Josie – A Childfree Portrait of Being Lost

Sep 20 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP®

25, Female, Single, California
Currently working on a Bachelor’s Degree

Customer Service

This portrait is one of 26 real life stories presented in the book, Portraits of Childfree Wealth. You can download a free copy here.

Josie started her discussion with me, describing how she ran away from home at 17 to escape an abusive household. She was trying to get from Louisiana to California. She got as far as Texas, and it wasn’t until months later that she was legally allowed to leave and would end up reaching California. Since then, she has been a bit lost (by her own admission) and struggling to get unstuck.

Josie chose to be Childfree at about 15:
“I would say it probably happened around when I was 15. That’s when I was officially diagnosed as neurodivergent. And before that, I’d always just been like the weird kid… When I was a little kid, I told my mom I would have a bunch of kids when I grew up. And then when the diagnosis came, it was like, well, if I do have any kids they are going to have a lot of genetic problems. Not just mentally, but most likely physically as well. And I’m just not in a good place, you know, physically, mentally to take care of them.”
The biggest benefit of being Childfree for Josie is that no one is relying on you:
“Not having anybody else to take care of besides yourself. If you have a partner, you obviously help take care of them, and they’ll help take care of you. But with a kid, it’s just that you have to provide everything for them. They completely rely on you for everything. If you don’t have the finances to take care of them, they’re not going to understand as they’re just a baby. They don’t know how the world works.”
Josie does not regret being Childfree and is currently working on getting sterilized. Josie now lives with her friend’s family and is happy raising her chickens (and two VERY vocal roosters). Josie considers herself a storyteller and loves to write and animate. However, storytelling is on hold as she works her way through school doing clerical work and customer service. She has been at the job for seven years but is still just making over minimum wage:
“I’m getting a steady income. It’s slightly above minimum wage. So, I guess I’m doing pretty good there. I’m trying to learn a new language and trying to further my education. I’m doing the best I can right now.”
Josie received an inheritance when her father passed and invested it in a construction business just before COVID-19 hit:
“I invested my inheritance into a business in the construction field. That never really took off because COVID came immediately after. The business is still around. They’re doing work, but it’s just not nearly as much as it would be if COVID had never happened. So I’ve went from relying on that to take off, to trying to get a degree that I can use to further myself.”
The business isn’t currently bringing in income for Josie. But, even though it was a significant investment, Josie does not regret it:
“I don’t regret the investment. If I had known COVID was coming, I probably would have purchased a house where it’s not such a high population density.”
Now Josie is looking at a career in banking or accounting. Even though she is a creative person at heart, she is “good with numbers and math” to the point where that might be her future. She has been at her job long enough that they rely on her regularly for interpretations of documents sent from customers and billing decisions. It isn’t glamorous, and her current position takes it all out of her. It is good that being Childfree allows her the benefit of having more time for herself:
“After working for eight hours, getting screamed at by customers, and trying to read documents all day, sometimes, I choose to be lazy when I get home from work. I don’t have to take care of anything or anyone. I, of course, feed my chickens, but that’s like five minutes, tops. I don’t gotta go to a pediatrics appointment or a soccer game. So I can sit on my butt and be lazy.”
Josie is not happy with her current job but knows that if she were storytelling, it would be different. Josie shared:
“I don’t think anybody wants to work… But, I wouldn’t mind working if it was just talking and telling stories and writing stuff.”
While Josie would love to follow her storytelling passion and maybe move back to Texas, she is just too tired to make progress:
“I don’t have any kids to take care of, but I feel tired all the time. Just spending eight hours talking to people on the phone and having them tell me I’m the cause of all their problems, that’s how customer service goes. And then I get home, and I don’t want to deal with anything else. I just want to relax.”
I asked Josie, “If your job is draining you that much, why do you keep going?” Her answer:
“Well, not starving is a good motivator. I like being able to buy food, I am looking for a different position, but so far, the only people that have replied to my request to be hired are scammers… It is so hard to get noticed by employers… They’re preaching to us in the news that nobody wants to work. And then it’s like, we can’t even get a call back for the 12 jobs we’ve applied to.”
Josie is applying to five jobs a week and is working hard to stay out of debt:
“I don’t like to be in debt. I just don’t like the concept of owing someone money. But, I understand that with credit scores, you need to get into debt to build up your credit score. So, I have done that before and then paid it off. I’m in debt right now because I had to have a dental procedure done a couple of months ago. But, I almost have that paid off.”
Josie’s retirement plans are simple:
“I hope that I make enough money on either the business or accounting to retire. That is as long as inflation doesn’t force me to work ‘til I die.”
I asked her to describe her life in one word, and her answer was:
“Lost… I guess you just have all of your expectations for life. They just did not come about. You’re told you’re going to graduate high school, and you’re going to get a big ceremony, and then you’re going to go off to college, and you’re going to get a degree and get a good job. Right. I just, I didn’t follow any of that. So, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
Josie got her GED and graduated early but did not get the ceremony or much else. She was in an abusive household and did not follow the “standard” script. Josie shared:
“I feel like, because I didn’t follow the script that was hammered into me, I feel like I’m adrift.”
Josie has been through a lot in her life. She is working hard to improve and find herself. She is trying to do better. I asked Josie if she saw the light at the end of the tunnel:
“I don’t know if it’s like a light at the end of the tunnel, but I am hopeful for the future. I think I’ll improve myself and get a better job. I do think that construction business will take off.”
Two months after the interview, Josie reached out to me and asked me to add this:
“I know it’s been a while since I have done the interview, but some new information recently came to light that changes how I would have/already spent the inheritance I received from my father. Technically, my business partner embezzled $40K worth of the inheritance out of my account. This was $40K out of $110K, so it was a significant portion. However, we had already spent approximately $70K on a vehicle and various upgrades that would be necessary to use it as a working vehicle, and I had assumed the remaining amount had gone to purchasing tools. I was working full time and could barely function beyond going to work and coming home at the time, so I didn’t question the amount spent on tools. And looking at credit reports would reveal that the remainder of the inheritance had been spent on tools. However, what the report would not show me, was that my business partner was returning all the tools purchased and getting refunds in cash.

He did this to pay for cancer treatments.

He had no insurance at the time (self-employed), and because we are not married, I could not add him to the insurance I have from my job. Suppose I had elected to spend the inheritance on a house or a down payment on a house (for creating room to have a child or other reasons). In that case, there is an astronomically high possibility that we would not have been able to afford the treatments. Feel free to imagine what the outcome of that would have been. He hid these treatments from everyone, including his long-term girlfriend. Thankfully, he only had stage I cancer, so full chemo was unnecessary, only chemo pills. Myself and his girlfriend did see him be very sick and assumed it was because he was studying too much. It turns out the opposite was true— he was studying to distract himself from the sickness. I do not fault my business partner in any way for doing this, and I am glad he was able to spend the money on the treatments before I invested the money into anything else.

I find it disgusting that in the ’land of the free’, we need to use an accumulated lifetime of wealth from the deceased to keep the living alive.”

About the Author - Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP® is the Founder of Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm dedicated to helping Childfree and Permanently Childless people. Dr Jay is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Childfree Wealth Specialist, and author of the book “Portraits of Childfree Wealth.” His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut.