Being breadwinner

can be stressful

Right now #2 and I are both breadwinners of our respective family units.  In case you were wondering about #2, after her FIL died, her DH got very depressed and is taking a break from paid employment.  There’s probably a bit more than that, but it’s not my story to tell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been the sole income of the family– if you recall, DH quit his tenure-track job without anything lined up, so for a few months we weren’t sure what our income situation was going to be like until he got employed.

One of the first things I’ve noticed about being breadwinner is that I feel the need to increase my income.  Asking for raises, getting grants, taking consulting opportunities, all of these seem to be more important now than when DH is also bringing in cash.  Getting my research done and out so that I can be more attractive should we need to move takes on greater urgency.

Combined with this, I let DH take on greater responsibilities at home.  We already have a pretty egalitarian household, and when DH isn’t earning, he starts taking care of more of the daily and weekly chores, especially kitchen stuff and chauffeuring.  And I feel less guilty about him doing so.  I imagine this is how some women get shunted into home production even when things start out equivalent.  I do spend more time on our finances when I’m the only one earning, but it doesn’t make up for the time I’m no longer spending on regular chores.

I do like having DH take care of things at home, but I also like the stress of not being the only person earning money.  I think I like it best when we’re both enjoying our jobs and earning a lot of money.  I would like it least if I disliked my job but had to keep my job because mine was the only income.  My next least favorite would be being the homemaker if DH was the sole breadwinner and hated his job.  I’m not sure how I would rate hating my job vs. being a homemaker if DH was happy with his job.  I guess it might depend on how easily I could find a new job in that situation.  I suspect that I would rather have each of us make 150K than have DH make 300K with me required to make nothing.  I might prefer making 300K myself and having DH at home to either scenario though.  (Note:  I am happy to test any of these three propositions!)  Smaller dollar amounts would probably lead to different preferred combinations.

As we’ve noted before, this time we’re in a better position than last time DH stopped bringing in income.  As I look through that old post discussing what to do with finances, I am happy that we don’t have to move so much around.  There’s no mortgage to stop prepayment on.  No private school to save tuition for, no mother’s helpers to pay (though we do have summer camp and daycare throughout the summer).  No IRAs to fund (though if DH’s jobless situation continues, I will be eligible to contribute again).  And we have a nice cash cushion.  My plan is to convert this cash cushion into tax-deferred savings (by continuing to max out my 403(b) and 457, even as we dip into savings) with the thought that doing so will make us more likely to be eligible for financial aid when DC1 goes off to college.

I also don’t know how long I am going to be the breadwinner.  DH’s company is supposed to be getting back on track in July, but i’s have not yet been dotted nor t’s crossed on the contract that will put the company back to work for the next couple of years.  We can wait, as can DH’s direct boss, but much of the rest of the company cannot afford to take more than one month unpaid.  If waiting for the contract lasts too long, the company might just go under and the contract will fall through entirely.  My bread-winning this time around may end up being longer term than we had hoped.

Have you ever been the sole breadwinner of a multiple-person household?  How do things change?  Do you feel stressed?  Do you have a family income combination that you prefer (breadwinner/homemaker/dual-income, etc)?

Things that negatively affect my mood

Lack of sleep

Lack of a feeling of control/feeling overwhelmed/being told I have to do stuff or that I’m not doing enough stuff

Having future deadlines but not being able to work on them even though I planned to work on them because other people have dropped the ball and there’s nothing I can work on in the meantime while I wait because I already did it all or I would have to get into the mindset for a completely different project and I just don’t have that mental load and I know everybody is going to get back to me at the same time too close to multiple deadlines and I’m going to be stressed out.

Eating sugar or refined carbohydrates and sugar-crashing

Low blood sugar more generally

Mild tummy aches/headaches

impatient drivers behind me who want me to risk my life making a left turn across traffic

Sometimes hormonal imbalances

Whining (other people’s not my own, and literal whining)

Mansplaining

Did I mention people flaking out on me?

Grumpy nation, what harshes your buzz?

Live-blogging my cyber security awareness training

an IM chat with my partner.

ME: and now, for sauce, an hour-long video training on ‘cyber security awareness’.
WHY WHY WHY are there so many videos I HATE VIDEO TRAININGS
just write down the things that everyone under 50 knows, and it’ll take 5 minutes to read.

[#2 notes that Grumpy Rumblings does not endorse tired age stereotypes about technology knowledge or lack thereof.  Workers over 50 ALSO know this stuff.]

PARTNER: not all employees are under 50 :)

ME: “Don’t answer phishing emails” DURRRRR
durrrrrrrrrrrr
don’t share passwords durrrrrrrrrrr
Partner, did u know that phishing emails are common?
This ‘cyber attacker’ is wearing google glasses

PARTNER: they do that!
ME: do they???
PARTNER: no

ME: hey if a stranger calls u on the phone and tells u that ur computer is infected and u need to go buy this software to fix it… durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
“Simply hang up the phone or ignore the email.” This is some quality sh*t.

PARTNER: well, taunting them wouldn’t be very professional

ME: hey another unit about email
DO NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENT
also the ‘cyber attacker’ is a man of course
o wait, this one’s a woman– also wearing google glass

here’s a hint: your bank’s not going to ‘deactivate’ your account.

This envelope is vibrating. I wouldn’t open that.
“Browsers are one of the primary ways we interact with the internet.”

PARTNER: good to know
ME: right?

“Should you heed security warnings?” gee what a hard quiz

“social networking websites are one of the most exciting technologies on the internet!”
this is definitely written BY 60-year-olds, FOR 60-year-olds.
oh no that guy got a fishing hook through his FACE

[#2:  See above disclaimer.  60 year olds who work have gone through more of these security trainings than #1 has.  They are aware of social networking.]

PARTNER: ow
ME: your friend doesn’t actually need you to wire money to him in Romania
PARTNER: I dunno, sometimes my friend is in Romania
ME: and they can only contact you via facebook?
PARTNER: well, probably not.

ME: also this video has bad grammar.
ooooh kidnapping your child, that’s definitely the item choice I’m picking.
I thought we were going to learn about encryption there for a minute, but no. That would be much harder than “don’t click that link, yo”
“Not only can you call anyone IN THE WORLD” using your cell phone… go figure.

PARTNER: well, usually I can’t call you, actually.  [This is because #1 is the only person left in the US without a cell phone.]
ME: in the WORLD, Partner.
hahahaha “never jailbreak your own phone”

PARTNER: then teh haXX0Rz will pwnz you!
ME: don’t go to http://www.EvilAntiVirus.com — I bet you shouldn’t click on that link
PARTNER: Firefox can’t establish a connection to the server at http://www.evilantivirus.com
ME: sad
the section on passwords promises hilarity
oooh passphrases. Use numbers in place of letters. Are you listening, 60-year-olds? [#2:  60 year olds probably have as many passwords as the rest of us non 60-year olds]
PARTNER:  31337!
the password ‘p4$$w0rd’ is totally uncrackable!
ME: hey don’t use your banking password for youtube
PARTNER: but then how will I remember my youtube password?
ME:  o noes
never share your password, Partner. It is a SECRET.

PARTNER: Keep it secret. Keep it safe.
ME: Enable “Hobbit-level” security.
Don’t send important secret work information to your personal email

PARTNER: but how will I get it home?
ME: Don’t log in as root unless you need to…
this guy seems to have an RFID chip embedded in his clavicle
that seems… not-ideal
PARTNER: ow

ME: don’t install software that has the Jolly Roger on it.

PARTNER: but I really liked Assassin’s Creed 4
ME: me too!
“These steps should be applied in a way that is consistent with our policies.” no, really?
argh, grammar.
hey that loud-ass bird is back, the one that likes to sit outside our window and look at us. What’s up, loud bird?

PARTNER: tweet
ME:  “Which of the following is a typical step that an attacker will take after compromising a system?

A. Installing Microsoft Office on your system.”
ha!

“If you believe your system has been compromised, you should: A. Continue using the system so the attacker does not become suspicious” — YES, YES, pick that one

WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

This data management policy is laid out like a football play. Am I the running back or the tight end?

“We hope you enjoyed your security awareness training.”  NOPE.

PARTNER: thaT DOES NOT CHANGE THEIR HOPE THOUGH

ME: hahahaha
“Remember, our goal is not to scare you from using the internet.”
“Technology is a tremendous tool that enables you to accomplish amazing things.”  Ok, Grandma.  [#2:  Most grandmas are well aware of facebook and skype etc.]

[end.]

Later, my co-worker started the same online training and spontaneously burst into giggles.  “Welcome to the 21st Century?” she asked.  “It gets worse,”  I told her.

#2 notes that her IT training just switched to slow and stupid.  No skipping to the quiz anymore.  No just reading the slides and fast forwarding them.  Nope, you cannot move ahead until they’re done talking.   And it’s an hour and a half with a huge amount of useless prologue.  UGH.  So, of course, instead of actually paying attention, I’m just letting it run on my secondary monitor, clicking next whenever I notice a slide has finished (there are ~150 slides).  If they want me to learn something, this is not the way to go about it.

What’s the dumbest training you’ve been to?  How can we all be less ageist?

Minimalism has not caused enlightenment, only mild annoyance

This year, with the exception of children’s toys which seem to proliferate wherever we go (in this case to thanks to decluttering friends), we are living the minimalist life.  Why?  We’re going back to our fully stocked home in less than a year and don’t want to spend extra money on things we don’t need.  We make do.

We have settled down to having exactly what we need and pretty much no more.  What a simple life we are living.  How fortunate we must be.  To cut down to the bare necessities.  Unencumbered by the clutter of daily living in our 2 bedroom, 1200 sq ft apartment.  I could totally start a minimalist blog.

We only have one big pot and one small pot.  We have one big bowl, which means that sometimes the small pot gets repurposed as a mixing bowl for dry ingredients.   We spend a lot of time washing things for immediate use.  Or sometimes we just don’t make the thing because we don’t feel like cooking *and* washing right away.  I’m sure if I were a minimalist blogger, I would write something about how this makes me more mindful and in tune with the rhythms of something or other.  Immediacy.  Sadly, as an economist, my thoughts instead flow to the inefficiencies of being unable to exploit economies of scale.

It is a lie that minimalism saves time.  It is true that having too much disorganized stuff takes time.  But having “just enough” stuff also takes excess time.  Sure it is easy to find our one big pot– it is probably in the refrigerator full of last night’s dinner.  But having to repackage the food and wash the pot before cooking takes time.  And then the repackaging will eventually have to be washed.  One big pot is enough, but it is certainly not time-saving.  Minimalism takes time.

We could, of course, just not cook the second thing until we’ve finished whatever is in the pot.  But again, that does not improve our quality of life, even if it may be ideal from a minimalist perspective. We like a little variety.  The stuff in the pot will get eaten, but not exclusively for several meals in a row.

Minimalism means not having extra.  Not having extra results in sore feet if you don’t replace your shoes quickly enough. It causes you to wear damp clothing when the laundry didn’t completely dry. Or a kid to sleep on an uncovered mattress after an accident. Minimalism requires the kind of time and flexibility that only minimalism bloggers have, because that’s, you know, their job.

While it is great to be mindful about purchases and possessions, cutting down to the minimum is unnecessary.

I suspect most people have an ideal amount of stuff, and when stuff gets cut below that amount, they go on shopping sprees. So yeah, don’t buy stuff you don’t need, get rid of stuff you don’t use, but it is ridiculous to conform to some arbitrary standard that makes your life harder instead of easier.

Ask the grumpies: MLMs and facebook parties

Rented life asks:

What are your thoughts on MLMs and the abundance of facebook “parties”? My husband thinks the MLMs are being pushed on women/moms who makes less than me and the “freedom” sounds appealing to them even though it looks like more work than my 2 jobs!

They suck and your husband is on point.

OMG we are spending SO MUCH MONEY

Mint keeps emailing to tell me that we’ve had an unusual amount of spending in various categories.  Usually we spend far less on these categories, Mint says.

I’m not even talking about the required increased expenses, like daycare costs doubling or our rent being 2x our mortgage.  I’m talking about the optional things that all those early retirement blogs would say we’re horrible people for doing and a few career women blogs would say we should do more of.

Turns out DC1 is a chatterbox when not in regular organized activities, so instead of having hir home all summer keeping hirself entertained with homework books, video games, novels, and the like, we quickly realized that ze will have to have some organized activities once we get to Paradise because we won’t have built-in playdates to take any of the edge off, at least not until school starts.

And the organized activities available through the park district in paradise look SO COOL.  Unfortunately the prices also add up.  $700 later, DC1 is enrolled in two week-long half day camps (engineering/minecraft/legos) and 2 week-long full day camps (traditional crafts + swimming + games + field trips etc.).  Also swimming for the rest of the summer at an additional $55/week for 30 min each morning.  There’s a lot of weeks left that ze will still be at home alone with DH and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about that.  The park district daycamps that still have spots for the remaining weeks are $300/week (10am-4pm) which we just cannot justify spending.  The YMCA also has some daycamps that are $250/week (7:30am-6pm), and we don’t know if they still have slots or not.  If DH goes crazy we’ll investigate those.  Or maybe DC1 will find neighborhood kids to play with, though I’m not really sure how one does that in these hyper-vigilant parenting days.

At some point I also said “screw it” on moving expenses.  We ended up not driving any of our stuff to Paradise except what will fit in a car or on the airplane.  For $1K we got a couple of big pieces of furniture that we needed (beds + mattresses) and a bunch of stuff we don’t really need, or a higher quality of stuff than we really need (like a wooden table with leaves and wood chairs rather than a folding card table with folding chairs) from a family moving away from paradise.  Then we needed to get a uhaul to pick it all up and I figured, why not get the 2br size instead of the studio.  And yes, we need dollies.  And hey, instead of getting day laborers who are potentially illegal immigrants at $15/hr, let’s spend $200 on a couple of people from a uhaul-connected moving company.  That way I won’t have a  Zoe Baird moment if the president wants to appoint me to government office decades from now.  So I dunno, is $1500 less than what we’d be paying buying cheap stuff new (with potentially free or cheaper delivery), browsing craigslist, and waiting for hand-outs from people wanting to empty out their garages?  Probably not.  But we saved some time.

We also ended up not bringing our piano, even though it’s digital, because it won’t fit in the car with all the electronics DH needs to bring in the car for work.  We might end up getting one free from a friend wanting to empty her garage, but we’ll still have to pay piano movers and probably a tuner.  We can rent one locally for ~$400 for the year including shipping.  Or we could buy a cheaper one from amazon for the year.  We’ll see what happens.

We’re also going to have to store my car for half the year (our tenants are allowing me to keep it in the garage until January, but then they’re planning on purchasing a second car and ours isn’t nice enough for them to rent).  That’s $400, though I could spend $250 on a parking permit at the university, but then I’d have to be vigilant about getting someone to move it the few occasions that the lot has to be emptied of cars.  The bluebook value is $3.5K, and logically I should just sell the car and buy a new one when we get back, but that’s a hassle and I’m attached to my car.

Then there’s all these after school programs at a few hundred dollars a pop (most of which I didn’t value at cost when DC1 was getting them for free in private school!) and we might pay for bussing at $800/year (which is a complicated subject– the school is 20 min away and the bus stop is 10 min away but closer to DC2’s daycare so DH’s drop-off/pick-up commute would be cut in half).

I’m also planning to spend a lot of $ eating out.  And I’ve got all these local vacations planned.  And fun activities for the weekends that will not all be free.

I keep going back and forth between “OMG we’re spending so much” and “screw it.”  I think, as is evidenced by not paying for the $300/week daycamp, that we’re hitting a happy medium that won’t leave us having to dip into our secondary emergency fund (the one in the stock market), but I’m not so sure that there will be money leftover from the trip to allow a kitchen remodel when we get back.  We will see!

Still, it’s hard to see the numbers in earmarked savings going down so rapidly.  Hopefully that pace will slow once we’re actually settled.

Have you been in a situation where you spend a lot more than you’re used to?  How do you feel when you spend a lot of money–Do you feel terrible, do you hit “screw it” and let the floodgates open, or are you super-rational about it?

RBOC. Ra-bock-a-bok.

  • Economists sit around and complain that they’re not getting paid 160K/year.  Except, of course, the ones who are getting paid far more than that.  *sigh*  On the one hand, I am well aware that my salary is pretty darn high for a college professor… on the other hand, it is nowhere near the 160K that my newly hired tenured colleagues are making.  Going on the market could be worth quite a bit of money.  I really should have done that instead of having a baby.  Except I really like the baby!
    • #2 is unimpressed by economists and says phooey on them.  People in my field might top out at $160k per year by the time they retire after 30 years.  MIGHT.
    • But, #1 notes, should we let the men economists make way more than the women?  Just because other social scientists are paid less…
    • No, men and women should obviously make the same amount.  Except me, I should make more.  :)
  • Dear lifestyle blogger, why would I take advice on how to be happy from someone who is so obviously miserable?  Also:  I’m not sure you’re qualified to be a personal finance blogger if you’re terrible with your finances.  Spending lots of money on things that you hope will make you happy but that never actually do is not really a lifestyle I want to emulate.
  • I wish it were legal for me to viciously harass (and also call the cops on) people whose cigarette smoke enters my apartment windows when I have them open at night.  Go kill yourself [slowly via cigarette smoke] somewhere where I don’t have to share it!  Effing jerks, if you can afford to live in these particular buildings then you can afford the help to quit; you just don’t want to.  Asshats.
  • At least we don’t have loud dogs, though.
  • Every time someone types :), an open parenthesis finally finds a mate.
  • Dear listserv members, having a moderated list means that your ideas are going to get moderated, too.  If you send me more email asking why your shit is moderated it just annoys me.  I’m not on a personal crusade against you when you get an auto-reply that says “your listserv message has been sent to moderation”.  Go away.  Love and lack of awareness, Me.