“By the way, you spent eight thousand dollars today.”
“Seriously?” I asked my wife.
“Yeah. We paid off a college loan.”
If you think kids are expensive when they’re babies, wait until they hit their late teens and early twenties. Even so, I think having kids is one of the best things men can do for their financial portfolio.
At least three male professional athletes (from different sports) have told me the same story: they were “nominal” in their faith, started dating a committed believer, became ardent followers of Christ themselves, and now sit on a truckload of money—not just because they became serious Christians, but because they stopped doing the things non-believing single men often do that drain bank accounts faster than the lake around the 17th hole at Sawgrass collects golf balls.
Each athlete credits his believing wife for where he’s at—vocationally, financially, spiritually, and even in regards to his physical health.
Having kids may be expensive for poor men, but being single and childless is even more expensive for wealthy young men.
Each athlete could point me to several other young athletes who were once surrounded by half a dozen luxury vehicles, mansions they rarely slept in, clothes that cost as much as the average family pays for a monthly mortgage, and who ended up with less savings and income than a union worker makes at a furniture factory.
Though reports often remind people how truly expensive kids can be, the responsibilities of parenting can actually preserve a man’s wealth. They encourage us to save; they discourage debilitating habits that often erode wealth and health. They take our raw energies and make them productive instead of destructive.
Marrying earlier rather than later (before the damage has been done), and marrying wisely, is particularly important for young men who are likely to have big incomes. As a pastor, if I see a young man who shows unusual promise, one of the best things I could steer him toward is a solid marriage with a godly woman strong enough to influence him.
This isn’t true just of sports stars.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, who made as much an impact on the Christian church of his day as perhaps anybody ever has, made his first step toward ministry influence by marrying Catherine Mumford (an astonishing young woman who had gone through much illness but who had read the entire Bible eight times before her thirteenth birthday). One writer pointed out that Catherine “turned an energetic, rather vulgar dyspeptic into one of the great religious leaders in the world.”
John Calvin’s marriage was brief (his wife died about a decade into their marriage) but brilliant; Martin Luther praised his beloved Katherine (whom he had scandalously rescued from a convent) with sincere boasts of her excellence in character and devotion in love (as well as praising her skill in making beer). Sure there are some men who, like John Wesley, went on to live enormously productive lives in the midst of miserable marriages, but who’s to say how much more impact Wesley might have had if he had the marriage of a Calvin or Luther?
Most of us men need to be married.
It’s expensive at the outset. Having kids can debilitate a bank account and forestall savings. But overall, it’s one of the wisest things we could do. Besides, when I look at my three children I can say, without a moment’s hesitation, they are definitely the best investment I’ve ever made.
So, yeah, having kids is expensive. But in the long run, being single and childless can cost you even more.
[photo: Creative Commons, Ding Yuin Shan]