They earn nearly $200,000. Can they afford to have kids in SoCal?

Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

During their daily walk a few years ago, a Burbank couple brainstormed baby names, settling on one option for a boy and another for a girl.

But the names never got used.

After several conversations and scrutiny of their life goals and monthly budget, Beccy Quinn and Xavier Coelho-Kostolny decided last year to join the growing cohort of Americans who describe themselves as child-free by choice.

Their discussions hinged on two questions: Will we still be able to invest as much time in the relationships we already value? And, if we have a child, can we still live comfortably in the city we love and save enough for travel and retirement?

The answer to both was no.

Coelho-Kostolny, 36, designs 3-D models for video games, and Quinn, 35, works as an actor and writer, and although they earned a combined income of nearly $200,000 last year, her salary fluctuates each year. The couple expect to help care for Quinn’s parents down the road, and they already feel behind on a retirement goal they’ve read online: Aim to save five times your annual salary by age 40.


“It’s just impossible,” Coehlo-Kostolny said, exasperated. “I’m pretty sure I’m just gonna work until I die.”

Quinn, who manages the couple’s monthly budget, assured him that they’re doing better than he thinks, but agreed that having a child would make it extremely challenging. The cost of day care alone, she said, would eclipse her salary some years.

“I would have had to quit.”

Birthrates have been trending downward in the U.S. for several decades, but they dropped even more precipitously during the pandemic, a time of profound uncertainty when parents juggled jobs, as well as full-time caregiving and teaching roles. After a small rebound, they’re now down again.


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