‘I feel ready to have kids but can’t see how I’ll be able to afford them’

Woman pictured smiling- Hannah Evans, 28, is an author from Swansea who is speaking out about the financial anxiety which young people are facing about having children due to the cost of living crisis
-Credit: (Image: Rhydian Cox)

Hannah Evans and her partner are both in full-time employment. She's 28 and they are getting married soon. It's the kind of time in a couple's life when they might be thinking of starting a family. But there's a hitch - is it possible to bring a new life into the world when living is so expensive right now?

And she's far from the only person facing that dilemma. An entire generation has been described as being “on pause” as people aged between 18 and 34 are reportedly delaying having children because of the cost-of-living crisis. A poll by Royal London with over 4,000 participants showed 22% of people in that age group had altered their family plans due to the cost-of-living crisis.

In an ideal world, Hannah, from Swansea, notes that she could be ready to have children right now, but that she has become hyper-aware of the cost factor, meaning she is now delaying the prospect into “years” in the future. For money-saving tips, sign up to our Money newsletter here

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Acknowledging that there were several factors at play when it came to the financial considerations in family planning, Hannah, who has written her debut novel, The Mapmaker's Wife, which examines some of the anxieties around motherhood and the life changes that can come with this, said: “It just plays into every financial decision you make. My partner and I have just renovated our house, and when looking at the bathroom we were wondering what sort of changes we needed for a baby because we don’t want to have to redo this in five year’s time.

“It’s a kind of exhausting reality but it’s constantly in the back of my mind. I’ve had some really open conversations about family planning with motherhood with my mum, my grandmother, and I remember my mum saying when she handed in her notice to go on extended maternity, she didn’t really do the maths to see how it would impact them, and I was like- I have multiple spreadsheets.”

When asked what her ideal age would be to have children, if finances were not an issue, she replied: “I think my opinion is so clouded by the awareness of how much it would impact me financially. I can't imagine wanting them any earlier because I can't separate it. I imagine I would maybe be thinking within the next year as I'm getting married next June but that is just not going to happen. That kind of financial anxiety I suppose of how we would make that work is definitely clouding my judgement on it, so it is going to have to be mid-30s at the earliest.”

With a host of lifestyle changes on the horizon for many parents deciding to have children, it seems that younger people are also considering whether or not that is something they are willing to adapt to, especially in the current financial climate. More than a quarter (27%) of parents with young children under three are finding themselves overdrawn regularly or occasionally, with 1 in 10 (9%) needing to borrow money to cover monthly expenses, according to recent research.

Considering her own lifestyle and spending habits, Hannah added: “I am also finding that more of my friends are veering towards not having children, and I can’t speak for them or say that is just purely for financial reasons. But I suppose back in the day, it was just assumed that you would, and that you would make the money work.

“But there were premises in place where it was possible to make that money work. I’m quite lucky in the sense that I talk about it with my friends and we have never stopped talking openly about finances - and these days it does turn into, how are we going to afford a girls holiday if we’ve got nursery fees to pay. It does make you wonder how you are ever going to afford that home improvement project, or god forbid, buy a nice car - or anything that other generations were able to do a little bit easier."

Sarah Pennells, consumer finance specialist at Royal London said: “We’ve been tracking how people have been responding to the financial challenges of the rising cost-of-living for more than two years and it’s clear we’re now starting to see that people are making changes to their longer-term life plans.

“When prices for food and energy were increasing, we saw people cut back and make changes to their spending and shopping habits, but now we’re seeing that some major life decisions are being delayed as people are weighing up whether or not they can afford to act on the plans they’d made.

Findings in the report also showed that, of people aged between 35 and 49 years old, 1 in 5 (20%) admitted they were close to falling into, or were unable to pay major household bills, compared to just 13% on average for the sample as a whole.

High interest rates and rising mortgages have also hugely impacted people in this age group, with average monthly outgoings rising by £588 per month** since February, 2023, leaving 34% overdrawn regularly or occasionally or having to borrow money to cover monthly expenses, and almost a quarter (23%) with no savings at all.

Hannah thought wider issues such as a low levels of maternity pay for new mothers could also often play a part in when young people are financially ready to start a family. When asked how she felt about this subject, Hannah said: “I know none of my male friends will be worried about going for a promotion in case it impacts their maternity leave.

“There is no way that they are having to think about this, whereas it is something which many women do think about, and constantly play in the back of their minds when it comes to making decisions about work and career timelines. This anxiety about motherhood, its financial and emotional impact, are central themes in my debut novel, The Mapmaker’s Wife, which I hope can inspire conversations between friends and families about the pressure we put on women in this day and age.”

To read more about the statistics from the Royal London poll, you can find out more, here.