Future Financial Security

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m working part-time this year. I am so lucky that the combination of my in-law’s willingness to watch Monito for a half day and my administration’s willingness to scale back my schedule has allowed for a really wonderful childcare situation for us. It is truly the best of both worlds: we save money and know our child is being cared for by people who love him very much. We are so, so fortunate to have this opportunity and honestly, I don’t know how we’d make it worth otherwise.

Amazingly, my in-laws have agreed to watch Monito again next year, if I remain part-time. Again, I am so thankful that they are doing us this MASSIVE favor, something we could never repay, ever. The debt we owe them is large (they don’t see it that way, but I do) and I am so grateful.

But this situation is not without drawbacks for our family. Of course, the drawbacks only affect me. It’s hard to get back to the city to pick Monito up by 1pm, which is the time we agreed upon. It means I have to be walking out the door less than ten minutes after my last class, which is difficult logistically, as I have to prepare my room for an after school camp that uses my space. I drive during my lunch hour, which means I don’t get to eat with my staff. Without that opportunity to socialize my job becomes very isolating–I can go days without exchanging more than a few words with other adults. Leaving before lunch also means I miss my prep period, so all my grading and planning has to happen at home, and all my copies have to be made before class starts. Basically, this situation not only makes it a lot harder to teach, it strips my job of the thing I like most about it (actually, it’s the ONLY thing I like about it). It makes my work situation pretty unpleasant.

Of course, the shitty situation at work is worth it for the money we save and the amazing family-provided child care we get for our son. I briefly considered other options for next year, options that involve me working full time and Monito being in paid-for care, but it quickly became apparent that no other options worked for our family. I know that what we have is priceless, it just sucks that I’m the one who has to sacrifice to make it a reality. (And please know that I recognize the sacrifices my in-laws are making are far greater. Again, I’m forever indebted to them for doing this).

And the shitty work conditions are not the only sacrifices I am making. By working part-time I am putting my future financial security at risk. Every year I work 80%, I am contributing (and my district is matching) only 80% of my normal contribution to STRS (teacher social security). It might not seem like much now, but if I work part-time for many years, early in my 30s, it really adds up. Small amounts in retirement now produce big returns in 30+ years. Every year that I work part-time I’m hurting my retirement significantly.

I am a teacher. I don’t make much. I’m only able to put $300 into a 403b account every month and still pay my bills. Retirement might feel impossibly far away, but I need to be thinking about it now. I want to assume that Mi.Vida and I will be together when we retire and that combined, our savings and retirement will be enough for us to live off of. But that scenario is not a guarantee. I’ve watched three relationships come to an end recently; one was a 25-year marriage. I don’t just blindly assume we will make it for the long haul. I need to protect myself–I can’t depend on Mi.Vida’s ability to take care of me, for so many reasons.

I read recently that while most working mothers return full time after the birth of their first child, the number drops dramatically after the birth of their second. Logistically it becomes much harder to manage two children and frequently one parent needs to go part-time to make it all work. That parent is usually the mother. When I look ahead to when Osita is at school and Monito is still in child care, I can’t fathom how we’ll get everyone where they need to be if I’m leaving the house before the family is even awake. I won’t be surprised if I end up going part-time and coming in later, instead of leaving earlier, like I do now. And the idea that I could be doing that for three or more years (on top of the three years I’ve already been part-time) kind of terrifies me. That many years of reduced pay, and reduced retirement contributions, will make a huge difference down the road.

I wonder sometimes, how SAHMs do it. Financial security is probably the number one reason that I would be hesitant to stay at home. And while I think it would be hard not to contribute financially–and I don’t know what that would ultimately do to my identity–I would be even more worried about spending all those years, early in my life, not putting money away for later, and/or not contributing to social security or a pension (do they even have pensions anymore?).

My parents are approaching retirement age, and after five years unemployment (my father), they are in dire financial straits. Neither has been contributing to retirement in half a decade, and they’ve been taking a little from saving every month to make ends meet. They will be working five, maybe ten years longer than they expected, and they have been VERY good with their money throughout their life. Watching them struggle with financial challenges they never expected to face has me concerned for my own future. I need to be thinking about these things now, when I can really make a difference in what I have later.

I have a lot of issues with the fact that I’m the one who is part-time now and I will most probably be the one who is part-time later. It doesn’t seem fair that I’m the one who has to sacrifice her financial security over a prolonged period of time. I’ve raised my concerns with Mi.Vida and while he understands them, he doesn’t feel there is much we can do about it at this point. And I suppose there isn’t. As soon as our health insurance gets picked up by Mi.Vida’s work I’m going to start putting more into my 403b–and my kids’ college–accounts. Hopefully it will be enough to offset how much less I’m vesting in STRS. (And yes, I know we’ll never have enough to send them to college. Just the thought of how much that is going to cost terrifies me.)

Do you work part-time or stay at home? Are you at all worried about future financial security, things like retirement? Have you felt uncomfortable about the sacrifices you’ve made for your family? 

13 responses

  1. Good Morning Esperanza!

    This struck a chord with me this morning as I wake up with my daughter — she’s an early riser (6am for sure) and my day begins with my husband getting himself ready for work and prodding our eighth grade hockey player out of his deep slumber –that kid plays hockey until 10:30 at night some nights… anyway, this post reminded me of so much. I stay at home now — I was an English Instructor at a community college where I taught English — I always wanted to teach in my field — which was Creative Writing/Fiction but in order to do that I needed to write a book — presumably a well-reviewed one — and I always thought I would publish and then move on to a different academic life. I taught for ten years — five different institutions — the last eight years luckily in our community college system which allowed for me to patch together part time work to get full time hours/benefits including retirement. The eight years I spent working there (full time hours but only the last few years on a tenure track) I socked away the maximum into my 403b — I had a good salary at the end when I left (45K) but they still had a pension plan (I think that’s now bankrupt) — which was the real show — those teachers may work their ass off — but the benefits, at least in our system, were far better than most professions — and had I understood the full implications when I took my sabbatical to pursue treatment and ultimately left — I would maybe have thought twice about it. I still have my money in the same place — and have seen it grow over the years since I’ve left — it’s exciting to see. It’s a smart move what you’re doing — my brother gave me that advice when I was 28 and he was 100 percent right. That said, when G and I married and I tried to balance my teaching life with parenting a kindergartener even half time as I did then with my stepson — it wasn’t something I could do well. My husband has his own small law practice — which gives him flexibility and an income twice what I made. He made smart investments before I came into the picture — for instance he bought a rental property — a small 4-unit apartment building that he first lived in and now we rent out — he just hit a sweet spot in the housing market in a good location at a good time — and that place more than anything allow us to live as we do now. It’s all a balancing act. To put Z in care before now wouldn’t have been worth the return for us, for me. I think about it now that she’s in preschool though — I want to continue to pursue my own work because it is part of my sense of self — but I can’t seem to imagine how I will do it and mother how I want to. It’s a privileged choice for sure — I look at my mother who was un/underemployed most of my childhood — only getting back into teaching for the last 20 years of her career — long enough to retire –I don’t ask her specifics but she lives on very little each month — shares a house with a friend and holds tightly to the nest egg given her when her mother died (50K at most). It is not the retirement most people envision — but she and her partner share a car, live in the city, enjoy their life together. She has what she needs and a tiny surplus, no more. G and I certainly talk about it — I eased into this identity — it wasn’t a seamless fit at first — but it’s an ongoing evolution …

    I get it,

    Pam

  2. I stay home, and I manage all of the money. When I quit, I had a huge retirement find (for being 36) due to my employers amazing ESOP plan. It does bother me that that fund is now not getting contributions, but its ok. B maxes out his 401k, has a decent match from work, and gets stick awards each year that we flag for savings of some sort (cash, college, IRA). I’ve got a pretty good handle on it, but always want more in savings.

    We have a prenup. We do. For this very reason. What B puts in retirement now is 50/50 mine if we divorce. Same with what I contributed before I quit. What we each brought into the marriage (a large retirement fund for me, a decent one for him) is ours if we divorce, but every saved penny after we said I do is communal 50/50 split no matter where it came from.

    If I didn’t have the prenup, I’d be nervous about this. I panic over money. Like nothing else!

    • I was rushed as I hammered that out. Let me just say, by no means are we rolling in cash and savings, I just prioritize savings because I’m scared to death of financial ruin. If you know me at all, you know that money is my #1 worry 99% of the time. We make sacrifices in the here and now to save money for later. I don’t like that we put as much into college as we do, but it’s important to B. I think we’re sacrificing our own retirement for our kids college, which is not what you’re supposed to do. It’s infuriating. So yes, I do worry. But I try to control what I can, and dream of the day I can make some money again. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I dream about it. Even $1,000 a month would make me feel better!

      • This is interesting to me, Courtney. My FIL jokingly asked if we’d get a pre-nup to “protect [me] from Charlie’s debt” before we got married, but it was never actually on the table as a real thing ppl our age did – I suppose b/c neither of us had significant financial contributions to bring to the table at the time. 🙂 Really, Charlie had never saved a penny before he was with me, and I had spent all of my money paying down my car/school debt. Now our savings is almost nil (excluding my Roth IRA that I’m actually good about contributing to since I was 19), and that’s something I really want to rectify. The college funds we’re putting a small amt towards, but ya, unless things significantly change for us financially, we’ll never be able to bankroll our kids’ college funds, and I’m okay with that. I’d rather not stress in retirement b/c we had put more money towards that. So much to think about…

  3. I was nodding in agreement with you; not sure how SAHM’s do it. I like the fact that I’m bringing in money and that, if we happen to divorce, I can take care of myself and not worry about money or how to help take care of my family.

    The whole cost of college makes me cringe and I can tell you, sadly, we’re not saving near as much and probably waiting for his parents, who are weathly, to help pay for the tuition. Sad maybe but it’s the truth.

    I do like that you are going to start putting more into your retirement account as soon as your healthcare kicks in. It’s a good start. And who knows, maybe you can put more into it through the years.

    p.s. how in the world are you writing such fantastic posts? I mean, with your schedule. My hat is off to you!

    • Recent posts brought to you courtesy of…PUMPING!!!! If I didn’t have to stop and sit down during those 20 minute chunks, I probably wouldn’t be writing right now.

  4. I come from a very long line of SAHM/SAHW. Of my aunts, only one has ever worked (she’s not married). My mother stayed at home until Bro and I were in school. McRuger’s mom stayed home until McRuger was in high school. It’s not unusual in my family for women to never have a career, and just watch the children/home….going back generations. It’s a model that I am very used to seeing and experiencing!

    I had a career (English teacher!!) until I got married and we started fostering children. It took me a while to get used to not bringing home paychecks. In reality, I could NEVER bring home anything close to the money McRuger makes. And, in the end, it was worth more to us to have me home and taking care of things here…rather than working for hours and not bringing home much. To be honest, it took me a while to come to grips with my new identity…mom, instead of teacher. Heck, some days I still struggle with it. However, most days I enjoy the peaceful rhythm of being at home.

  5. I’ve been a SAHM for nearly three years. I’m fortunate in that I was older when Piglet was born (35, almost 36) and I had a career for 14 years before I decided to stay home. I have a decent pension from my employer that I worked with the longest, but my husband is military. The moment I married him at almost 32, my career immediately took a backseat to his. The first year of our marriage was very hard simply because I didn’t realize how much I would resent him for that. From that point forward, the career path I carved for myself the first ten years turned into just a job from that point forward. We aren’t in most locations longer than three years, sometimes less, so taking six months to find my ideal job was never really feasible.

    It’s better now, especially since I have a new identity as a SAHM, but it didn’t come easy. I fully intend on returning to the workforce when the twins start Kindergarten. My husband can retire from the military in 3.5 more years, although we hope he gets another promotion and goes longer, so we will then have his military pension, plus the salaries from whatever jobs we both end up with after his military service is over. We also max out his retirement plan and both of our IRAs each year to build up a retirement fund. I have to admit, I’m proud of myself for getting my Master’s and all of the experience I did before I got married and had kids. I may not be able to immediately go back into the field at the same level I was at before staying home, but I have enough faith in my abilities that I can still carve out a decent career after this short intermission. It also gives me peace of mind to know that I could support my family if something happened to my husband.

  6. We are really struggling financially. We just cashed in my measly retirement from the 2 years I worked in public school, because we have debt to pay back. It’s so frustrating, and I worry about it, a lot. All I have ever wanted to do is be a SAHM, and it fits me. Also, in our situation when we never know when we are going to be in the hospital for days at a time, one parent has to be available at all times. But I don’t know how our future is going to look. R contributes to TRS, and we have a couple of other accounts (roth ira, 403B) that we contribute a few hundred dollars a month too. And I will inherit a substantial amount from my parents, but hopefully that won’t be for a long, long time. I really should think about retirement more, but getting from one paycheck to the next is stressful enough! I’m currently testing the waters of a home-based business that will hopefully ease some of the financial stress of our marriage. But yeah, it’s hard. I still believe it’s worth it though, for me, to stay home.

  7. So I’m still in school, accumulating vast swaths of debt and my spouse is working part time right now (and getting unemployment for the time being to bring us up to about a 3/4 time income). It meant we had no childcare costs in the fall which was cool and kept us afloat but we have zero savings and a pathetically tiny retirement fund and it freaks me out every time I consider it. Absolute terror. We’ve lost a lot of earning time to me being in school and I despise it and we probably have to do something drastic to get my loans repaid or we will never retire, let alone help cover any kind of college for the girls. We are considering that my spouse may stay home with any future babies/small children depending on the availability and affordability of childcare because it’s possible to leave and re-enter the spouse’s field while mine is much closer to impossible to leave (mostly because of the enormous size of my student loan debt, some because of the nature of the field). I suppose that’s a benefit to having nothing, should things not work out for us: there’s nothing either of us brought into the relationship to worry about protecting. Sigh. I’m really glad you’re considering retirement. My parents somehow didn’t, despite marrying rather on the late side, and it’s a mess now and I am really worried for the moment coming soon when they are out of money and out of health and they wind up with us.

  8. It doesn’t sound to me like you’re doing so badly. I contribute probably a little less than $200/month to my 401k – and we’ve taken money out a few times when we’ve fallen behind on things. I’ve never worried about my future financial security as separate from K’s though. There are definitely times I get frustrated and think “I want out”, but in reality I think we’ll be together for the long haul. I was the breadwinner for the first few years, and he’s definitely the breadwinner now. But he wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the support I provided (and he couldn’t do it now if I weren’t doing the bulk of the child care). So I do think it’s all “our” money.

  9. For us it’s BARELY worth it for me to work anymore. If we didn’t have help from my in-laws for daycare 1 day / week, I’d probably just stay home. There comes a point where it’s not worth it to work for an extra $100-250 / week, you know? Also, no jobs around here provide health care benfits, 401k, etc. so we don’t even have that sort of financial incentive. *sigh* I can’t see myself being any good at all at being a SAHM, but yet I wish I had the financial flexibility to be more part time than I am. Who knows, it’s always a moving target I guess.

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