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The $369,000 Baby

Kids are bigger money losers than investing in shares of BP the day before the oil spill.

That’s the only conclusion I can draw after reading that the United States government is estimating that the cost of raising a child born in 2009 to age 17 is anywhere between $160,000 for lower income families to $222,000 for the middle class household and $369,000 for those earning $98,000 or more annually.

If your family is solidly middle class, the government says you’ll spend anywhere between $11,650 to $13,530 a year, with housing, childcare and education making up the bulk of the cost.

What’s amazing is that these numbers sound like bargain basement childrearing to me. I live in the New York region, where the sums of money the government says parents are spending yearly on their progeny won’t even cover the average annual taxes on a home in a middling school district.

Mercifully, the government provides a calculator on their website. And, lo and behold, they actually know what’s up out there. It turns out the numbers trumpeted in the press release are truly averages, taking into account the fact that it is much less expensive to raise a family in rural areas and the Midwest then the urban corridors of the Northeast and West Coast. Someone living in my neck of the woods is likely spending more than $20,000 annually per child.

I felt positively thrifty after figuring that out, so much so I splurged and treated my boys to Popsicles from the overpriced ice-cream truck that makes sure to cruise our cul-de-sac every evening just after dinner. But as I watched them slurp their desert, a horrid thought suddenly occurred to me. Children don’t go to college at age 17. The government says I am likely to spend $40,000 this year on children attending public school, and still too young to need SAT prep classes.

Sure enough, another look at the data confirmed that the government doesn’t include college costs in their child-rearing calculation. The survey is conducted by the federal Agriculture Department, so maybe they are figuring we are planning to put the boys to work on a farm after high school graduation, skipping higher-education altogether.

BP would have been a better deal. Good thing the boys looked adorable with Popsicle juice dripping from their chins.

So what about you? Go visit the calculator. Then come back and tell us what the government says you are spending on your children, and if that lines up with your bills.

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