Two weeks ago I attended the marriage ceremony of a clueless 26-year-old man, a nice enough guy full of good intentions, but also a guy living in a romantic fantasy world about what he had just gotten himself into financially. Little did he know that, on average, about 91% of his lifetime after-tax income was going to go to his wife (or wives) and children, not to himself. That percentage is not a typo. Stay with me as I go through a series of back-of-the-envelope calculations using publicly available statistics to come up with this astounding percentage. The bottom line of the calculations (which you can easily enough do on your own to confirm everything claimed here): fathers in America today are financial slaves.
It’s essential that young American men see the long-run big picture. Yet many of them look only at the immediate short-term, in part because they’re living a paycheck-to-paycheck existence, just barely making it financially. The big picture shows that if they get married and have kids, they probably won’t have any significant life of their own. Beyond childcare, domestic chores, and other family matters, most of their waking life will then be devoted to making money to support the family. Young men need to seriously consider “the snip” (vasectomy), which, according to these calculations, is more than 1000 times less expensive than getting married and having kids. Again that is not a typo. Far too few young men are taking advantage of this reliable birth control option before they are surprised to hear that the girlfriend or fiancé is expecting a young one. In this area, planning ahead can make a hell of a difference.
The following calculations also reveal that feminist chants about “deadbeat dads” are unwarranted and manipulative attempts to get men to shut-up and get back to work. American fathers are desperately trying to meet their financial obligations, and these financial obligations are oppressive, unreasonable, and totally unsustainable. It is no wonder that the courts have resorted to cruel and unusual punishment such as throwing fathers in jail for, yanking driver’s licenses for, and revoking professional licenses for, not being able to pay child support obligations. Such heavy-duty forceful maneuvers are required in an attempt to get men to comply with the provider role, which when viewed from an objective lifetime financial perspective, doesn’t look like an attractive way to go.
This article was born out of my concern for the welfare of several heterosexual twenty-something men that I know, men who are surprisingly cavalier and relaxed about marriage and kids. Many of these guys accept these major life choices simply as part of being a man, and they expect one or both of the choices will be something they will do at some point in the future. The problem is that these guys, for the most part, don’t seriously investigate what’s involved, and that means that there will be big-time trouble later on. Marriage and children in America today are entirely different than they were just fifty years ago; they are now dangerously rigged games stacked against men. This stacked deck exists on many levels, but to keep this article relatively brief, I will focus only on the financial implications of marriage and children.
OK, let’s get into the numbers. The average number of children per family, according to the 2010 US Census is 2.11 (Note 1). The total cost of raising a child, through age 17, in the US is now $235,000 (Note 2). Multiply both of these figures and you get $495,850, which is the average cost to raise children to age 17 in America today. Note that this cost is overwhelmingly paid by men; it is the father’s traditional and legally-enforced role to be the provider. If you make a good salary, the cost to raise children will go up significantly above this average, because the alimony and child support payments that the courts determine are not based on actual costs. Instead they are based on the father’s total salary or self-employment income. But to reveal the plight of the average American father, for the rest of this analysis, I will stick only with averages.
Next let’s look at the other costs of having children, and providing for them beyond age 17. The average per year college costs paid by parents in America today is $8,752 (Note 3). It now takes an average of 4.5 years to get a bachelor’s degree (Note 4). Multiplying these two figures, in conjunction with 2.11 kids on average, we see that the total average cost to parents to put their kids through college is now $83,100. Yes of course, some kids don’t go to college. Consider that some other kids get advanced degrees. Please remember that this is a rough back-of-the -envelope analysis, so bear with me, and just go with the overall conclusion, and don’t dismiss the analysis just because you don’t like a simplifying assumption that I have made.
The average move-out age of children these days is 22, and the chances that they will thereafter move back into their parents’ house is 60% (Note 5). The calculations in my analysis don’t include the extra room and board for those children who don’t immediately set up their own households. Whatever objections you might have about all kids going to college, in response to the assumption I made in the prior paragraph, might be addressed by saying that those who don’t go to college will generally have a harder time getting jobs, and the latter kids will likely stick around the house for a while longer. So let’s include the additional stick-around-the-house costs in the go-to-college costs mentioned in the prior paragraph.
The average costs employed in this analysis also don’t illuminate the potentially very high costs associated with having a child who has special needs, such as an autistic child. This analysis is just about the average costs, not the probabilities of very high costs associated with child rearing. The chances of very high costs should nonetheless be a part of every young man’s marriage and children deliberations.
So far, we have not assumed that the man got married. It gets worse if he gets married. Here, he simply had children and had to pay child support. The average unmarried father is looking at a total of $578,950 ($495,850 plus $83,100) in payments over the course of his lifetime, which might instead completely pay for a very nice house somewhere. Perhaps it would be better for young guys to be a good uncle to their sister’s kids, or maybe be a devoted Big Brother? Sure you may like kids, but do you really need your own? The real eye-opener is how this total child support figure compares to average incomes for men in America today.
To get a ballpark sense of how difficult it will be for an average man to meet his child support payments, whether or not he is married, consider that the average income per household in the US is now $46,326 per year (Note 6). If one considers all types of taxes (income, sales, property, etc.), the total burden of taxes in America today is 59.70% of earned income (Note 7). Multiply these two numbers and you get the average after-tax disposable income, specifically $18,669. I am making an assumption that the man is making most of the income in the household, an assumption that is born out by the fact that men far and away make most of the money in America today.
Taking the total payments for raising children ($578,950), and dividing that by 25 (the average age when a child leaves the house (22), plus three years to take into consideration more than one child), we see that the out-of-pocket cost of having children is $23,158 per year. So the cost of paying for children ($23,158), on the average, exceeds the average disposable annual income ($18,669). No wonder a very large percentage of parents go into debt just to pay for their children and their children’s education. No wonder there are so many men sweating the payment of child support.
When a man gets married, the story gets even worse. The average cost of a wedding these days is $28,000 (Note 8), and 62% of couples now pay for their own weddings (Note 9). I am not including the cost of dates, vacations, and the like which men are generally expected to pay. As a way to capture and summarize those courting costs, I figure that the man will pay for the entire wedding. The average cost of a diamond engagement ring in the US is now $3,500 (Note 10) and again the man pays for that. The average cost of a honeymoon is now $4,466 (Note 11) and I am assuming that the man pays for that too. Add these three numbers and we get the total average cost of going through with a wedding, assuming that the guy will pay, which is the traditional and often expected way these days (feminist claims of equality notwithstanding). That total amount is some $35,966.
We should increase this cost of marriage by the average total alimony paid, which is $7,209. This last number is arrived at by multiplying the average annual alimony payment of $30,000 (Note 12), by the number of cases in which alimony is paid, some 9% of cases (Note 13), by the average number of years for which alimony is paid, in America 2.67 years (Note 14). So the total average cost of getting married is then increased to a total of $43,175 ($35,966 plus $7,209). The average number of years that a marriage lasts is eight years, so if you’re having kids these days, chances are that you’re going to get a divorce at some point (Note 15).
So if you add the three total numbers from above, specifically the average cost to raise children to age 17 ($495,850), plus the average cost to send your children to college ($83,100), plus the total average cost of marriage and alimony ($43,175), you get a grand total of $622,125. Note that this does not include the cost to support your wife while married, including housing, food, clothes, etc. You could say this grand total is a rough overall total cost of having children in a marriage, for the average American guy.
These numbers are not exact, and they shouldn’t be expected to be precise, because this is simply a back-of-the-envelope informal analysis. If you want totally statistically justifiable numbers, be my guest and go spend several hundred thousand dollars to perform a formal academic study. I wonder why no such study of men has ever been done — at least I can find no such study on the Internet. Plenty of similar studies have been done about women — but why are there none for men? Perhaps the powers that be (including feminist politicians like Obama) want to keep men in their place of financial slavery? Could it be that these powers don’t want men to know the truth about the incredible financial burden that they are expected to carry?
Let’s now look at the total cost of a vasectomy done on an outpatient basis, which is about $600 (Note 17). Many such operations can be found for less money. No, “the snip” is not generally paid for by health insurance. In keeping with my comments above, even though many birth control options for women are paid for via health insurance, the system evidently does not want men to step out of their traditional provider role, it wants them to continue to be financial slaves.
So how does this cost for a vasectomy compare with the total average cost of marriage and children ($622,125)? It’s over 1000 times less expensive. This reliable male birth control option starts to really look attractive to men when you consider the average lifetime gross earnings of male college graduates (Note 16), which is $1,699,000. If we convert this figure into disposable income, using the total tax burden mentioned above (Note 7), we get a lifetime sum of earnings for male college graduates after taxes of $684,697. I am making a very conservative assumption that all fathers have a college degree here, and the actual situations of those men who don’t have a bachelor’s degree is going to therefore be much worse than is calculated below.
That means that over a father’s lifetime, the percentage of his after-tax income that will be devoted to his wife and children will be 91% ($622,125/$684,697). Said a bit differently: many if not most fathers in America today will not get to have their own lives. If you are going to go ahead with the marriage and kids deal, whatever it was that you thought you wanted to do with your life, unless it was being a provider and a father, forget it. If you’re having a wife and children, you are going to be totally focused on supporting them. That dream about climbing a mountain in Asia, or learning how to fly an ultra-light airplane, or becoming a hobby farmer of a rare strain of orchids, forget it. Unless these things bring in a lot of money, or unless you’re exceedingly successful at your work, they’re not going to happen. If you’re an average married father, you’re going to be in the provider saddle for most of, if not all of, your working life.