Sunday, March 20, 2011

On being the baby maker...and the bread winner, part 1

A few weeks ago, Jessica at Faith Permeating Life wrote a post entitled On Adoption and Selfishness. As you can see in the comments, I had something to say, but I never got around to it and once I had an idea of what I wanted to say, I realized that it would be a very long comment and that I should probably be nice and just host it on my OWN blog :)

What I wanted to say correlates more towards the end of Jessica's post. Like her, I am the breadwinner, at least for right now, maybe forever? That certainly wasn't how we predicted things would be when we got married.

Turtle's goal has always been to work for the state, in the public sector of his field. After grad school, he worked in the private sector, hoping that he would get enough experience so that when state jobs were finally posted, he would be hired. Well, he's gone for a lot of state jobs, but never hired, so it's been a long haul in the very underpaid private sector. Ironically, most of the private sector places in his field are contracted BY the state to provide services to this population, but of course, they want the most bang for their buck. Also, Turtle's accident and injuries were a red herring of sorts (for many reasons) and we live in a small state, and people talk. Not to be totally paranoid or anything, but it wouldn't surprise us if there was some kind of black mark next to his name. Then he was laid off, which further derailed his career for 18 months, and he's not where he wants to be career-wise, salary-wise, etc. Not at all. If your husbands are like mine, you'll get where this is heading...he feels like he's not pulling his weight, he's not being the "provider," we won't have the household that we both grew up in (raised by SAHMs, dads working), his injuries closed the door to certain field because he could never pass the physical tests, etc. I tell him that this doesn't matter, I didn't marry him for his earning potential, it's the fields we are in, we assumed (perhaps wrongly) that he would be in a state job by now. The list goes on and on.

He considered going back to school while he was laid off, but he already has a masters and is significantly underpaid. He isn't sure what he wants to do even now, because so many fields are unpredictable. (But so is life, I know all too well.)

My salary is 20% more than Turtle's, even if he brings home 14% more than I do, every 2 weeks. I love stats and numbers, so yes, I did figure out all of this. Why does he bring home more? I carry the health insurance, which is 28% of my salary. Isn't that disgusting? Yes, my employer only contributes the first $200 for the employee--any other family members on the plan are paid for 100% by the employee. Fortunately, this comes out pre-tax, but it significantly lowers the amount I actually take home. If I told you my salary, it could sound impressive (but numbers are relative, really). But not at the end of the year, when the W-2 is only 70% of that number.

We do plan on switching to the health insurance provided by Turtle's company as soon as his open enrollment starts. Hopefully this will take some of the financial pressure off of us, and allow us to save some more money.

If something were to happen to me and I needed to go on leave, we'd still have to pay the cost for health insurance. I know that's common for everyone, usually. But to not be bringing in ANY income, then getting a "bill" from my employer for a large sum of money each month would be horrible. Actually even if we were on Turtle's insurance, and I had to go on leave, it wouldn't be ideal, as there would be a large amount of income missing each month, but at least we wouldn't be socked with a bill from my own employer. (By the way, if an employee does go on leave, they'd still pay that $200. How generous.) If Turtle had to go on leave and we were on insurance through his company, it'd be the same thing. We'd be down an income for a bit, and would have to pay in, but it wouldn't be as huge of a bill. Conclusion: either of us on leave would suck! LOL

My company does not offer short term disability and my insurance agent said that it is so costly to take out a private policy, she wouldn't even give me a quote! Turtle's does offer short term disability, but he never signed up for it. I think I will have him look into that when open enrollment comes around.

So this brings me to how I feel about eventually getting pregnant, especially since last I checked, men can't have babies yet. Granted, there are health issues that need to be resolved first, but the money thing does weigh heavy on my mind as well. We cannot afford for one of us to stay home, unless we had multiples, then we'd have to because day care would be too costly. And even then I think we'd have a freak out. Day care around here is roughly $1000/month for an infant. The way things are right now, in the frame of health insurance and take-home pay, there wouldn't be enough, especially if we had to stay on my company's health plan. A family plan is well over $1000/month. Talk about being anti-family!

Another conclusion: We'd have to save up a LOT of money while pregnant to cover the loss of income while I was out of work. At least that's a PLANNED leave of absence. I don't even want to think about the unexpected... Regardless, it's hard to save up months of salary unless you were doing it already OR one person always made much more than the other, so that all you had to do was tweak some spending. Right now, looking at our take home pay, we're about $125 different.

At least we know that if we switch to Turtle's health insurance, we'd be able to free up some of my salary to put away. (So if you couldn't tell, I cannot WAIT for open enrollment to weigh our options!!!) It's not fun knowing that only you can have the babies and you bring in more money than your husband and if something were to happen, it wouldn't be good. I am all for womens rights, especially when it comes to employment and salaries, but what "rights" do I have when I know that if something were to happen to me that impedes my health, it could be disastrous for my family and our finances? I know I'm not the only woman in this situation, too. People worry about families being destroyed by all sorts of things, but to me, this is serious. A lack of understanding employers, a lack of affordable health insurance, and a lack of maternity coverage is also detrimental to families of all types.

This is not to say that I am ignorant of financial difficulties in families where the male is the breadwinner, but at least the burdens I'm discussing in this post are shared, if you will :) Male breadwinners might worry a lot about taking care of their families and the what if's that come with life, but they do not have the issues that accompany pregnancy--both personally and in the workplace.

I'm not looking for equality here. Equality with whom? Some "ideal" super woman? My mom? My friends? My husband? Other men? This might sound contradictory to my thoughts on womens rights, but honestly, equality will never be possible. Equality is not possible ANYWHERE because we are all different--whether between coworkers, friends, neighbors, etc. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, etc. Even two siblings will say that mom likes the other better, even if that's not true and the mom bends over backwards to make sure that everything is fair and equal. Why, then, do we expect equality so much? I'm not saying that a man is less than me, just that he cannot do everything that I CAN do. :) And yes, I worded that sentence that way on purpose. :)

What we need is fairness and consideration. From society, from our employers and from each other.

I've always been anxious about money, I don't know why. Our accountant says it's because of the values with which I was raised. He should know: he knew my grandparents and knows my parents, and does the books for the family business.

Recently, I had a "moment" stemming from some unexpected bills for work done on both cars, which depleted half of our touchable savings. I'm fortunate that we did not have to charge the work, but still. Now we have to pare things down to rebuild that savings, plus some. That makes me think about the future. And how easy it is to fall down into credit card debt. Turtle also has to have his wisdom teeth out in a few weeks, which will be another large chunk of money.

These present expenses and future expenses have really made me take a long hard look at income, savings, money in general. I actually wondered if buying our house was a good idea, if we really looked at the future and what expenses would pop up in a few years with kids. What's so laughable is that even if we were to sell our house and move into a rental, we wouldn't be that much better off!!!! When we rented, a 2 BR was $1000/month. Our mortgage, taxes, interest & insurance is $1968/month. There's no telling that we'd be able to find another rental and still be able to pay for day care and an increase in health insurance.

Needless to say, I feel stuck at times. Part of it is true, even after the housing market crash, our economy still bears heavily on housing. And housing bears heavily on two incomes, for many families. I know I'm not completely stuck though, there are some choices. Right now, I can 1) pare down spending while ramping up saving and 2) look for a new job. Not only for better benefits and more money, but also because there are some other things going on at my workplace right now that sicken me and anger me. If I can improve those 2 things, then maybe I won't feel so stuck.

This post was very long, and might have seemed out of order or jumping around. I hope that whoever reads this might understand what exactly I'm trying to say. And if you don't understand, or just have a question, feel free to ask.

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. I think most every woman shares your same concerns. Whether or not they are the bread winner, the concern about money is always there. The trick is just going with the flow and making it work for you.

    Kids are a major financial strain for the majority of families...but if its something you want bad enough, you find ways to make it work. :)


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