I’ve mentioned one of my regrets was having kids late. I was too focused on my career. Then I became too focused on achieving financial independence to make room for little ones. Ideally, I would have liked to have had my first kid at age 34 instead of at age 39.
However, a conversation with my friend Carlos made me better realize the benefits of being an older parent who is more financially secure.
When I first mentioned to Carlos I had an almost five-year-old son, he looked at me in shock. He responded, “You’re 44 years old and have a five-year-old?! What?!”
You see, Carlos is 48 years old and has a 24-year-old son. He’s very proud of his son because he always talks about how big and powerful he is. However, he lamented his son never tried hard enough in baseball, which is why he never was able to play in college.
So I asked Carlos what his son was doing now. He responded, “He lives in the Central Valley, in Modesto with his mom. I haven’t seen him in over a year.”
Modesto is only a 1 hour, 30-minute drive away from where he lives in San Francisco. I’m not sure why he doesn’t visit more often.
Kids Spend Most Of Their Time With Their Parents By Age 18
Carlos and his ex-wife divorced when their son was only eight years old. He told me they grew apart, like many people commonly do. Then we began talking about how quickly kids grow up. Carlos said that after his son turned 14, his boy just wanted to spend most of his time with his friends.
By the time kids finish high school, more than 80% of the time they’ll ever spend with their parents is gone. Some say 90%. How sobering.
After age 18, some kids go off to college and create their own lives. Other kids will continue to stay at home well into adulthood until they can finally launch. Meanwhile, some parents will get divorced and move out of the house along the way.
Carlos continued to make me feel bad about being an older dad by saying, “So when your son is 20, you’re going to be 59?!” Yes Carlos, your math is correct.
But I realized something awesome while Carlos was stepping on my soul. For us older, more financially independent parents, we actually can more than make up for our old age!
As An Older Parent, I Got The Math Equation Wrong
For the longest time, I kept thinking that because I had children later, my children won’t be in my life as long as I would have liked. The obvious reason is my eventual death. If I had children at age 25, we would be in each other’s lives for a greater percentage.
However, I realize now that I got the math equation wrong! It’s not the number of years my child has lived divided by my age upon death that matters most. Instead, it’s the number of total minutes we spend with our children during their entire lives!
Therefore, to make up for having children later, all older parents need to do is spend more time with their children during their first 18 years than a younger parent or the average parent.
Further, since 18 years is what counts the most due to the 80%+ statistic, a father can be as old as 60-70 before having their first child! A mother can too. Although, biology dictates that most women will no longer be able to have biological children after age 45.
In other words, if we follow the Pareto optimal rule, a parent’s job is to mainly live and provide until a child officially becomes an adult. Spending the remaining 20% or less time together after age 18 is still very important. However, most of a parent’s job is done by the time their child reaches age 18-22.
How Much More Time Should Older Parents Spend With Their Children To Come Out Ahead
After Carlos and his ex-wife got a divorce, Carlos moved out. He then saw his son once a week for about four hours at a time until he turned 18. Then his son went off to college and Carlos would see his son three times a year on average.
How much time did Carlos spend with his son during his first 18 years of life? Here is the estimate based on what he told me.
Amount Of Time Carlos Spent With His Kid From Age 1-18
First 8 years of child’s life = 2920 days
90 minutes a day spent with child = 262,800 minutes spent with child from age 1-8
Then Carlos got divorced and the time he spent with his son from age 9-18 went down from daily to weekly.
52 weeks a year X 10 years = 520 weeks
240 minutes spent with son a week X 520 weeks = 124,800 minutes spent with son from age 9-18
Total number of minutes spent with son for 18 years = 387,600 or 6,460 hours
Amount Of Time I Plan To Spend With My Kids From Age 1-18
I spend on average 240 minutes a day with my children. Some days I spend 480+ minutes a day with them, while other days I’ll only spend 180 minutes a day. I’m trying to be as realistic as possible.
5 years = 1,825 days
240 minutes X 1,825 days = 438,000 minutes for the first five years of life
Over time, I suspect the time I spend with them a day will fade down to 120 – 180 minutes a day due to school, friends, and other activities. Therefore, let’s take an average of 150 minutes a day with my kids from age 6-18.
13 years = 4,745 days
150 minutes X 4,745 days = 711,750 minutes spent with my kids from age 6-18
The total number of minutes I plan to spend with my kids for their first 18 years = 1,149,750 minutes or 19,163 hours. In other words, I plan to spend 223% more time or 762,150 more minutes or 12,703 more hours with my kids than Carlos spent with his son.
Doing the math, I no longer feel bad at all for having kids later. In fact, my hope is to spend even more time with my kids than the calculations above. We plan to travel a lot as a family during the summers and winters when they are both over five years old (2025+).
85 minutes is the average time spent for university-educated parents. The average amount of minutes a non-university-educated father spends a day with their child is only 55 minutes.
Amount Of Time The Average Parent Spends With Their Kids From Age 1-18
Below is the data again regarding the average amount of time parents spend with their children per day in various countries. As a stay-at-home father, the amount of time seems really low. But the data is the data.
Using the data from Our World Data, we can make a general calculation for all parents in America. Let’s assume all parents spend as much time with their children a day as university-educated mothers: 125 minutes. Better to assume the highest number to be conservative.
18 years X 365 days = 6,570 days
6,570 days X 125 minutes = 821,250 total minutes a college-educated mother spends with their child for the first 18 years of life.
Now let’s use the highest average number of minutes a parent spends a day with their child out of the 10 developed countries listed above: 150 minutes
6,570 days X 150 minutes = 985,550 total minutes the most available parent spends during the first 18 years of life for these 10 select countries.
The 1 Million Minute Hurdle (16,666 Hours)
I’m assuming that parents who don’t spend on average 125-150 minutes a day with their children will say things like, “It’s more about the quality of time spent versus the quantity of time spent.”
Sure, there’s a difference between being 100% present for 125 minutes versus letting your child play by herself at the playground while you’re on your phone for 125 minutes. However, once we observe all the minutes spent by all the parents in the world, the quality of time spent with children averages out.
All else equal, we can agree that more time spent with our children is better than less time spent.
Therefore, if we want to feel like good parents, I propose all parents shoot to spend one million or more minutes with their kids during their first 18 years of life. One million minutes will put parents in the top tier of time spent with our children among 10 countries surveyed, and probably the world. If our children turn out poorly, we won’t feel as bad.
The great thing about the one million minutes target is that parents have 18 years to achieve the goal. If a parent was more absent during the first nine years of a child’s life, a parent can make up for lost time.
Even if a parent was completely absent during their child’s first 18 years of life, they can do their best to spend more time with their adult children. However, making up for lost time so late will likely be much more challenging.
More Benefits Of Having Kids Late And Being A Financially Independent Parent
Besides being able to spend more time with your children than the average parent, here are more benefits of being an older parent who is more financially independent.
- A greater ability to attend more extracurricular activities like a sporting event, play, debate, etc.
- A greater ability to participate more in volunteer school activities.
- Being able to spend more time with your children with their school work.
- Provide more care at home if your child needs to skip school due to an illness or some other mishap.
- More flexibility to drive your children around wherever they want to go.
- An increased likelihood you are a wiser parent who can impart more wisdom about life.
Having Children Late Can Work Out Just Fine
If I had children while working in banking (age 22-34), it is highly unlikely I would spend even 120 minutes on average a day with them. Working ~60 hours a week on average is exhausting. Further, I was constantly flying across the country and internationally for business meetings.
All the same, I would have loved to have children earlier. Getting paid parental leave, a steady paycheck, and subsidized health benefits sounds awesome. If you’re a younger parent who is upset at this post, please know this post is for older parents or older people who are considering kids. It just didn’t work out for me the way I had envisioned and that’s just life.
Now that I’ve crunched the numbers and understand how small the window is for us to spend the most amount of time with our children, I feel great about being an older dad. Carlos’ initial guilting of my situation actually turned into an amazing epiphany!
Because both my wife and I don’t have day jobs, we can afford to spend a lot more time every day with our children. Our passive income portfolio is what powers us to be free. So long as we both survive until our children turn 18, we will end up spending far more time with our children than the average parent.
Therefore, our number one goal is to take care of our health. Ideally, we’ll live longer than the median life expectancy. When our children turn 18, we will then reassess how much more time we should or can spend with them.
I will always want to be involved in my adult children’s lives. It’s one of the reasons why I spend so much time with them every day in the first place: so they have happy childhood memories. However, I also understand they’ll want to launch on their own. And when that time comes, I’ll be patiently waiting for my phone to ring.
Readers, any of you have kids late? If you are an older parent, what are some of the other benefits you can think of? For more personal finance goodness, join 50,000+ others and sign up for my free weekly newsletter. Since 2009, I’ve been helping people achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.