New Visitors Privacy Policy Sponsorship Contact Us Media
Baby Boomers Family Green Home and Auto In Critical Condition Just Starting Out Lifestyle Money
-advertisement -
News & Advice Compare Rates Calculators
Rate Alerts  |  Glossary  |  Help
Mortgage Home
Auto CDs &
Retirement Checking &
Taxes Personal

Plan to stay at home with the kids

Two years ago, Katie Lancaster left a $60,000 a year corporate job to stay home with her two daughters. She wasn't sure that her family could afford to live solely on her husband's income, and as determined as she was to have more time with her children at their northern Minnesota home, she was also concerned that letting go of her hard-earned position could set her career back.

But after considering the matter for a year and a half, she and her husband decided to take the risk, figuring the worst that could happen was they'd run out of money and she'd have to return to work.

"I can't even describe how frightening it was once we made the decision and I actually left the job," she says. "I felt like I was jumping off a bridge, but I discovered that the ground actually wasn't that far away."

According to Public Agenda, a public opinion research organization, 70 percent of today's parents believe that having one parent minding the home front is the optimal situation, yet two-thirds of the parents surveyed say they believe it's unrealistic in today's society.

- advertisement -

Many financial planners, as well as parents that are already staying at home with their kids, say that it isn't impossible or as tough as it looks.

Planning ahead
Living on one income is not as difficult as some people think, says Mark Oleson, director of the Financial Counseling Clinic at Iowa State University. He encourages couples to practice living on one income to prove that it's possible.

"If you think of it in terms of lower taxes, and the fact that you might not need a second car and that you won't have child-care expenses, you could discover that it's more realistic than you imagined," says Oleson.

Too often, people convince themselves that they can't make it without ever sitting down and taking a hard look at the possibilities.

Athens, Ohio, mom Tori Griffith and her husband did exactly that. After rolling back her work hours in her human resources job to part-time, she still felt that she was spread too thin between her office and her home. She and her husband began to prepare.

"The best thing we were able to do was to begin paying off our debts," she says. "We practiced living on one salary and put all of the other toward debt."

They also got in the habit of paying ahead on the principal of their mortgage and cutting back on personal spending habits. Other couples have used the same theory and put one spouse's salary toward needs for the baby until its arrival, buying a crib one month, a car seat the next, and so on, rather than racking up a heap of credit card debt right before the birth.

Talk with a professional
The best strategy for a couple planning the solo-income lifestyle is to sit down with a financial planner and get an objective opinion about their current circumstances.

Oleson recommends that couples shop around to find a planner that works on a fee-only basis. Some planners receive sales commissions for life insurance or other products. It's wiser to find an expert who isn't peddling a product to advise you on life insurance or college savings plans for your growing family.

"Couples need to find someone who gets $100 or $150 an hour regardless of whether purchases are made, to make suggestions in their best interests," says Oleson.

Talk it out
Yet no amount of number crunching is going to make a husband and wife automatically comfortable with the decision if other factors aren't taken into account.

"I think the most important thing is just to talk about it -- to communicate what they think and feel about it," says Oleson.

"It goes both ways. If I'm the person that's going to continue working, I need to be a little more sympathetic to my spouse who has made the decision to work for the betterment of my child and family. That person is the one sacrificing and I need to be aware of that.

"There is more to it than just what financially makes sense. There are a lot of issues to sort through. Planning the finances is what couples think of first and foremost, but if the financially sound answer gives you an ulcer, there is no value in that."

Living simply
Trimming household expenses sounds like a great idea in theory, but anyone who has tried to change spending habits knows that it can be challenging.


(continued on next page)
-- Updated: March 9, 2004
If you're looking for ways to live on the cheap, the free Frugal U. newsletter is for you!
Looking for more stories like this? We'll send them directly to you!'s corrections policy
See Also
Calculator: Should my spouse work, too?
Nurturing kids or career?
From big business to the rugrat race
Living below your means
Frugal U. definitions
More Frugal U. stories

top of page
- advertisement -

About Bankrate | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Online Media Kit | Partnerships | Investor Relations | Press Room | Contact Us | Sitemap
NYSE: RATE | RSS Feeds |

* Mortgage rate may include points. See rate tables for details. Click here.
* To see the definition of overnight averages click here. ®, Copyright © 2016 Bankrate, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Terms of Use.