Should You Save for Parenthood—Even If You're Not Sure ...

Raising a kid through age 18 costs parents nearly $250,000—and that doesn't include the potential for expensive fertility treatments or adoption fees to become a parent, or those very expensive college years. So it's no wonder that many potential parents-to-be are concerned about the price tag.

Our caller this week, Blair (not her real name), a 33-year-old journalist in New York City, is weighing the costs of parenthood as she watches her friends freeze their eggs, and deciding whether or not to become a parent. "It took me 11 years to figure out how to be financially stable on my own—is all of that going to go out the window once I have kids?" she asks. "I have this fear of having kids that are dependent on me financially and me being not able to provide for them."

With other life goals—such as writing a novel—on her horizon, and wanting to have a partner if she does become a parent, it doesn't seem like it's in the cards, at least for now. "It's less, am I going to have kids or not, and more, what are the variables that you want to have in place to be able to have a family? So for me, the variables are, I want to be in a partnership. Maybe you want to be able to move back home with your family to be closer to family by the time you're ready to have kids. Maybe you want to finish up a job thing. So I think it's more variables than putting the pressure on ourselves to get to a yes or a no right now."

Alyssa Davies, founder of

Money Confidential

host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez tapped financial expert (and mom) Alyssa Davies, founder of and author of the

100 Day Financial Goal Journal

to share her advice about making the leap into parenthood. Davies says that while it's impossible to feel completely ready for the responsibilities of parenthood, you may be more ready than you think. "One thing to remember is you have some control when it comes to the financial side of it, whether you think you do or you don't," Davies says.

If you think parenthood might be in your future, she suggests starting to save now—even if it's far on the horizon. "I save for goals before they've happened, which sounds ridiculous, but that's what we're doing with any financial goal," Davies says. "Worst case scenario, you have a huge chunk of savings that you can put towards anything you want."

Check out this week's episode of

Money Confidential

, "I'm not sure whether I want a baby. Should I save for one anyway?" on







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'My whole group chat is about fertility and egg freezing and I'm the one out of the four that silently I'm not really sure if I want to have kids.'

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

This is Money Confidential, a podcast from Real Simple about our money stories, struggles and secrets. I'm your host, Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez. And today our guest is a 33-year-old journalist living in New York City who we're calling Blair - not her real name.


Moving to New York as a young magazine assistant and trying to live on $28,000 a year was my starting salary. It took me a long time to figure out how to find a good quality of life. I did go into a little bit of credit card debt. I remember I had to go across the street to Chase bank and open a credit card just so that I had funds to get me to my next payday. My friends and I talk about how, when we were in our early twenties, it was cute and fun to talk about how broke we were.

I just felt like all my future self will figure out my finances one day. And then you get into your thirties and you realize, no, it is way cooler to be on top of your money.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

How does being in your thirties differ from what you thought your thirties would look like growing up?


Everyone knew I wanted to move to New York and so that's what I'm doing now. I'm living in New York in my own apartment. I have a dog.

So in one respect, a lot of my early thirties is what I thought it would be. To be honest I did also envision that somewhere along the line, family life would intersect with that New York dream.

When I was younger I basically grew up finding new socially acceptable ways to play house. I would play Barbies, I would play pretend house. I would play the Sims video game and that was really just an excuse for me to build a dream house and have a Sims family.

So that hasn't happened for me yet. Now I'm 33 and it sucks, but I am running up against that clock of like, okay. If I do want to have kids, I have to actually either get serious, you know, that's something that is very much on my mind for sure.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

How do you think about that from a financial perspective?


It's driven a lot from a financial perspective. What's great about my life now is that it took me a long time to figure out how to be financially stable as a writer and editor in New York. And I do feel like at 33, I figured that out.

I just moved into my dream apartment in Hell's Kitchen. It has a beautiful view of the sunset over the river every night.

I have a little bit of a disposable income now. And so I think, okay. I actually could be happy either as a single woman continuing this life or if I were to find a partner, I would also be happy to just being in a relationship and not having kids. And it just being us two.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

Across the US, many women are grappling with similar questions and considerations. The US birthrate fell

4 percent

in 2020, the largest single year decrease in nearly 50 years, an acceleration of an already existing shift to people having smaller families and more adults choosing not to have children.


I do have friends who have this insanely strong maternal instinct and they would have a child on their own versus go on and be a woman who does not choose to have children. For me, I could kind of take it or leave it at this point. And I feel like what's on the con list of having kids is okay. It took me like 11 years to figure out how to be financially stable on my own. Is all of that going to go out the window once I have kids? Kids are obviously super expensive, especially in New York.

And that's where I want to live for sure. So it's a big question mark.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

According to the USDA, the cost of raising a child in the United States as of 2015 was roughly


over the course of 17 years. That number includes necessities like food, shelter and childcare, but does not include the cost of a college education or any other form of financial support beyond the age of 17.


There's the option to get fertility testing, now there's the option to do egg freezing, which a close friend of mine just went through. And I think, okay. Maybe I'll do fertility testing. It'd be good to know here, it's a couple hundred dollars I could handle. That egg freezing can be up to $10,000.

My friend was able to pay, I think, $800 out of pocket. She works for a company with a great health insurance plan. So she was able to get her company to cover it. That's also a question mark for me, but to your point, if I were to plan for kids beyond that, I don't want to put money aside and maybe this is an indication of what my gut feelings are. I don't want to put money aside right now for hypothetical kids


I saw my mom really struggle whenever she and my dad divorced in all the ways—physically, mentally, emotionally. And I think that she did the best job she could as a single mom and all single moms are so awesome. They have such a hard job, but I feel if I'm being honest, she became really bitter that she lost a quality of life that she had when she was married.

And as I got older, I just thought to myself, I don't ever want my financial freedom to be compromised or dependent based on my relationship I do just have this fear of having kids that are dependent on me financially and me being not able to provide for them.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

Do you think you would feel that way if money were no object?


That's a great question because, absolutely not. I'm a journalist, you know, as much as I would like to think that I'm going to strike some million-dollar deal one day, I think there's probably a cap to what I'm going to make in my career lifespan. And if I were suddenly handed millions of dollars in my lap, that would certainly change the equation, but I have to be realistic.

I also have other things that I know that I want to do in my life. My big goal right now is to write a manuscript. I was thinking the other day, if I get to the end of my life and I haven't published that novel, I would regret that. If I got to the end of my life and I haven't had my own child, but I were an aunt to my brother's kids or an aunt to my best friend's kids, I feel like I could still feel like I made a difference.

I wish it could be not, do you want to have kids? I wish it could be, do you want to raise kids? Because I think raising a child is really hard. My friend and I were just talking about this the other night. It really still in 2021, it falls on women. So much of the emotional labor, all of the, you know, logistics and planning and the raising of the kids. It's really hard if it's left to one person.

And to be honest, I think part of it is me leaning toward the cons because I am single. And so part of this I think is me needing to accept that I might not have kids. And so that needs to be okay. I don't think I could afford to have kids on my own.

There are some women who will want to have kids on their own regardless of their relationship status.

But for me, I think just growing up the way I did, I see my life going one of two ways, either I'm a single woman who ends up not having kids or a partner, or I'm a single woman who meets someone and we have kids.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

I think sometimes we reduce these huge complicated decisions and the way we think about them down to like this one thing, oh, this person isn't doing it because of this or that. And in my experience, never one thing.


I wonder, okay. If I were to freeze my eggs now, and seven years from now, I'm 40 and my income looks completely different in a good way.

Maybe I would. A change in financial circumstances could also open up the idea of having kids.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

As more women in the US look to have children later in life or to keep their options open, fertility treatments and procedures like egg freezing have become

increasingly popular.

But they can also be expensive. The cost of egg freezing, for example, can range from $6,000 to $20,000 per cycle. A price tag that doesn't include the ongoing cost of storing those frozen eggs, nor does it include the expense of thawing and implanting them in the future. And these costs are often not covered by health insurance plans.

If you were to do some kind of fertility treatment or egg freezing, do you feel like you have the finances to be able to afford that?


So this year's big financial thing for me was moving. So I think about egg freezing as a maybe next year savings goal. I definitely have a lot of homework to do in that regard because I want to see if my company's health insurance policy would cover it because that would certainly lower the cost.

I certainly don't have like an extra $10,000 sitting around, but that's something I could save for and it also would be great obviously if insurance would cover it.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

I know that mid-thirties is a time where everyone around you is also grappling with these questions And I wonder how that has shaped your perspective and your feelings around it.


Yeah, it's funny. I had my three best friends where we're, you know, in a group text every day, it's becoming more and more dominated by baby talk.

One did go through the egg freezing recently, which was helpful, I think for all of us, but especially me because the other two friends are planning to try to have a baby soon. So it's really just me who's thinking, oh, maybe I'll follow her lead and do this in the next year or two. And so between the four of us they make me feel behind the curve in so many ways because they're either married or engaged or about to be engaged and they're ready both emotionally and financially to have a baby, which is a big deal.

I think for me, it's about not having to make a decision right now. I think that the nearest term decisions that I'll be making are, do you want to do a fertility assessment?

And do you want to freeze your eggs?

I think I want to do the fertility assessment and then I probably will end up freezing my eggs. I think that would be a good thing to save for. But then that just pushes the decision away even further.

I think it's less, am I going to have kids or not, and more, what are the variables that you want to have in place to be able to have a family?

So for me, the variables are, I want to be in a partnership. And again, there's no illusion that that partnership could evolve or dissolve one day, you know, like, I'm a child of divorced parents.

I think I would want a partner where we would say, okay, even if we didn't end up together, we would still be good co-parents I would want that variable to be in place for me to say yes to kids. I would also want us both to be as financially ready as possible.

And so we would both probably in our conversations about having kids say, okay, let's get all of our financial stuff out on the table. What do we both need to do to be where we want to be, to have kids and how can we help each other get there.

Maybe you want to be able to move back home with your family to be closer to family by the time you're ready to have kids.

Maybe you want to finish up a job thing. So I think it's more variables than putting the pressure on ourselves as women in our mid-thirties to, to get to a yes or a no right now.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

As expensive as it can be to have and raise children, the certainty of wanting a family can at least serve as a kind of grounding point for your financial plans. But it's really hard to create any kind of financial plan when you're still not certain what you want. And when you're talking about having kids, we're talking about a decision with huge financial, personal and emotional implications, not to mention social pressures and societal expectations, and the fact that having or adopting kids can change the rest of your life. So after the break, we'll speak to a financial expert about her own experience navigating all of the uncertainty and pressure that can come up when thinking about family planning —and what that means for our money.

Alyssa Davies:

As someone who had an unplanned pregnancy and now a planned pregnancy, I feel like I've seen it from a few different perspectives and gone through a lot of my own issues to kind of get where I am today.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

That's Alyssa Davies, founder of and author of the

100 Day Financial Goal Journal


Alyssa Davies:

I never thought I wanted to be a mom. It was never something I planned to do.

I was really, really into my career. And so when I did finally find out that I was pregnant, everything kind of came crashing down.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

What did that feel like?

Alyssa Davies:

It's hard to put into words because at the time I wasn't mentally prepared for any significant life changes.

We had just moved to a new city. So that was already enough to go through and throwing a kid into the mix was just more stressful than anything. It wasn't like when you see even like pregnancy commercials and they're taking the pregnancy test, it's like, oh, so much excitement and joy.

For me, it was like, 'Whoa, this can't be happening.' I found out very late that I was pregnant. I think it was between eight and 10 weeks. And so we sat at a dining table in our kitchen and started making a budget.

To be honest the one thing I feel like I have control over is the financial aspect. So if there's one way of looking at it where you feel like you're losing control in a lot of senses, that was the one area where I was like, okay, I actually have control in this part of this milestone.

So sitting down and putting together that spreadsheet of this is approximately how much we're going to spend over the next nine to 10 months. That gave me a little bit of power back.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

What would be some of the information from a financial perspective, people should take into consideration?

Alyssa Davies:

One thing to remember is yes, you have some control when it comes to the financial side of it, whether you think you do or you don't.

But another thing is just, everyone always asks, 'When am I going to be ready or will I know if I'm ready?' And you'll never be ready. It's like most things in life. The biggest thing I can say is that it's good to acknowledge where you're at in your current financial life. If you feel secure, then you could probably have a kid tomorrow, if you really wanted to. Having that confidence piece is something that we don't actually consider as being as valuable as it is.

And then you can do general research exploring to see how much it's actually going to cost to get a better idea. And maybe that number will make you feel better or maybe it'll make you feel like more confident in, hey, I don't actually want to have a kid and that's not a big deal.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

Have you heard from anybody in your own community about things like fertility costs or egg freezing, or some of these other things that are tied to having kids, but also come with these huge price tags.

Alyssa Davies:

Yes. A lot of my friends have actually had to make the decision between whether they even want to do that because of the cost.

And I've had friends on both sides. I've had friends who have decided that the stress alone of spending all of that money on IVF and then not knowing if you're going to actually get a child out of it, wasn't worth it for her. And so she chose to not have a kid. And that's something that she has dealt with over many years of her being one of those people that really, really wanted a kid, her entire life.

And then I have people who have done it and it's been great and they can totally justify the cost because they got what they wanted out of it.

But there's not a lot of people that would talk openly about I did it and it didn't work. I think there's a lot of, yeah, awkward shame around that that shouldn't exist but does.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

Is there a way we can think about this just so that we can be prepared financially, no matter what we decide.

Alyssa Davies:

Yeah actually. I save for goals before they've happened, which sounds ridiculous, but that's like what we're doing with any financial goal. Whether it's like you're getting married and you're not even in a relationship. I don't think it's weird to start a savings account for that. No one's going to know that you're saving money for it.

So why should you be embarrassed? Why should you think that's not something you can do? You can do that if maybe one day, 10 years from now, you decide you want to actually have a kid or maybe you want to adopt a kid. At least you have the choice because you have some financial means already put aside for that.

Worst case scenario, you have a huge chunk of savings that you can put towards anything you want. So there is a way to kind of help yourself with those decisions before they actually come.

I had just started doing that before I found out I was pregnant. I only had $500 in there, but it was $500. Like that is a huge start for me which would have felt extremely significant when I was as stressed as I was.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

I also want to talk to you about being a mom because you do have that perspective of having been through the process. What are some of the things that have surprised you from a financial perspective?

Alyssa Davies:

I think one thing that I didn't realize I would spend a lot of money on, particularly in postpartum, like when you're in a lot of pain, experiencing a new life for the first time, was emotional spending. Like I had to give myself a lot more freedom than I ever thought I would just to kind of let go and spend money. And that's not easy to do when you have someone else to take care of, to like, say it's okay for you to order dinner because you're tired and you're sore, or it's okay to hire someone to come and clean your house.

So that was something that I really struggled with, I also didn't realize how much my mental health would suffer because it wasn't really well talked about. So that was a big expense for me because I had to go to therapy again.

And I don't know why, but for some reason I was like, I've been to therapy. I don't have to go back, ever again, but it never works like that. And the two years postpartum for me, finding out who I was again, because it wasn't my decision to have a kid when I had a kid.

It wasn't in my plans. And so I felt like I lost a huge part of who I was as a person. And it took a lot of therapy to find myself again. And to understand who I was before I could even think about, do I want another kid or is this, is this even an option for me?So that was an expense, but most importantly, it's like every single year, there are new expenses that come in and that's something that you cannot plan for because you never know what those expenses are gonna be, whether it's your kids in extra curriculars or maybe your kid actually has a health issue and you have to now suddenly take on that expense. There are just so many things that you can't plan for, and that you do lose control of.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

Have you seen this discourse around the falling birth rate?

Alyssa Davies:

Oh yeah. I understand it in the sense that it's like any milestone that we're supposed to have at certain ages.

Like everyone thinks that we're supposed to do all of these things, right? You go to school, you find your partner, you get married, you get a house, you have kids. It's like, who came up with this? Honestly, it makes no sense anymore. It's the same as any money thing. There's no one-size-fits-all solution.

So why are we treating life like that?

I think it's the part of like the cost of living is going up and wages aren't going up with it. It's the overwhelming feeling like once you have kids, you cannot possibly have the same freedoms that you have right now. And that's true.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:


Alyssa Davies:

And people are starting to openly talk about that. And a lot of the times we thought that that wasn't the reality because people only talked about the good parts of parenting, but now it's starting to come out that, Hey, it's not actually always good.

That was one of the things I struggled with the most. We have the maternity leave in Canada, it's great. I had the option to take a year or 18 months off and I chose a year and everyone was like, it's going to be so great. You're going to get to do all of these things and have just time for you and your family. And I wasn't enjoying it. I felt lost. I felt like I wasn't getting to use my brain the same way as I was used to.

I felt like I was missing out on all of these opportunities with my career. And by 10 months I had to go back. I just was like, this has been long enough. I feel like if I take any more time off, I'm losing growth in my earning potential and I'm missing the thing that I loved the most, which was just getting the opportunity to work on my passions.

The societal pressure as a mom is like, it's astronomical. I left to go for a work trip last week, I was gone for seven days. That's a long time to be away from my kid.

I've never done it. So like, you can imagine I'm already feeling a lot of pressure and a lot of shame around it for no reason, even though it's like a huge work opportunity, I should be excited. I shouldn't even be worrying about that. Because I know like 10 years from now, my daughter's going to be like, wow, it's so cool.

You did that one thing. But people immediately, their first question, wasn't like, what's this trip for? And like, what are you doing for work? I want to hear all about it. It was like, well, who's going to watch your daughter and, you know?

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

And just to clarify, you're not a single parent.

Alyssa Davies:

Exactly. So I'm like first of all, that's a really inappropriate question.

Second of all, it's not just my daughter. Uh, so I think we're going to be okay. Or it's like, is he going to be okay with her for a week? Like, hm. Yeah, I think he's going to be fine.

It's a question you should ask your partner and yourself before you have a kid or before you even decide, if you want to have a kid is what is going to make us equal parents in this relationship because thankfully I have a really supportive partner, but a lot of people don't, and that's more common is to have a partner who isn't as supportive, and that doesn't take on a lot of the responsibilities of taking care of your house. Uh, the mental kind of burden of all of these worries about cooking and cleaning like that shouldn't be on one person.And so it's hard to kind of know if that's going to be a reality or not, unless you have open conversations about that with your partner.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

Is there a way you're financially preparing for your second child that's different this time around?

Alyssa Davies:

It's actually a lot different this time around. I am the higher income earner in our household. We are losing quite a lot of our primary income once I go on maternity leave. So we are saving way more aggressively than we did with our first. I've been taking on a lot of extra work this year, just to kind of save more money to put aside so that we don't have to stress about things. I didn't actually save for retirement the entire year that I was on maternity leave either because again, low income and I didn't want to have to give that up this time. So we're just doing a lot more work before the baby comes also because we had more time and because again, it was planned. So that's something that we're definitely changing.

It's not like you're going to ever not feel like you have to do more. 'Cause I think that's something that we all kind of have to live with these days. Is that feeling of like, I should be doing everything all at once, but if you can't do it all at once, you're not the only one.

I don't think anyone's doing it all at once. So don't feel like you're alone in that world.

Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez:

To have kids or not to have kids. It's personal, for sure, and it's definitely not as simple as figuring out how to afford raising them. But to Alyssa Davies's point, looking up and mapping out some of the projected costs - not just in year one but over the course of 18 to 25 years might actually give you a little more clarity and a sense of control in your decision making either way.

And it's 100% OK if the decision is ultimately no. Either way, saving money is almost always a good habit to get into, whether it's for a baby or egg freezing or fertility treatments or adoption. If you ultimately decide not to have or raise kids, you can always use those savings for whatever life goals


feel in alignment with your priorities and values.

This has been Money Confidential from Real Simple. If, like Blair, you have a money story or question to share, you can send me an email at money dot confidential at real simple dot com. You can also leave us a voicemail at ‪(929) 352-4106.

Be sure to follow Money Confidential on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode. And we'd love your feedback. If you're enjoying the show leave us a review, we'd really appreciate it. You can also find us online at

CREDITS: Real Simple is based in New York City. Money Confidential is produced by Mickey O'Connor, Heather Morgan Shott and me, Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez O'Connell Rodriguez. Thanks to our production team at Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Chris Browning and Trae Budde.