Recently, I have noticed some discussions in the Personal Finance Blogosphere on the choice of two incomes versus having a single income, with one spouse staying out home, typically with the children. Several bloggers have posted articles about this, for example at Brip Brap and at The Digerati Life. While the option may not work for everyone, our preference has been for a single income family, allowing one stay-at-home parent.
Our family made the single income choice eight years ago, about five years after we were married. We did it primarily because I was taking an international assignment and we expected the transition would be smoother if one person focused on the household. When we returned, we continued to be a single income family because we were adopting our daughter. Here are some of my insights from the experience:
- Splitting up responsibilities worked well. One spouse earning income and one spouse managing the household worked well for us. Earning income or managing the household are both full time jobs. We did much better focusing on one than trying to manage both part time. With focus, we eventually ended with more total income and a better managed household.
- Timing the change with a significant overall compensation increase helped. Since the international assignment was a promotion and included cost of living adjustments, the financial impact of my spouse not working was minimized. Over time, the salary at the new level grew significantly faster than the combination of previous salaries, resulting in a higher total income for the family.
- My spouse considers managing the household and caring for our daughter as her "job." She puts in the same effort, focus and diligence as she did for her former paying job, including striving for excellence. My wife's work is definitely worth the estimated value of a stay-at-home mom at $138,095 annually.
- Our daughter has benefited from having a stay-at-home parent. We believe that our daughter has a better quality of life, is happier and learns more from her parents because one of us stays home. To note, we still do have her go to part time pre-school for socialization and educational reasons.
Finally, I also didn't want to miss our daughter growing up and I retired in my forties in October, 2007. As a result, we will now depend primarily on investments for income. Since managing investment income takes far less time than earning a salary income, we will also be revising the household and child care responsibilities to reflect this change. More about the new split of responsibilities in a future post.
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This is not financial or parenting advice. Please consult a professional advisor.
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