How To Capitalize On The Financial Benefits Of The DINK Lifestyle

More and more couples these days are embracing the DINK lifestyle. Granted, it's not the best-sounding acronym, but the meaning of it is cool: DINK stands for "Dual Income, No Kids." As the negative stigma associated with not having children decreases and the definition of "family" changes, particularly thanks to celebrities who are unapologetically childless by choice, the percentage of adults who don't live with children has increased 19 points between 1967 and 2016, from 52.5 percent to 71.3 percent. A 2021 survey said 44 percent of non-parents say it's unlikely they'll have kids, for various reasons, including financial, medical, environmental, social justice, or career-related reasons. And the biggest motive those adults gave for not having kids is because they just don't want to.

There are advantages to being child-free. While there's a persistent myth that having a child will improve a marital relationship, the opposite is true. In fact, satisfaction with your spouse declines twice as quickly over time if kids are involved than for child-free couples. Being child-free can even be healthier for people, as marital stress is often linked to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. And of course, there's the financial benefit to not having kids, particularly if both would-be parents are earning money — something that might have to change with childcare. Considering the estimated cost of raising a child to age 17 is $310,605 — not including higher education costs — that's a decent amount of savings you could put somewhere else. So how can you take the best financial advantage of the DINK lifestyle?

Plan out your DINK financial future

If two heads are better than one, imagine the benefit for financial goals when there are two incomes instead of one. There's more flexibility in how you cover expenses, and being child-free means you'll likely earn more and have more disposable income. This means you'll increase the likelihood of reaching your financial goals, and could even set more aggressive goals. But first, of course, it's good to know what those goals are.

There are three financial basics to handle first — regardless of whether you're single or in a relationship. First, be sure you have an emergency savings account, with three to six months' worth of expenses. Second, take advantage of any company-offered matching investment programs you have access to, and finally, be sure to pay off any high-interest debt. You also want to get your budget in check so you know exactly what you spend your money on. Once those are covered, you can consider how else to allocate your dough.

Just as good communication is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships, be sure to apply communication to your DINK lifestyle. While talking about money can be stressful and emotionally charged, it's important to do it, and a problem certainly won't go away because you ignore it. So discuss with your partner what your financial priorities are. Is saving for retirement most important? Do you want to travel, buy a car or house, or have an anniversary party (or wedding)? Consider life ambitions you want to achieve or milestones that are meaningful to you while discussing your goals.

Build your savings for your DINK lifestyle

Once you know what your financial goals are as a couple, then you can focus your savings. Open a high-yield savings account, whether jointly or individually (or both), so you can earn more interest over time. Find an account with a high APY (annual percentage yield) with no or low fees and no minimum balance. You can even have multiple accounts, depending on your plans, such as one for education, one for play or entertainment, one for charitable giving, one for travel or specific purchases, etc. There are even savings accounts where you can separate your money into "buckets" dedicated to a particular purpose.

Start saving as early as you can, especially if you think you might have kids later. The sooner you start saving, the more you will have for the future, which will reduce your stress in the long run. You may feel you can't afford to save, or you don't want to limit your fun to do it, but that doesn't have to be true. Develop good savings habits. Set up your account(s) so that a small amount of your paycheck is automatically deposited each month, without your having to think about it. Even if it's just $50 or $20 a month, it will add up over time. And working with your partner, particularly while you're not spending money on childcare, will get you there faster. Before you know it, you'll be able to afford that beach vacation or new sofa.

Start investing both of your incomes

Once you've created your budget, cleared up any high-interest debts, and put aside money for emergencies, consider how much money you might have to invest for retirement. Investment accounts are different from savings because you often can't access the money without incurring a penalty. This money is for investing in stocks, bonds, or ETFs (exchange-traded funds, which are "baskets" of stocks) so that you can build compound interest and earn more money.

It doesn't take much to start investing, as you can create a brokerage account with as little as $500. And the longer you stay in the market, the more you'll earn. Yes, it can be intimidating and overwhelming, and there's an inherent risk to putting money in the stock market, but it is often the fastest way to grow wealth, especially for retirement. You can decide how hands-on you'd like to be, whether following the day-to-day fluctuations, or if you'd prefer to make a purchase once and let it sit for months or years. You can also use a robo-advisor to help you make decisions. If you're concerned about environmental, political, or social justice issues, you can be choosy about the stocks you buy through SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) or ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing. And if you and your partner invest both your incomes, you'll grow that nest egg faster. You might even be able to retire early and enjoy more of your time together — even if you decide to have children in the future.