Filler: The joy -- and burden -- of raising kids
It seems like there's always another study coming out to tell us how much money it costs to raise a kid. How come no one ever does research on how much cash it costs a married couple to not have kids?
Think of all the spontaneous trips to France or the islands we'd take if we didn't have the little scamps chaining us to the house like unloved dogs tethered to a cinder block? What about the purchasing of silky, sensuous sleepwear that childlessness would entail, when now we can get away with torn T-shirts and sweatpants so distressed that the faded "Juicy" emblazoned on the rear seems to warn of actual spilled juice boxes. Heck, we save $50,000 every time we buy a used four-door sedan instead of a mint two-seater soft top with six on the floor, but does anyone ever tally it up? Nah, they don't bother, because everyone knows childlessness is worth every penny you spend on it. Except for missing out on the priceless joy of raising kids, of course.
So without stats on the economic burden of freedom to ponder, we are left to consider the Department of Agriculture's annual report this week on the cost of bearing and keeping the little joy bundles.
$245,340. That's what it's going to take to raise the average offspring from birth to 18, a convenient cutoff that keeps college costs from being added to the figure and prompting a frightening stampede through the contraception aisles of major drugstores.
The national average is $245,340, anyway. But depending on how you're living, it might be a whole lot less or a big bunch more.
For instance, families that make less than $61,000 a year are raising kids for about $175,000 total. But families with incomes of more than $106,000 per year spend a colossal, whopping and, one hopes, kind of embarrassing $408,000 on each offspring.
Most of us do what we can for our children. If we're rich and all the other kids in the neighborhood are going to camps that teach them how to take the perfect selfie and provide s'mores butlers to do all that nasty melting, we send ours, too. But plenty of families without much in the way of resources commit far more of what they have to child-rearing than wealthier counterparts.
On average, households making less than $61,000 spent 25 percent of their income on a child, while families earning more than $106,000 spent 12 percent of their income on a child.
Kids are also, as the book and movie titles have told us for so long, far cheaper by the dozen . . . or at least by the half dozen. The average only child costs about $291,000 to raise, but if you're willing to have six you can get the cost per head down to a tidy $170,000.
Then there are the regional differences, which are essentially the exact same as the regional differences of any other cost study, by which I mean @#$% New York. Do you think Native Americans knew about the whole spiraling cost-of-living thing when they sold Manhattan for $26. Maybe they took the $26 and retired to North Carolina, where decent islands could be purchased for $2, taxes were low and people slowed down to smell the tobacco.
Mark Lino, who has been authoring the annual study since 1987, said the fact that he has no children is not related to the fact that he studies their money-sucking ways. Hmm.
As expensive as it is to raise kids, you can tack on another huge chunk if they demand access to fancy book learnin' from some college. In truth, the only way we can make the investment pay off is by being tremendous financial burdens to our kids for the final 20 years of our lives.
That's how I plan to recoup what I've put in. And by valuing all the love and joy. That's got to be worth . . . something.
Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.