Mainly I Want to Talk About Having 13 Kids

The article I would like to draw your attention to exists out of time and is called, “How To Retire Early With 13 Kids” but really it should be called, “OMG 13 Kids, Here’s How We Pay For It,” or better yet, “See, You Only Have One Kid, Everything Is Fine.”

The facts: Catholic Dad makes $110K a year, plus some lawn-mowing (him) and tutoring (her) side hustle that adds another $5K. The kids are between two and 24 years old — the eldest is married, one lives at college, the other 11 are still at home. Their house is paid off, they save a LOT ($2447/month), they have no debt. You can find their budget in the article — they spend $1,260 a month on food, their highest monthly expense — but how do they live? “Pleasant, if simple lives,” Dad says, which I do buy.

My main questions of course, and my main anxieties, lie with the teens: how do you pay for college, and how do they all get around?

My kids all start working and saving at a young age. By age 12 or so they are babysitting, cutting grass, shoveling snow and doing odd-jobs for people. So far they have all been good savers. Which is a good thing because they pay for their own iPods, phones, cars, gas, car insurance, and college.

The kids buy reliable (we hope) used cars and pay for all the maintenance, gas, insurance etc. We try to find cars that old people no longer need. They are usually well maintained and have low miles. All five of the older kids have cars. Plus my wife and I have three between us. It looks a lot like a used car lot in our driveway. I’m sure our neighbors love us.

EIGHT CARS in the driveway. And their kids are graduating college debt-free:

My kids are responsible for their own college funding, if they choose to go. One is done with her schooling and four are currently attending college (Two seniors, one junior, and one freshman). My wife and I encourage them to go for at least two years and then decide if they want to continue on. So far they all have. We have a great community college so they all go there for two years, usually for free, then they transfer to a 4-year state university. State tuition in our area is around $8–10k per year. Some of my kids have been able to get enough scholarship and grant money to pay for all of it and some have paid up to $5,000 per year. None of them uses student loans. They are all finishing their undergrad work debt free.

My parents both paid for their own school and cars, and I do like the idea of making my kids do it, too — in theory. Character-building! My parents always told me they wouldn’t be buying me a car when I turned 16, on principle, but then they totally caved and got me a used Honda Civic ($3,500) when I got my license, telling me I had to pay for the gas (enter: my first job). Then they paid for a big chunk of my college tuition — whatever FAFSA said they could afford, basically, which came out to about 1/3rd of the total.

I do like the way this 13-kid family works philosophically, though in practice I can imagine some lizard-brain thing will kick in and I’ll want to do that whole middle class aspirational thing where you want your kid to have it better than you did. Or you know, the Singularity will happen before I have to worry about any of this. Stay tuned.