to give my children everything. But at the same time, I know that it might be more important for them to learn that money does not create happiness and how to save and spend wisely. I don’t want our home to be characterized by instant gratification. My children need to learn that all important word: NO and that other important word: WAIT!
If my financial status was “rich” or “comfortable” or even “stable”, I would be much more tempted to get them everything they wanted and not concentrate on teaching them to be content with what they have.
Finances are a big part of any decision, but years ago, when people went to college or got married or had kids, they could solve those problems one day at a time with hard work and frugality. The easy access to credit has made all of these decisions more complicated. There is an added dimension to our lives: debt. Our grandparents never imagined that a person could bring a huge amount of debt in to a marriage or take out a $70,000 loan for college.
So how do finances affect your big decisions?
Picture by Freddy the boy