The old rhyme goes something like this: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.
While that jingle reflects life for many, those without children have had the option of managing their lives differently than parents in areas of finance, housing, careers and vacations.
When it comes to navigating life as they age, advice from experts to those without kids doesn't vary much from what folks with children are told.
Mostly it's their lifestyles that contrast, but the biggest differences will likely come later in life. On one hand, the childless demographic obviously does not have the expenses and obligations linked to raising kids. On the other hand, they won't have children and grandchildren to rely on later in life.
But many in the Act2 generation who are childless say they enjoy the freedom and lack of financial pressures associated with having kids. "I have no regrets," said Stephen Porcelli, 46, of Bay Shore, who feels the aging experience is the same, with or without children. "My niece and nephew will pay as little attention to me as their own parents."
Childless = freedom
Others who were open to the idea of having children still point out advantages of a lifestyle without them.
"I can come and go as I please," said Fern Fladell, 45, of Rockville Centre. She didn't have children because, "Mr. Right Now never became Mr. Right."
Without children, said Marion Weisdorfer, 48, of Levittown, "I vacationed more, and my vacations were not in places that were child-oriented, such as Disney. . . . I think I worry a little less about finances.
Although I have bills, home repairs and retirement to plan for, as do people with children, I don't have to worry about college tuition!" However, being childless doesn't mean being worry-free, especially as we age. There are still questions about elder care, beneficiaries, appointing health-care agents and other legal issues.
Sharyn DiGeronimo, 45, of Selden, has multiple sclerosis and already has encountered such issues. She and her husband, Mike, 54, are each other's health proxy.
"This is a very scary thing for which we must plan," Sharyn said. "I have now included second and third designees, even though they are out-of-state. Mike needs to feel supported if he feels overwhelmed in a situation."
Spouses, siblings and close friends may take the place of kids and grandkids, and there's no guarantee that aging parents will be able to rely on their offspring.
But as years pass, surviving spouses and those who never married may have fewer people to turn to. What happens if you're childless and can no longer care for yourself?
The answer: Plan now
Dianne Guarino, 47, of Centerport, notes that because she and her husband, Lenny, don't have kids, they will probably budget for their senior years more aggressively than if they had children. "I may have to spend more for health care and assisted living in the future," she said.
That's a move advocated by Jeffrey Levine, a financial planner in Rockville Centre. "One of the most important safeguards that can be put into place is long-term-care insurance," he said.
Levine recommends a cash benefit policy that will pay out the benefit amount, regardless of where care is received. "Some policies may pay for hospice in a hospice facility, but not home hospice care," Levine said.
He also recommends paying the policy over a fixed number of years. "Once that policy is paid up, there will never be another premium owed, and if the costs go up, it's the insurance company's problem, not yours," he noted.
Being near friends
When making retirement plans, moving is often contemplated, with the decision sometimes based on staying near relatives and friends. That's true for Fladell, who anticipates eventually heading to the Carolinas, following her dearest friends whom she describes as close as family.
Others may focus on locations that support their interests. "If I did choose to move, I think my location would be based mostly on finding a place that would give me the most opportunities to do the things I enjoy," Weisdorfer said.
If you're considering a move, make sure your current planning documents will be effective at the new location, advises Jeffrey Greener, a trusts, estates and tax lawyer in Uniondale.
"I always suggest to clients to contact an attorney in their new home state to make sure documents will remain valid," he said. More important is making your wishes clearly known to your health care agent or your agent under a power of attorney, he said.
Choosing who will inherit your estate should be the easy part.
"My brother and his children are the people named in my will," Weisdorfer said. "I would like to see them get some enjoyment out of what I have worked for, but not anytime soon!"
Experts recommend being as specific as possible with your assets. Levine suggests that those without children who have beneficiaries like nieces or nephews in mind, name the intended recipient directly on the beneficiary form of a 401K, IRA or other retirement account, rather than in a will. Those with no beneficiaries might opt for charitable planning. For those with substantial assets, it may pay to set up a charitable trust.
"Doing so would not only ensure that the assets are passed to the charity as they wanted, but could also provide a substantial tax deduction during their lives, creating a win-win situation."