This week we interview Jay Zigmont CFP from Child Free Wealth. Jay clues us in on some shocking statistics about child free families. The child free financial planning challenges are very different. Considering the younger generations are stating they less likely to have kids, this is an important topic. Join us this week as we dive into the child free lifestyle and how families should think about planning for this lifestyle.
Embracing Die With Zero as a Childfree Person by Jay Zigmont
People who are Childfree or permanently childless don’t have kids and aren’t planning on having kids. A recent study out of Michigan found that 1 in 5 adults are Childfree. When you are living a life of Childfree Wealth, you have the time, money, and freedom to do what you enjoy. For many Childfree people, that life includes embracing the Die With Zero approach.
Bill Perkins wrote the book Die With Zero in 2020. At its core, Die With Zero discusses our relationships with money, experiences, and life. Perkins talks about maximizing the relationship between time, money, and health at all stages of life. He dives deep into shifting our mental models around money and focuses on investing in experiences and life. I look at it as ‘Marie Kondo’ing’ your life - get rid of the things that don’t bring you joy, and do more of the things you do enjoy.
Dying with zero is not a YOLO approach to life. It is a deliberate relationship between spending and earning across your life. Actually dying with zero requires both a shift in mindset and a different financial plan. The hardest part for many may be to find a balance between the goal of dying with zero and making sure you don’t run out of money. If you can tell me exactly when you will die and what your long-term care costs will be, the math is easy. Since my crystal ball does not work that well, dying with exactly zero won’t happen, but the concept is a good one to embrace.
Childfree people often have charitable intentions, but it is rare to see a Childfree person focused on passing down intergenerational wealth. Our nephews will get whatever is left over when my wife and I pass. If they get $10k or $100k, we are ok with that. If they get a million or more, we made a mistake somewhere. If we die with a million dollars, we should have given away that money or spent it earlier in life when it could have made a difference. Our nephews probably could have used that money earlier in life (that is why we have 529s for each of them now), or we could have given the money away and gotten a tax break. Or, we could have quit working earlier and enjoyed more of our life.
Creating a financial plan for Childfree people to Die With Zero.
While everyone’s financial plan is different, here is a general outline of what a financial plan looks like to Die With Zero:
Have a plan for long-term care.
Put off Social Security until 70.
Have a cash cushion for the end.
Spend and invest in your life (embrace FILE or FIRE).
Long-term care is expensive. On average, a private room in a skilled nursing facility costs $108,000 per year. Men will spend 2.2 years in long-term care, and women will spend 3.7 years. With the cost of healthcare rising at about 5% per year, long-term care costs may be astronomical by the time you need them, which is why you need a plan.
Childfree people are acutely aware that they need to have a plan for who is going to care for them when they are older. My goal with my clients is to have a plan for long-term care in place by their mid-40s. You can use long-term care insurance as your plan, or set aside money for long-term care or whatever you want, but the key is to have a plan. You don’t want to plan to Die With Zero and then have to rely on Medicaid care for long-term care. Remember, Medicare does not pay for long-term care, and Medicaid is only available after you have spent everything.
While there are a lot of considerations that go into when to collect Social Security, for those who want to Die With Zero I recommend waiting until 70. By waiting until 70, you get the highest payment and guaranteed income for your last years. We can have a separate discussion about if Social Security will still be here in the future, but assuming it will, then putting off claiming may make sense.
In addition to Social Security, and as a protection against Social Security not being solvent, I encourage people to have a cash cushion for the end of their life. The exact amount varies based upon expenses and client needs. The point is that between the cash cushion, social security and LTC plan, you can rest soundly and not worry about running out of money.
FILE or FIRE
With the end of your life secured, I encourage Childfree people to embrace either FILE (Financial Independence, Live Early) or FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early). If FIRE is an on/off switch for work, FILE represents a dimmer switch. In a FILE lifestyle it is about doing the right amount of work, at the right place, at the right level, across your life. It is about achieving the balance that Perkins talks about between time, money, and health. Many Childfree people choose FILE over FIRE as their goal isn’t really to retire, but to do what they enjoy, which may be running that non-profit, small business or other passion career.
Financial Independence (FI) is at the core of both FILE and FIRE. In the past, FI may have been explained as FU money. It is enough money that you get to tell your boss what to do with that job you hate. It reflects having choices and taking them. It looks different for everyone, but it is about investing in yourself and what matters most to you rather than just running up the net worth scorecard.
A word of caution about standard financial planning.
For Childfree people (and others) who are embracing the Die With Zero approach, you may need to be a bit wary about ‘standard’ financial planning. Most financial plans have a core belief that the goal over life is to constantly raise your net worth. This core belief is so strong that it is built into systems and structures at most financial planning firms.
For example, most financial plans include a Monte Carlo simulation of outcomes. A Monte Carlo simulation aims to look at the likelihood of running out of money. The software will run a thousand (or so) simulations with all different market conditions and give you a ‘score.’ The challenge is that if a Monte Carlo simulation says there is a 95% chance of success, that means there is only a 5% chance of dying with zero. If you are embracing Die With Zero, you can invert the Monte Carlo and say that a 95% chance of success is actually a 95% chance of failure to you.
Additionally, firms who provide investment management services and charge an assets under management fee (AUM) may have a conflict of interest if you are trying to Die With Zero. They want your assets to go up across your life as they charge a 1% (or similar) fee, and as your assets go up, so does their fee. It will be challenging for them to encourage you to invest in yourself and do what you enjoy if it goes against their own earnings and assumptions.
If you are Childfree (or not) and want to Die With Zero, you may want to look at engaging with an advice-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Advice-only financial planners are paid hourly or retainer, and do not have the AUM conflict. Just be sure they understand you and your life. In a post-covid world, most financial planners are meeting virtually, so you can find one that serves people like you, rather than just one who is near you. For a list of advice-only financial planners, check out https://adviceonlynetwork.com.
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Today's Guest: Jay Zigmont
Dr. Jay Zigmont, CFP®, and his wife are Childfree and live in Water Valley, MS. He has a Ph.D. in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Childfree Wealth Specialist. He is the founder of Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm specializing in helping Childfree Individuals and the author of “Portraits of Childfree Wealth”. His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut. He has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, and many other publications.
Jay's Online Presence: