'I Chose Not to Have Kids - and Money Was a Big Reason'
In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, Bonnie Gayle shares how her decision not to have kids allowed her to reach career and financial success -- and why she has no regrets about it.
Right now, most 50-somethings are cashing out their savings to send their kids to college.
And a great deal more are paying for their kids' weddings, embracing grandkids, or supporting Millennial children who are returning to the nest.
Me? Let's just say my life doesn't exactly fit into the typical mold.
Many years ago, I decided to opt out of having kids so that I could devote myself to building my career and growing my income. The choice, which seems unusual to some, has brought me happiness -- and financial success.
At 51, my bookkeeping business is netting me six figures a year, and I have all the time in the world to explore my passions and live what I think is my best life.
Had I been on the hook for everything from diapers to tuition, there's no way I'd be enjoying my current life.
Many women feel a natural calling to motherhood. I think that's wonderful -- the world needs as many nurturing, devoted mothers as it can get.
I simply don't fall into that camp.
Why I Always Knew Motherhood Wasn't for Me
When I was about 9 years old -- and testing my mother's patience -- she uttered something most moms find themselves saying to their kids at one time or another: "I hope you have kids just like you when you grow up," she said with a laugh.
And I remember thinking even then that I didn't want to be a mommy when I grew up.
When I voiced this response to my own mother, she assured me that I'd change my mind when I was older.
But I didn't.
By the time I hit my 20s, I felt certain motherhood simply wasn't in the cards for me.
The shorthand reason was that I just didn't feel a maternal longing to have children. What's more, my desire for independence and self-discovery seemed to outweigh the allure of having kids. I was also skittish when it came to the enormous responsibility of actually raising children.
But I'd be lying if I said that finances didn't also play a huge role in my decision. I was brought up in a stable, middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley -- and my work ethic took shape very early on.
As a teenager, if I wanted to hit the mall more often or have extra fun money, it meant babysitting and taking after-school jobs to pay for it. And so I started working -- and spending my earnings. And I loved it.
As the '80s came to a close, I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with a degree in fashion merchandising/marketing, then spent the bulk of my 20s trying to figure out exactly what I wanted from my career.
A gig as a personal assistant made me realize I had a knack for bookkeeping, so I started taking on my own clients. At 28, I launched my own business.
Since then, my company has grown by leaps and bounds, requiring tons of late nights and personal sacrifices, like giving up weekends and holidays to build the business. I threw myself into it headfirst, taking on new clients, hiring and training staff, and sharpening my skills.
Even if I'd wanted kids during this time, the logistics would have been insane.
I also enjoyed spending time with my friends without worrying about having to get home for the kids. I could see they got so much from their families, but it was clear to me that I wouldn't get the same out of being a parent.
All this is not to say that my decision to be kid-free didn't come with some very real personal costs.
While I did come close to marriage a few times, I never actually pulled the trigger. I was always upfront about not wanting to have kids early on in relationships -- but the handful of serious boyfriends I had thought I'd change my mind once I fell in love, leading to heartbreak on more than one occasion.
And although my parents don't understand my decision to not have kids, it's my being single that they're most perplexed by. My mother continues to push for me to "lower my standards" so I can find a husband.
The truth is that I've always been open to the idea of marriage -- I just haven't found the right person.
Why I Honestly Have Zero Regrets
Just as I had hoped, my decision to opt out of motherhood has come with tremendous financial freedom.
In addition to charging full steam ahead with my bookkeeping business, I've been able to invest heavily in a side project that I'm incredibly passionate about -- helping women navigate midlife hormonal changes.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-If it sounds like I didn't think much about having children, that's not the case. It wasn't a decision I made lightly. It was something that took a lot of soul searching.%At this point, it's still a passion project that isn't yet turning a profit, but it's an investment I consider to be well worth it. If I had children to support, there's no way I could have spent that kind of money on a side business.
Being childless has also allowed me to invest in myself on a deeper level -- things that make me happy. I love going on regular spa visits with my friends, and enjoy attending women's retreats and personal-growth seminars, which have helped me with my side business.
As I move into my 50s, retirement is obviously something that's on my mind. One smart money move I made in 2005 was to buy a three-bedroom house in Austin. It's an investment property located in an up-and-coming area that I currently rent out to bring in extra income.
At this point, I've set aside about $125,000 for retirement. My plan is to continue investing in my businesses for the next two years or so, at which point I'll begin funneling more money into the retirement bucket.
In the meantime, I have very little debt (less than $1,000 on credit cards) and $10,000 in my emergency savings. And if I had to make an estimate, I'd say that my accounting business is worth between $500,000 and $750,000.
If it sounds like I didn't think much about having children, that's not the case. It wasn't a decision I made lightly. On the contrary, it was something that took a lot of soul searching on my part.
When I was 40, I was in a serious relationship that I thought might lead to marriage -- but he really wanted a child. So I asked myself if maybe I was being too rigid about the whole baby thing. In the end, I just couldn't justify bringing a person into this world if I wasn't all in, and the relationship ended.
It's not that I don't like kids -- I've been blessed with wonderful children in my life. My niece and nephew are such joys, and I love spending time with them and watching them grow.
In the end, not having children turned out to be a wise personal and financial decision that just felt right to me. I followed my heart and listened to my intuition, and I really like the person I've grown into.
Instead of investing in a family, I've invested in myself -- and the return on that investment has been well worth it.