Q: Thank you for writing about the fact that sometimes a person’s financial troubles are due to underearning. I am a stay-at-home mom with three children and my husband does not make enough money. As a result, we aren’t saving anything for retirement and college and in fact we’re going deeper into debt every month. He does not understand how much kids or for that matter life costs where we live. His solution is that if I want more money, I should go back to work, but that was not our deal. How do I get him to realize that he needs to generate more income?
A: Hold your horses.
You may be right that your lives would be easier if your husband made more money, but that does not relieve you of the responsibility of living within your means. The fact that you’re not saving and piling up debt shows very clearly that you’re not taking that responsibility seriously.
You have choices about how much to spend, and if you’ll look around in your community you’re likely to find families surviving on a lot less than your family makes now. You may have to make sacrifices, get creative and stop keeping up with the Joneses, but you can do it.
If you aren’t willing to make that effort, then your going back to work may be the only solution. It doesn’t matter what “deal” you made back when you decided to stay at home; that was then, this is now. The agreements couples make about money often have to change over time as circumstances change. If you demand a lifestyle for your family that exceeds your present means, then you need to help finance that.
Either way, you may find that your taking responsible action has a positive effect on your husband’s earning ability.
Right now, he may feel like every dollar he earns goes into a black hole; why should he work harder or look for a new job if the extra money he makes will disappear into that maw? If you switch gears and become an effective money manager, he may come to believe the extra effort is worthwhile.
In any case, you need to stop rowing against your husband and start rowing with him. Lay off the poor guy, and take care of your end of things.