A Portrait of Childfree Love

Aug 2 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®
34, Female, Married, New Jersey
Bachelor’s in Diplomacy

53, Male, Married, New Jersey

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

Molly and James were a pleasure to talk to about their Childfree life. From the start, it is evident that they love both each other and enjoy talking about being Childfree. Molly and James have an extensive network of Childfree friends (including half of their book club) and are proud of how their life allows them to be generous with friends, families, and neighbors. Although Molly calls her spouse “James the Great,” I will just call him James here.

This isn’t their first marriage. Both Molly and James were married before. Even though Molly had decided after her divorce that she was done with men and planned on getting a lake house and a dog, it would be their dogs that brought Molly and James together. James “won” his Westie back after his divorce, and Molly had just rescued a 10-year-old schnauzer before they met. I’ll let Molly share their meet-cute story:
“So five days after getting my dog, in walks this gorgeous mountain of a man into the dog park. James is quite tall, and I’m not. James has this little tiny white, fluffy dog with the pink harness and the pink collar. We both kind of like each other and just start chatting. I’m very chatty, and we went to the dog park accidentally on purpose at the same time, every day for three weeks before we went out on our first date. James invited me over to the house for a puppy play date.

I called him on Thursday. I told him, I’ve had a shit day. I’m in a shit mood. I feel like shit. I have a shit attitude. Do you still want me to come over? And he goes, yeah, maybe it will cheer you up. I walked into parmesan risotto and osso buco from scratch and a dozen roses. That was Thursday. I left on Tuesday. I met his family that weekend. We’ve spent about 12 nights apart since then. That was over six years ago. We have not had a single fight since then because we have nothing to fight about.”
I’ll admit I was skeptical about them not fighting in the years since, but as Molly put it:
“We have separate finances and no kids. So we have nothing to fight about.”
James goes on to explain that being Childfree was something they bonded over:
“One of the very first conversations we had was about the fact that neither one of us wanted to have kids. So we got that out of the way really early on. No surprises. With my first wife, when we got married, she swore she didn’t want to have kids. And then she changed her mind after we got married. So that was a serious issue in our marriage.”
“I’ve known it since I was like 12, 13 that I didn’t want to have kids. In the home ec class where you learn how to swaddle a baby. I was like, I don’t need to learn this. I will never use this.”
Yet having kids would be an area of concern in her first marriage also:
“My first husband, he wanted [children]. So I was willing to compromise and have one because he was Eastern European, the bloodline very important.”
The marriage ended before Molly had to compromise and have a child.

Molly and James couldn’t be happier with their Childfree life:
“James and I have had so much fun being a Childfree couple because we can do whatever we want.”
James and Molly are like a lot of Childfree couples. They are “married” without the legal piece of paper. Three years ago, they had the big party (after three years of cohabitating), but neither wanted to get legally married again. As James shared:
“I didn’t want to get married the first time. And I got, I got pushed into it. And I said never again because I got put through the wringer during the divorce. It could have cost me a lot more than it did, but it still cost me quite a bit. So yeah. There’s that old joke: Why is divorce so expensive? Because it is worth it.”
Molly explains it this way:
“After several years of dating, I said, you know what? I, I do want to have a wedding. I do want to get married. I want to be able to call you my husband. So we, again, never had a fight. So we sat down, and we talked about what does marriage mean for us? And what we realized is that what we wanted was not necessarily the legal protections of marriage, but instead, what we wanted was the celebration of our love and us as a couple. So we chose not to get married legally, but we had a full wedding.”
They were smart about it. They knew what they wanted (and did not). At the same time, they did the work to cover each other. Molly and James updated their wills, healthcare directives, and other legal documents while maintaining separate finances (and separate attorneys). While the house is in James’ name (he had owned it for a decade before meeting Molly), she pays for other things in the household. And they are now looking to buy a second house in southern New Jersey, closer to family (which will be in Molly’s name). James explains:
“We consider ourselves to be married and on a practical, functional level, we are married. Just not legally.”
Molly and James have found an outstanding balance that reflects the yin and yang of their relationship. As Molly said:
“I’m more of a literature, history, international cultures, and also like weird shit [person]. And James is more of the physics, mathematics, and philosophy [person]. So as a result, because we have an interest in each other’s fields, our car rides are amazing.”
When asked if they have any regrets from being Childfree, Molly shared:
“I would say very occasionally I might feel that little broodiness. But that’s why my dog’s wearing a sweater right now.”
James laughed and added:
“I would say that not only do I have no regrets, but the older I get, the more solidly I’m convinced that I made the right decision.”
Molly and James are in a good financial situation. While they may not be entirely at the stage of financial independence, they are close and looking at when and how they might want to retire. The problem is that they both enjoy what they do, and James has worked hard at work-life balance. If they retired, what next? James is working hard to teach Molly about balance:
“I want to retire early and get out of the rat race and get off the hamster wheel. But at the same time, I want to enjoy my life while I’m living it… I’ve been teaching Molly about work‑life balance for the last six years. She has gotten better because I met her. She was working like 80 hours a week and working seven days a week and stuff like that. And now she’s taking like, you know, weeks off at a time.”
Finances and retirement may be a math problem for James and Molly. A 20-year gap in their ages means that James may retire well before Molly. Add that to the fact that James’s family is long-lived (with many family members living to well over 100 years old), and it is a different picture of retirement, as James shares:
“Given my life expectancy, I need to have enough money to live that long in terms of retirement savings and everything like that. So I have to put a lot more thought into how much money I have invested and put aside because, you know, I’m not going to live to seventies or eighties. I’ll probably live to 100 or 110.”
Molly says that works for her:
“I think my life expectancy is more in the eighties, which makes me happy because, with our 20-year difference, that’s the same time I would probably also retire.”
I can’t fault their reasoning. They don’t have many (or any regrets) about their life, and as Molly shared:
“Both of us have the very similar mindset of you should do everything to the fullest. You never know when there’s going to be a car accident, or I don’t know, a plane falling out of the sky.”
I asked Molly and James to describe what Childfree Wealth means to them. Molly shared:
“Well, part of it is money. Absolutely. I had the goal of having a net worth of a million dollars by the time I was 50, and I hit it at 34. I had no student loan debt. I got rid of them by the time I was 30. So, as a result, that’s a lot less worry that I have to deal with. To me, that is a form of wealth. I have the time to do what I want.

If I want to take a special project and work extra hours, I can. If James and I want to have a date day on Christmas Eve, we can just do that. We don’t have to worry. That’s the greatest form of wealth because I’m not sitting here pregnant, worried that there’s going to be a miscarriage. I’m not worried about how I am going to save for college. I’m not worried that my child has slammed the door in my face.”
And James added:
“Or worried about how they are doing in school both academically and socially.”
Molly continues:
“The biggest form of wealth is that I can do what I want when I want, I can eat whatever I want for dinner. You know, I, I don’t have to worry constantly.”
James looks at Childfree Wealth in much the same way:
“It’s (Childfree Wealth) just the freedom and flexibility to live the life that we want to live. And part of that is financial freedom. But as we said, part of it is also just the lifestyle, freedom, the ability to have a garbage day or just to chill and not have to worry about anything other than our little doggies. And they’re pretty well-behaved.”
“Us being Childfree translates into us being more generous with our friends and family. We spend a lot more money on our family and spoiling our nieces, nephews, and doing things for friends or, like we mentioned, the block party [that Molly throws every year] because we have that extra financial freedom. So, we can be a lot more generous and spread the wealth a lot. So, we’re a lot more generous with our friends or family than most people.”
Being Childfree fits both Molly and James. Molly sums it up best:
“We love our relationship, and kids would change that dynamic. We love each other enough that we still live a life fulfilled… All of this means that we get to spend the most time loving each other and not focusing on other people. And it means that we have a much stronger relationship than anyone else because we don’t fight because we do take these steps and don’t have children. We’re not sleep-deprived. Or having an argument at three o’clock in the morning about whose turn it is to burp the baby. You know, we get to enjoy just the warmth of being with each other, you know. [When I asked the question] What would you do if you had 24 hours left? Well, I would just spend it with you [James]. It [being Childfree] gives us that freedom for love.”

About the Author - Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, 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.