I’ve come across so many articles lately about “How to Live on 1 Income!” or even “Why doesn’t America have mandatory maternity leave like other countries do?”. I get it — it’s even something that I blogged about before — years ago. But since then, I’ve kind of realized some things. Such that now whenever I hear the question “How Can We Live On One Income?”, I mentally reply “As long as your income is Bill Gates’, then you’re fine.” For a while, I thought of it as an income problem. Or I mentally think “Just have the expenses of Mother Teresa, then you’re fine.” I would think of it as an expense problem.
Okay, not really. It doesn’t take Bill Gates income to support a family. And you don’t have to have expenses of a single nun. And while, at the end of the day, it does come down to expenses and income, I’m guessing (just guessing) that in my circle of friends, there are 1-income homes making $40K/year and they make it work. And there are probably also couples making $150K/year who struggle to pay all their bills. So, it isn’t the amount that’s critical — it’s the decisions made that make all the difference.
But even that statement is kind of misleading. Because, I’ve realized that:
- It’s the decisions your parents made when you were growing up that affect you today.
- It’s the decisions your spouse’s parents made when you were growing up that affect you today.
- It’s the decisions that you made after high school that affect you today. (Student loans, rents, mortgages, car loans, etc)
- It’s the decisions that your spouse made after high school that affect you today.
- It’s the professions that you’re in that affect you today. (Income potential as well as other expectations like dress code, cars, houses)
- It’s the professions that your spouse is in that affect you today.
- It’s the part of the country that you live in that affect you today. (Particularly housing has a huge effect on cost of living)
It’s all kinds of things. I’ve just come to realize that being/having a stay-at-home spouse is a complex issue. It’s not SOLELY a function of the decisions that you make today, but it’s influenced by decisions made for the last couple of decades and decisions not even made by you.
Over the years, my mind has gone from “You just have to make a budget that only spends what you make.” to “You just have to have 1 income that makes enough money to support your needs.” to “I think people need to really be wise about their decisions and the decisions that they lead their children too because financial decisions can have a really long-term effect.” Aka: It’s complicated.