Those of us with kids know all too well the cost of raising a child. And if you go bust, as many folks did during the Great Recession, you feel the pain of trying to continue providing for your kids when there isn’t any income or at least much less than the family has been used to having.
So at what point can you afford a baby? Should people defer their dreams of expanding their family because of the economy?
It’s questions like this that Storyline, a new destination from The Washington Post, will address with the intent of personalizing public policy issues.
Melissa and Rick Myrick of Fenton, Mo., are the faces of folks who have decided to delay having children because of economic pressures.
“Their dilemma echoes that of millions of American families in this recovery, people who have watched the economy grow and the unemployment rate fall, but who are still waiting for their own outlook to brighten,” wrote The Post’s Todd C. Frankel. “Choices large and small hang in the balance — whether to buy a house, go to college, get married. Have a baby.”
“I want to get ourselves in a better situation before we start trying,” Melissa told Frankel.
Lots of folks, not sure of their financial stability, are waiting to have kids.
“When the economy plunged into recession in 2008, shedding jobs and expectations, the U.S. birth rate followed, reversing the upward trend seen when times were good,” notes Frankel. “The languishing economy has caused people to doubt if they can afford to be parents.”
But what’s the public policy issue here?
“Births have slowed so sharply that researchers note that future economic growth could be stunted by a smaller labor pool,” Frankel writes.
Color of Money Question of the Week
Should the economy play into my family planning? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Baby or Bust” in the subject line. Please include your name, city and state.
Depending on where you vacation this summer, you probably will be or have been approached by someone trying to sell you a timeshare.
Timeshares work for some, but for many others, they can become a financial burden.
Liz Weston, the personal finance columnist for the Los Angles Times, answered a question from a reader about a timeshare the person wanted to dump.
The reader asked: “How do I walk away from a timeshare? It’s paid off, but we have yearly maintenance fees that are now $3,600 each year. This will be prohibitive in retirement, and it’s quite a burden now.”
Weston offers some very helpful guidance, which should also be a cautionary tale if you’re tempted to purchase a timeshare. She also offers more advice on bankrate.com about managing the fees associated with a timeshare or how to sell one you no longer want.
Live chat canceled today
I’m taking a break from the chat this week, but I’ll be back July 31 to answer your personal finance questions.
Missed my online chat last week? Here’s the transcript . I answered a question about paying for a wedding or paying off student loan debt and discussed the cost of raising children, long-term care insurance and a number of other financial issues.
Last week I talked about how I’ve been cutting down on my movie-going, not because prices have gone up but because too many movies are dark and depressing.
Too many films, “whether it’s Superman or James Bond or Godzilla, feel obligated to take their protagonist into ever darker, more violent territory, both exterior and interior,” The Washington Post’s movie critic, Ann Hornaday, wrote recently. “The solemnicizing of pop entertainment has resulted in a remarkably joyless enterprise — devoid of the simple exhilarations and visceral delights that made Hollywood fantasies such escapist pleasures in the first place.”
So for last week’s Color of Money Question of the Week I asked: Are you staying home from the movies this summer?
Well, seems like I wasn’t alone. Many of you wrote to say that you, too, are tired of dark, bad, violent movies.
“My wife and I have no interest in violence or in flying or wrecking cars or in silly super-robots,” wrote Malcolm Jensen of Gaithersburg, Md. “We have far healthier and enjoyable ways to spend our time.”
Loved this comment from Thea Kester of Ashville, N.Y.: “I am avoiding many of the big blockbuster movies this year. I just plain do not want to go to the movies to come out depressed. I want to be entertained. I want to be mentally or emotionally stimulated. I do not want to be blasted out of my seat by ear-slamming sound effects. I do not want to leave the theatre depressed. I do not want my intelligence to be insulted. Hollywood seems to have moved toward the tastes of teenaged boys and away from the tastes of the likes of me — mature adult woman. Whatever happened to stimulating, uplifting or just plain feel-good movies?”
Double ditto to what Pat Freedman of Rockville, Md., wrote: “For the last few years my husband and I have not seen more than a couple of movies a year in the theaters. We can afford ticket prices but feel they are not worth the money given all the commercials, the dirty theaters and the often inconsiderate patrons (talking, texting, bringing children who are too young for the movie). If there is something we really want to see in the theater because it would be better on the big screen than on TV, we wait a few weeks (hoping that it lasts that long) and then go to a matinee, when it is usually less crowded. But even the matinee prices are overpriced. And I really dislike 3-D movies — it’s annoying to wear the glasses, and the effects are rarely worth the higher ticket price.”
“Recent films are too dark,” wrote one reader, Bob. “Or just crazy. But we find Netflix is less expensive — more choices, no traffic or lines and we can have ice cream as well as popcorn at home.”
People also had a lot to say about the rising cost of movie tickets.
“We are a family of four (two kids, the husband and me), and, yes, it is too expensive for all of us to go to a movie together,” wrote Karen Allanach of Frederick, Md. “We were delighted recently to try a discount movie theater in our area, playing recent big box office releases. We saw ‘The Winter Soldier’ (we love Captain America, and other Marvel movies). Absolutely loved it and the fact that it didn’t bust our bank account at $4.50 a ticket! Otherwise, we usually wait for the DVD or rent it. It is not worth going to a full-priced movie theater. But we will definitely go back to the discount theater for a family night out.”
Here’s a good point from Tracy B.: “I travel so much for work, I do not remember when movies get released — by the time I do, that movie is usually fast-tracked to DVD and/or Blu-ray. With a large-screen TV, Red Box, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and an Apple TV, I can create my own movie experiences. I make popcorn, pour myself an adult beverage and stretch out on my sofa, with pillows and the remote control. No tall person blocking my view of the action, and I’ve saved money, too!”
“First of all, I would like to say that I haven’t been to a movie theater since 1997,” wrote Linda D. Alexander of Seneca, S.C. “That’s right, I said 1997! It was ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.’ It is was, and still is, a very funny movie. Going to the movies now is like going to a five-star restaurant just to get popcorn and a soda. I just wait until the film is on DVD or Blu-ray, which usually takes about four to six months after it is released in the theaters, or wait until the free weekend offers from HBO and/or Showtime to see the movies that have just been released.”
Al Fitzpatrick of Akron, Ohio, and his wife still make Friday their movie date night, despite the cost. “My wife and I have been married 58 years. About 12 years ago she ‘requested’ that we go to the movies every Friday. The movie is followed by dinner at a local restaurant. We have a lot of fun except when we encounter a movie that lacks imagination and reality. The ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie and many others fall into this category. Also, I refuse to pay $3 for 3D glasses.”
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.