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Financial Planning for the Childfree

Emily Koochel March 19, 2024

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There is an increase in Americans who are choosing to be childfree, meaning they have decided not to have children. This group is distinct from those who want children but may be unable to, or those who are planning on having children in the future—referred to as childless.

This trend is confirmed by the Pew Research Center which found that 44 percent of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they will have children someday—an increase of 7 percentage points from their survey just three years prior.1

In the competitive financial industry, financial advisor niches can help sustain and grow your business. For financial professionals interested in establishing a niche practice supporting the childfree, it’s likely to be a growing and profitable one. There are several factors advisors must consider that impact the financial planning of the childfree.

Information Gathering Approach

Whether someone is childfree by choice or due to other life circumstances, it’s crucial for advisors to approach the information-gathering aspect of financial planning with an open mind. Because individuals who have chosen not to have children often experience stigma, it’s important to avoid asking questions that make certain assumptions.

In financial planning conversations, it’s essential to keep conversation starters broad and tailor follow-up questions based on responses to gather more details. For instance, instead of directly asking if they have a family, a more inclusive approach would be to say, “Tell me about your family.” This open-ended phrasing encourages discussion about the broader family circle, including parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and more. Moreover, it presents an opportunity to learn more about the client’s money story.

When engaging with childfree individuals, it’s important to use phrasing that respects their lifestyle choices. For example, “What kind of legacy do you want to leave?” is more inclusive than asking, “What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your family?” Similarly, consider asking, “Are there people whose lives you’ll play a future role in?” rather than, “What role will you play in your children’s and grandchildren’s future?”

Take some time to review any standard client intake questionnaires or conversation scripts you follow to ensure they do not inadvertently exclude childfree clients. As your discussions progress, it is imperative to ask follow-up questions that are respectful and free from personal biases, to ensure a supportive and inclusive financial planning experience.

Differences in Childfree Financial Planning

The financial strategies of childfree individuals differ significantly from those with children, as they are likely pursuing distinct spending and savings goals. One area where this contrast is evident is insurance. While insurance is often considered essential for parents to provide financial protection for their dependents, it may not be the same priority for the childfree. Although some childfree individuals may opt for life insurance, typically naming their spouse as a beneficiary, it is not as common a necessity as it is for those with children.

Conversely, childfree individuals prioritize securing disability and long-term care insurance, focusing on their own care for later in life, should a disability prevent them from continuing to work in their current capacity, making long-term care and disability insurance more essential.

Another departure from traditional financial planning is the concept of leaving a legacy. While conventional financial planning is often centered around building generational wealth, childfree clients likely view legacy differently than parents and grandparents. Instead of those immediate family members, they may opt to leave their excess wealth to philanthropic causes close to their hearts or, spend all their wealth within their lifetime.

Finally, without the considerable expense of raising and providing for children—such as childcare or college savings—the childfree tend to have more funds at their immediate disposal. As a result, they’ll have different priorities that include spending more on their current lifestyle as well as saving for a retirement that could be less traditional.

Financial planners can assist these clients by helping them examine the lifestyle they want to achieve and determine their priorities and asset allocation accordingly. Similar to any client, the better advisors understand these clients’ goals, the better the financial plan and the likelihood of its success.

Consider Key Partnerships to Complete the Financial Planning Picture

Consultation with additional financial professionals beyond their advisor is no different for the childfree than for others, but the need to have certain financial provisions in place could be considered more critical. Having a preferred list of these professionals to share with clients provides a seamless experience.

If you are a fee-only advisor who doesn’t write insurance policies, have an insurance agency at the ready you can refer clients to. This will enable you to direct clients to experts who can provide insights about life, disability, and long-term care insurance options that make the most sense for their situation.

Similarly, having a referral relationship with a trusted attorney with expertise in estate planning, wills, and trusts can help when your childfree clients need to designate a power of attorney, designate a health care proxy, and create a health care directive. Even if childfree clients may not prioritize leaving behind substantial assets, an estate attorney can help them plan if they do wish to provide for loved ones or donate to a charity. As their financial advisor, you can help them determine the balance between preserving wealth and enjoying wealth during their lifetime.

Flipping the Switch on Traditional Financial Planning

While it’s true that childfree clients do not have expenses for raising children, they will face other expenses, like funding their own care as they get older. It’s also not a given that they will be any better off financially because they are childfree, and their need for financial planning is as vital as anyone’s to ensure they don’t outlive their resources.

As more and more people decide not to have children, financial planners must become better equipped to address the unique needs and challenges of this group of clients. This understanding of individual needs provides the personalization clients are looking for in their financial plans.

To learn about more ways to make financial planning more personal, read our eBook Personalizing the 7-step Financial Planning Process.

Sources:

1. Pew Research Center. 2021. “More Childless U.S. Adults Now Say They Don’t Plan to Ever Have Kids| Pew Research Center.” November 19, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/11/19/growing-share-of-childless-adults-in-u-s-dont-expect-to-ever-have-children/.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

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About the Author

Dr. Emily Koochel is an experienced financial professional, academic, and researcher. She currently serves as a leader for eMoney Advisor’s Financial Education and Wellness initiatives in her role as Manager of Financial Wellness. Dr. Koochel’s PhD in Applied Family Science and Master’s in Financial Planning provide a multidisciplinary lens to inform her work where she focuses on understanding the effect of financial behaviors and financial decision making on personal and financial wellness. She serves as a subject matter expert in the field, reviewing and authoring peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and contributing to public scholarship. Most notably, she served as a co-author for the CFP Board’s book – The Psychology of Financial Planning - and was awarded 2020 Outstanding Research Journal Article of the Year by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. She holds the Certified Financial Therapist – I designation and is an Accredited Financial Counselor and Behavioral Financial Advisor.

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