A Portrait of a Childfree Cat Lady

Sep 6 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP®

39, Female, Single, Asexual, Washington
Bachelor’s in Aeronautical Engineering
Aerodynamic Performance Engineer

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

Kristina is a self-declared “cat lady, spinster, rocket scientist.” She is 39 and shares her life with three black cats in the Pacific Northwest. She is an avid reader and loves sending postcards to her niblings (nieces and nephews) and others. She is asexual, single and not looking, and happy with her life. Kristina is an aerospace engineer and happily Childfree.

Kristina shared why she decided to be Childfree:
“I came to that conclusion around age eight. I looked around, and it was like, you know, I hate children. I have not liked being around children since I was a child, and it’s not changed since that. I like my niblings in small doses, and mostly I send them postcards… I can’t even consistently get myself dinner regularly, much less, you know, care and feeding for a small being that depends on you for everything. So, I just decided it was not for me. I’ve gotten no pushback from any person I know, familial or otherwise. So either they came to the conclusion that [she should be Childfree] the same way I came to the conclusion or they sort of decided it would be a terrible idea. Or maybe they’re just like: well, that’s your decision.”
Kristina sees the most significant benefit of being Childfree to be the time it gives her:
“Free time. I mean, other than your various job things and various chore things that are non‑optional, basically, you have time. I also come from this as a person who is single and not looking. So I can do whatever I want with this time that is not taken up by other things. And there is no one to be like, you have to do this or this critical thing that will come by with drastic consequences if you don’t do it. The only things that are affected by that are me and my cats. And I’m pretty good at keeping the cats alive. I’m somewhat less good at keeping myself in good health, but that’s a little more complicated. And just the mental burden of children is not something I think I’ll ever be able to deal with.”
Kristina uses her time for her interests, including being an avid reader:
“I use it [her time] for a lot of reading. I am a big fan fiction fan of various sorts. I read a lot. Not all of it’s published, some of it is just stories online, but I read a lot. I sometimes cross-stitch. I talk to friends. So I mean, just stuff that fills life. I’m not curing cancer or anything, but it’s good enough for me. I’m not one of those people who are, like, requiring their 15 minutes of fame in Wikipedia or whatever, to be important. There’s a very low chance that I will ever be important enough to anyone to be mentioned anywhere. So that’s fine.”
Kristina has been reading since she was young, and it hasn’t stopped. When she isn’t reading, she is taking care of her cats, collecting teapots (including many spectacularly tacky ones), or working on her list of 100 goals:
“There’s a hundred of them [goals], including being debt‑free at one point. Being able to retire with at least a hundred grand a year. Being able to have a house with a ’catio,’ which is like a cat patio outside. Visiting my family. Learn archery. Learn various languages...”
Kristina loves bullet journaling (which helps with her ADHD) and picked up the 100 goal habit from a recently-read self-help book. I asked her how she prioritizes these goals, as it seemed like a lot to me:
“They aren’t prioritized except by how much effort I’m putting into any one of them at any given time, which for the most part is zero at the moment… So a lot of them aren’t even terribly important goals or even really big goals.”
Kristina doesn’t want to rank her goals, and she is okay if she does not achieve them all. In some ways, the list may be more like a bucket list, but without the deadline at the end:
“It’s probably more like a bucket list than anything else. And it took me years to make the list. For most people, you run out of things to do before you hit a hundred. They’re like, what else could I do with my life? I can’t think of anything else. Sometimes it takes a few years to even come up with a hundred things. Unlike a bucket list, which is just, you know, stuff I should do before I die, the imminent feature, there are probably more long-term goals on the list.”
I asked Kristina what gets in the way of achieving her goals, and she shared:
“Mostly mental health issues. I have chronic depression that comes and goes.”
Kristina is not alone. Depression and ADHD are very common, and it was part of her reasoning for being Childfree:
“To be honest, it’s a very difficult disease to manage, especially with not a lot of family nearby to sort of pick up the slack. It’s also something I would never want to pass on to children. Based on my family history, it is genetic for me to like three grandparents. This is not something horrible that happened to me. It’s just, you know, your brain hates you.”
Kristina would love to visit her family more (although COVID-19 has not made that easy). She might even live closer to them if there were jobs, but her career is very specialized. Financially, Kristina’s goal is to reduce her debt load. She is saving for retirement, and her condo’s value is doing well, but paying down her debt has been a challenge. Nevertheless, she keeps trying to focus on it, maybe for the next two years:
“Let’s just focus on these next few years. And then the next year comes, and oh, well, here’s a mental health crisis. That will shit on everything. So let’s, you know, take six steps back. And now we’re four years from getting out of debt. So let’s restart from there.”
Balancing finances while going through a health crisis can be extremely hard. Medical bills are the top reason for bankruptcies in the U.S., but that does not even account for missed work and the ancillary effects. Making progress on your financial goals sometimes takes a little bit of luck (or a bit more, as Kristina shares):
“It’s a little more than a little bit of luck. It requires you to be in good physical and mental health for long periods, which is not something that everyone can do. And it is not something that they have any control over.”
Kristina plans to retire at age 67, and with $4 million in her retirement plan. She shared her retirement plans:
“I will send a lot of postcards. I will save a lot of cats. I’m hopefully going to end up in some sort of, like, ‘Golden Girls’ retirement place. I will have a bunch of my old lady friends, and we all live in a house together and have good times.”
Kristina has her long-term care plans set. She lives in Washington, and everyone in the state is either required to have long-term care insurance, or they will be opted-in to the state long-term care plan (and pay a tax for it). Kristina stated it this way:
“Either you do it [buy long-term care insurance], or the state government will do it for you, and they will do it in a much shittier fashion. So just do it… It’s actually really difficult to get long‑term care insurance under the age of 40. No one wants to talk to you because they don’t believe you will pay for it for the next 40 years or whatever. So I got it on a special dispensation. Under normal circumstances, unless you’re like 50 or 60 years old, the people who give out long‑term care insurance won’t even talk to you.”
Kristina wouldn’t change much about her life. She controls her life and has made choices to make it better over time. She is happy with her cats, reading, and living for herself:
“I understand that people do things that they don’t want to do. But, if your life is just full of all the things you hate doing, and you have the power to change things, you probably should. Otherwise, you’re going to look back when you’re 70 years old and go, I hated everything I did during the course of my life.”

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