The Childfree Wealth Podcast, hosted by Bri Conn and Dr. Jay Zigmont, CFP®, is a financial and lifestyle podcast that explores the unique perspectives and concerns of childfree individuals and couples. In this episode, Bri & Dr. Jay discuss the 8 No-Baby Steps.
Knowing where to start when it comes to finances can often be confusing & stressful. The 8 No-Baby Steps were designed to be a financial roadmap for childfree individuals. To help you get started on your financial journey, we’ve created a free 8 No-Baby Steps course.
8 No-Baby Steps
1. Build a starter emergency fund of one month of expenses.
2. Get out of debt.
3. Build a three to six month emergency fund.
4. Save & invest towards your goals.
5. Get your insurance right.
6. Estate Planning
7. Plan for Mom & Dad
8. Die With Zero
Course: Free 8 No-Baby Steps Course
Course: Saving & Investing
Podcasts: Anna & Grant Planning Series
Website: Trust & Will
Podcast: June Book Club - Die With Zero
Disclaimer: This podcast is for educational & entertainment purposes. Please consult your advisor before implementing any ideas heard on this podcast.
Hey all you Childfree Wealth listeners. So if you've been around the Internet, you've seen like a whole bunch of charts of like, what should you do first and what should you do second? It's called an order of operations. And one of the popular ones you may have seen and you know, I've seen it, followed it, helped people with it, is the Dave Ramsey seven baby steps and the thing is this stuff on debt he's pretty good but it all assumes you’re going to have kids and for us, not going to happen. So I've been trying to kind of poke around this and say how can we create our own order of operations or structure system that fits childfree folks?
And to that end, we have created the eight No-Baby Steps for childfree people. And, you know, we're just having a little fun with the name of it. But the bottom line is we have decided a way or a path or a plan that you can follow that'll take you from, hey, I had to get my money in shape, do all the right things to, I want to die with zero and not give anything away at the end. Now, a little caveat on that. If you are having kids or don't plan on dying with zero, don't follow these plans. Is that right Bri?
Yeah that's accurate. These are for if you plan to die with zero and do not have children.
Yeah so there's kind of some ahas. And die with zero by the way we'll get a little further into it, doesn't mean literally you're going to have zero money at the end. But the whole point is you're going to spend your money throughout your life, give it away. Other things, not pass it on to another generation. So with no further ado, let me introduce you to the eight No-Baby steps.
No-Baby step number one, create a starter emergency fund. That's one month of expenses. Now, to know what one month of expenses are you have to know what your budget is. When we’re talking about expenses, we’re talking about things that keep the roof over your head, basic expenses keep you alive. We're not talking about having enough emergency fund to get through an emergency. We're really just talking about basics. You’re covered. You’re good.
Step Two: get out of debt. Now that's easier said than done. It's much easier to get into debt than out of debt. I tend to follow the snowball method. It works great, but the bottom line is you have to set a priority to get out of debt and I'm not going to like buy into this good versus bad debt and which debt and should I leverage? Get out of debt. Now we can have a separate discussion on housing buying a house. That's a separate thing. But a house is a choice for a childfree person, not a requirement.
No-Baby Step Three: Build a 3 to 6-month emergency fund. That's a kind of a real emergency fund, one where, you know, stuff happens, you lose your job, something happens, your house, you're okay. When you wonder, how do I pick three months versus six months? Look, if your job is very stable, you're not going anywhere. Your life’s stable, three months is fine. If you're unlucky like me, you know, things happen. Life happens. Six month is fine. It's it is kind of a gut. That does not mean 12 months.
No-Baby Step Four is save and invest towards your goals. We have a series of podcasts coming out on investing. You can pick those out. We're talking about simple passive investing, but it's all towards a goal. For example, if your goal is to FILE instead of FIRE, then that's where your investment should go. You might not want retirement to be a goal or you might have a goal to buy a house. You might not, I don't know, whatever you want. That's the point. And to invest your goals.
Now we get in next, No-Baby Steps five, six, and seven kind of get squished together because they're not exactly in order. But I had to pick an order just to make it work.
No-Baby Step Five is get your insurance right. Disability, long term care, property, health insurance, all that stuff to protect your money step.
No-Baby Step Six is estate planning wills, living wills, power of attorneys, in case I die files, all that paperwork. Who's going to make decisions for you? Really important. Remember, as a childfree person, if you know don’t have a next of kin the systems fall apart.
No-Baby Step Seven: Plan for Mom and Dad. And now there's going to be any other family members or elder you have to take care of. But the reality check is we are expected as childfree people to take care of our parents. The old, well, you don't have kids, so you can take care of mom. It's true. It is.
And No-Baby Step Eight is die was zero and really what we're talking about there is how to create a framework so that you're safe, so that you actually don't end up with zero money. But you work on giving and spending your money across your lifetime rather than passing on to another generation. So recap eight steps.
No-Baby Step One: Create a starter emergency fund one month of expenses. No-Baby Step Two: Get out of debt. No-Baby Step Three: Build a 3 to 6 month emergency fund. No-Baby Step Four: Save & invest toward your goals. No-Baby Step Five: Get your insurance right. No-Baby Step Six: Estate planning. No-Baby Step Seven: Plan for Mom and Dad. No-Baby Step Eight: Die with zero.
What do you think, Bri? You were the first to see the eight No-Baby Steps.
What's your reaction?
I think these are eight really actionable steps for people that are easy to understand and follow, because oftentimes when you're going through your financial journey, it can be hard to know where to start.
Yeah, by the way, the intent is not for the No-Baby Steps to be perfect or follow them. Exactly. But people ask kind of what plan should I follow? And this is one for childfree people. You know, you can pick whichever recipe you want, whichever plan you want, whichever. And by the way, they're all very similar, like not that far off, but we have different concerns.
You know, if you look at the first three steps, they're very similar in most of the plans. Basic emergency fund, get out of debt, get a real emergency fund. That's kind of common then yeah, we start kind of swerving from there. So, Bri, I know you and I have had some debates on some of these steps, so we're going to bring the audience into some of these debates.
So the first one, Bri, wanted to debate when we were working through these and by the way, Bri's already kind of won on some of these debates. So we'll give her credit where credit is due. But the first one was a starter emergency fund one month versus more versus less. I know, Bri, you were kind of debating this and fighting with me a little bit about how much emergency funds you have to get out of debt.
What do you think?
I… well, I'll just be honest. Right now we're paying off debt, but we have more than one month of an emergency fund saved aside because that is not something that I am comfortable with. I just… I would say I have a solid job. My wife, her job, tends to fluctuate. And I'm not comfortable just going one month and having that set aside before getting out of debt. I want to be able to cover a little bit longer in case something were to happen. I just want our butt covered for a while, essentially.
Yeah. And by the way, I'm not going to get mad at anyone if you if you deviate from the steps a little bit, you know, this is kind of like ideal. And then if you have to make a little spin on it, fine. But here's the thing. I get you, Bri on you want a little more safety, but having debt is an emergency.
And that's what people miss, you know, as student loans, credit cards, other things. That stuff is stealing from your future and it has to be priority. Now if you want to like, you know, okay, one month my expenses $3,000 and I want to have $4,000. I don't care. Like a little difference. Fine. But what happens is people start saving all this money to emergency fund while they're paying 20% interest on their credit cards. You’re losing because your emergency fund goes in a high yield savings account right now gains. You know 4% or so. But that's not always the case. But your credit cards are killing you, so I don't know. I mean, look, if you want to, like, go to two months of expenses, I'm fine.
But if you really get getting two months, then you're like, well, me, go to three. Now you're breaking the system. You're like, you're ignoring the debt. I mean, I've done this with people like they don't I don't always when I review their finances and I'm like, You got ten grand over here in emergency, take half of that and pay off debt.
And they're like, their face gets red and they get mad at me and I'm like, well, that's a problem. You need to take care of that. And yeah, I don't know. I mean, I, I won't win the battle always. And that's okay.
That's correct. You didn't win it with me.
And that's okay. So the other debate that Bri and I had a while back was, should you get debt first or invest first? No-Baby step two is to get out of debt because you're going to get a better tax-free risk-free return on paying off your debt than invest it now. Not guaranteed, but close enough. I mean, if I'm paying off a credit card at 20% interest, I'd have to get more than 20% in the stock market and then pay taxes on it and there's no guarantee on that.
Yeah, to be very clear, I am anti-credit card debt, so if you have credit card debt, get that gone before you invest. Like I am, I'm not for that. I'm talking about like 5% or lower. I'm comfortable with investing while also paying off debt for myself. Jay is like, Oh God, please stop saying this.
No. I mean, the problem is, yes, if you look at the stock market returning 7 to 10%, something like that, then you have to pay taxes on it. So if you're getting a 7% return, paying taxes to effectively pay a 5% debt. Now 4%, I don't know, like, okay, fine. I don't care if your mortgage is 2.1% and you want to keep it, I don't care. But it's all the other stuff.
Like we right now in the middle. We are in July of 2023 when we're doing this and this is right after the Supreme Court has just said, nope, not helping with loan forgiveness. Those student loans are six, seven, 8%. Those got to be paid before you're doing investing. That's kind of the reality check.
People will be like, well, but I got $200,000 in student loans. What do I do? We have a plan for that now, by the way, we have other tools. You know, we can talk about the new SAVE program and new IDR programs. Maybe fine that, but the debt is handled as the point that is gone. Then we can work on invest.
Then we get to No-Baby Step three, building a 3 to 6 month emergency fund. So, Bri, is your goal three months or six months for you?
Just because I feel a lot safer with that. I know… I pretty much base everything off of, okay, worst case scenario, we plan… My wife needs a job. Six months to nine months is usually about how long interview process takes for her career to get through, get training because training pay sucks. And so that is what I feel comfortable with.
That's fair in my house. So my wife is a professor, which is as stable as they get. I mean, there's still some risk, but, you know, you get down on the tenured professor, you know, the likelihood of you losing your job is pretty low. And fine. Be okay with three months. I run my own business. If you're running your own business, it's more of a six month.
We do six months. I mean, I'm okay. Either way, your judgment, you do what you do. Now, here's the thing. Don't come back to me and say I need a 12-month emergency fund. 12 months does not make you safer than six months. The other six months or whatever you got over six months should be invested and growing because your emergency fund is going to go in a high yield savings account. Sit. Forget. Don't invest your emergency fund, it just sits there. More money set aside is not better.
Now they get some people. Well, you know, I need emergency fund for my business. Maybe, but that's a different fund than yours. Oh, I want to save for a car. That's not an emergency fund. That is a saving. You know, you have to separate which bucket works for what.
And if you use things like Ally or Chase, they have buckets or systems in there where you can actually track what's your emergency fund? What's your travel fund, what's your car fund, which boat fund, whatever it is, but emergency fund, 3 to 6 months.
Then we go to No-Baby Step four saving & invest toward your goals. We had a whole series on investing. Bottom line here is only invest in things you understand. Understanding what you invest in means you understand what you're buying, where it should be held, and how it impacts your financial plan. Now, if you're saying, well, the only thing I understand right now is a savings account, fine, start with that. Then learn about how to invest more. You know, we recommend the book The Simple Path to Wealth.
We've got courses on this. You can learn how to invest. You can also work with us one on one. We can help you create an investment plan. Simple passive investments. What we're going to recommend low fees. But the bottom line is it has to go towards your goals. So, Bri, once you get your emergency fund, what's your next goal?
Our next goal is investing to hit a certain point [in our investments]. We have a certain number we want to hit and then it'll be a house.
Okay, which… the investing comes first before the house?
Yes, because I think we're going to be super close to hitting that number by the time we're out of debt anyway. So I just want to like hit it and be done and be like, okay, let's go towards the house.
Debt by like which goals you want. I don't care. You pick your goals, your life goals. Remember as a childfree person, you have more flexibility and you can say, Yes, I want a house. No, I know I want to move. I want to buy a plane. I want to buy a boat, I don't want to buy. I want to travel.
I want to I want to whatever you want, set your goals. Making progress, because this is where people like, well, you know, am I doing the right money by the time I'm 45? I don't care because you're measuring against other people that don't matter, measure against you, your goals, your purpose. Bri wants to buy a house, great. Somebody else wants to rent, great.
It doesn't matter now. There are other plans out there. I would say. You got to buy a house, pay it down. That's an option, not a requirement. There are other ways to get exposure to real estate besides buying a house. It's up to you.
No-Baby Step five, get your insurance right now. I struggled a little bit with this because I kind of want you to have disability insurance earlier.
And by the way, if you get it through work, it's really cheap. Get your disability insurance set up earlier. But if you haven't by now, you got to do the defense. Disability. Long term care. By the time you're mid-forties, you need to have money set aside or a long term care insurance policy in place. If you’re late forties, we need to figure it out.
It's okay. You're not, like, in trouble because you didn't get it done by now. But we also need to be sure, like property and casualty insurance or renters insurance umbrella insurance, all that to make sure to protect your money. Because I don't know about you, but I've seen people in the U.S. sue for some stupid stuff, and if they slip and fall on my property and next thing you know, they got $1,000,000 lawsuit against me and I don’t have insurance, I'm out of luck. Or, you know, the other day I was driving back. Now we went away for the weekend and drove back and this person stopped dead, stop in the middle of a road 55 miles per hour. And I don't know how I didn't hit him, but I would hit him. He would hit the car for me and I would have no response for all that. That's why you have insurance.
So we want to make sure your insurance is set right. But we also do steps five, six, and seven together because these are all kind of defense. On the insurance Bri you know, you've seen a bunch of clients kind of working through this. What do you think you found is the biggest thing that people have either had off or need to improve?
Usually, homeowners insurance people are underinsured on there. Another simple thing is identity theft insurance or cyber policy to help protect yourself incase your identity is stolen that is relatively inexpensive. I think it's I think I pay like less than $25 a year for it. That's something real easy or just not necessarily understanding their health insurance and whether or not they have a high deductible plan and you can get an HSA with that, or if they have a lower deductible, those are the primary things.
Yeah. And you'll also notice I didn't mention life insurance in here. Why? Because you probably don't need it. If you haven't seen it yet, we'll include in the show notes, the episode with Anna and Grant. They went to get some disability insurance, walked away with five or six quotes for life insurance because that's what people sell.
We need disability insurance as childfree folks more than we need life insurance and we may not be life insurance at all. All right.
No-Baby Step number six: estate planning. So this is all the paperwork. Wills, living wills, power attorney's, all that. The hardest question here is often, “Well, who's going to make the decisions for you?”
And that's one that I'm working with a couple companies trying to figure out some solutions on. More to come there. But you need to find somebody that's willing to be your executor, your medical power of attorney, and your financial power of attorney. That's people that make decisions for you when you can't. And you need to have that paperwork now. Whatever your age is now. Why?
Because if you go to the hospital right this second and you can't talk, they're going to go, well, what's your next of kin? Well, I don’t know. And that's one of those kind of weird ones in there. And the fourth kind of paperwork is either in case I die file or I love your file, whatever you want to call it. It's like where all your accounts are, where information is, everything like that. Now, Bri, I know you have all your paperwork done. What was the hardest part of it?
I actually… so all the legal paperwork wasn't that difficult for me. It was very straightforward. I'm also 25, so hopefully I'm not going to die anytime soon. So I didn't it wasn't like a impending doom when I did it, but I did a complete funeral plan too. With every single thing that I want happen and all those plans. That was the hardest part.
I just want a Viking funeral. Put me on the boat, light it on fire, and push me out. No, no, you're not allowed to do that. But, you know, it'd be fun. Yeah. The reality check is you can do the paperwork. Yeah, we recommend a service called Trust & Will. TrustAndWill.com. We get nothing for it. It's just a simple fill-in-the-blank self-serve paperwork.
And it tells you how in your state to notarize it or witness or whatever it is, you can change it at any time. But you need to have something on file and you need to give it to people who are going to make decisions for you, like the person that is your POA or your executor, things like that.
No-Baby Step Seven: Plan for Mom and Dad. So this one, I'm amazed by how many people have this issue in the childfree community. And I'm also not because I mean, I’ve had to take care of my mother since I was 16 in different ways. She's been disabled for most of that. And it's hard. It really is. And I don't think we get enough credit as the childfree community for handling this.
But the bottom line is you need to set some boundaries for what you're willing to do or not, and then create a financial plan for it, like helping your mom with all the estate paperwork or making sure their finances are in place and making sure they have long term care insurance and all that stuff you did for yourself, for them.
And I have people go, well, you know, “I'm not going to have to deal with it.” Cool. Then you can check off this step and say, you know, “yeah, my parents aren't around.” I'm not taking care of them. Cool. For everybody else, it's like, well, are they going to live with you or are you going to pay for it? Are you going to?
Yeah, I don't know. And I will tell you, it's much, much easier to handle when you have a plan for it versus, oh, mom slipped and fell and broke her hip. And next thing you know, you're trying to scramble. You know, my mother's 1200 miles away, and I had to do this. She actually ended up in the hospital.
My sister calls me and it was pretty rough and got in the car and drove 1200 miles. I'll tell you that that's a lot of driving. But you got to do it because I didn't have. Oh, well, you know, I pick up this plane ticket or whatever else I got to do. Sounds simple, but you got to have it in place.
So, Bri, I don't know, probably a third to a half of the people we worked with have some type of thing they need to take care of for mom and dad. What do you think is the biggest tip you would give?
Start now because it will be much easier to do it, especially if your parents are healthy. That's a great time. If they're not, then you're just going to have to more of dive in the deep end. But starting now and getting ahead of things will make it a lot easier versus when you're in a crisis, because that is hard.
And the last No-Baby Step, number eight is die with zero. Now, if you haven’t read the book, read it. We also have a podcast that we just did a book club on this. But really what he's talking about is the combination between time, money, and health and how do you leverage those to, you know, make the most of it?
Now, I simplify this a little. I’ll ask childfree people, “Do care how much money you pass on to the next generation?” Nine times out of ten they got. Nope. Okay, well, then let's change your financial plan. I don't mean you literally die with zero, because that's scary around money. That's not my point. But my point is, you don't care about where it goes afterwards.
Like my nephews get what's left over. If they get 10,000, or a hundred thousand, that's fine. If they get $1,000,000. I made a mistake. That's where most people go. Oh, that makes sense. So what that ends up happening is we actually can change the trajectory of our net worth rather than it going up always, we need to come back down at some point.
By the way, that takes reprograming of your brain and that actually is a challenge. I spend probably just too much time talking about spending money is saving money, but to die with zero to protect yourself, we do three things. One, we have a plan for long term care, which, by the way, should’ve taken care of in No-Baby Step Five anyway.
Two, we put off Social Security till 70 and that's really so we have that money at the end and we can have a separate discussion. Bri’s 25. Social Security might not exist by the time they're fine. That's why we do step number three, which is a little cash cushion. Put aside a little bit of money. That way you don't run out completely.
But then you got to like make a plan to spend your money. And I'm amazed by the amount of times I'll meet people in their thirties and forties and be like, okay, cool. If you go to work tomorrow, all the money you earn is going to an estate you don't care about. And they'll like push back at me and get mad at me.
And that's okay. But don't show them the math. And I'm like, It's all going to your estate, “Well, but what do I do,” they say. Well, I don't know. What are your goals? What do you want to do this week? We call this the childfree midlife crisis. You hit your personal, professional financial goals. Then what? I don't know. Will you figure that out?
And that's one of those things that changes because the end goal is different. It changes the steps before it. And that's part of the intent here. What do you think Bri are you dying with zero?
I am getting closer to that. I'm still… we have some things that we want to do, but I know we could just do that when we're alive. But yeah.
Getting this is one of those debates. People go, well, I don't really want to die with zero because I want to give to whatever. And I'm like, how much give to them with your life? If you give your life, you can see both benefit and you get a tax benefit if it's for a nonprofit.
Okay, so we have very specific thing we want to do, but I don't want to see it. Like it would be very cool, but I don't want to see it happen.
Yeah, fine. Put that in your estate if you want. I don't have a problem. Mean I'm not going to judge, but I think it's the mindset of more of, hey, at some point you're earning money, you don't care about. And that's hard because everything else says you just keep earning, then you retire, then you pass it on. And that's the assumption.
Well, if you don't have a next of kin, you’re worried about passing it on to, it shouldn't be a priority. Now somebody is going to listen this go well. That's selfish. No, it's my dad money. Okay, I got to spend it. I want I spent the time earning it. I get to give it to whoever I want. I get to spend it however I want.
I get to bless people I want. It’s my damn money. You don’t get a vote in mine. I don’t get a vote in yours. Even when I work with clients, all I do is I hold up a mirror and say, “This is what you said you want to do.” And they go, “Yes.” Then let's do it. And by the way, there's always a moment kind of like, can I really? Yeah.
That's the whole point when you're getting to No-Baby Step eight, it's what do you want to do when you grow up? And now it has nothing do with age. It is just, what do you want your life to look like for the next 40 years? And by the way, I don't know that I have all my answers.
I want to get a boat and travel the world. But then what? You know, and what happens after going around the world a couple of times and then you get bored? I have no clue. But I have a plan for now and I'm working it through where I'm going with this is the whole point of the eight No-Baby Step is it follows a childfree life plan, not the standard of life script.
It has taken out a lot of the stuff that you see that you're normally expected to do and built in a lot more flexibility. One problem with that, you have to figure out what you want to do. I'm not saying you have to do these things. I'm saying here's how you do them in order so you can have your best life.
But like it says, invest towards your goals. Is that FILE, Financial Independence Live Early? Is it retiring early? Is it starting a business going back to school? I was reading something today, so it's like, well, you know, my husband is just going to school full time forever and never doing anything and gets a graduate assistantship like awesome.
If I could get that deal, I probably would too. I'll be that person, whatever your goals are. And that's the hard part of this plan is figuring that out. That's why if you want help, we actually offer a service. We call it life financial planning for that reason because it's your life in your finances. You figure out your life first, then your finances, then your taxes.
If you want to dive deeper into this, we have launched a new course. It is free. Like no cost. You don't pay for it. You just sign up for our mailing list. You’ve got to sign up for the emails. Alright, come on. I got to get something out of it. But there is now eight No Baby Steps course and you can get it at www.ChildfreeWealth.com/8steps. Or just go to our website, it’s on there. We've got links below and we dive deeper into each step and give you some tips and tricks on how to do it, things to read, and things to do. That way you can figure it out.
We also have our Diving Deeper courses where you can actually get group sessions and one-on-one if you need it. Bottom line is, you can follow these steps on your own and do pretty well.