Dualing Duel Income Differences

#1:  We have no post for tomorrow

#2:  Do you have some money things to ask me, or say?  Or talk about?  Something something… I like money?

#1:  What’s it like having two incomes now [that your DH has been re-employed for a while]?

#2:  Not any different. Nothing’s really changed?

#1: No? It’s really no different having your DH working vs. not? Why is that? For me there’s a huge difference!

#2: I mean…. he handles most of the bills. Our level of spending hasn’t changed. We’re not really doing anything different in our daily lives.

#1: You don’t have fewer money worries? Or is it that he had enough of a buffer that it was ok?

#2: I mean… some, I guess it’s slightly less worrisome? I didn’t have a whole lot before. We have a big buffer.

#1: Maybe it’s like when I go on leave… like, it’s planned for and expected and stuff. Whereas DH being unemployed is more worrisome because we don’t know if he’s going to be able to find employment again without us all moving.  I guess your DH has better market prospects?

#2: We have enough buffer to not really change anything, I guess.

#1: Is it different when you’re the one unemployed?

#2: If DH stops doing this job, he’ll just get another one. My job is less essential to the financial functioning of this household, but still important. We could afford for both of us to be out of work for a short while, but that would blow the buffer. I mean, we live in an expensive place. But we also have a bunch of money, so….?

#1: We live in an inexpensive place, and we can live on my salary… but for some reason it’s more stressful.  We have to keep an eye on the spending… we can’t just say yes to things, whereas when he’s working we have enough extra we don’t need to sweat the small or medium-sized stuff.  Maybe it’s the kids–they’re more expensive than cats, and needy. Like, they need stuff.

#2: Yes, I think if I had kids that I was worried about their present and future needs… that would be a LOT of stress. If I had kids I would feel stressed ALL the time.

#1: … that’s not even counting when the after school activity teacher tells you that the Hershey’s kisses your DC2 is tantrumming about not getting are only for mommies who participated in their stupid unannounced parent participation day that you would totally have not had DC2 participate in if you’d known it would be happening when DH was out of town… I digress.

#1:  Or maybe it’s just that you’re naturally frugal now and the same naturally frugal when your DH is unemployed and there isn’t a big level jump given how expensive it is to live where you live– you still have to be moderately careful.

#2:  More like naturally medium.  Not very frugal.

#1:  You don’t have enough space to be truly unfrugal.  Unless your DH has a Tesla I don’t know about.

#2:  Nope.  Also I don’t like clothes shopping, and I like to stay at home.

If you’re partnered, how does your life change when one of you is out of work?  What do you think is going on? 

Here’s Mrs. POP talking about her feelings with a FIREd spouse.

15 Responses to “Dualing Duel Income Differences”

  1. becca Says:

    I think some of the differences in how you feel about one partner being out of work may be perceptions of the strength of the economy as it applies to your specific prospects. The economy today is quite different in big cities vs smaller less diversified economies, and when you are an academic PhD you have less obvious avenues for job replacements equivalent to what you have now.

    This last round of unemployment (spanning approximately August of 2017 to August 2018) for my partner was a lot less stressful than other rounds. For one thing, we were at least not paying for daycare and my little is now 2, so that is a pretty big expense. Plus between rental income and unemployment, we could cover expenses, at least on paper- we just weren’t making progress on long term savings goals. But he did ring up some credit card debt, because he never significantly cut back on spending. It bugs me he won’t track his spending, which is one reason our finances are mostly separate. My salary covers mortgage and household bills, so it’s a bit mystifying to me where his money goes.
    I did have a fair amount of big-picture angst with this round of unemployment. Partner is getting older, and being out of work for more than 6 months seems to be kind of dangerous. We can handle a year out of work. Never working again is another thing entirely.

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    We were single-income for about 15 years, but I have tenure at a public university, so we were never at risk of being jobless.

    As for children being expensive—we’ve not found that to be the case for us. The biggest expenses were part-time day care (from 3-months-old to beginning of kindergarten), private school (4th–8th grade), and college. Adding children to our health insurance is cheap ($75/month for the HSA plan we’ll be using next year; $180/month if we had opted for the most expensive health insurance plan, which costs almost as much as the out-of-pocket limits for the HSA; no extra cost if we use the insurance plan that we have this year).

    For the first couple of years we were given hand-me-down clothing from one of his cousins (far more expensive brands than we would have bought), but even after that the clothing budget was so tiny that we never noticed it. Games, toys, and books were probably more money, but still too small to affect our savings rate. I suppose this is the definition of a “comfortable income”—we never spent so much that we had to worry about our checking balance, nor did we ever have any debt except our mortgage, which we paid off within 15 years.

    Our son is just as frugal as we are and has never wanted “stuff”—he’ll be finishing college with fairly substantial investments, since he has invested everything he has earned or been given.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      … and part-time daycare, private school, and college are not at all expensive? Compared to having a cat?

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        OK, education is expensive—but that was about the only aspect of having a child that was expensive.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m not sure I get your point? Are you suggesting we not educate our kids?

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        I was responding to “Maybe it’s the kids–they’re more expensive than cats, and needy. Like, they need stuff.

        #2: Yes, I think if I had kids that I was worried about their present and future needs… that would be a LOT of stress. If I had kids I would feel stressed ALL the time”

        I did not find that having a child was expensive (other than education), nor that they “need stuff” to any great extent (clothing, food , books were all pretty cheap). I feel more in tune with #2—having kids can be very stressful, but more out of concern for doing the best possible for them than from a financial standpoint. Our stress was probably highest in year 1 (sleep deprivation) and year 8 (defiance). Choosing the best schooling for him each year did result in a stressful month each spring for about 10 years.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Education is stuff that they need. So is health insurance. And you’re coming from a place of privilege if the costs of a second bedroom and clothing and food cost nothing. I don’t know about you but my cat goes around naked and doesn’t need her own bed.

        The comment sounds braggy and clueless. Somehow you’re magically raising a kid who needs nothing through your superiority. It isn’t true even if you think it is. You’re just not the one thinking about it.

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        Perhaps you are right—I certainly feel privileged that I could raise a child on a single income without money worries, despite living in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

  3. anonymous for this one Says:

    I’m a freelancer and routinely drop in and out of actively working based on when the work projects happen– I can have as much as 1-2 months with nothing going on. I get antsy after about the first few weeks, but because we live well under our means, I try not to let it worry me too much. If I stopped getting work entirely, it would be a big deal– even with a slow/nothing period in a year, I’m the bigger breadwinner in the house. We could be fine financially with just my income. And we have substantial savings in case of anything seriously going wrong.

    My husband hasn’t been unemployed while involved with me, but I would be really concerned for him and for our family if he were to become unemployed. Not because of money, but because he has bipolar 2 and I think that his job keeps him grounded. When he has too much free time, he starts getting obsessed with doing projects of his own devising and also getting depressed/irritable about anything that takes him away from those projects. Based on what he told me about his first marriage, I’m pretty sure that his quitting his job was one of the factors that led to their divorce–he went full-bore into project mode and didn’t have the insight to realize that he was creating his own unhappiness. I’d hope that he has the insight now, especially since he’s got a diagnosis, but– I don’t think he has the self-control to stop himself yet.

  4. also anonymous for this one Says:

    My partner is long-term underemployed. He is unhappy about it. I have lots of stress about it, although my full-time income plus his part-time income is enough for us to live comfortably in our low-cost-of-living location. The stress takes my naturally frugal tendencies and pushes me over the line into cheap. I think a big part of the stress is that I would probably have a very difficult time finding another full-time job in our location, and maybe even if we were willing to move. (We moved here for my job and have put down roots HARD.) The idea of both of us being simultaneously un/under-employed is too terrible to contemplate in a serious way, but at least we have a big emergency fund.

    On the other hand, lifestyle-wise it is pretty awesome having a stay-at-home spouse. We don’t have to put our kid in day care, and my partner does almost all of the cooking. My partner is less happy about the lifestyle effects of his underemployment – being a stay-at-home parent while also working part time mostly from home is exhausting, and the patriarchy’s brainwashing is insidious and mean.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    My husband is self-employed and, like becca’s, does not track his spending. Every year since I started doing our taxes I have been sideswiped and stressed-out when I start doing the data entry. This year I tried multiple times to actually get him to talk about Financial Planning, got nowhere, and eventually abandoned the effort because it was stressing me out to no purpose. I have told him that he is doing the @&$^#%! tax returns from now on. Pretty sure he realized I was serious. All I can do is save as much as I reasonably can while spending what I need to in order to survive an unlikable job and city with my sanity intact.

    As to what happens if either of us is unemployed … I have done my level best to ensure that any time I have been disemployed it has been characterized as a layoff so that I could collect unemployment insurance. Have only needed to do so once, since except during the 2008 recession I was able to get re-employed in very short order.

    If DH had to stop working we would be deeply screwed, since he is not eligible for unemployment insurance. Also, the most likely reason for him to stop working would be disability, and he does not have disability insurance either. These are points I have made more than once, but I’m sure others can attest that if a person just doesn’t want to Deal With Things, they won’t get dealt with.

  6. First Gen American Says:

    I didn’t feel much money stress before I had children. Yes, I was impatient and wanted to reach certain money goals faster than was realistic and worried about job loss but kids put things on a whole new level of money stress.

    We make 2 good incomes and I still think that spending $15000 for next year’s healthcare expenses is still a big number….It’s a braces year amongst other things. I guess the only consolation is that you are not buying braces when kids are in full time daycare or in college so a lot of the big expenses get spread out. I also seem to be buying a lot more of their clothes new as the second hand stuff is harder to come by as they outgrow the toddler stage and they are less likely to wear it anyway.

    Also, would I spend big bucks for $1MM in term life insurance and extra disability insurance if I didnt have dependents? Most definitely not.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      There is so much insurance we wouldn’t have without kids. And you really can’t cut food expenditures to the bone when you have growing kids. So much of what we need money for is predictability—smoothing consumption in all states of the world in a way we wouldn’t have to without kids.


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