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Daughters are a bargain? Not necessarily, say parents

A new survey suggests daughters may be a better investment than sons, but parents say there's more to this story.

By QuinStreet Jul 16, 2014 4:23PM

This post comes from Robert Beaupre at partner site on MSN MoneyA study released last month by Yodlee Interactive and Harris Poll found that adult women are 32 percent less likely to need financial support from their parents than adult men are. Shortly after the release, a spate of headlines touting the financial virtues of daughters appeared across the Web.

 Young girl counting coins © Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X/Corbis/CorbisHowever, because the study only looked at adult sons and daughters, it did little to answer the question of which sex is less expensive to parent in the long run. A 2010 study from found that, between the ages of 5 and 18, boys are actually cheaper to raise than girls, primarily due to the more costly hobbies and activities girls tend to adopt (at least in England, where the study was conducted).

In terms of hard data, the debate over the relative costs of sons and daughters seems muddled at best. But if you turned to parents who have children of both sexes for answers, would a clearer answer emerge? 

“This is not a difficult answer”   

Given how many costs can arise when raising a child, gauging the overall expense of a son or daughter – even on an approximate level – requires some financial attention-to-detail.

Bradford Pine, a wealth adviser and president of the Bradford Pine Wealth Group in Garden City, New York, makes his living scrutinizing financial details. He also happens to have a son and a daughter who are both in their teens.

When asked which of his children has been more expensive to raise to this point, Pine doesn’t hesitate.

“This is not a difficult answer,” says Pine. “It was my daughter. By a boatload.”

Pine reels off a list of expenses when asked what drove his daughter’s cost higher than his son’s.

“Designer clothes, nails, hair, cosmetics, birthday parties, concert tickets for teenage heartthrobs, prom dresses, weddings,” he says. “(Sons and daughters) both have college, but you usually pay for the wedding with a daughter. My daughter’s not married yet, but I foresee (that expense).

Pine says he thinks this pattern holds up in lots of families – in between recalling the extra expenses his daughter required.

“I don’t know if all kids are that way, but I think it’s common knowledge (that girls are more expensive),” Pine says. “Oh, and American Girl dolls. It just goes on and on.”

“It’s like having another grown woman to pay for”

Kristin Marino has a 14-year-old daughter and a son who is a year away from completing college. Marino, an editor for a website on higher education, says that the extracurricular activities her daughter took on as a teenager sealed her fate as the more expensive of her two children.

“They both have expensive extracurriculars, but dancing really put us over the top for her,” writes Marino in an email interview. “Each style of dance requires its own shoes – four to five pairs per season – and to be en pointe for ballet requires $80 shoes every six months.”

But her daughter’s costs didn’t stop there, says Marino.

“Clothes are more expensive for girls and they need more of them,” Marino says. “Once girls hit puberty they require lots of upkeep, including hair, skin (dermatologist plus skin care), makeup – even their underwear is expensive (a different bra depending on the sport, activity or sort of outfit she’s wearing, just as one example). It’s like having another grown woman to pay for once they hit 8th grade or so.”

And her son?

“My son is good with a couple of pairs of shorts, a few T-shirts, face wash and a package of underwear from Walmart,” says Marino.

Still, should the results of the Yodlee/Harris poll give parents of soon-to-be-adult sons pause? Will they soon see their sons make up for their frugal childhoods by leaning on their parents for financial support as adults?

Pine isn’t especially worried about his son – or his daughter, for that matter.

“They’re both on good settings,” Pine says. “They’re both very smart and motivated. But we’ll see.”

The greater truth

Regardless of which sex your children are, it’s likely they will cost you a staggering amount over the years. The USDA estimates that it will cost parents $241,080 to raise a child born in 2012 through age 18.

That figure doesn’t include college. According to The College Board, the average annual cost for that now is $17,860 (for a public school) or $39,518 (for a private school).

Pine, whose daughter is now in college, says that 529 plans – tax-advantaged accounts that are designed for educational savings – are something that all parents should begin using as soon as they can.

“Use them systematically and don’t stop,” Pine says of these savings accounts. “Do it every month and it’s no big deal. Her school is $48,000 per year. Don’t procrastinate. It’s the best advice I can give you.”

More from

Jul 16, 2014 5:11PM

But in the future, it will most likely be the daughter who cares for her aging parents and helps her parents with their bills when their pensions aren't enough.  Daughters drive their parents to the doctor, clean the house for them, buy the groceries, and listen to their daily complaints...  believe me, I know. 

And besides, parents really do not "have to" buy all that designer crap, or pay for hair, nails, etc.  When I was a kid I was not into that expensive junk.  I just wore jeans and sneakers, and that's what little girls should wear.  No little girl needs designer dresses or hair or nails.  Parents need to raise their kids to value real things, not just beauty and self image.  If a daughter is costing "too much money," it's the parents' fault for encouraging that.  Parents raise their kids to be shallow, no kid is born selfish or vain like that.

Jul 16, 2014 6:25PM

I've said this countless times .. kids are as expensive as you let them be.....

will my daughter get expensive clothes, salon cuts, dept store makeup, couture prom gowns, pro mani-peds, a skin care regime as outlined by her dermatologist ... ha ! and NO !

These parents wouldn't have this issue if they learned to say no to their kids. Stop treating them like princesses and show them what reality is.
Jul 16, 2014 5:32PM
What generalizations.  Girls don't wear make up until their teenagers at which point, they're responsible for buying their own extra stuff (where makeup would fall) and of course, that could also be birthday and Christmas presents, too.  Your daughter does not NEED every article of clothing that she wants.  If she wants extra or designer clothing, she can get a job to pay the difference.    Bras are expensive and every girl needs a few of those, so I'll give the author that one.
Jul 16, 2014 7:10PM
Having both I couldn't tell you there was 15 cents difference in the cost of sons over daughters or daughters over sons.  I couldn't even tell you I noticed a significant difference in our finances after all the kids had grown and left home!  I never EVER thought the cost of having a family or the cost of one vs. another  worthy of consideration.  
Jul 16, 2014 5:28PM

If you buy your kids designer clothes it's on you 100%.  That's not a necessary expense.


The author is lying if they say the have kids, it's not about the $$ idiots!

Jul 16, 2014 5:13PM
This is the dumbest article I've possibly ever read on msn and that is saying a lot. And where the hell did the USDA get their figure from? Dividing their number down comes to over $1100 a month until 18 lol. That is full of crap. The only way you could possibly get to that number is if you include a huge chunk of your mortgage, gas, food, cable, internet, etc. etc. bills, which is full of crap.

Jul 17, 2014 9:36AM
Yeah, girls may be expensive to raise if you give them everything they want. My dad NEVER paid for my nails, my hair cuts were at SuperCuts, never paid for a concert ticket, I never had American Girl dolls, my car costed them exactly $4,000 (which I still drive 7 years later) and I had minimal cosmetics. 
When I got my first job, I paid for my nails, my make up, my fancier clothes. I'm glad I paid for all of the expensive things myself when I could, instead of my parents giving me everything I ever wanted. It makes being a young woman in a tough economy easier, I don't expect anything handed to me, I understand that sometimes I just can't afford to have any extra luxuries, and I work for what I get.

Girls are only more expensive if you LET them be.
Jul 17, 2014 3:00AM
The problem (in my view) is that many young males are no longer being taught to become a man.  There's a great difference in being an adult male and a man.
Jul 16, 2014 5:26PM
Another "way out there" moment for the "writers" at MSN.  I am my dad's only child and my mother's second child and only girl.  I was never a source of problems for my parents.  I worked as a teen  to purchase my clothing and my car.  I  went to college to pursue a career for which has provided me a well-paying job with a great future - and by the way, I paid for it with coops and internships.  Now compare me - your "expensive"  daughter with those wonder "sons" you all want and desire.  Hey - guess what?  I went to high school with some of those wonderful, "less expensive"  male offspring  who are still living at home with good ole mom and dad.  At 24 and 25, they are clueless on what to do with their lives, don't have  a job and their adoring moms still do their laundry and "chip off the old block" dad still pay all their bills.  And by the way, I will just bet you when my parents are not able to take of themselves anymore, I will be the one to look after them because my brother is married and has a wife who would not want to be bothered.
Jul 16, 2014 5:26PM

Stupidest article ever.  Coming from MSN that is a HUGE statement.


Jul 17, 2014 7:37AM
I don't think it's as much "girls are more expensive" as it is "parents are stupid".
Jul 16, 2014 6:37PM
I only have one daughter, I wish I had 10 more kids. Great in school, likes sports, fun to talk to. Kids need security and love not all the expensive stuff. Doing anything today is expensive. What this goofy writer should be writing about is our big, expensive, corrupt government. All these new taxes and regulations do one thing, cause prices to go up.
Jul 17, 2014 8:41AM
What a lame headline, and insulting to daughters! If you daughter is "over the top" expensive, it is because you allow it. Period. I would not trade my daughter for anything! I have 2 sons and 1 daughter and I am blessed that I had my daughter! Any kid of any sex will get out of control if the parents allows it and gives them everything they want! Try No a few times. They will be just fine!
Jul 16, 2014 8:28PM
Damn. I was the good kid. I didn't ask for anything. You know what I asked for Christmas every year as a teenager? Bras, socks, underwear. I buy my own makeup. I don't care for designer brands. I didn't even want to go to prom. I didn't go to a concert until I was in college and it was just $40.

Meanwhile, my brother 'needs' designer clothes, new phones, tickets, haircuts, etc.

Jul 16, 2014 5:14PM
the gift of life is a lot more important than being concerned over money.
Jul 16, 2014 10:35PM
The bride and/or her family should not have to pay 100% of wedding expenses. The groom and his family should pitch in, especially if they are attending!!!!!!!!
Jul 16, 2014 6:15PM
The only data you need is look at the closet. My wife has 2.5 closets and I got the remaining half. And don't get me started withe the shoes...

The only way boys cost more is in third world countries where most of the  money is spend on the son's education, and the daughter is left home doing chores.

Jul 16, 2014 7:16PM
Don't use a 529 except for contributions for others, or you've maxed out your own retirement accounts already.  A 529 is an asset that counts against you come financial aid time.  Retirement accounts don't count against financial aid calculations at all. Plus what happens with the money in a 529 if your kid doesn't go to college?
Jul 17, 2014 2:20PM
People who think in terms of children as a cost/benefit analysis should probably skip having them and have their bank accounts keep them company instead. It's simple- you can have money or have kids. Both? Not so much. :)
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