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I think your concern is more in the area of pro-life/pro-choice overtones, which I purposefully didn't address because, regardless of the perspective of the person reading the post, there are certain financial concerns regardless of the action taken.

A interesting parallel can be drawn between the growth in acceptance of the idea of using contraception that we have seen over the past 65 years and the growth in acceptance of the idea of early retirement that I expect is just ahead of us.

At an earlier time in human history, people did not have choices about whether to work or not. Nor did they make choices about whether to have children or not. Life was about making the best of "choices" made by others (fate, or the gods, or the beliefs of the community, or whatever). It is disorienting when the basics of life, things that have been true for thousands of years, are overturned.

This is part of the explanation of why some react so negatively to the idea of early retirement. We have gotten used to the idea that people can choose the type of work they do, although even that is a relatively new phenomenon. It is a radical shift, though, to suggest that whether to work at all is a matter that will be left to the individual to decide.

The history of decisions regarding children follows a similar path. At one time, there was little use of contraception and, generally, no decisions to make on this matter. Then, we had a period of time where most everyone had children, but decisions were made as to the timing of births and as to the number of children to have in a family. Now choice seems to encompass the decision of whether to have any children whatsoever.

The two changes have grown from similar roots. As man developed skill to manipulate nature, he developed contraceptives. He also developed technologies which made his labor more productive. The result is that he can work for fewer years of his life, if he so chooses. And he can have children or not, as he chooses.

I'll leave aside the question of whether these changes are a good thing or not. My goal is only to point out one ramification of the vast increase in choice in these two most personal matters making up one's life path. In both cases, the increase in choice makes it more difficult to keep discussions among those with differing opinions civil.

When there was no contraception, or when there was near universal agreement that families were a good thing, there was less of a problem with civility. Two people might disagree on the merits of a recent novel or vacation spot, but few of us take opinions about novels or vacation spots all that personally.

However, expressing opinions about whether to have children or not--or whether to work or not--goes to the heart of how we define ourselves as human beings. When someone makes an argument for a different choice on such a basic issue, it hurts.

It's hard to maintain an academic posture on the issues of work or children. The expression of a different viewpoint on such matters seems to put into question whether we did the right thing or not ourselves on something that really matters.

Humans have come to a most difficult pass. Discussions of these issues are difficult. But not discussing them is worse. When people did not have choices to make over work or children, they could proceed blissfully through life without ever thinking about the pros and cons. To do so today is to follow the most dangerous course of all.

Today, if you don't sit down and study the pros and cons of children, you are likely to just go with the flow of whatever river of received ideas you happen to be swimming in. You might end up with children because most others around you have them, and kicking yourself for not having studied your options at an earlier age. Or you might end up without children at an age when it's too late to do anything about it, and regretting not having thought the issue through until it was too late.

Each and every one of us makes some sort of choice on both of these issues. The biggest distinction is whether our choices are conscious or not. The responsibility put on our individual little shoulders is greater than at any earlier time in human history. So our reluctance to discuss such sensitive issues means that, in many cases, critical matters are decided with little systematic thought.

Some who support the idea of having children (as do I) say that the decision should be made for non-financial reasons. I understand where they are coming from. But I think the reality is that this is a dated way of thinking that will be increasingly difficult to sustain. Once you make children a matter of choice in any respect, finances are a factor. Perhaps not the only factor, but a factor nonetheless.

For example, one might accept the idea to have children regardless of the effect on a Retire Early plan, but then also decide to limit the number of children. This means that financial issues are having an influence. And it puts us back where we started--needing a way to discuss whether having additional children helps or hurts a Retire Early plan.

If I had it to do over, I would have had many more children. It's my one major regret in life. I consider this belief to be entirely in concert with the priority I put on retiring early. I want to leave corporate work behind as a means of putting more life into my days. And I want to have more children as a means of putting more life into my days. So there's no conflict in my mind.

But I know there are many others with different ways of looking at it. My purpose is not to start a discussion of the core issue on this particular thread. It's just to pass along my conclusion that over time the pros and cons need to be aired, regardless of the sensitivities on both sides.

The issue of having children or not doesn't come up because people are trying to pick fights. It comes up because it is a basic aspect of what it means to be human, and because it has genuine relevance to the matter of trying to retire early.

Humans are making choices about new sorts of things now, and they need lots more information to make good choices. Ultimately, whether to discuss the matter or not may be one of the few things over which at this point we really don't have much "choice."
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