A Childfree Portrait of Freedom and Practicality

Sep 13 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP®

38, Female, Married, Oklahoma
Master’s in Education and Geology

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.

Kristi and her husband have applied an analytical approach to being Childfree and celebrate the freedom that resulted:
“We made a pros and cons list, and the cons side was way longer than the pros.”
Kristi looks at the responsibility of having kids as “mental clutter”:
“I think it [having kids] would be a big inconvenience in my life, both in terms of time and money and just like mental clutter. Having to keep track of who needs to go to the doctor when and daycare and, like, school conferences. I just don’t feel like devoting that much energy and time to this other being, and it just seems like a simpler life to just worry about me and my husband and having fun and doing what we want to do.”
It isn’t that Kristi does not like kids. She works for a community college doing educational events with kids:
“I work at a community college, and I work with youth. K through eight is the bulk of what I do. It includes running a very large summer camp of about 250 kids for seven weeks. And then, during the school year, I partner with local districts helping with science education. I also work extensively with the Boy Scouts, and we offer merit badge classes through the college. I connect them with professors in the fields that match up with their merit badge classes and get them exposed to different career fields while they work on their badges.”
Kristi and her husband value the freedom of being Childfree. They use that time to hike some fantastic national parks and playing board games is their hobby. In addition, they have the time to attend gaming conferences (like GenCon, they’ve gone 12 times) and connect with each other. One day, Kristi hopes to open a board game business and hold her own events:
“I like the fact that our life is very simple. I get up. I go to work, I work hard. I do a good job, but when I’m done with work, I’m done. I drive home, I eat dinner, and then I can just lounge out. We’ll watch TV, and we’ll burn through series on Netflix or Amazon. We’ll lay on the couch and use Reddit until I’m tired. Then I go to bed. I don’t have to worry about anybody else. No homework, bath time, storytime. It’s just simple and easy. So, with additional free time, like on weekends, we’ll have board game days with friends. We’ll have game days at home. We’ll cook really awesome food that we, you know, we can just devote our time to prepping and cooking without having to worry about children running around or needing diapers changed or anything else.”
Kristi enjoys her Childfree life. I made her choose the most significant benefit of being Childfree:
“I would value time over money, but money is the second.”
Kristi is in a good financial place. Her husband is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. They have a plan for retirement in their mid-40s. Being Childfree allows them to take amazing vacations. They are in a financial situation that may be enviable to many. Yet it is time that is the most significant benefit—the time (and freedom) to do what they want:
“I envisioned what my life would be like if I had a kid. My brother has children, and he has young kids, a five‑year‑old and a one‑year‑old. And I know that when he comes home from work, it’s getting dinner ready. It’s trying to play with his kids in the little time they have before you start bath time, bedtime, storytime thing. And then by the time they’re in bed, he, you know, he’s tired from working. So, he might have, you know, an hour or so to himself. I want more than that. I want hours to myself. I don’t want to have to worry about anyone else.”
To Kristi, it isn’t all bad having kids. They can provide a sense of purpose (at a cost):
“I can see why people have kids because it kind of gives you the sense of purpose. Right. And that makes sense to me, but we’ve still both firmly decided that it’s not that the sense of purpose isn’t worth the hassle of actually having children and what that means. So, okay, fine. We have a sense of purpose, but we’ve lost everything else. Right? We’ve lost our freedom. We’ve lost a huge chunk of our money. We’ve lost our free time. And that just seems really sad.”
Does Kristi have any regrets about being Childfree?:
“Never once.”
Kristi is a self-proclaimed “money nerd.” She has always been a saver and had an IRA at 14. Throughout her life, she had a plan to retire early. You would think that her husband being a CFP® professional rubbed off on her, but it was the other way around. Her husband was a paleontologist and needed a career change. He got interested in the stock market, and in Kristi’s words:
“He was like, I get it. Now we need to double down and make this early retirement thing a reality.”
Kristi has always been practical. She grew up on a farm, and everything had a purpose:
“I was raised on a farm, and we didn’t have animals that didn’t serve a purpose. Right? We couldn’t have horses because you can’t eat a horse. We could have cows and chickens because you can eat them. Right. They serve a purpose. The cats served a purpose because they caught the mice. Our dog served a purpose because he was used for hunting, but it wasn’t a pet dog. It was a hunting dog. So, I think that’s been drilled into my mind. Things need to have a purpose.”
Kristi has a list for everything. She has been on some fantastic adventures, including climbing mountains and seeing glaciers that you and I may only see in a book. While her husband may be more spontaneous, he allows Kristi to plan everything. So when I challenged her with Kinder’s life questions, and she only had five to 10 years to live, she just made a list:
“If I knew I had five to 10 years, I would assume the worst-case scenario and assume five years. So, I think I would pick the top five favorite places in the world that I wanted to visit either for the first time or were to see again. And I would make that a priority for the next five years. And then, after that, I would look at each year as a bonus year. So I would extend my list. Year six would be bonus year number one, bonus your number two, et cetera.”
Even her hiking and vacation has a practical purpose:
“I’ve gotten a lot out of our hiking trips, and it’s not just the cool glacier that we got to walk on or the 14-mile hike to the Burgess shale to see the fossils. I feel like there’s a lot more that I get out of hiking than just that. A lot of it is the reinforcement of the mental stick-to-it-ness because climbing a mountain for seven miles uphill is hard, and your feet hurt and you’re tired, and your pack is heavy, but you have to finish it. Right. You started it. And there’s a reason not to finish it. The weather isn’t stopping you. The only thing that would stop you is mental weakness. But you recognize that, like when you get to the top, you still have to walk back out seven miles. So, there’s like, you’re only almost to the halfway point, and it’s okay that you’re tired, but you have to keep going. So that kind of thinking applies to other hard things in my life… I think putting myself in situations that are difficult, like both mentally and physically, is good.”
Kristi’s practical approach to life seems almost like stoicism (my word, not hers). She has a plan and is ready for anything that happens. This was most obvious when Kristi attacked the questions about “who will take care of you when you are older.” Her answer is no one. She is going to “opt-out”:
“I feel like if I got into a situation where I’m like 77, and I don’t have enough money anymore, it’s pretty easy to just opt out on life and, you know, see ya. No one’s gonna miss me. Right? So, we’ve talked about that. Like opting out together, just being like, all right, we’ve done this thing. Like, we’ve done everything we wanted to do. We’re out of money. So, we’re just gonna zip on out. And, and there’s certainly no, there’s no one that’s impacted by that. The chances are that my brother will also be gone at that point. And no one’s affected by it.”
Kristi is only 38, yet she has already achieved her educational and professional goals, along with many of her life goals. She has a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees. She enjoys her work (for the most part), and she is working on her goal to see more of the planet (she was an earth science major, so it fits). Her only other goal is:
“Just to be like a decent person and live a life that I’m proud of. I don’t want to be 87 and be like, oh crap. I was such a jerk.”
Even once she passes, Kristi has a plan. Kristi and her husband have already decided to make an impact in their estate plan:
“A third of our money will go toward the Glacier National Park Conservancy. A third of our money will go to the Grand Teton National Park Conservancy. And just as a fail-safe in case something really crazy happened and both of those national parks were gone. The other third and/or the rest would go toward the National Park Foundation.”
I consider myself a rather practical person, but Kristi has me beat. She has managed to give everything a purpose to gain time, money, and the freedom to do what they want. She is living her own best, authentic life. And now she is sharing that life with others:
“I think more and more people are recognizing that you don’t have to have kids. I encounter little girls all the time at work that see my ring, and they ask if I’m married. Then their next question is, oh, so you also have kids then? And when I tell them, no, I don’t, and they’re very confused. And they’ll say, like, I thought you were married. I am.

But that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to have kids. And it’s like, I blew their mind. And they’re like, but when you’re married, you have kids. So, no, you don’t all. Some people don’t.

I feel like more and more people are recognizing that you can choose. It doesn’t have to go hand in hand (kids and marriage), and it’s a big responsibility. And it’s something that should be thought through very carefully, not jumped into impulsively because it literally will change your life, maybe for the worse. So I think encouraging people to think about big decisions like that is important.”

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.