Children in personal finance: The worst financial decision we have made but the best money decision we have made (Go figure)

When I read Kyith’s post titled ” Why Financial Independence with Children is Challenging“, I just thought that it is an interesting post with many truths in it. I would like to add another dimension to it.

I always felt that a single guy’s life is so much more straightforward. I am not saying it is a walk in the park. It is just different. Perhaps I can share a bit of my own personal experience, in a light-hearted way.

I am married with two kids.

Actually, finance is one huge variable in life. Everyone’s personal life is another variable. Add kids and family into the mix, and you have one big messy variable!

During this December break, I was lucky to have some free time to read. And among the books that I have read, I would recommend that if you have the time, to read this book titled “How I Invest My Money” by Brian Portnoy and Joshua Brown. The book is a collection of stories from many financial experts and these articles tell us how they invest their own money. They share stories about their childhood, their families, the struggles they face, and the aspirations they hold. Sometimes raw, always revealing, these stories detail the indelible relationship between our money and our values. Taken as a whole, these essays powerfully demonstrate that there is no single ‘right’ way to save, spend, and invest. We see a kaleidoscope of perspectives on stocks, bonds, real assets, funds, charity, and other means of achieving the life one desires.

The fact is all of us are different. When you put the word ‘personal’ in front of finance (personal finance), there is really no one-size-fits-all standard. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. However, it would make complete sense to me, and outsiders would really need to peel through my history, my upbringing, and the unique situational circumstances to really understand why.

In the book, the article by Joshua Brown is interesting.

His key phrase throughout his article is that “Life isn’t always consistent”, but there is an underlying reason for each financial decision he (and his wife) made.

The article by Morgan Housel is also a good read.

There is this portion whereby he mentioned that he and his wife own their house outright without a mortgage (I reckon it is probably during the period when the bank loan interest rates were relatively low and other financial assets like stocks had better rates).

To him, it was “the worst financial decision they made but the best money decision they have made”.


When I was in university, one of my tutors made a remark to a bunch of us (guys) that kind of struck a chord with me to this day. He mentioned that the world would be a much more boring place without women. A woman adds colours to a guy’s life.

Before I was married or even dating, my life was much simpler. It was like shades of grey. With guys, our conversations are pretty much centered on studies, computer games, soccer matches, competing in sports, etc.

Then my girlfriend came along and kind of messed it up. Life became complicated and emotional.

Till today, I still couldn’t ‘solve’ it.

For instance, my wife’s favorite weekend torture question for me is “Where to go for dinner?”. I used to think that it was a simple cost and reward equation type of question. Eg. Find the best value for money place, which is easy to travel to and a place that is not that crowded. Or maybe it is the type of food. For instance, we had Western food last week, so this week we can try Fast Food, Hawker food/Food court, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, or Vietnamese food, etc…

However, it turns out that there are many layers to that question and the answer has very little to do with the food or the price. For instance, it must be a place where we can buy the things that the kids (or she) need, a place with food that is suitable for the kids to eat; and where there are activities for the family, there must be a purpose other than just eating… Like seriously how am I to solve that, unless I am Professor X from X-men who can literally read her mind. Actually, she already knew the answer before she asked me.

Well, till today, I have yet to crack the code. However, I have gotten better at it… I think :p.

Or I can trace back to the time when we were deciding to get our first BTO flat. Being the simple linear guy I am, I would whip up my handy calculator, check online for the best value for money flat and make a case for why we should opt for the ‘not that expensive’ BTO flat in the extreme West or East region in a non-mature estate; so that it would not subsequently be a financial strain on us. I would quote from the book ‘Rich dad poor dad’ on how the apartment we stay in is not an asset and how we would be better off financially by getting a cheaper flat and paying off the mortgage as fast as possible.

However, in the end, we bought a ‘not that cheap’ BTO flat next to a MRT station, two bus stops away from her parents’ place. Which in a way made much sense later when we have kids as being near to her parents does have its benefits (as they help in taking care of our kids, etc..esp vital when the child is sick) – not to mention that after the MOP (Minimum Occupation Period), the value of the flat multiplied (but it is still not an asset in my opinion).

Not that black and white.

Mantra: A happy wife = A happy family = A happy life

There is some truth in this mantra.

There is something about making someone else happy that beats making only myself happy. There is also something fulfilling about bringing up another life.

I can’t really quantify it, but it pays to remember my wife’s birthday, my kids’ birthday, and our wedding anniversary. Events in our family sure run smoother when I remember and do something about it.

Let’s just say that I have forgotten the dates many times, and things could have been better- I feel. For a forgetful person like me (‘borderline dementia’), Google calendar or my Samsung smartphone calendar works wonder (c/w pre-set reminders… yes it is reminderS over different days not one reminder). In case, I mistake the buzz for another meeting reminder. Heck, I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday at times.

If this is a PSLE maths question, I reckon the only way to find the solution is via many rounds of trial and error.

You can delegate everything, except (being present with) your kids

Most C-suite executives in the corporate world could easily find ways to delegate work to their juniors.

However, personally, I find that there is really something in life that you can’t delegate. Eg. Taking care of kids.

Sure we can employ domestic helpers or nannies, we can send them to child care centres or student care centres, we can seek the help of our parents (the kids’ grandparents)… but at the end of the day, the bond between a parent and a child cannot be replicated by having someone else in our place.

I know of some parents who actually install CCTV cameras in every room and would routinely check on their kids (remotely and virtually) to ensure that they are doing (studying) what they are scheduled to do. If not, they will call up to question why. A parent literally showed me on the spot the live feed video from his handphone (with pride).

My guess: Probably for super on-the-ball parents, they will probably set up online meetings with their kids for quick progress updates. Yes I am watching you… :p.

There is this guilt that all parents will feel when they spend too much time away from their kids (due to work). Guilt that cannot be washed away by extravagant toys or expensive holidays.

Frankly, there is nothing in life that can really prepare me to be a parent. There are certificates, degrees, and courses for almost anything under the sun. However, I wonder if there is a degree for fatherhood. The day my son was born, I was officially a parent. No course, no training…I am just his dad (for Life!). It is a lifetime 24/7 full-time ‘job’ that I can never delegate away.

To borrow the phrase from Morgan Housel, the amount of time, energy, and money we spent on kids is the worst financial decision we have made but the best money decision we have made.

The bowl of fishball noodles: Humans can reciprocate

Actually, a pet does that as well but your own child can bring it to a whole new level.

Ask any dog lover and they will say that the best time of the day is when they get back home from work, and their dog greets them at the doorway.

My A-Ha moment was actually when my son was around 6 years old.
I was with him alone at a food court. Both of us was having fish ball noodle for lunch. While I was eating, my son looked at my bowl and said “Dad, do you have enough, do you want my fish ball?”

That was like the first time that my son actually said something that showed that he cared for me. And it meant a lot to me.

Actually, from birth to toddler… it is always the parents caring for the child. However, humans (unlike our other tangible items like properties, cars, clothes, toys, etc)… do have the capacity to love and care (when they grow up). If brought up the right way.

Well in a simple linear financial equation, we would probably be better off financially by spending our money on an investment property or retirement annuity… but then again life isn’t always that linear and quantifiable, and of course, life isn’t always consistent.

Thank you for reading.


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About apenquotes

Born in 1976. Married with 2 kids (a boy and a girl). A typical Singaporean living in a 4 room HDB flat. Check out my Facebook Page:
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6 Responses to Children in personal finance: The worst financial decision we have made but the best money decision we have made (Go figure)

  1. hri says:

    Add in children with special needs/chronic illness, it’s a whole new ball game by itself. Healthy and thriving kids is the best thing that can happen to any parents.

    In my almost 5 years as a parent, I have been humbled many times by events beyond my control. Ive gradually learn to count my blessings and wins however small it is. I also realised parenting is a marathon, we can only do so much without suffering a total burn out.

    As for C suite, most of the C suite people Ive seen do delegate parenting duty, in this case to their spouse who is normally a full time parent.

    Haha, the weekend torture question is funny, what will happen if you put it back to her?


  2. clotzyng says:

    Haha I never get the answer to that torture question right so why bother. Totally agree that kids really do add colour to my life.


    • apenquotes says:

      Well. Can delegate parenting to our spouse, but would love to be always there for my kids. From their kinder garden graduation to their CCA matches to their polytechnic or university convocation (if it actually happens) Nothing beats being there in person.
      Thank u guys.


  3. Hello World! says:

    Glad to see someone talking about the ‘value’ of family life. Life is rich and complex and maybe the extreme FIRE crowd is missing the forest from the trees when they view marriage and children as liabilities getting in the way of their FIRE.

    Morgan Housel seems to be telling his story not taking a low interest housing loan in a lot of places. Elsewhere, he also writes that one should be ‘reasonable’ rather than ‘rational’. There are a lot of keyboard warriors on internet forums who think there is only ‘one way’ to invest/make financial decisions which is what homo economicus will do, whereas, as you pointed out, personal finance is a ‘personal’ and a decision made by homo sapiens.

    As for Bogle, he has explained elsewhere that he provided his son with initial capital, because it’s his son. similarly, he held a position in the Wellington active fund because the founder gave him a job. But this is probably just a fraction of his networth.


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