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Saving for retirement? Don’t have kids

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Tess Vigeland: The president’s deficit commission released its report this week. Among the recommendations: raise the retirement age for Social Security benefits. Of course some lucky folks can retire even earlier. Maybe they saved more aggressively or have a pension that kicks in before they turn 65.

But commentator Sydney Lagier found a different path to early retirement.

Sydney Lagier: Like many little girls, I dreamed of growing up to be an actress. I grew up to be an accountant. Like many grown-ups, I dreamed of retiring early. I did do that, three years ago at the age of 44.

If you share the dream of early retirement, you’re going to have to save more money more quickly than someone who retires at 65. Of course you’ll need to max out on your 401(k) contributions, and make sure you get that employer match. There’s a lot of other advice out there on how to save even more money: give up your cable TV, stop dining out, and forego that daily latte. Sure, that’ll save a few bucks, and those few bucks will add up over the years. But if you really want to supercharge your retirement savings, think big. Don’t have kids.

Not convinced? Think about this. The cost of raising and educating the requisite 2.3 kids here in the San Francisco Bay Area would have set me back nearly a million dollars. That’s a lot of lattes. I would have had to forego more than 270,000 lattes to generate that Grande pile of cash. I know, the Bay Area is not the cheapest place to raise kids, but no matter where you live it’s going to cost a small fortune.

And these figures only include the actual costs, like feeding and educating the kids. They don’t include the hit to household income when one parent decides to give up a career to be home with the kids. Nor do they include what’s known as “the motherhood premium,” the drop in salary experienced by university-educated women after having a child. If, like a lot of my friends, you send your kids to private school, the price tag soars even higher.

Yes, if you decide to give up the joys of parenthood for a life of leisure, you won’t have those kids to rely on when you’re old and decrepit. But that’s not even the worst part. If you choose this path, prepare yourself now. Because while you may be happy with this decision, most everyone else will try and convince that you shouldn’t be.

Vigeland: Sydney Lagier writes a blog called Retirement: A Full-Time Job. Post your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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