Why I want to make enough money to support myself (and my family) even though I’m a woman with a high earning husband

I mean, besides that I like having lots of money and enjoy my career.  Which I do.  I love having 2x DH’s salary instead of 1x.  But we could totally live on 1x.  I just don’t want to.  And I’m sure after a while I would start writing novels or taking over local non-profits or something.

There’s been a couple of recent articles going around about women making sure they only pick high earning potential husbands.  (“It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man…” to quote Marilyn Monroe’s character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.)  Money matters because you’ll want to stay home with your kids, they say.  Or you’ll want to live a better life than you can on your income alone.  So don’t pick the 40K/year guy, pick the 100K/year guy with upward mobility potential.

Part of it is that I do not ever want to be in a situation in which I have to scramble.  I don’t want to be a 50 year old widow (or divorcee) having to go back into the labor market after an extended absence.  We have life insurance, but getting life insurance that would provide me with true security in a situation in which I could not find a fantastic job after DH’s demise forced me to work again would be a huge drain on just DH’s salary.  And I have complete trust in DH, but if I were married to any other person, that looming potential of being divorced or trapped in a horrible marriage because I needed the money would just be awful.  I never want to be helpless or trapped, especially with children depending on me.

The second reason is not about me.  My BIL is trapped in his current job and his current career trajectory because he has a SAHM wife and two kids.  He has to always make the safe choice.  The one that keeps him employed.  He needs to stay with his company because it’s union and he’s no longer last in/first out.  Contrast that with DH.  When he didn’t like his job he was able to take unpaid leave at first and to just quit without another one lined up later.  He was able to explore working at a start-up and then on his own company and then compare competing job offers that paid 2x as his “safe” job.  Eventually we might have needed him to bring in his own money so as to keep the stress off me (for example, me being on half pay this year in an expensive city would have been a lot more difficult to pull off!), but he had plenty of time to explore different options and was able to wait for one that made him really happy.  If/when this job evaporates, he will be able to go through the process of finding a job he likes again.

A third reason that doesn’t apply to me (but might if I had a husband who felt money more) is that for most people, money is power.  And that means that the person who brings in the money is the one who gets more say in how things turn out in the household.  He (and it’s usually he) gets to say what luxuries get bought, what the household allowance is, and so on.  And for the few months when I was the sole breadwinner, DH did take on more of the household responsibilities (which was nice for me!).  Being married to someone who greatly out-earns you can mean golden handcuffs.  I am much happier having an equal marriage.  And I might be willing to exchange money for power if I had to, that is, me being the one making more and having more say, but not so much the other way around.  (I suspect though that this gets back to point one– I’d rather be unmarried than to be in a bad relationship, but for that, I still need to make my own money!)  (Note that since DH doesn’t really feel money, he could make many x as me and we would still have equal bargaining power, but that isn’t true for every one.)

That’s not to say I want to be married to someone who lies around the house and plays video games all day.  But because I make money, I can value productivity more in a partner than the actual cash he is bringing in.  I would rather have DH produce value than be a hedge fund manager making 5x what he’s making right now (though I suppose if that were the case we could be more active with charity!)  And I’d rather be alone than married to someone who wasn’t making the world a better place.

If I made less money, we’d need to be more frugal, but part of why I chose the profession I chose was because of its potential for income and financial security.  And we’ve saved a lot as a couple to allow ourselves more freedom in the future.  Perhaps if I was less skilled and/or scared of math I might not have the luxury of looking for a productive husband (or having no husband at all!) rather than a high income one.  Caring only about love is a luxury that having enough money makes possible.  Still, I don’t think that finding a prince to rescue me would be the direction my thoughts would go.  I know how to be frugal (partly because great swaths of my childhood had my mom supporting the four of us on less than what a high school teacher makes) and I have ambition.

Of course, I married a guy who had virtually no income in the years we were dating before marriage because we were still in high school and college.  (And who had very little income during the first years of our marriage because we were in graduate school.)  I have no idea what I would be looking for if I, heaven forbid, had to go on the dating market as an actual adult.  But I would still want to keep my career and my income, not just because I love it or just for the money, but because I don’t want to give up that freedom and power.

So how about you?  How do you balance the importance of your salary with the importance of your partner’s?

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Ask the grumpies: When to start music lessons?

Alyssa asks:

When is it age-appropriate to put children into music lessons (piano/guitar at this point)? Son is 5 and a bit, and he says he’s interested, but not sure if we should wait a bit more?

Five is a great age!  To be honest, I started at 6 and DC1 started at 6 because of laziness on the part of parents, but 5 would have been fine.  (DC1 did start swimming lessons a lot earlier.)  Most music teachers in our area start accepting students at age 5, and Suzuki teachers will often accept children as young as age 3.  A bunch of the internet suggests that starting music lessons before age 7 is best for various quasi-scientific reasons I’m not entirely convinced by but may be true.

And if it doesn’t work out, you can always take a break and try again later.

Part 2 of Writing Productivity: Quick starters

Part 1 is herePart 3 is herePart 4.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-)

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.

These sections are mostly unedited [they could use it but this is a blog post], but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

In part 1 I talked about what ‘writer’s block’ might be.  In part 2, I discuss its opposite.  It’s behind the cut (for length).

Read the rest of this entry »

A journey of a lot of steps: What I did or didn’t learn from the Feb challenge

I learned that having to think about exercising (and, indeed, to exercise) decreased my work productivity.

I learned that pacing is a lot easier in a 3000 sq ft place than a 1200 sq ft place.

I do like walking, but if I want to do more of it, I think it needs to be in a world where I don’t want to do other stuff as much.

Normally with exercise challenges one wants to know if one got stronger or if one lost weight.  Both of these are really difficult to answer because of two things.  1.  DH decided he needed to cut back on sweets and then gave up on cutting back and then got reenergized to give up sweets again.  Since I have ZERO willpower when it comes to high quality pastries, my weight mostly fluctuated with his decisions.  Who knows what the no stepping counterfactual would have been.  2.  I got really sick the third week with lingering cold/allergies which made it hard to breathe deeply.

Everyone in the house was pretty happy when the step challenge was over, even though for DH it meant more walking chores.  One fewer chore to have to remember every day.

I think I need to go back through previous posts and see if any past challenges have been worthwhile.  And then a thinky post on the nature of challenges.  I suspect that I know the answer– challenges that produce something worthwhile in the short term (money saved, pages written) seem to be better than ones that attempt to change a habit, but there may be other items I need to ponder.

Money philosophy post: Invest in things that will pay off

My little sister worked for a law firm that did repossessions when she was in high school.  She literally called to repossess people’s cars and boats on Christmas Eve (“What?  They shouldn’t have *bought* a bmw if they couldn’t afford it.”).

One of the big things that she learned from that job is to never borrow to invest in a depreciating asset.

When you buy a depreciating asset, you can end up owing more for that asset than what it’s worth.  You can have that car taken away and *still owe money on it*.  So you’re left with no car and a debt.  You would have been better off without the temporary BMW in the first place.

If you’re going to invest, whether or not you borrow, then invest in appreciating assets.  Things that will be worth more in the future.

Why?

Because when you invest in appreciating assets, that means you get to consume more rather than less in the future.  You get to consume more in the future with less effort.  Because your investment is making money for you and providing stability.

Get rid of high interest debt.  That’s a huge drain and is just throwing away money that could instead be keeping you safe or providing for guilt-free career changes or trips or what ever it is you’d rather have than debt.

Invest in yourself.  It makes sense to take a reasonable debt load for education that will pay off monetarily in terms of income down the line.  And it is true that cars depreciate right off, but when you’re starting out if you’re in a place with lousy public transportation, it can still make sense to take out a car loan because that appreciating asset is *you*.  (That doesn’t, of course, mean you should be buying a BMW when all you actually need is safe and reliable transportation.)

Invest in reducing risk.  Have an emergency fund in safe assets like a CD ladder or a saving account.  Buy amounts of insurance that are right for your situation.  That way an emergency won’t put you back to zero or less.

Invest in your monetary future.  Put money away for retirement in tax-advantaged accounts.  Put extra money in the market or in bonds as a FU fund in case times goes bad or you get an amazing opportunity.  Your future self will thank you.

And after you’ve invested, then there is nothing wrong with consuming.  But don’t borrow to consume a depreciating asset.  Let the profits from your appreciating assets fund your extra consumption.  Because then you won’t have to write blog posts about how you can’t make ends meet on necessities because you have all this high interest debt that you’re not paying off (even with your high income) because of all the stuff you buy and trips you take.  You’ll be able to buy the stuff and take the trips without complaint after the debt is gone and you’ve taken care of your future self.

Have you ever borrowed to invest in a depreciating asset?  Do you invest in appreciating assets?  How do you manage risk?

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