Which is better, getting married and having kids or staying single and retiring very early (50-55)?Even though I have had a successful marriage for 35 years and had two great children--one a graduate of Yale and the other a graduate of Rice--this does not mean that marriage and children are for everyone. For one thing the divorce rate in the United States is 53% according to Wikipedia. So, many people enter into marriage with great hope and expectations only to see those hopes dashed. The reality of marriage--all marriages--is that many problems must be overcome along the way and a great many people are simply not up to it or the problems become too large to overcome.
Consider what philosophers have had to say about both marriage and children. Some really fine articles on this topic can be found in Philosophers' Mail . Epicurus, having thought about these issues about 2300 years ago, was not big on marriage. Many marriages, according to Epicurus, are ruined by jealousy and poor communication. Love and happiness seldom go together@The Great Philosophers 3: Epicurus.
Arthur Schopenhauer--active in the early to mid 1800's--also had something to say about this. Schopenhauer thought that the mind was divided into the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious is governed by the will-to-life and the unconscious mind will basically lie to the conscious intellect repeatedly when we are in love. The purpose of the will-to-life is simply reproduction. Unfortunately, the result may not be happiness@Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Suri and Arthur Schopenhauer
So, if one decides not to be married and have children, what should one do? Epicurus thought we should seek out and maintain close friendships for life. This seems an entirely viable way to live and has a better chance of establishing lasting, satisfying, pleasant, relationships. It also probably means that you have a much better chance of retiring early and spending time on projects of your choosing which can lead to a happy life.
That being said if you know yourself very well and you know your partner very well married life and children can be an equally good choice if you are willing to work out the problems. Also, early retirement is not out of reach if you are married. Another great choice could be double income and no kids. This is probably the greatest financial engine there is and could be the right choice for many couples. So what is the right choice? That really depends on the individuals involved. My advice is to read a lot, think a lot, and really learn all you can about yourself and your partner.