A Childfree Portrait of Good Vibes

Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®


Michelle
26, Married, Female, Florida
Bachelor’s Degree in Communications
Airbnb Host and Brand Ambassador


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

Michelle has been married for almost four years and is currently changing careers. She enjoys a lot of hobbies, with figure skating and reading topping the list. Right now, she isn’t sure what she wants to do, but she knows it wasn’t her last career. Fortunately, her husband makes enough to allow her to grow (much as in the Gardener and Rose approach) and find her passion. In the meantime, she rents out two rooms in her house on Airbnb and acts as a brand ambassador.

Why did Michelle decide to be Childfree?:
“When I was younger, I thought I don’t really like children, and at most, I’d have one. I was not really thinking it was an option [not to have kids], especially because I am Hispanic. In our culture, that’s not really talked about a lot. When I got to college and just being in higher education, I was like, I have options. I have choices. I just do not want to be pregnant. It sounds awful. And then with climate change and all that, it’s like a big concern, especially for people that are in our generation. Why bring another child into this world when you can, like, foster or adopt. Also, from a financial standpoint, I won’t be able to devote time or money to my hobbies. There are many, many reasons.”
What about her husband?:
“We are the same age. We met in college basically like the first day. We started dating, and we both realized we had no interest in children, which worked out. So we are both equally on the same page of not having children.”
Was being Childfree part of why they got together?:
“It definitely came together further along. We’ve been together almost nine years, but when you’re in college it’s not really something you think about, you’re just like, oh, let’s not get pregnant. It’s like the only concern. And then once like, you know, we age and like actually started taking life seriously, like, oh, we’re actually on the same page about this. It’s really important that it’s discussed before you get married, but it kind of just happened. And I think we both lucked out.”
Michelle still checks in occasionally to make sure they are still on the same page. But, as she says:
“He’s like, absolutely.”
“The freedom to basically dive into anything you want. If I want a career change, I don’t have another mouth to feed that I have to worry about. If I want to travel the world, I don’t have to think about, oh, what am I going to do? Like, you know, with the child in tow. So things of that nature.”
Any regrets about being Childfree?:
“No. We always talked about the rare event that we wanted to have a child in our lives. We have no hesitation in fostering or adopting. There are so many children in the world. Having that as an option made the decision a lot easier. Most likely we’re not, ‘cause children, ehh, but if we’re 40 and bored, maybe.”
Does she have a set of goals for her life?:
“I guess my goal will be to experience more things. I know you can do that with travel, but to generally experience more and try things out of my comfort zone. So maybe I’ll do rock climbing, maybe skydiving, we’ll see about that. But, then, on the financial side, I would like to pay off my house as soon as I can so that I can live a more free lifestyle. And then just try to make sure I don’t go into debt.”
The only debt they have is their house. When do they plan on paying it off?:
“It’s a 30-year loan, but I’m hoping to do it in half the time and in a realistic manner. I get that a lot of people work really, really hard for like a couple of years to tackle it. But, like, my philosophy is to live our life if we can and have some balance. So I definitely want to get rid of it like a responsible adult, but not like killing myself to do it. At the end of the day, it’s like a fixed price for the next 30 years. Whereas the rental industry is like a hundred dollars, two hundred, three hundred every year, it goes up. So that’s why I’m not as worried. I also rent out my house, like two rooms on Airbnb. So that helps.”
So, did they have a plan to be debt-free for a reason, or did they just fall into it?:
“I fell into it. I started watching more, like, financial YouTube channels. A lot of them were also geared toward women, and it resonated a lot with me because it felt like they had the same philosophy. Like not just to hustle, hustle, hustle, but to find the balance in life. Like, yes, you could still get, like, a coffee or spend money on skincare with, you know, stuff like that. Like it made it [financial planning] more digestible. So, when I started getting into that, it’s kind of changed my mindset and helped me reach the financial goals we had at the time.”
Michelle made sure to call out The Financial Diet as both being a resource for her and being Childfree.

Michelle’s husband is probably even more into being debt-free than she is:
“He was kinda hesitant about even just having a mortgage. We are first‑generation college students and all that, so we had to learn a lot of this financial stuff ourselves. And so, it could be a little daunting at first. And then you’re just like, no, this is how the system works here, and we have to, like, keep up.”
It is not only first-generation college students that need to learn this financial stuff themselves. In the U.S., we do not always teach people how to manage their finances. Michelle continues:
“They want to keep us financially illiterate to keep us in this cycle of debt and working and all that. And I definitely think it’s done on purpose. I know when I was in middle school, though, we had a budget class, and I was like, this is like the best class I’ve ever taken because I was 13 at the time. And it just started that mindset. And not many kids get access to this or are even thinking about it.”
Michelle and her husband see themselves as very lucky that they did not have student loan debt:
“We both got full rides to the university, so we were very lucky. So, we got to keep it this way and not mess up the chances and the opportunity we were given.”
Michelle and her husband do their finances together but split tasks:
“I don’t like the stock market. I’m not going to lie. It’s not my cup of tea. I prefer to, like, forget about it and not have to watch something constantly. In terms of a set plan, our retirement funds are usually separate. Like I have the way I’m doing it. He does like the stock market more, so he’s doing that. But all our finances are pretty open. We use Mint.com, and it does everything automatically, and it’s visible for both of us. So it’s all there. All the information is there, but how we do it is different in a way. But as long as we’re checking in, no one’s hiding anything.

We have like six accounts together. So, it’s like one for bills. One for the bills that we Venmo. Then I have a savings account and another joint checking account. And then we each have our allowance account. So, from our paychecks and stuff, we have a set amount that goes to fun money. And it’s like, no questions as to what you get to do with your money. So, everything’s together except for our fun money. I would say I’m the bigger financial person. My husband grew up with not a lot of money, so I feel like it could be very daunting. He does want me to control our finances, but I’m very transparent.”
While her husband grew up without much money, Michelle saw both having money and not:
“We grew up with a lot of money, and then the housing market crashed, and it was like we had no money. So I grew up with both, and I think that shaped me. Seeing both sides of the coin and then managing my money so that I could just be like normal and not like teetering from one side to the other. So I have had to start from zero a couple of times, and it’s not a big deal. But, when you grow up with money, and then something happens, that can also be very scary.”
What are her retirement plans?:
“Well, with the state of the world, you never know if you’re even gonna make it to that age. And I feel like that’s a sentiment many people my age, especially younger people, have with everything going on. If we do, I have other childfree friends where, like, we’ll just live together. We’ll take care of each other. Just because you don’t have children doesn’t mean you don’t foster a community. I have friends who have children who will probably be a part of their lives.”
Does she plan on not working in retirement?:
“I think it just depends. Maybe I want to work at a bookshop when I’m 60 years old. I probably won’t stop working or traveling. I’ll just slow it down. But, like, people who would just wait to live their life until when they retire are wasting the best parts of your life. Live when you have the energy. If they wait until they retire, they have the time and the money, but they don’t have the energy to do it. So it’ll just be like a balance.”
Michelle is doing a great job at balance now. However, when her career wasn’t working out, her husband encouraged her to quit:
“He noticed that the job had been a lot more stressful, especially in the last month. So, I was like, this job is being toxic. I started gaining weight because I’ve had no time to do anything else. And he was like, yeah, like I could see that you’re quitting. So we crunched the numbers. It looks like I just won’t be able to eat out as much anymore or do stuff, but I won’t have to give up figure skating. I want to think about this. So just having the numbers running, I got on his health insurance instead, and we were able to make it happen.”
This approach is what I call the “Gardener and the Rose.” In this case, Michelle is the Rose and taking an opportunity to grow and find herself. Her husband is providing the support (gardening), which works for them. Later, they might switch. I think it is a unique part of the Childfree community (and lifestyle), which Michelle agrees on:
“I think that does happen a lot in Childfree communities. There have been times when I was the only one working. We were younger and had less expenses, but I was the only one working, and he had a part‑time job. So I had like two jobs or something, and it was just like back and forth. One time he got laid off, and I was the only one working, but then he was able to relax for maybe two weeks. And then he found a job. So that Gardener and Rose analogy is very accurate.”
In the end, Michelle and her husband are pleased with their life. I asked her how she would sum everything up, and she said: 

“Good vibes. Just vibes here. Just feel out what you should do next and stuff like what’s to come and stuff. Just feel it out. Good vibes.”

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.