In America, it costs an average of $233,610 to raise a child according to That adds up to somewhere between $12,000 and $14,000 annually.

Housing, food, and child care can make up the largest chunks of these figures – something millennials may not be thinking about as they age.

To determine what millennials want to accomplish before becoming parents, we surveyed 1,000 people born between 1981 and 1997 who indicated they wanted to be parents one day. From the amount of money they wanted to earn or save to traveling and getting an advanced degree, we asked them to describe what they wished to accomplish before becoming parents.

This article will review the following:

  1. First Comes Marriage, Then Comes …
  2. Where Millennials Stand With Their Own Goals
  3. When the Time Is Right
  4. The Waiting Game
  5. Educational Pursuits
  6. Jet Setters
  7. Willing to Wait

First Comes Marriage, Then Comes…

Top Priorities of Millennials Before Parenthood

Many factors can go into deciding when it’s the best time to start having children – ranging from your desired salary to having adequate savings, and even whether you’ve had a chance to travel the world. Everyone has different priorities, and our survey shows that people seem to consider more than just the amount of money put aside. While there are plenty of tips available on saving for a baby, our study shows that for many people, there may be more to the decision process.

Of the millennials who wanted children in the future, the most pressing concern was making a high enough salary to afford the cost. Our survey found that the average desired salary to feel prepared for parenthood was $84,000 for women and $87,000 for men.

More than 4 in 5 millennial men and women wanted to get married and buy a home before having their first child. Having enough savings set aside for a child was another top priority for millennials. On average, men wanted $80,000 set aside for emergencies and unforeseen expenses, while women wanted $78,000.

Where Millennials Stand With Their Own Goals

The Progress of Parenting Plan Goals for Millennials

How many millennials have started to cross off some of their pre-parenthood must-haves? Millennial women aged 28 to 36 were closest overall; however, only a small percentage had the average desired savings and salary.

Except for when it came to making a desired salary, men of the same age did not come as close to meeting their goals. For those aged 28 to 36, roughly 1 in 5 had gotten married, received a higher education degree, and owned a home. However, around one-third of all respondents had at least one dog. According to a recent article, owning a pet can be great preparation for parenthood. Some couples said it helped them get accustomed to waking up in the middle of the night to nurture their furry companion, which in turn taught them patience, helped them become more of a team, and increased communication skills.

When the Time is Right

How Prepared Millennials are for Parenthood by Gender and Age

When it came to being prepared for parenthood, many of our respondents felt they were not ready regardless of their age. In fact, 63 percent of millennial men between the ages of 19 and 27 said they were not at all ready to have kids, while 59 percent of millennial women of the same age felt the same. The 28-to-36 age group felt a bit differently, however, with 71 percent of women and 64 percent of men felt ready or somewhat ready for parenthood.

So what’s holding millennials back? Over two-thirds of both genders said the No. 1 thing they wanted to accomplish first was paying off their loans. For people who feel like their lives are on hold while working to pay off student loans, a private consolidation loan can be a smart way to help lower interest rates and pay loans off faster. Traveling and personal goals, like fitness and learning a second language, also ranked as accomplishments millennials hoped to achieve before having children.

The Waiting Game

Millennial Parenting Plans: Finance

Our study found that as millennials aged, they felt more prepared to begin having children, both regarding time and money.

Men and women between the ages of 19 and 21 wanted to wait another seven years, on average, before having children. Younger millennials also felt they needed a high salary increase to be financially ready – more than $60,000 higher than their current annual earnings.

Even at a young age, understanding what budgeting for a baby requires means thinking about more than just the cost of diapers. You’ll probably want to consider aspects like maternity leave, long-term medical costs, and other expenses to be fully prepared.

As millennials crossed into their late 20s and early 30s, they were more inclined to want to wait three to four years before having kids and earn a salary roughly $26,000 to $30,000 higher than their current annual earnings.

Educational Pursuits

The Highest Education Level Desired Before Parenthood

While the cost of pursuing a higher education degree can sometimes be significant, the value it offers can be great, specifically regarding future salaries. 81 percent of millennial men and 85 percent of millennial women believed a bachelor’s degree or higher was the level of education to achieve before becoming a parent.

Younger millennials typically wanted to pursue a higher education before parenthood, and about 61 percent of women we polled between the ages 19 and 21 indicated that higher education was desired before turning to motherhood. For women in their 30s, that percentage fell to just over 40 percent. For men between the ages of 34 and 36, the passion for pursuing additional education before becoming a parent was the lowest, with only one in five citing it as a priority.

While higher education opportunities like graduate school can be expensive, there are many options to help save for and even reduce the overall cost to you. You can use a high-interest savings account to start putting money aside now, and it’s also possible your employer might be able to help cover some of the money you may need to borrow with a tuition reimbursement program.

Jet Setters

Millennial Parenting Plans: Travel

Traveling the world (or even just across the country) ranked as one of the most important things millennials wanted to do before having kids, and most of them had a few more destinations to cross off their pre-parenting bucket lists. Men between the ages of 19 and 21 wanted to visit 13 more states and 9 more countries, while women in the same age group wanted to visit 11 more states and 6 more countries. For men aged 34 to 36, those numbers reduced to 7 states and 4 countries left to visit, while women in the same age group reported even lower numbers with 5 states and 2 countries on their travel wish lists.

If traveling is at the top of your bucket list before having children, rest assured that taking the vacation of your dreams doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank. While you’re exploring new areas, the locals may be able to help point you in the right direction for great food with a friendly price tag, and a shorter weekend getaway might give you the chance to explore a new city or state without spending a lot of money.

Willing to Wait

Millennial Parenting Plans by Region

While most survey respondents were at least a few years away from having a child, the average changed depending on the region they resided in. Women in the South and Northeast were the closest to having children, while those in the West wanted to wait a bit longer.

Their male counterparts, however, were closest to having children in the Midwest and furthest away in the Northeast. Men in the Northeast wanted to wait nearly a full year longer than women in the same region.

Getting Ahead

Even though many millennials wanted to start their own families, men and women had certain personal and financial goals they wanted to meet before considering parenthood. From the amount of money they wanted to have in savings to the places they wanted to see before settling down, most millennials surveyed estimated it would be around five years before they had kids.

Regardless of the time frame you’ve allotted to grow your family, meeting your financial goals can get you there more comfortably. At Discover, we have many of the tools available to help you feel prepared on your terms. If travel is on your to-do list before having a child, miles earned from our travel card can be redeemed toward airline and hotel purchases. If you need to increase your savings before starting a family, a savings account can also help you start planning for your future. Visit us online to explore all of our financial offerings at


We surveyed 1,000 millennials (born from 1981 to 1997) in the United States who currently do not have children, but want children in the future.

Fractl conducted this survey. Fractl estimates the results of this survey are accurate at the 95% confidence level plus or minus 3 percentage points. This content is for entertainment purposes only.

Discover Bank, Member FDIC

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