Big Think writer Dave Berreby recently agreed with a proposal that parents be given a huge tax break for childrearing, $5000 per kid. He explains that this would essentially even out funding put in for parenting and that taken back out by retirees when those children are the ones paying taxes. According to the theory, the old system of having kids who would then care for their parents in their old age has been replaced by the new system of paying into Social Security and then getting it back in old age when a younger generation is working. If you’re not a parent, then who is the younger generation that you produced and is now paying for you in retirement?

As a childfree woman, I see it differently. I have paid for years a much higher amount in taxes than my female peers. I spent more years in school preparing to be a career woman rather than a mother—and as a worker-bee, I’ve spent many more hours in the office than do most other women, earned more money as a result, and thus paid more in taxes. Plus, in addition to paying income tax, I also pay property tax, much of which goes into public education. And regarding young people entering the work force and paying into the social security coffers, how would we account for those that never are productive? Would their parents have to pay back the money they received in tax breaks from the government?

What about another means of supporting retirement?

I wholeheartedly agree with an alternative proposal, put forth by some childfree adults, that I’d give up any social security earnings I’m going to get (if the fund doesn’t go broke) if I could have every penny I’ve put in refunded to me with the same interest I’d have received if investing the money myself. I am preparing for my retirement by putting money aside and making tough financial choices and sacrifices. I’m already thinking about how I will be able to get the caregiving assistance I’ll need because I won’t be able to count on children to provide this to me (many parents expect that they will have this support and then are disappointed when it’s not there). Many of the parents I know are so wrapped up in the today demands of parenting (even if their children are out of the home) that they can’t imagine a day when they might need to support themselves or be cared for in retirement.

Growth and rewarding production of babies is not the answer!

We need to be moving towards having fewer babies. There is almost unanimous agreement on this—even the Gate’s Foundation has announced their plans to put substantial funding into increased access to contraceptives and research into development of birth control methods. If we don’t continue on this path, our world is doomed. In essence, we are spoiling our own nest. The good news is that birthrates almost worldwide are down. So, this problem of how to care for an aging population is going to be addressed whether we’re ready to do so or not. We must get back to basic living, having an appreciation for what’s really important—relationships and quality time rather than stuff bought at the mall—being rewarded for saving and preparing financially for our futures, and community cohesiveness. It’s unlikely that my generation will enjoy the comfortable retirement of our parents, but most of my peers are beginning to accept this reality and to adjust practically and emotionally as a result. Policies such as the one proposed above only serve to be divisive, and in these times, we cannot afford to have acrimonious relationships with one another. 

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