The Two-Career Assumption

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1935 by David Silvette, Oil on canvas by cliff1066 on Flickr!One of the biggest assumptions I see in married couples my age is that both partners must be pursuing a career. In almost every married couple I know, both partners are engaged in full-time employment, attempting to earn the largest combined wage possible.

Sometimes, it’s necessary. One of our closest friends earns about $13 an hour at her full time job, roughly the same as her husband makes, but they have three children at home and a mortgage and it’s simply impossible for either one of them to consider something else. If only one of them were employed, they would barely miss some of the cutoffs for government aid, so that’s not an option for them, either. In fact, they’re only able to make ends meet thanks to a relative who is providing extremely cheap day care just for their kids.

Most of the time, though, it’s not necessary – it’s just an assumed choice. A young couple I know are consciously living a debt free life and are actually spending about 40% of their income (my estimate based on some of their comments) – not much at all. The rest goes into the bank. The drawback? They don’t get to spend as much time together as they’d like and they spend a lot of extra money eating out quite often, simply because neither one of them wants to lose time together in conversation doing meal preparation.

In both cases – and in almost every married couple I know – the basic assumption is that both partners will work and contribute directly to the income of the family. In virtually every case, this state of affairs was simply assumed at the start of the relationship, was never really discussed in detail, and continued out of inertia – and a high standard of living – into having children.

In some ways, this was true of our own relationship. We never really discussed the idea of one of us staying at home until our financial turnaround began and our second child was on the horizon, mostly because that was the first time it even seemed possible. Had I not been engaged in some serious life re-evaluation at the time, I’m not sure it would have been discussed at that point, either.

I’m not arguing that having both partners in a marriage chasing a career is a bad thing. Instead, I argue that simply assuming that this will be the order of things in a marriage can be restrictive – it limits the possibilities of what your marriage might be like. You might find that, if you consider the alternatives carefully, there might be a personally and financially rewarding solution for adopting an alternative arrangement.

If you’re involved in a serious relationship with someone, whether it be prior to marriage or after, consider discussing these four questions.

First, could we survive financially without that second income? Consider all the factors – the money you would save by not having one partner working, the reduced taxation of your income, and the savings that would come from one partner being at home. You might save on food costs (eating at home all the time), child care costs, transportation costs, taxes, clothing costs, and so on. It’s not simply a matter of having one income disappear.

Second, would one partner be happier in a different situation? It might be that one partner might actually be happier not being involved in the career chase. He/she might prefer to be a stay-at-home parent, or to have the opportunity to chase an alternative and highly flexible career. To a degree, this was a big key in our discussion – I took up writing, which was a much more flexible career.

Third, what would be the expectations if we made such a change? Would one partner be expected to handle a larger portion of household chores – cooking, cleaning, and so forth? Most married couples where both partners are employed full-time split such tasks, but after a change, the expectations of one or both partners might change. Talk these through before you make the leap, or you might find yourself in a very unhappy marriage.

Finally, how would this change our long-term goals? Would such a choice cause you to choose a different house to purchase or change your timeline? Would it cause you to accelerate your plans for children? Might it push one partner to focus more intently on their career plans?

All of these questions can lead to important discussions about your relationship and your financial state, regardless of whether you’re both happy with the current situation or not.

Remember, if you do something just because it seems like the “normal” thing to do or because everyone else is doing it, you very well might be missing out on the best option for you and your family. Have that discussion – it’s an important one and it might lead to a better life for both you and your partner.

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  1. Stacy says:

    I was shocked at how quickly we paid off two of our credit cards when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. It was the first time we had actually made and stuck to a budget, and had plenty of money left over. I should have been banking my paycheck for years!

  2. Mark B. says:

    GREAT POST TRENT!

    My wife and I both work full-time, and we have a 3-year old, an 18-month old, and a third child on the way. We both went to college, got jobs, and it just seemed “normal” as you put it.

    Now, with the possibility of a 3rd child in day care by mid-2009, we are seriously reconsidering our priorities.

    We have one small problem. I make almost twice as much $ as my wife, but I am the one with the desire to stay home with the kids. We have long discussions, and my wife’s personality is not one that would work well in a SAH situation. We could easily afford to lost my wife’s salary (it is about equal to a day care bill for 3 kids), however, she does not have the desire to stay home, I do!!

    Anyway, I am exploring options for part-time or free-lance work in my field to allow for me to be home with the kids 2-3 days per week without completely decimating our income.

  3. I was thinking about this topic today, as a matter of fact. Thanks for the nudge. I think you’re on to something here. If we were out of debt, I’d be a SAHM today.

  4. Aya @ Thrive says:

    A friend of mine has been going back and forth with how he should go about his career. Both he and his wife work full time and they recently had a baby, which happened unexpectedly, and they’ve been struggling financially ever since.

    He started to contemplate if he should quit his job and be a stay at home dad, considering that his wife makes more money and if he stays home, they won’t have to pay the babysitter. But, he was unsure of how that would work out for him in a few years, if he wanted to pick up on his career again.

    Just the fact that he was willing to quit his job to save money didn’t seem intuitive to me. He might have thought his salary was inadequate but if he’s paying the babysitter that much that it’s cheaper to fire her, that might be the quick fix instead of quitting his job. He ended up keeping his job but I wonder how many people actually go through with it.

  5. dougis says:

    My wife and I had the same mindset for a long time, then after our oldest was born she started thinking about staying at home.
    About the same time 2 years of negotiation at work paid off for me and I got a sizable increase in salary. What clinched it was when she got laid off from her job at the time.
    She has been at home with the kids (we now have 2) ever since and has LOVED it.

    We get the added bonus that I telecommute so all 4 of us are home at times (like today when school is canceled due to snow).

    It has led to many many other changes in how we live (more meals cooked at home, more time spent in the kids lives etc) and has been the best choice we ever made.

  6. That One Caveman says:

    My wife is a stay-at-home mom and couldn’t be happier about the situation. She gave up a career as an accountant to be at home with our children – something that she always dreamed of. We’re fortunate that I make enough money to cover our mortgage and bills with a smidge left over for entertainment. She does a great job as a house manager and has found great ways to make my salary stretch further.

    It has all-but-eliminated the possibility of early retirement for me, but the sacrifice was worth it in my book. Now if I could just find a way to work full-time from home, both of us would be happy!

  7. Andie says:

    My husband’s job pays so much better that I’d need another 10-15 years to come close. So we’ve always operated as if my income didn’t exist, we send it to savings. In someways we’ve never had the 2 earner mindset. Our difficulty is that we both really enjoy what we do, but both our jobs are very demanding. With our first kid on the way, something’s gotta give or we’re going to have to get creative. On the table right now is for us to stagger who has the more time intensive job. For the next bit, we’re considering having me more less hours (no more than 40) or more flexible hours (not in a fixed office location), and as we look further down the road, we’re thinking about him possibly shifting to another job that has more steady work, less “crunch” time, closer to 40 hrs/wk. But really, we just don’t know. We are trying to think “outside the box” and we’ll see where that takes us.

  8. Sean says:

    Another option is, instead of one quitting their job and staying at home and the other working full time, each partner could work part time, giving both the chance to stay home.

    My wife and I quit our jobs ($130000 combined income), sold our house, and moved from the city to the mountains and are now raising our first child. In the city we were barely getting by on our combined income. Where we live now, only I have part time work and we are living off of about $2600 a month.

    This has made us realize exactly what this article is saying: we don’t both have to work. But, neither of us wants to give up our careers so we are looking at both going back part time. We will be able to live easily off of this “full time” income, and both get extra time to spend with our son and the entire family.

  9. Me and The Sheconomist are shooting for a part-time job for her and full-time for me. Hopefully it will work out that if I’m laid off she’ll be able to pick up hours and benefits to float us through a rough patch.

  10. Sandy says:

    Trent, thank you for this post today. I’ve been struggling with this very issue and feeling overwhelmed by both my husband and I working full-time jobs and trying to handle all of the “busyness” of life. You’ve given me some great points to ponder. I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and love it. Thanks for all the great posts!

  11. Ben says:

    1. My wife quit her job
    2. We then took a hard look at the money we spend, negotiated with creditors, etc.
    3. Turns out that it’s nearly a wash. We lead the same lifestyle and she stays home.

  12. Juliska says:

    Caveman, if you ever need extra money, your wife could work part-time from home, as well (while the kids are at school). I met our law office office bookkeeper for the first time last week, at the Christmas party – she works from home, it’s all done by fax and email. She does this for two small law firms, and gets to stay home with the kids.

  13. Scotty says:

    For my wife and I, living on 1 salary isn’t a terribly appealing, and it would be a difficult option. Sure, we could cut back a fair bit (we bought a little nicer house than we could afford, as plan on living in it for 30+ years, but it’s not overly extravagant by any means).

    Living expenses in our city are fairly high, and we’re relatively isolated from the economic troubles (houses *start* at $300K). We could do it on 1 salary, but it would be a little tight for us. We both work and make good, professional incomes, and no kids yet, so 1 salary doesn’t even really enter our minds. Even with chuldcare being very expensive, it’s still a net-gain to have both of us working.

    Interesting article Trent, it strikes a number of mixed reactions with me. Kind of makes you think of bit, but that’s what TSD if good at!

  14. JessicaD says:

    What a great article! Even after the birth of our daughter, we had never really thought to consider re-evaluating career goals. Daughter went into daycare and we continued on with demanding jobs (finance and science). It was only when my husband was offered a position across the country and my immediate response was “great, now I can quit my job!” that we started thinking about what would make most sense for our family’s happiness. 1.5 years later I am at home with our daughter, husband has stepped up responsibilities at work (which he couldn’t have done w/both of us traveling so much), and we’re incredibly happy. What *hasn’t* happened is a tightening of our pocketbook – we definitely spend quite a bit more than we need to, but on activities and classes that we could minimize if we get crunched. Anyway, thanks so much for a thoughtful post. first-time-commenter Jessica

  15. sabrina says:

    My husband and I both work fulltime and have to, we live in an expensive part of the country but live close to public transit (less wear & tear on our cars) as we don’t want to spend our lives commuting from the boonies (a two hr trip each way). Two jobs are a neccesit for us at the moment. Moving’s not an option as what he does isn’t found everywhere. We’ve only a mortgage and quitting’s not a option for now.

  16. Kevin says:

    My wife and I talked about this a lot before we had our son last summer. We did the financial projections, what would happen insurance-wise (she was covered by a company policy if she’s F/T, but the cost went way up if she went P/T), if this would crimp our savings goals, etc.

    However, the bottom line was that we didn’t want our son in day care 40+ hours a week. Even though that is what my wife does for a living….or should I say especially because that’s what she does for a living. She sees so many parents who dorp the kids off at 6:30 am and don’t pick them up until 6pm. What kind of life is that for the kids?

    Our best advice is to practice living the way you will before the child comes along, so it’s not as big a transition when a baby is added to the mix. That’s what we did for about 6 months prior to our son’s birth – lived solely on my income and banked all hers. When he was born, we just kept going and didn’t miss the drop in her income, except for the fact that our savings wasn’t growing as fast. She’s now working 3 days a week and I’m full-time (with lots of OT during Feb-April).

    I’ve even started thinking about ways I could transition to working from home or going part-time so I could be there more often.

  17. Adrienne says:

    I think the main thing is for all us to really evaluate our situation to make sure it still works for us. This is not an all or nothing decision nor is it a forever decision. In the past 4 years my husband and I have each had a turn at being stay-at-home and now we each work part-time. Of the 4 different situations (both work, I work, he works, both part) I wouldn’t say either was the best. They all were the best for where we were. Sure it was hard at times (esp. the decision to make big changes) but I wouldn’t change a thing.

    To Mark B. – if you’re the one who wants to stay home you should really look at how to do it. Also look into contract work. I make more now working part-time than I did working full-time. If you have the stomach for the uncertainly it’s worth it.

  18. Golfing Girl says:

    Quote: “neither one of them wants to lose time together in conversation doing meal preparation.”
    Sorry, but I must say this is a weak argument. My husband and I have some of our best conversations during meal prep or while sitting at the kitchen table during and after dinner. This is much harder to do waiting to be seated in a busy and loud restaurant. It’s MUCH easier to let your child get down and play before or after eating dinner at your house than struggle to entertain them at a restaurant waiting on the meal and check. Add the cost and the time spent commuting to and from and it’s a no-brainer!

  19. gt says:

    we now have a 12 week old. my wife and i are struggling with what to do, as she told her company she will be returning after the new year. they agreed for her to do part time for 3 months, with 1 day at home and 1 in the office, per week. my job allows me to work from home once a week, so we were planning on my working from home when she had to go in, and vice versa.

    we are both pretty unhappy with our jobs. fortunately, we saved her income up until now and have been living off of one income as we make almost the same.

    so sean’s comment has made me think, as i can work part time as well, and i can work from home 4 days a week too. in fact, what sean did is exactly what i’d like to do. (sean you didnt happen to have moved to wv from dc?) i will have to talk this over with the wifey and see if she’d be ok with us both doing part time.

  20. Golfing Girl says:

    P.S. Both my husband and I work and enjoy doing so, even though we could easily live off either of our salaries. But we also enjoy being debt free and look forward to an early retirement. Neither of us has the desire to stay at home. It’s not for everybody and I resent when SAHMs insinuate that I’m not a perfect mommy because I choose to work.

  21. AD says:

    I think I’m going to want to be a SAHM, so as the one who does our budgeting and handles the finances, my goal was to get to the point where we could live off my husband’s income alone (he makes about what I make). We paid off all debt, and we’re planning to build a home, but I want the mortgage payment to stay affordable on one salary. The only downside is the increase in my insurance, and the decreased savings, which is why I’m exploring side income options now, a few years before I’m ready to have kids. Hopefully, that will make the transition easier.

    Also, this part struck me as strange–”they spend a lot of extra money eating out quite often, simply because neither one of them wants to lose time together in conversation doing meal preparation.”

    My husband and I love to come home and cook together. Preparing a meal is all about teamwork and communication. We talk about our day, laugh, joke, and make the house smell damn good, all with food from our farmer’s market. I love that time together. When he works late, it kind of sucks to cook alone.

  22. Des says:

    Inertia shouldn’t be the basis for many (if any) decisions about how married life should go. However, it also shouldn’t be assumed that one spouse at home is the best way to go. We worked hard for a few years to get to a place where DH could be at home full time, and after a year of it he was beyond ready to go back to work. There is something to be said for the stability, consistency, and structure of 9-5 that some people thrive in.

  23. Kacie says:

    My husband and I are 23 and have been married for a year and a half. Our first baby is due any day now.

    For the first three months of our marriage, we were a two-income household. It was actually quite stressful and we were spending a ton of money on convenience foods, eating out, gas, etc.

    Then I became a full-time homemaker and freelancer. We knew that whenever we had kids, we wanted me to stay home with them.

    Preparing for that before the fact was incredibly helpful. I have a good handle on things on the homefront. I don’t have to learn how to be thrifty or organized while learning how to care for a newborn.

    We’ve pretty much always been used to living on my husband’s salary. My income is sporadic and it goes straight to savings.

    We’re renters and have a small bit of debt that we hope to pay off by the end of 2009. Because we’re young and used to this standard of living, it hasn’t been hard on us at all. We don’t have to “cut back” since we’ve been cutting back from the get-go.

    If a couple wants to live on one income at some point, they should take steps to reach this as soon as possible and immediately start banking the 2nd salary.

  24. Teri says:

    My husband is a stay home dad to our 2 children and loves it…most days. :) We consciously made the decison to buy a smaller house and make paying off debt our priority so that having one of us at home would be a possibility. A great book to read is “The 2 income trap”. I was reading that during the time of our discussions to move to a 1 income family and that cemented the deal for us. The most surprising thing about having a stay home parent is that it feels like we have more money than we did with both of us working. And that feels good.

  25. Suzanne says:

    The advice to look into the “why” of choosing to go the two income route was a great thing to read. Many of us don’t realize that it’s a lifestyle and we do choose our lifestyle, or at least we should. Especially if authentic happiness is to be attained.

  26. We are definitely better off with me at home. For one, we pay nothing in childcare costs(it would be a lot for four kids), plus I have time to do all sorts of money-saving things(shopping sales, making almost all of our meals from scratch, making yogurt, baking bread, hanging laundry, etc). I know I wouldn’t have the energy to do all that if I was at work all day.

    Also, I save on gas(no commute), work clothes, and other work-related expenses.

    And that doesn’t even take into account the benefit my children derive from being with home all day with their mom instead of being at daycare.

  27. Anne K says:

    When we got married, my husband and I decided I don’t need to work full time. I started exploring other things I’ve always wanted to do, like working in an herbarium in a major scientific institution, starting a small business, and some other things. Our accountant told me it’s better tax-wise for me to NOT work unless I was earning more than when I was working full time! It’s unlikely we’ll be able to have kids, but if it does happen, I won’t have to go through a huge change from working full time to being a sahm, and we won’t miss the money. Sure, we waited longer to buy a house, turns out that was actually a good thing since we bought in late August of this year. Great post, Trent.

  28. Dave. B. says:

    Just before my wife became pregnant with my son, she unexpectedly lost her job. We panicked at first because she made substantially more money than I did. What we found out was if we tightened our belt a bit we could be okay. We now have two children and she stays home with them. Money is tight, but we get by. I am not sure before this was forced on us, we would have believed we could live on my salary.

  29. Scott says:

    My wife has been a SAH mom since shortly after we were first married. I was in the Air Force and it was easier. We grew accustomed to living on one salary so it has never seemed like a big stretch. She has also started her own business in photography which probably would have never happened if she had been working in some other job.

  30. happiernow says:

    Great article Trent! It think it is important to realize that the choice to be unemployed doesn’t have to be tied to children. My spouse stays at home and we have no children. Instead, he takes care of ALL housework and cooking and does a lot to help family and friends as well. We’ve always lived on one VERY modest income and banked the rest, so when we moved for my new job, it was easy to make the transition for him to stay at home. We live debt-free except for a 15 year fixed rate mortgage. Those who live a consumerist lifestyle tease us that we are Amish since we have one car, no i-pods, cell phone for emergencies only, etc., but we have never been happier. It is a great way to build a network in a new community when your spouse can be called on day or night to fill in for a day care provider, help with a home repair project, or nurse a sick friend. Discover your freedom America!

  31. SP says:

    You really think most people don’t think about this? I think they do, and the make decisions accordingly.

    As for me, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. We surely could live on one income, but we also would have to save quite a bit less.

  32. jana says:

    I have been at home with our kids since they were born. I am college educated and have made many sacrifices but I look back with no regrets! I would happily move back into an apartment or condo if we needed to. Thanks for a great article.

  33. MVP says:

    It’s a choice – period. If you want to have a one-income household, it’s possible for anyone. If you want to have a two-income household, that’s possible too. I just hate when people say they can’t AFFORD to have a one-income household. No, you just don’t want to. It takes effort and planning. Plain and simple, for many people, working 40 hrs a week is easier than being a full-time homemaker and parent.

  34. Kevin says:

    @Anne K -

    “Our accountant told me it’s better tax-wise for me to NOT work”

    Huh? It might be better for you tax-wise (less income, thus a lower tax bracket), but surely not from an overall financial perspective. Just seemed like a strange thing to throw in there.

  35. Debtor says:

    I am newly engaged and carry a large amount of debt. I am very happy with my current job and will do everything to keep it.

    Also, I am working my own gig on the side to get an extra cash flow going.

    My fiance is so-so with her job position but would like to do better.

    We sat down for the first time yesterday and got a budget going. This is the first time I am actually going to implement a budget and today I am taking out cash so I wont use my debit card.

  36. asithi says:

    I would love to be a SAHM. But I do not see that in the near future as I make double my husband’s income. We talked about this even before we got married. Afterall, it makes no sense for me to work P/T and him F/T and make the same salary of only me working F/T. Oh – I think he would make a great SAHD, but I kinds want to be there too. But I think things will work itself out once we get to that bridge.

  37. Ian says:

    A great article Trent. The key thing here is choice… some say that the “have to have” the two incomes to afford the new car they “have” to replace every three years… to afford the bigger house that they just “had to have”. I’m all for providing for your family but there are more costs than just the dollars that should be considered.

  38. Melissa says:

    It’s interesting that everyone looks at staying home purely from a financial standpoint. I would love to be a SAH mom, but I would be terrified to actually do it. When you leave the job market, it can be very difficult to get back in to it. In this day and age with divorce rates as high as they are, it puts whoever stays at home at an extreme disadvantage.

    When I was young my mother stayed at home. My father cheated on her, but she couldn’t leave because she could not support herself. I am not sure I could ever put myself if that vulnerable of a position.

  39. TStrump says:

    When you factor in childcare, transportation and other costs, it almost doesn’t make sense for both spouses to work, especially if there are two children or more.

  40. Jillian says:

    Great stuff. I hate that so many of us do things simply because that’s what expected and we’ve never seriously considered the alternatives.

    My husband and I have lived on a single income (his) for around 4 years. We don’t have kids, and don’t plan to. I find that most people can’t even contemplate the idea that a person could stay at home all day without having kids to justify it. Surely that must mean I spend all day watching TV? What could I possibly be doing with all that spare time???

    I spend most of my time developing websites that will eventually earn a reasonable second income. But in the meantime, we’re quite happy on one – we rarely use the car, eat out or buy anything for ourselves, and since I’m home all day with no kids underfoot, I can garden, sew, build and repair stuff around the house, cook from scratch and spend the time necessary to handle our personal finances properly. It also gives me the flexibility to do volunteer work or help out a friend if the need arises.

    In essence, I’m doing a lot of things myself that I would otherwise be out earning the money to pay someone else to do for me. And I’m much happier than I would be in a regular 9-5 job. So I’d definitely encourage couples who don’t have kids to actually THINK about this option rather than dismiss it out of hand as being unfeasible just because it’s not normal.

  41. Ryan says:

    Great article. We have found that my wife staying at home has saved us a ton, as well as makes her happy. She had a job that allowed her to work from home PT and take our daughter with her when she had to work in the office, but decided that quitting altogether would be more beneficial. Now that she is home, she hand makes a lot things which saves us a ton as well. She could make more than me if she worked as she has a college degree and I don’t, but this is what makes all of us the happiest.

  42. Lance Newton says:

    As a Baby Boomer born in mid-boom, I now realize what a trap the two income mentality has become. Elizabeth Warren has written a great book with that title, “The Two Income Trap”.

    I’ve heard that more than 70% of married women who can work, are working at substantial wage parity to their spouses. If the couples are not living on less than they earn (and who is?) they are making a recipe for natural disaster.

    Every couple should discuss who would be working, what they would be earning, how expenses would be split etc, before they get married. A probable result would be a lot fewer marriages.

    They should also calculate what it costs to raise children and figure out what salary increases it would take to fund kids educations and plan for retirement too.

    Many of todays Boomers never planned for retirement and with their kids through school now realize they can never retire. Very few kids are preparing to help their parents in old age or have any interest in doing so. It is up to us as parents to plan and provide for our own needs. No one else will do it and we cannot rely on our employers or the government.

    As hard as it is to contemplate, perhaps it is time we considered having fewer children.

    The sad truth is that for the last 25 years very few have looked at the financial realities of our times. If most did, we would not be in the mess we are in now.

    In 2005 people were spending 113% of their income and many had debts equal to 140% of their income and servicing that debt was 14% or more of their income(an all time record high).

    When you rely on two incomes, all hell breaks loose when you lose one, either through job loss, illness or divorce. No one plans for any of these to happen, but they do.

    The bottom line is, the finances of most marriages deserve real reviews and careful discussion between spouses before problems develop. For many it is already too late, but some marriages could be saved by examination and careful discussion with a focus on financial reality and not emotion.

    Many SAH spouses now face the necessity of going back to work in a crappy job environment. If you are SAH, it would pay you to learn something valuable during the day or at night when your spouse is there to lend a hand with kids, just in case you have to re-enter the job market, or as a way to earn part time money at home.

    We know of only one couple who really has planned their finances to the penny and one other couple who actually put money away to accrue for the costs of a new car purchase in 5 years and to replace a roof or water heater in their home in 5 or 10 years, but this is the way we should all be thinking. Cheap credit allowed us to stop doing this. Cheap credit and many credit cards are going away, Heloc’s are unaffordable or gone.

    With real wages stagnant since the 70′s and more and more expenses for health insurance and retirement benefits being shifted to the worker, any couple considering marriage needs to realize that it is folly for the higher earner to SAH and they should plan for living on one income while earning two until their assets are substantial enough for one or both to SAH or go part time. (At least one years total expenses in the bank)

    They also need to look at the possiblity that one or both may be forced to go part time and with no benefits. Continuation Health insurance for a couple with kids can easily be $1000.00 per month after a job loss.

    People with recession proof jobs and good benefits should plan to keep them if they have a family and think about that “part time dream career” when all of their long term committments have been met, or do not make them and live the way they want as a single person.

    All of this sounds harsh I will admit, but look at all the current misery created by no planning or poor planning by young and old, single and married alike.

    It truly is time to change the way we live.

  43. Kathy says:

    There is also the consideration of what happens if the breadwinner suddenly passes away or a divorce happens. Does the SAH* have enough skills to go and get a worthwhile job that will support them and/or the kids. I know that this was something that really factored into my parents decision.

  44. Andy says:

    Thanks for this article. Made me look at our work/marriage life in a different light. Going to use if for my 2009 planning and goals.

  45. KoryO says:

    Kathy, not sure what to say about the divorce part of that argument, other than to never ever take your marriage for granted…..but as far as death, I got three words for ya: term life insurance, and have it on BOTH partners. (You think replacing a SAHM or SAHD is cheap? Oh, no….)

    Also, anyone who works who doesn’t have disability insurance is really taking a risk. I remember hearing when I worked at a pension fund that you are four times more likely to become disabled for a year than you are to die before you hit retirement age. (Pay for it with post-tax dollars if at all possible. If you have to collect on it, heaven forbid, at least that way your benefits will be tax free.)

  46. Betty Ann says:

    Hi Trent:

    There is a great book called Two Income and Still Broke that I read over a decade ago.

    If you have not read it I suggest you do; (only a suggestion); because i think you could do a great review on it for all your readers.

    It was an EASY READ. I read fast but great points.

    Betty Ann

  47. Jadzia says:

    Both partners really and truly need to agree. My husband has chosen not to work (and no amount of begging on my part has convinced him to get a job), so I work two jobs: one full time day job to pay for keeping a roof over our heads and all the typical expenses, and a second close-to-full-time evenings and weekends job to fill up an emergency fund and college funds for the kids. It has pretty much destroyed our marriage, because I am ANGRY and feel like he took away what I dreamed of, which was being a SAHM to our kids. And yes, that’s something he said he wanted before we got married.

  48. Kelly says:

    Sometimes it takes unexpected outside circumstances to force you to consider an alternative to your current lifestyle. I used to be a fulltime working mom- never even considered being a SAHM even though my husband asked me about it. But when my husband got out of the military, and we had to move out of state for his best new job option, I ended up quitting my job and becoming a SAHM. I still sometimes think I want to go back to work- but I will NEVER go back to work just to earn money doing something I don’t enjoy, no matter how successful I am. I feel grateful that I can see both perspectives as a working mom and SAH-mom, but I can tell you that I, my husband, my daughter (and our dog) are all so much happier since this change! Life is still stressful, but now we have time to actually talk and make decisions together about our future, not just make assumptions and go on “autopilot”. I’m now doing volunteer work for organizations I am passionate about (and related to my college degree), and doing odd jobs for cash when I can. I wish we had saved more money when I was working, but it feels so good now to really be in control, do a budget, and successfully manage our finances.

  49. Jadzia says:

    That is, he said he wanted me to be a SAHM. So this arrangement has come as an unwelcome shock.

  50. Bill M says:

    At my house, both my wife and I work, and I make enough money that she can stay home. I rather she go to work part time which is good to get out of doing all the house chores and worrying about the kids. My marriage has improved a whole bunch because of this simple thing

  51. CD says:

    Nice article. Of course, when things work on where the practical choice and the wanted choice intersect – all is well.

    What is much tougher is when the higher income spouse is the one who wants to SAH, or losing the income of the spouse who wants to SAH results in a significant drop in QOL that the remaining family members can not live with.

    We are older parents of young kids, and are not helping both of our parents (80s) at the same time. While most of my counterparts are taking kdis to grandma’s house so they can have couple time, I’m taking Grandma on Dr.’s errands, etc. At no time in my life would I have more need to SAH more, but that would mean losing my small home and going to a condo or apartment, and definitely not having room for Mom.

    Sometimes comments about these kinds of choices are simplified into having “extras” or not having them. Perhaps so for some people – but not all.

    My mother was SAH and when Dad died at 42 with little life insurance – she was completely unqualified to support us 4 kids. We did janitorial work as a family till we kids were out of high school. ANd now she has $800/month to live on since she contributed so little to social security. So now HER choice to SAH impacts MY ABILITY to SAH.

    THINK about your choices, and be prepared. And for Pete’s sake, don’t assume people work for fancy cars.. that’s not the case for many of us.

  52. JustMe says:

    A word of caution: this can be very beneficial for the family as long as things work out, but a woman who becomes financially dependant on a man, despite making non-monetary contributions– will be up the creek if divorce happens. You can’t count on alimony, and I think some women would be really hard-pressed to support themselves if they had to.
    I think it is foolish for any woman not to be able to support herself and her kids if need be. Life is just too unpredictable. It’s very empowering to know that no matter what anybody else does, I am perfectly able to take care of my son’s needs on my own.
    Something for the women out there to think about.

  53. Laura says:

    “The Two-Income Trap,” by Elizabeth Warren, is a pretty good resource for the phenomenon that you’re talking about (I think that she also wrote the book mentioned by Betty Ann). That said, both the book and an assumption of two careers are usually limited to a pretty specific socioeconomic group(s), although that somewhat depends on whether you view employment and careers as synonymous. Not to mention that becoming a stay-at-home partner or parent involves a significant loss of social capital and societal respect, including being considered less competent and intelligent. I’m not trying to say that choosing to have one spouse stay at home is a bad idea, just that employment brings benefits beyond the strict dollar-value of the paycheck, and those benefits might be important enough to keep both spouses in the workforce.

  54. I think this also depends on the situation of the couple whether they are capable of handling the responsibility, a substantial part is financial, that is tied in by having a growing family. However, with the Internet nowadays allowing people also to do business at home, they can also develop a program of income where one of them can stay at home and earn in the process. I guess it is a matter of agreeing on a direction and both working together to attain it.

  55. I think one of the issues here is that, when you can’t afford to have one person stay at home, what’s the point of discussing it? There’s no question both need to work, so why even fret about it? Once kids come into the picture and careers are more advanced (hopefully), then things might work themselves out. Until then, why me worry?

  56. Battra92 says:

    Maybe it’s old fashioned but as a man there are days I would love to come home to dinner all prepared, the house clean and a good companion to help me forget about work.

    I don’t plan on ever having kids so the whole staying with the kids thing isn’t really an option. Of course, I highly doubt I’ll ever find a girl to marry so … :P

  57. Alison Wiley says:

    Trent, I really like this post, especially the emphasis on crafting our marriages according to our values. We have two careers in my home and deep satisfaction in that — but when I worked part-time we had less stress. My husband misses the slower-paced me, while I love being fully challenged by my work.

    More couples would have the choices you outline if they let go of assumptions like a conventionally spendy Christmas. Here’s a short piece on happily stepping outside the Christmas box: http://www.diamondcutlife.org/decoupling-christmas-from-spending/

  58. spaces says:

    @ AnneK and all others considering not having incomes for extended periods of time –

    I would question your accountant’s position that you’re better off not working. By not working at all, you are potentially shorting yourself on social security, and could wind up in a position to CD’s mother. You can find tons of information on the web about how social security payments are calculated. Very generally, your payment is based on two factors – the number of quarters where you had income, up to 160 quarters, subject to social security tax and the amount you earned. The number of quarters where you have income is extremely important, and when you do not work in a quarter, you do not have any income in that quarter and get no credit for it.

    Good luck!

  59. Carrie says:

    @Battra92:

    “Maybe it’s old fashioned but as a man there are days I would love to come home to dinner all prepared, the house clean and a good companion to help me forget about work.”

    Heck, as a woman I’d love to have all that too.

  60. cynthia says:

    I would love to be a stay-at-home mom and when I was married I always wished we could manage our finances to make it possible. But, things don’t always work out the way we plan. I am now a single mom and if I hadn’t worked things would have become even more difficult.

  61. Sunshine says:

    I’m with Mark B (on the top). I work and I’d rather not, even though I enjoy my job and make a nice amount. My partner, doesn’t work due to health issues and serious personality conflicts/issues (boy, she’s tried to work those out, but hasn’t got it yet), but she wants too.

    Since I make more money and prob always will, it makes more sense for me to work. I don’t think I have enough experience yet to consult, but I am working on getting training and/or steering my career so that I’ll be more marketable.

    We manage to work it out and, thankfully, I’m not bitter or resentful.

  62. DivaJean says:

    I can relate to comment # 2 from Mark B.

    I would LOVE to be the SAHM, but my job pays almost 3x what my partner would make in her field. We constantly strive to find a balance in our family so that I can have a level of bonding with my kids.

    When I get home from work each night, I am home. I nearly never bring anything home to work on. Until the kids go down to sleep, I am the one to help with homework, to read books, to play games, etc. Hubby takes the time to have some privacy for herself- well deserved with our 4! Once children are settled in, I help out with some of the bigger (but quiet) household duties.

  63. kim says:

    As much as I am a huge advocate of stay home parenting, in today’s economy I would be very careful about having a parent leave the workplace. These days you can never tell when layoffs are coming and the decision to downgrade to one income could very well turn into a no income situation.

    That being said, I also think this is an excellent time to delay choosing to have a child for a year or two…

  64. My husband is in the Navy and we moved 3 times in our first year of marriage (Now we’ve been married for about a year and a half), so if I didn’t work at home, I’d be in an interesting situation trying to scuttle around and find a job each time, only to have to quit in a few months so we could move again.

    We don’t have kids yet, but I plan to stay at home with them when we do… for now, I’m teaching preschool in my house and starting a military stationery business. It’s working out really well for us, especially since we’re both really frugal people to begin with.

    In May, we’ll be out of debt (and I can tell you it’s not because my husband makes a ton of money as a lowly Ensign) and one of our financial goals for 2009 is to max out 2 Roth IRAs while still contributing 20% to the TSP.

    I have business goals too… but what I’m hoping to build toward is a mostly-self-sustaining business by the time we have kids.

  65. Through college I never thought I’d even entertain the idea of SAHM. I married my college sweetie, and went to grad school for a masters. I work full time in state government. He worked for a large clothing retailer. 3 and a half years after we married, surprise, we got pregnant. After having our daughter, I didn’t want to return to work but I did. When our daughter was an infant, he lost his job. He was out of work for 6 months and didn’t qualify for unemployment, so all the $$ was on my shoulders. He now is also in state government but has less job security than me, and earns less than me. I earn about 55% of our annual income, and I have union protection for my job. Our daughter is 2 now. My job drastically changed a year ago, AND I HATE IT. I HATE GOING TO WORK EVERY DAY. HATE IT, HATE IT, HATE IT. But hubby feels like I earn too much of our income for me to quit, and that he doesn’t have enough security in his position for us to depend on just his income. So I feel stuck. I am very stressed by all this. The only good thing is I earn a okay income for having a masters degree and 5 years experience in my field (~58k). We live well below our means and have been paying down our mortgage and paid cash for a used car, shop at thrift stores, I do the drugstore game, and I am the family barber/ gardener/ seamstress/ cook. We do without a lot of things. We do this to save money and because we simply don’t want a complicated lifestyle any more than it already is.

    But I long for more children and I want to stay at home. I am gone for 10 1/2 hours a day to work an 8 hour workday (commute on public transportation). I pick up my daughter, and come home to a messy house, hungry hubby (and me, aand two hungry cats), a cranky toddler who missed me all day and wants to breastfeed immediately (yes we still nurse and I’m PROUD of it), — I’m not able to care for my family and home the way I feel like I should. And I don’t mean Martha-style perfection. I hope to, in 2009, both work on convincing my husband that it is do-able for me to stay home with our child(ren), and also work more financially toward that goal.

    True, the grass is not greener. To that end, I have my own Roth IRA, I know our family finances, and with having a masters degree I am fairly marketable should a life-changing event (death/divorce/disability) occur.

  66. Carrie Shumaker says:

    “I would love to be a SAHM. But I do not see that in the near future as I make double my husband’s income. We talked about this even before we got married. Afterall, it makes no sense for me to work P/T and him F/T and make the same salary of only me working F/T. Oh – I think he would make a great SAHD, but I kinds want to be there too. But I think things will work itself out once we get to that bridge.”

    I also ma(de) double my DH and I really, really enjoy being in the workplace…so I wouldn’t “love to SAH.” We talked about DH not working, even tried it, but it’s not good for him psychologically. So…I went to a 75% appointment, he works a lower paying job which he enjoys, and he works flextime to be home one weekday, I’m home 2 weekdays, and it’s a great setup. I’m a little tired of people assuming it’s SAH or nothing.

    Carrie

  67. Todd says:

    This is as much a psychological issue as an economic one. Both my wife and I had fathers who resented that they “did all the work, made all the money” and had to waste “their” hard-earned money on their families. Thus, it’s important to us that we function very specifically as equals: We’ve worked on our careers equally, make about the same amounts, take care of our children equally,etc. We even take turns mowing the yard and doing laundry so that no one feels they are doing more–and so our kids don’t think of anything as “man’s work” vs. “woman’s work.”

    Of course, all people are different. That’s just our own individual psychologies, but it works well for us. Actually, I think it’s necessary for us–and I don’t think we’ve ever felt even a little bit of the resentment that defined our parents’ marriages.

  68. Deb says:

    I can relate to the second paragraph about your friends who have 3 kids and a mortgage. My family could not make it on one income. We have tried and now we have the credit card debt to prove it. My husband works outside of the home. I am very blessed to have a work at home job. We have 3 kids. We live in a small house in a small town in central Iowa. I drive a 5-year-old van. My husband drives an 18-year-old Toyota. We certainly do not have a “high standard of living”. I worked outside of the home when my oldest child, who is now 12, was a baby and I hated it! I just wanted to be at home with my kids. I did childcare in my home for about 5 years. Now I am a medical transcriptionist at home and it works out well. My schedule is flexible, I can still spend time with my family and get my “home work” done.

    Sometimes people have to have 2 incomes just to keep their head above water and keep food on the table, forget the big fancy house and brand new cars. It’s crazy to assume that I’m working because I want to, no it’s because I have to. Fortunately I have a pretty great work situation, but there are a LOT of other families just like us.

  69. Jessica says:

    My husband and I are working towards a point where I don’t have to work (with or without kids).
    I earn more now so I’ll support the house while he works on is PhD. When he’s done he will make enough so I don’t have to work, and he get’s to do something he loves. It’s a win-win for both of us.

  70. PChan says:

    “Maybe it’s old fashioned but as a man there are days I would love to come home to dinner all prepared, the house clean and a good companion to help me forget about work.”

    Do you think that women wouldn’t like that as well? I’d love to come home to a clean house, dinner prepared, and a companion who will do everything they can to relieve my stress of the day. I’m just gobsmacked by how folks seem to think that this person is automatically a woman, and that we women don’t need/want such things for ourselves. My mother was a SAHM, and she had a lot of her own stresses during the day.

  71. Gilora says:

    I think that this is potentially dangerous advice. From the postings, it appears that most of the time it is the woman who stays home while the man earns the income. In these times, whenever possible there should be two streams of income coming into the family. I work with a lot of men whose wives haven’t worked in ten or more years and they are sweating bullets about potentially getting laid off. It’s not like these SAHMs can just hop right back into the work force, especially when they will be competing against the newly laid-off, who have more recent skills and new graduates, who have more recent credentials.

  72. Carrie Shumaker says:

    @PChan

    Love it. +1 on your comments.

  73. A in NC says:

    I love Jullian’s comments (#26). I’m a step mom and now the kids are grown. But NOW is whenI’d like to stay home.
    My husband was a SAH for 3 years, supporting my real estate business and dealing with older teenagers. Hvaing someone clean and cook and do all finances and pick up dry cleaning was wonderful! We got along famously.
    The lack of stress by only one person working outside of the home is amazing.
    But I’d like to do it now and focus on the things he did and then some. I always feel guilty about wanting that since no kids are at home. So thanks Jillian.
    On another note, I met some women from Sweden who told me (about 15 years ago) that no one worked more than 60% time in their country because there weren’t enough jobs. This way everyone could work.
    i LOVE that idea!
    Maybe with our changing economy we will come to that. We certainly would have to all give up the “i’m too busy to do xyz” excuse!

  74. Piper says:

    Why do we all have to pursue careers? Why does not pursuing one for a while have to brand you as inferior and possibly even unemployable? And why does having a child end up being the only valid excuse for pursuing a non-career-oriented lifestyle?

  75. Battra92 says:

    @PChan, well in my case that person would have to be a woman since I’m a guy. :P

    I guess in just the way I was raised and my experiences in life I always wanted that dinner at 5:00 like my dad had when we were little.

    I’m old enough, smart enough and realistic enough to know that it’s never going to happen but it is something I do hope for.

  76. jlh says:

    I very much agree with CD and Jillian – this post is really dangerous and short-sited advice.

    For most people, the choice of having someone stay home is not a simple matter of “can we afford it?”

    It is also a life-altering decision for the long haul. Re-entering the workforce, at any level, after years outside is a huge challenge. Re-entering at your previous professional level/rank is even harder. The person who stays home needs to fully understand/accept this.

    Also, unforeseen things like the primary income holder getting laid off or sick or becoming unable to work/support the family for any other reason is always a possibility. Insurance only goes so far as I’m sure many of you realize.

    Also, what happens to your ability to save? If you have built an emergency fund (while having both incomes) and it gets used (in the case of any emergency), how long will it take you to build it back up? Is this a risk you want to take?

    This is not a simple matter of “can we afford it” it’s a matter of realizing the long-term effects of leaving the workforce and making a decision with these in mind.

  77. jlh says:

    oops! sorry, I meant i agreed with CD and Gilora (not Jillian). Oops! Sorry for the mix up.

  78. Tyler says:

    A woman’s place is where she wants to be, but I hate how the feminine movement has demoted the true man and all it’s masculinity to nothing but crap… A true woman loves a man – not a boy.

  79. Carrie Shumaker says:

    @Tyler
    Not sure what any of this has to do with masculinity. Hope you’re not implying that a true man has a SAH wife? That would be tiresome.

  80. momof4 says:

    Every family has to make their own way. I was a SAHM for 6 years, leaving a field where made significantly more than my husband to be with the kids. We planned it that way and while we had very little extra, I loved it. We were poorer re cash, but the peace in our home was amazing! I now work from home in direct sales, making half of my professional level wage, with little child care expense. I’ve found that I love the domestic life (most days anyway) and my family is thriving, and I’m hoping to never go back to full time employment outside the home.

  81. Travis says:

    My wife and I are planning to have a child next year and the subject of her staying at home is a hot topic. I’ve been crunching the numbers but it looks like the best we’ll be able to do is have her work part time around 3 days a week. Its either that or me finding another source of income. I really wish she could stay at home, I know it would be better for the baby and our family.

  82. Fuji says:

    “I guess in just the way I was raised and my experiences in life I always wanted that dinner at 5:00 like my dad had when we were little.

    I’m old enough, smart enough and realistic enough to know that it’s never going to happen but it is something I do hope for.”

    There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a clean house, a nice meal and good company – it is the foundation of society and something we should all aspire to. The world would be a better place if we all had that.
    Battra, there are plenty of women (and men) who still hold those values, don’t give up hope! :)

  83. Marcia says:

    I can understand wanting a clean house and dinner at 5. That’s how it was when I was growing up. In fact, my FIL teased my husband about it. Over the last three years, since I had a child, I cut my work hours from 45/wk to 30/wk. So that frees up more time with my child and for cooking (not housework though, we outsourced that).

    So while dinner isn’t on the table at 5 (hubby doesn’t get home until 6), it’s certainly nice. I’m healthier and we are all less stressed. There have been about 10 colds/flus at work, and I’ve managed to dodge them all.

    It can be risky to quit completely – those women married to the men who resent “having to work to bring in all the money” are at the most risk. Regardless, if you are good with money and save well (1 income or 2), you can weather a downturn for a little while.

    To the Navy wife, it gets better. Both the hubby and I were in the Navy. The Ensign years are lean (living in a 60 degree F basement and eating pasta), but the LTJG and LT raises are nice ones.

  84. Becky@FamilyandFinances says:

    I would have to agree with Trent completely on this. I always knew I wanted to be a SAHM, but I always assumed that I would work fulltime until the first child arrives. I assumed this because that is how our society works. If a woman isn’t working without having little ones at home, she’s seen as lazy.

    I am now married, but no children yet. Even working 35 hours/week at a lower-stress job, I still yearn to spend more time at home. I feel frustrated with the societal assumption that I should keep working until we have kids.

    I am currently looking into transitioning into part time work at my employer. I plan on talking to my boss after I’ve gotten onto my husband’s insurance for 2009. I feel that working part time will be a great way to spend more time being a homemaker (my true “career” aspiration) and also help me get ready for when little ones come along!

  85. HebsFarm says:

    We fell right into this trap – when DH and I married, we were both working, and signed onto a mortgage simply ASSUMING that both of these incomes would continue… then the kids started coming, but there was that dang mortgage still needing to be paid. Like a lot of families, we cobbled something together that works for us. I feel good about having a reduced schedule, but I feel bad about not committing to the SAHM lifestyle. I feel good about contributing to the family with my income, but I feel bad that I don’t have time to use my home management skills to the fullest. Wish we had thought this through earlier, but it’s a clear case of 20/20 hindsight – we simply didn’t know then what we know now.

  86. PChan says:

    Sure, batra. It’s just that you said “as a man” you’d like these things. I didn’t mean to be harsh, it’s just that it’s not something only men would like, but I can tell you as someone who also grew up with a SAHM and who is female, it can grate to be expected to provide these things no matter what stresses we may be going through. Homemaking is a lot of work, and it doesn’t just go from 9-5 with a lunchbreak. I grew up in a one-income home, and I have to say, my SAHM and her SAHM friends were very stressed out.

    @Fuji: “There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a clean house, a nice meal and good company – it is the foundation of society and something we should all aspire to. The world would be a better place if we all had that.”

    Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that, but again–why is it when SAH parenting/homemaking comes up that it’s often women who are expected to do these things? I certainly appreciate those things as well, but I don’t think I should be the only person doing them in a marriage/family simply because I’m female. For couples where the women enjoy that, that’s great, but it’s not for everyone and I think it’s rather unfair to put the burden of all the housework on the woman when the homemaking duties go longer than the average workday.

  87. Ms. Clear says:

    Ha! In this economy, we’ll be lucky if hubby is able to find a job after finishing grad school. I’m prepared mentally to be the breadwinner and we’ve discussed doing the SAH thing for him if it doesn’t work out. He does have a small side business and could probably find PT work.

  88. bjc says:

    This is an interesting topic for my partner and me, a same-sex couple. With two men in the family, and no children (but one cat!), there is sort of the combined assumption that both of us should be working. When my partner was laid off earlier this year, we discovered that my income (not substantial, but sufficient) was nearly enough for us to manage our fairly frugal lifestyle. He’s currently receiving unemployment benefits, but we figure that a part-time job will be enough to keep us running pretty smoothly. Plus, he’s much happier being a ‘house husband’, the cat gets some company during the day, and we have more flexibility with him making most of the meals. I think this really adds an interesting spin to the gender roles that are often brought up when discussing double-income households.

  89. Fuji says:

    @PChan

    The burden will fall on whichever person chooses to stay home, but in most societies, the majority of stay at home parents are women. I feel whichever person remains home should not view the accompanying job duties as a burden, but rather just part and parcel of the job.

  90. plonkee says:

    I actually think that the assumption that both partners in a relationship (married or not) will earn an income is a good one. Of course every couple should do what works best for them, but we don’t really want to go back to the assumption that married women don’t work – it’s particularly limiting for couples where both partners need to work, and for women (including single women) generally.

  91. kathryn says:

    It looks like you missed one thing: Unless you are very careful, the SAH(adult) will not be putting enough away for retirement. The working partner gets Social Security, maybe 401K, maybe pension set aside automatically. The SAH(adult) gets nothing except a promise to share in the partner’s retirement money. If divorce or death intervenes, things can get complicated very fast. If you are changing from a two-income to one-income household, make sure to carefully review retirement planning for both spouses.

  92. CNA says:

    In any economy, but especially this one, it’s almost too risky for either partner to stay out of the workforce for too long unless they are constantly honing their professional skills in some way. Divorce, death, disability, or lay-offs can happen at any time, and the best partner is one that can pick up the slack for their family if they do. In my opinion, one of the biggest assets you have is your earning potential and if you let your skills lapse, you are losing that, and you can’t underestimate the difficulty of getting back into the workforce after an extended break.

    It’s not just about managing on a smaller salary. It’s about long term security.

  93. karishma says:

    From when my husband and I first started dating, the assumption was that if and when we got married and had kids, I would stay home with them.

    Once our son was born however, we decided that my working part-time had many benefits that we would lose if I quit altogether. In increasing order of importance
    - my income, however much reduced by only working part-time, helps us build savings, and have more of a financial cushion in case of emergencies.
    - it gives me 8 hours a week of acting as an adult professional, which is good for my sanity.
    - it keeps my professional skills intact, keeps me up to date on changes in my field, keeps me within the networking loop, and I don’t have a big gap on my resume if/when I go back to work full-time.
    - if something were to happen to my husband’s job, it wouldn’t take any effort at all for me to jump back into working full-time.

    I read a lot of career advice columns, and too many of them are from women saying “I took x years off from work to raise my kids. Now I need/want to go back to work, but I don’t know how to do it after so many years away from the field.” I don’t want that to be me, and luckily I have the opportunity to have the best of both worlds this way.

  94. PChan says:

    @kathryn–that’s an excellent point.

  95. Marcia says:

    Legally, at least where I live, in a divorce I get half of my husband’s 401k.

    Of course, he gets half of mine too.

  96. jana says:

    interesting article and food for thought.
    i have many mixed reactions to the article and the posts – from agreeing with what Des said about “the stability, consistency, and structure of 9-5 that some people thrive in” (i used to be a freelancer and actually missed some office interaction) to disagreeing with some others. also, having to work quite a lot (i have chosen the best job for me but in my field, the salaries are not high), i do tend to have a bit of the “would i love to just do what i want because someone pays for all my expenses? yes” attitude, although i know that having money i made myself and spending them on whatever i want is also a very positive thing. so, again, interesting article

  97. reulte says:

    Writer’s Coin (#35) — I think discussion even of the currently impossible is a great idea. I would love to be a SAH mom but since I’m a single mother, it IS impossible. However, I talk about staying at home to myself, my son (he’s 6 1/2 so there isn’t a lot of heavyweight intellectualism there but he does have surprising ideas occasionally), friends and family and some good ideas have ensued. For instance, there is a good chance I’ll quit my current work next year to become a teacher. Not only could this line up my work hours closer to my boy’s, but would permit summer vacation where we could spend days together camping or museums or road trips!

    Battra92 (#36) and Carrie (#38) and PChan — Ditto!

    To all those people who say that it makes more sense for the higher-wage-earner to work/the lower-wage-earner to SAH . . . life is not always about sense. All other things being equal, yes – but all other things are rarely equal. This relates back to Trent’s discussion – you can’t brainstorm, make progress to your goals as a couple if you don’t know your goals as both a couple and as individuals.

  98. Honey says:

    Having children falls into the category of “things everyone does that you should seriously consider before undertaking yourself.”

    Jake and I never plan to have kids because we think it sounds expensive and unpleasant. We both work now, but will be able to save a lot more, do more of the things we want to do, and retire (or at least semi-retire) a lot sooner.

    No one has ever given me a single reason why they think people should have kids that sounds compelling or valid.

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