Is Having Children a Good Retirement Plan?

No wonder we only have a couple of kids, rather than 10 or 12. 


Perhaps most people live in traditional societies, where agriculture is the main occupation and your retirement plan is your kids.  You take care of them when you’re young and then when you’re old, they take care of you.  And so it goes from generation to generation. 

That’s why these societies don’t have a social security system, and typically, they don’t have retirement. They don’t have pension funds.  But in our modern society, in this country, the United States, and elsewhere in the developed, industrialized world, it’s not like that any more. 

A parent will have children and each one of them is very expensive because they’re not going to be working on the family farm. They might not even be taking out the garbage every week. They’re going to be preparing for their careers. 

So you’re not going to get much of a return from them when they’re young—looking at it from the point of view of the parents.  And there’s a good chance that when they finish college and they’re prepared to earn a lot in the future, they move away. 

And so they are not your insurance policy.  Now, I keep telling my children, “Remember, you’re going to have to take care of me when I’m old and can’t take care of myself anymore,” and they laugh.  I mean, they don’t say, “Forget it.”  But I don’t want to depend on that.  And so, a lot of it is my attitude. 

I think most people in my generation want to be independent of their children.  And if that is the general culture and attitude, no wonder we only have a couple of kids, rather than 10 or 12. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Related Articles

Why the world needs death to prosper

Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.

Surprising Science
  • Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
  • After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
  • Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
Keep reading Show less

Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

E. Fleischer
Surprising Science
  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Keep reading Show less

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less