In the previous post on the discussion about women choosing to be stay-at-home wives and/or moms, I inserted the aspect of economic choice. When I abruptly and unexpectedly became a single parent with a four-month old, I had no real choice of not working. Continuing in my career as an Army officer was up for grabs, and I understood that was a particularly challenging choice that had the potential to become unmanageable. It didn’t, but that’s another subject.
Two income families have become routine and is expected in certain parts of our society, while not so in others. Both spouses working, however, does not always make as much economic sense as it would seem at first glance. There are costs to employment such as commuting, perhaps a certain type of wardrobe (includes dry cleaning), increased costs for restaurant meals because shopping and cooking are time consuming, cleaning and other household services, and the very large expense of childcare if applicable. During the nine-month period between my retirement from the Army and going to work for a small firm, I was surprised at how much money I was able to save by being at home. However, that was not emotionally fulfilling for me and we wanted a type of lifestyle that required supplemental income. I was in a position to earn more than I spent for employment expenses.
Computer technology has significantly enhanced remote work options and if that is viable, then some employment costs become negligible. So, in choosing a single or dual income household, there are two primary components – actual after expenses income and personal satisfaction level. (A momentary digression as I confess that I do view a stay-at-home husband differently from a stay-at-home wife and that is indeed a product of my age and upbringing. I acknowledge that there are times when the wife is in a position to have greater earning power than the husband.)
On the personal satisfaction side, there are a tremendous number of volunteer opportunities, even in small towns, and a wide array of hobbies that can be quite fulfilling. If a couple objectvely analyzes their personal financial situation, the bottom-line answer could be that the second job does not produce significant income, particularly if the second job is stressful to the individual and subsequently the family. The math is not complicated, but it does have to be done correctly and requires several months of accurately tracking expenses. It can be an eye-opener if you’ve never run the numbers and It might be an exercise worth undertaking if you are in a position to do so.