The individual portraits of couples, the result of interviews and surveys, dig into the specifics of childless adult-ing, teasing out the varied ways couples arrange their lives and roles. Zigmont, part of a childless couple himself, sees a tendency—shared in his own relationship—among his subjects to live what he calls the ““Gardener and Rose approach,” in which one partner, the Gardener, creates the stable environment for the other “to bloom.” Examples abound in his interviews: Michelle, 26, faced was encouraged by her husband to quit her “toxic” job. The couple crunched the numbers, made some sacrifices, identified some new income sources, arranged for health insurance—and Michelle embraced her freedom.
Zigmont probes his subjects on their financial stability, retirement plans, debt and employment situations, and the choices—or circumstances—that led them to the “Childfree Life.” Their accounts are frank and eye-opening, certain to be illuminating for anyone living, considering, or finding themselves facing a similar lifestyle. Some cite climate change or school shootings as reasons not to have children, and Zigmont sees a relationship between experiencing childhood poverty and choosing to go childless. Asked if she has any regrets, 28 year-old Autumn responds “Hell no, no. None. Zero nada.” Such open discussions of this topic remain rare and valuable.
Takeaway: Revealing portraits of 26 childless couples, their financial lives, and their lack of regrets.
Great for fans of: Amy Blackstone’s Childfree by Choice, Evan Carney’s Retirement Planning for Singles and Childless Couples.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Portraits of Childfree Wealth by Jay Zigmont, Ph.D. is a compilation of non-fiction slice of life stories that revolve around those who do not have any children, by circumstance, choice, or design, and provides “26 stories about how being Childfree impacts your life, wealth, and finances.” Zigmont homes in on the diversity of those he has interviewed with an even finer focus on the finances and lifestyles of the people sharing their Childfree stories. These range from Autumn, a married 28-year old whose choice not to have children has some basis in the family dynamic she grew up in and a conscious decision to live life on her own terms, follow her dreams, and harness the creativity she was discouraged from cultivating in her youth; to Jacy, a single and Childfree woman whose medical issues and desire not to carry the responsibility became the primary drivers in not having children, although she is in a relationship with a man who has a child—one he did not tell her about until she was already in love. Then there are Ryan and Anna, who initially agreed not to have children, but when Anna changed her mind later in their marriage, infertility ultimately determined the course of their lives.
The financial “freedom” that most interviewees in Portraits of Childfree Wealth stems from not having to consider things like the huge expenses that arise from raising children, the ability to downsize housing, and simply picking up and moving where jobs and opportunities exist. There is also, as Jacy points out, the freedom from responsibility. Among the most popular social media hashtags right now is that self-care isn't selfish, yet for some reason, this goes right out the window when we meet people who do not have children and do not plan to. Quite the opposite, as they are pigeonholed into one of two categories: they are either selfish, or they are infertile. The most interesting vignette and the one that most rebutted the 'selfish' misconception in Jay Zigmont's collection is that of Rebekah and Mathew, who state outright that they are aware of human suffering and do not want to add to an already bloated world population. I actually have a brother and sister-in-law who made the childfree choice for exactly this reason. This is an excellent book that I went into for the 'money' side as it piqued my curiosity, but I walked away with something even better: the human element many of these individuals and couples are so often denied, and the wealth that comes from personal choices that increase the quality of life. Very highly recommended.
Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
An informative and insightful look at those who challenge the “status quo” script of life by actively choosing to be childfree.
Dr. Jay is childfree and the founder of Live, Learn, Plan, and Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm specialising in helping childfree Individuals. This book compiles portraits of 26 childfree individuals he interviewed, and explains many common terms about the childfree community.
The Pros & Cons
This was an informative and insightful look at those who challenge the “status quo” by choosing to be childfree.
The author demonstrates that there is no one singular reason but a myriad of reasons. Some have chosen this because of trauma in their past with families, considerations for finances, mental and physical health issues, other obligations to care for elderly or disabled family members, other relationships with children that they appreciate but prefer not to have responsibility for parenting, and much more.
The vignettes are interspersed with the author’s analysis as he discusses terms such as: FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) where the goal is retirement; FILE (Financial Independence, Live Early) which is more of a “dimmer” switch for work rather than the “off” switch of FIRE; the LAT movement (Living Apart Together) for modern [and often childfree] relationships; and “The Gardener & The Rose” analogy, whereby a couple takes turns allowing their partner to follow his/her dreams.
I appreciated that it featured a wide range of persons — some with partners, some without; different levels of wealth; some who were dating someone with kids (but they themselves remain childfree with no obligations); those from different racial and cultural backgrounds; those who had positive family relationships and/or came from big families as well as those who were only children; and so on.
Some pertinent quotes were:
“What a lot of guys would want and expect from a woman was also just a massive turn-off. They were just like, my dad worked four jobs, and my mom stayed at home taking care of 12 kids. And I’m like, no, no, no.” – Alison
“I think it’s freedom for me. Freedom, autonomy. It’s on a macro level, like this evening. If I want to go do a thing, I can just go and do a thing. It doesn’t matter what the thing is.” – Matt
“I can quit a job that I don’t like. I can quit a career that I hate. I’m not reliant on that money for someone else whom you can’t get rid of. The wealth is in the freedom.” – Autumn
In some cases, the very idea of choosing NOT to have children wasn’t an option until someone else introduced it to them, and they eventually found online communities that were supportive to those who live this type of lifestyle. Notably, the wider society is exclusionary or judgmental towards the childfree community. For instance, women often struggle to find doctors willing to do sterilisation; some employers afford more benefits or time off for parents rather than the childfree staff; and families also lean heavier on financial and other support from their childfree members.
The format and layout were easy to read, and I liked the use of direct quotes as it felt like I was having a conversation with someone. Admittedly, it does get quite repetitive (and the author acknowledges that), with many themes emerging such as a correlation — or causation? — due to growing up in poverty. Many interviewees also expressed huge relief about being childfree during the Covid-19 pandemic, as children could have been even more detrimental to their emotional and financial wellbeing.
Despite the many backgrounds, beliefs and opinions, my greatest takeaway is simply: “Being childfree allows us to stretch, learn, and reinvent ourselves.”
And, in the words of one of the interviewees, who knew that her very existence compromised her mom’s trajectory in life:
“You might have a kid and regret it too.” – Amelia
Though I myself recently became a parent, I chose this route extremely carefully and only because I fulfilled certain conditions prior (education, relationship, career, and financial goals, etc.). I fully support my friends who have chosen to be childfree, and I chose this book to gain more insight into their community. I can see it being a catalyst to changing someone’s life, if they happen upon this book at just the right time and get pointed in the direction whereby they suddenly realise: “Wait, I don’t HAVE to have children!” It is a brave move for many, who will likely always be judged by friends, families, employers, medical professionals, and even random strangers with insensitive remarks. Choosing to be childfree is a revolution in itself, and I thank the author for providing a voice to this community.