I saw this question on Yahoo the other day and thought how many times clients have asked me this question over the years. It used to be a wife question, but there are many women who are doing incredibly well in the workforce so you have stay at home dads and moms alike today. Here’s the question. . . . My wife and I just had our second child and I work from home. She works in an office about 30 minutes away. I make approximately 2-3 times what she makes and now she went back to work and I stay at home with the kids and work but it is a nightmare. If we put the kids in daycare, it would cost us just about everything she takes home in a month so that’s not an option. The only thing is that she has very good medical benefits that would cost us $1000 or more per month regularly. We can afford to pay our bills completely on what I make but money would be tight for extras and there wouldn’t be money for medical benefits. Does anyone have any experience with doing this and how did it work out for you? I just feel that I can be more productive at work and make more money if I don’t have to take care of two kids at the same time.
So, what should you consider when a spouse may not go to work anymore?
1. Treat this analysis like a business decision first– Every business has three main parts to the profit and loss statement. They are income, taxes, and expenses. When you are considering a big family financial decision such as going to a one income family what you are trying to compare is how much net income you are going to lose against how much expenses (and time) you are going to save. Let’s leave benefits aside for the beginning part of the analysis. If your spouse makes $50,000 per year, will it reduce your overall tax bracket with less income in the next year? How much real net income do they bring into the family business? What type of expenses will disappear when your spouse no longer has to go to work? If you spend the time to create detailed breakdown of your family income and expense, you should be able to find whether the job loss will be a net positive or negative after your spouse quits their job?
2. Assets your overall benefits situation- If each spouse in the family gets a corporate benefits package, typically some of the benefits will run through one spouse and some of the benefits will run through the other. The key benefit is really health insurance, so you need to determine if the working spouse’s health insurance is adequate enough for your family if you lose the other spouse’s health insurance from the job change. Will it cost your family more money? Will you have to change your doctor network? Will you lose your HSA or FSA opportunities? In addition, if the spouse quitting work has low cost life insurance or disability insurance, these might be other expenses that are added to the overall cost benefit analysis.
3. How will bills get paid and money come out of the ATM machine- One of the interesting social shifts today is that more and more people are getting married later in their working careers. This is typically the time where each partner has built up some assets, but more importantly is used to having the independence of their own checking account. If one spouse quits their job, it is important to have a family discussion on how the non-working spouse will access cash if they need it for basic expenses. You should also determine who is going to pay the bills and really the overall job responsibilities for both the working and non-working spouse so there is no built up resentment. This is the time to get clear about expectations.
Deciding whether you will be a family of either one working spouse to two working partners is an incredibly tough decision no matter how many kids you have. Some people make the break to one working spouse when they have their very first child like we did as a family over fifteen years ago. Others eventually break at kid number three when it feels more like zone defense than playing man to man defense. Consider the pros and cons and make sure you go through a thorough analysis so you can make the smartest money move for your bottom line.
Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc – The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and Services
Ted Jenkin is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice to the X and Y Generation.
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