Cindy - A Portrait of Caring - Childfree Wealth

Oct 11 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®

39, Female, Married, Illinois
Bachelor’s in Business
Operations Manager

This portrait is one of 26 real life stories presented in the book, Portraits of Childfree Wealth. You can download a free copy here.
Cindy is married, works as an operations manager, and loves cats. Cindy and her husband care for her mother and also took care of her father for 18 months before he passed. Caring is at the core of Cindy’s heart:
“I’m in Illinois, and it is freezing cold out here right now. I think it was minus-five. I have a little group of stray cats that I take care of. I built little houses for them so that they won’t freeze to death.”
While she may have considered dating someone who had kids, being Childfree has worked out for her:
“I’m just not a child person and never have been. I never had that calling to have kids. It just really was never in the cards for me… I like my time to be my own. The flexibility to do what I want when I want is very important. It’s the same concept with money. I don’t want to work my ass off for the rest of my working life for someone else to spend my money. I’d rather choose what I do with my money and having a child isn’t important to me… I like caring for other people. So that has nothing to do with not wanting kids. I’m pretty happy in a caregiver role most of the time. I’ve been like that my whole life.”
Being Childfree allows Cindy to live her life best life. When asked what the most significant benefit of being Childfree was, Cindy shared:
“I would say not having to consider how my decisions are going to impact someone else [besides her husband], especially someone else who is smaller may not understand things. My husband and I are very much on the same page on pretty much everything. We’re very much alike. We can live a fairly independent life with each other, and I don’t have to overthink any single decision that I make.”
Cindy enjoys her work as an operations manager but would love more time for travel:
“Work is always at the forefront of my mind when I’m planning my time away. I can’t be gone for two weeks at a stretch to go to Greece, to go to Italy. I can be away for a week. Not a problem. Even though I am an ops manager for an engineering company, I keep my hours close to 45 hours per week. So, I have a more balanced daily life than most, but I don’t have as much flexibility, you know, for larger chunks of time.”
Financial security is more important than travel, and being Childfree helps Cindy and her husband make progress:
“We always want to be financially secure. He and I both grew up with parents that were lower class and worked very blue-collar jobs. Having financial security has always been very important to both of us. His family filed a number of bankruptcies. We [Cindy’s family] never went without, so to speak, we were never living in the best houses. He and I had an agreement very early on that being financially secure was important. We didn’t want to have to worry about if we could pay our bills.”
Cindy wants to retire at 60, but her husband would like her to retire a bit earlier. Part of this may be due to the age gap (her husband is 52), but they both know Cindy loves working. Cindy has her own challenges, including having lupus, but she tries not to let it hold her back. She has few symptoms besides some back pain. However, it does mean they have to have a good plan and consider long-term care options:
“I already have some mobility issues. I also have lupus. So, I know I have health issues. I do the long-term and short‑term disability insurance at work. Even though they are a little expensive, they make sense for me, given I’ve had back surgeries in the past couple of years and stuff like that. You don’t know what’s going to happen. So, the plan at this point is to stay independent as long as I can or be independent with the help of my husband. Even though he’s older, he’s in a little bit better shape... I am a control freak when it comes to my medical care. So, for me, it would be very important to be able to make the decisions myself about where I’m going to go and where I’m going to stay. Who’s going to take care of me. I have to be able to trust that person.”
Cindy’s husband has taken the past two years off from work to care for Cindy’s father. Her father was diagnosed with cancer, and, as with many, he needed some support with doctor’s visits and healthcare. For 18 months, until her father passed, Cindy’s husband was that support. Then, together, Cindy and her husband chose for him to stop working to care for her father:
“My husband’s not working right now. That was because of my father. Towards the end of his life, he needed a lot of rides to doctor’s appointments for his cancer treatment. It was about an hour, hour and a half each way every week. So, the choice was either I had to quit my job, or he was going to die within weeks. My husband said, well, you make more than I do. I’ll step away. I’ll be the chauffeur. And he did that with my dad up until the last weeks of his life through COVID and everything.”
Even though cutting out an income comes with a cost, Cindy knew it was the right thing to do, and they could afford it:
“It was the right choice ethically for me morally. It wasn’t gonna hurt us financially. I mean, could we have saved more, been on a more solid footing? Yeah, sure. But you know, it was someone’s life. Literally, I wasn’t going to play that game… There is a balance between taking care of someone like my father and retiring early compared to the national average. I made that choice to care for someone else versus to put it towards end financial goals… The money aspect was never really that important.”
Being Childfree and in a relatively good financial position allowed Cindy and her husband to choose to take care of her father:
“If I would have had a child, there’s no way the money would have cut it. It would have been an absolutely horrific decision to try to make. I probably still would’ve made the same decision, though. [Being Childfree] allows the ability to do what I want when I want, without having to think about the repercussions too deeply. It is just that this is what I feel like I’m called to be doing, and this is what I’m going to do.”
The only debate was who was going to take care of Cindy’s father, not if they were going to do it:
“One of us was going to do it. We’re going to do it. We discussed if I would miss two days of work, and he would miss two days of work the next week. We went through a number of options. It was going to happen. It was a matter of how it worked out best. In the end, my husband’s just like, you know what? We’re just going to bounce back and forth. He’s like, there’s no continuity. With the doctors, you’re always gonna be wondering whether you’re going or I’ll wonder whether I’m going. And he was like, it’s just gonna be easier if it’s one person and you make more, it makes sense. Even though it makes more sense for me to go with my dad from a medical background standpoint, knowing his history, it made more sense for my husband to walk away from a financial perspective, from his job to do it. I could always be on the phone for phone calls with the doctors. But it’s that whole, it was the commuting and sitting and waiting. That’s, you know, he made the time investment with that.”
I asked Cindy if her father expected them to support him:
“I don’t think initially he did. He fought us on it for a bit, but the sicker he got, the more dependent he became. It was not an expectation upfront. He absolutely hated it. We avoided telling him that my husband had quit his job at the start. We just said, oh, his boss is being flexible. One day my husband let it slip that he had [quit his job]. And [my father said] ‘that’s not what I told you guys to do.’ [Cindy replied to her father] We didn’t say you told us, we made the decision. Leave it alone.”
Being Childfree may have allowed Cindy the financial ability to care, but it is just part of who she is:
“I’ve lived my life to take care of something. It does not matter if it’s a four-legged something or two-legged.”
In all my interviews, I ask, “Is there a question I should have asked that I did not?” Cindy responded that after hearing about caring for her parents, that I should have asked why it was so important. So here’s why it was so important for her to care for her parents:
“They took care of me. I was not an easy child. No, I was a nightmare. I was absolutely horrible. They took care of me, and it wasn’t even so much as repayment, but they took care of me. They raised me to do the right thing. When someone needs you, especially a family member that close needs you, you do whatever you can to ensure that people are taken care of when they need you the most. And I don’t think we have enough good stuff like that in the world where people are doing something just purely for the fact of helping someone else; it’s usually to get something. I think more people need to do stuff where it’s out of kindness, not an expectation, not a requirement, just out of kindness. That’s how I was raised. And I know they’re proud of me. And I know that as much as dad may have fought the decision, I know he’s very proud of the decision we made. I’m not going to deny it, that’s a great feeling, but that’s just the way I was raised.”

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.