Retiring Without Children

Mother’s Day ALWAYS serves as a reminder to me that we are child-free (as compared to childless.)  It was a decision we made very early in our lives, and we’ve generally been OK with our decision.  Along the way, well-meaning friends would ask us, “Who will take care of you when you grow old?”  To which I always responded,

“Having someone to wipe my drool
was NOT a good enough reason to have children.”

And I still stand by that.  But now, as we get further along in our retirement years, our child-free decision does come with some interesting, but not insurmountable dilemmas:

  1. What is the best way for us to celebrate holidays?  The siblings all have families of their own, and we are always invited to participate.  But is it just wrong of us to want to take off, just the two of us, and leave all the holiday hoopla behind?  I see the tropics at Christmastime in my mind’s eye!
  2. What, exactly, should our will and estate planning look like?  Yes, there are siblings, nieces and nephews, and even a God-daughter, but the whole “who should get what” is a much more difficult decision when they’re not your offspring.  Literature is replete with examples of the young pandering to their elders in order to inherit!  God forbid!
  3. How much should we plan on leaving to charities, education foundations, the arts and such.  The desire to give back to this wonderful community of ours is strong!
  4. What if we start having mental challenges?  This one is probably the scariest of all.  I have many friends caring for siblings and parents with issues along the dementia spectrum.  Should that happen to us, would we even know??  A hard one to prepare for, for sure!
  5. Will we have enough money to either care for ourselves, (retiring in place and hiring any assistance we might need), or to move into a high quality retirement facility if necessary?
  6. And what if we don’t have enough money for any of this?

This would all be so very much easier if we knew exactly when we were planning to die!  Some very good friends of ours (also child-free) have suggested we plan it out like this:

We figure out how much we want to give to church, philanthropy and family, and set that pot aside.  We set aside enough to cover the nursing home for a couple of years (about the average stay.)  We make sure the insurance coverage is adequate to prevent catastrophe…and then we go out and have a blast!!!

Our goal is this:  If we play all our cards right, we want to cash out of this life NET ZERO!!  With any luck, the check written for our caskets will bounce!

Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who happen to be moms!

Lynn

33 thoughts on “Retiring Without Children

  1. Karen Hume

    HI Lynn,
    I love your goal and share it! I also share in being child-free. In my case, I am also and always have been spouse-free so I especially get your dilemma around wills and mental challenges. The will I’ve taken care of, focusing on your #3 first and then family. But I’m not setting anything aside for any of that. It’s all expressed as percentages of my estate so whatever is left when I’m gone, that’s what will get divvied up.
    As for mental challenges I’m going to make sure that I move, in later years, to either be right beside my close friends or into an active retirement community where I can feel connected and supported; the kind of place where you live on your own but can take meals in a communal dining hall when you choose. I figure that way if I show up for dinner wearing my pants on my head, someone will notice and spring into action for me 🙂

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      1. Karen Hume

        Hey Molly, Thanks for that. Especially since we both have firsthand knowledge that there just ain’t no fun in dementia. I figure it’s progress if we can now laugh about it, even occasionally.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      I like your way of thinking! (The pants on head part). I just hope that if we plan now, we will be willing to move in those later years. I’ve known lots of folks who got older, then refused to leave their homes. What if that’s us??? Yikes!

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  2. Miriam

    Hi Lynn, whether child-free or with kids, life always throws us questions and challenges. You do what’s right for you now and prepare as best you can. Who knows what’s around the corner. I think your friend’s got it right, put a bit aside and then go have a blast! 🙂

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  3. Liesbet @ Roaming About

    I think it is totally acceptable to sneak out during the holidays and have a good time far away from all the Christmas chaos. The Caribbean would be a good choice. I can’t remember the last time we spent this period with Mark’s family… years ago, and we’re both happy to miss it over and over. The last time I spent the holidays with my family in Belgium (where it isn’t a big deal and not too special as a result either), must have been in 2002!

    It’s good to think about all those points you mention, but don’t think too hard! Things will work out regardless. I think settling in a wonderful, active and close-knit retirement community one day might do it nicely for me. It will most likely be the first time I settle, so there’s that to look forward to. I’ll finally be able to use my souvenirs of decades before to decorate my room. 🙂

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  4. cordeliabyrant

    I love this post! As a newly married (just hit our one year!) 28 year old, the dilemma of whether or not to have kids has been greatly on our minds. Mothers day is a dreaded holiday, where well-meaning family members take it upon themselves to comment on our childlessness, with the “one day you too will be a mom” or “why do you not have kids yet?” bouncing to and fro in every room we seem to occupy. I like your term “child free”. If you ever have a moment, I would love to hear the details as to how you both came to that decision. I have written previously about my own thoughts about being child-free but would be interested in hearing other people’s rationale. As far as your dilemmas, I wouldnt blame you for ducking out during the holidays (we would too), and we would choose to leave almost everything behind to charities. I like your plan of setting aside more than average for nursing homes, and then, yeah, enjoy! From a young 28 year old debtist.

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      First, I have to tell you that I was never the kid who always wanted kids. I didn’t even particularly like babysitting as a teen (except for the cash)- couldn’t wait to get the little kiddies in bed so that I could read my book! I had friends who didn’t really crave children either, but then suddenly, that desire just hit them…but it never really hit me. More importantly, my own mom, when I was about your age, told me, “Lynn, if you and J decide not to have children, that’s perfectly OK.” They were nearing their OWN retirement after raising four daughters. I asked her, tongue in cheek, if she was REALLY saying that she wished she had her freedom a bit earlier…her eyes were twinkling as she said, “I’m not saying anything….” And so we are child-free. And when my friends say, “Who will take care of you when you are old, I respond, “I don’t know, I’ll call you from some cruise ship and let you know how it’s all working out!”

      The irony of the whole deal??? I was an elementary special education teacher for 30 years! And I dearly loved my kids… 😀

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  5. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2]

    We are also “child-free”, and there is no guantee that children will be around to care for you when you are older. You may even out live them. The question on how much planning is required that is immeasurable as so many things can happen between now and then. Flexibility is the key I think to any future planning.

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      I’ve decided that my definition of success (how much is enough) is “being able to make the decisions you need to make.” As long as we are able to take care of ourselves, one way or another, that’s really all we need. The rest is just gravy. ~ Lynn

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      1. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2]

        Exactly what we think, we could’ve stayed back in NZ and created more wealth, though even now we are still saving a wee bit. Anyway at the end of the day, it’s about enjoying life and not dwelling on “what if we …” there is always a reason for how things turn out. Some are definitely harder to work out than others!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. patwdoyle11

    I too am child-free, by choice. The thing that often bothers me on mother’s day is the realization I will never have the wonderful mother-daughter relationship I have with my mom, with a daughter. Of course, there is NO guarantee that having a child would have resulted in that relationship. Too many other elements come into play. And yes, I worry about the future a bit. But again, having kids is not any guarantee they will be there for you when you’re older. I too am planning to eventually move into a retirement care community. Eventually being the key word. And I adore the idea of having the check bounce on the casket! LOL.

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      You do know why teenage girls are so surly, don’t you Pat? It’s so that moms are ready to get rid of them when they finally leave the house! (Kind of like, in nature, some parents EAT their young!) That’s why I only taught elementary aged kids. Because by about sixth grade, man those kids can get snarky! LOL! In many ways, it’s good to be us! ~ 😉

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  7. Shallow Reflections

    I have one child and holidays are still a dilemma. His wife has a large extended family with divorced parents so they are torn in multiple directions. We have developed our own traditions that give us time with them without infringing on the other families and for some holidays we end up by ourselves, too – partly happy to have a quiet celebration and partly sad that we can’t be one big happy family. Your plans for your estate sounds totally on track, and I might add, it is likely quite a bit larger since you chose to live child-free!

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      We have taken a couple of very nice vacations on the notion that, “We don’t have any kids to put through college, or daughters to marry off, so we can afford this.” Up till now, we have participated in gatherings of siblings, nieces and nephews and all of their kids. We wonder if we’ll feel sad, or if it will feel liberating. Guess we’ll need to try it to find out! Thanks, Molly! ~ Lynn

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  8. Kate Crimmins

    I am child-free but my husband has adult children. That’s where it gets sticky. They live across the country so they are not in a position to wipe drool or oversee us. I want to live in a retirement community where people look out for each other. As for the will, it gets complicated. When we married, his kids were in their 30s. Although we all like each other I don’t have a sense of closeness so I will leave my estate to animal charities and a few very close relatives of mine (or for my husband’s use if he outlives me but it will revert to my wishes if he dies). It all requires trust and some planning. Although it’s not a popular opinion I don’t regret not having children. It’s always a crap shoot. I have some friends who are very good parents who have been through hell and back with their kids and I have friends who have warm and supportive families. Hard to say what makes a difference.

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      Estate planning can be a pain, and we are in a similar position. We laughingly say that if one or the other of us is still alive, it’s all good. We’ll each be in good shape. If we’re both dead, we won’t care where our money went. WE’LL BE DEAD! LOL!

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  9. ChristinaGlazar

    That is really resonating with me. My husband and I also chose not to have children. Thanks for writing the article for all of us …

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  10. RetirementallyChallenged.com

    We are child-free also and I can really relate to this post (in fact, I’m wondering why I didn’t write it myself 🙂 ). For several years after my parents died, we tried to “celebrate” at home but soon realized that it didn’t feel right. We aren’t religious so the significance of many of the holidays – other than being with family – was lost on us. Much better to take off and enjoy each other’s company without the expectations and guilt. Last Christmas, we drove up to San Francisco – maybe next year we’ll see you in the tropics (pants on head optional).

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    1. Encore Voyage Post author

      You won’t believe this, but Jeremy still pays our bills by check…weird, I know! But he says he “likes to feel the pain of spending our money. Just pushing a button makes it too easy.” It’s a weekend ritual of his!

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