The dual income, no kids (DINK) lifestyle is the envy of many adults with children. DINK couples are portrayed in the media as happy-go-lucky, enjoying travel to exotic lands while holding hands as the sun sets, and adorning themselves with the latest, expensive fashions.
But it may not be all sunshine and roses, as it appears. Couples with children may argue that DINK couples are being selfish by remaining childless and are missing out on one of life’s greatest joys. Some of these feelings may come from envy; others are sincere.
Regardless of your situation and opinion of DINK couples, their lifestyle can look very appealing. Madison Avenue has done a very good job with marketing campaigns directed specifically at them, featuring such tempting items as romantic cruises, luxury automobiles, designer clothing, and expensive jewelry.
So, what’s the true story of the DINK lifestyle? Is it as good as it looks? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons and see if it’s as glamourous as it seems for couples living life without kids.
The DINK lifestyle definitely has its benefits. They include:
Plenty of free time
DINK couples don’t have to put Little League games, dance recitals, PTA meetings, or orthodontist visits on their schedules. When the workday ends, their time is their own. They are free to go to the gym, take in a movie, or grab a meal at their favorite restaurant. And they can stay out as late as they want, with no worries about paying the babysitter.
According to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610. A couple with two children would have over $460,000 in child-rearing expenses. Without kids, that same couple could enjoy that money in whatever manner they wish. While some of it should go towards investing for the future, some of it could be spent on indulgences like fine dining, first-class travel, the latest luxury or sports car, or an expensive condo coupled with a lavish lifestyle.
More investable funds
Saving nearly half-a-million dollars by not having kids leaves a lot more money to have fun and put away for the future.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average retirement savings of all working-age families (32-61) is $95,776, and nearly half of U.S. families have no retirement savings. Undoubtedly, much of this can be attributed to couples raising children not having the financial means to fully fund their retirement as they’d like to.
DINK couples have a much greater opportunity to save and invest, though they do face the challenge of being tempted to over-indulge themselves and spend more than they make. It may require even more discipline on their part to maximize investment and retirement savings opportunities.
More time to establish a career
For a couple that's raising kids, life is a whirlwind. Many families have minivans for a reason. They are continually shuttling kids back and forth from one activity to the next. When they’re home with younger children, they have to factor in bath time and bedtime. With middle-schoolers, it’s homework. They do get a bit of a break with high schoolers that are more self-sufficient.
DINK couples can stay late at the office and devote more time to climbing the corporate ladder. Or building their own business. They have a spouse to consider, but often-times they’re also busy building their own career. Devoting 10-12 hours per day to a job versus eight hours can make a massive difference in output, and the accompanying recognition, increases in compensation, and opportunities for advancement.
Without having to consider kids in school, it’s much easier for a DINK couple to move geographically, whether it’s across town or across the country. When opportunities arise, the “For Sale” sign can go up, and the moving company called. Though it may still be difficult to leave friends and family behind, DINK couples can say “Yes” to the new job opportunity and head out.
It’s also easier to move to a bigger or better home with no kids. Changing schools doesn’t enter into the equation, and there are more funds available for new furnishings, draperies, and other essential new-home expenditures.
More years to bond as a couple
Once kids arrive on the scene, the dynamics between a couple can change. Getting to know each other at a deeper level through intimate dinner conversations is replaced with talking about the kids and their needs. Seemingly, years can go by with little time spent alone together, except for the occasional night out or the rare vacation as a couple.
DINK couples have only themselves and their relationship to worry about. They can take many more trips together by themselves. A day spent hiking together can be decided upon at a moment’s notice, without having to worry about child care. They can enjoy many more experiences as a couple, creating more memories and bringing them closer together faster.
After reading all of the pros, it may reinforce your belief in being a DINK couple or make you wish you were one if you’re not. But, there are some conceivable pitfalls as well.
Potential to overspend
Being young with plenty of available cash-on-hand to spend as you’d like can create some problems if you’re undisciplined or impulsive. Hopefully, at least one spouse can be the voice of reason when it comes to the balance between saving and spending. All of that advertising directed toward DINK couples can be very tempting and can quickly deplete a bank account.
Fewer tax breaks
Having a child under the age of 17 at the end of a calendar year can allow you to receive a tax credit of up to $2,000 per child. Since a tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, two qualifying children can reduce your tax bill by $4,000. That’s a considerable amount if you multiply that by 17 years of eligibility, and it could very likely increase in the future.
Less support as you age
According to the Pew Research Center, 12% of U.S. parents care for an adult family member and spend more than two and a half hours per day on unpaid care. It’s an emotional and economic benefit for those adults that have children looking after them. DINK couples will never experience the gratification of having grateful children returning the care they were given during their childhood.
At face value, the pros certainly may outnumber the cons when it comes to the DINK lifestyle. But it’s still not for everyone. If you’re a DINK couple, enjoy it. If you’re not and you’re raising kids right now, don’t despair. Empty-nesters are also considered DINK couples. You’ll have your day in the sun again.
Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.
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