8/1/2013 3:30 PM ET|
Benefits of a stay-at-home parent
Losing a source of income stings, but it may not hurt your finances as much as you think.
Before Lance Somerfeld's son was born in July 2008, he was working as a sixth-grade teacher at a high-need public school in the Bronx, earning a salary of roughly $45,000. He left his career to be a stay-at-home dad, wanting to be involved in his boy's early milestones -- milestones Somerfeld's own father missed while he worked a full-time job throughout Somerfeld's childhood.
The decision to become a stay-at-home dad also made sense financially. "For a quality day care or a nanny, it would have cost us about my take-home salary," Somerfeld says. "Why would I pay someone else to take care of my child when I can do it for the same cost?" His wife's job as a corporate actuary also served as a financial cushion.
Somerfeld is among a growing number of men who leave the workforce to raise their children while their spouses continue working -- a group that more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, to 176,000, according to U.S. census data. While stay-at-home dads are becoming more common, women are still the archetype, with about 5 million American moms staying home to take care of the kids.
As it was with the Somerfelds, the decision for a spouse to become a stay-at-home parent largely reflects today's steep costs of childcare. According to a census report released in April, in families where children are younger than 15 and the mother is employed, average childcare costs have increased by 70% since 1985 -- jumping from $84 to $143 per week. In fact, in 36 states, the average annual cost of having a kid in daycare exceeds in-state college tuition, according to Child Care Aware of America, an information resource for parents and childcare providers.
Small savings add up
Melissa Stanton, author of "The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-Tested Strategies for Staying Smart, Sane, and Connected While Caring for Your Kids," says many people underestimate the financial contribution of a stay-at-home parent. "Earning an income and taking care of the kids are of closer value than people think," says Stanton. "Even though the stay-at-home parent isn't bringing money home, there is still financial value to what a stay-at-home parent does."
Converting to a single-income family -- despite the loss of earnings -- can put a household in a lower tax bracket. For example, married couples who will file their 2013 taxes jointly and have a household income of $17,851 to $72,500 will be in the 15% tax bracket, while those with a household income anywhere from $72,501 to $146,400 will fall into the 25% tax bracket.
Dianna Scofield of Meridian, Idaho, was always a savvy consumer, but becoming a stay-at-home parent for her first son in 2006 gave her more time to practice frugal living habits. She started cooking almost all of the family's meals. She also began making foods that take longer to prepare but are less-expensive than purchasing at a grocery store, such as cooking with dried beans instead of canned beans. She even bakes their bread; it doesn't take long, she says, but points out one needs to watch dough as it rises. Preparing more at-home meals reduced the family's food budget, which is the third-largest expense for the average American household, according to a 2011 estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The tendency among stay-at-home parents to eat out less can also save money. Seth Leibowitz, a stay-at-home parent in Westchester, N.Y., says he socks away an extra $50 that he used to spend on lunch while working.
Staying home to take care of the kids can also put money formerly spent on work clothes or dry cleaning to better use. When Somerfeld was working, he would spend $8.50 on suits and $4 on pants at the dry cleaner. Now, he says his typical "stay-at-home dad outfit" is a shirt and a pair of jeans.
He also saves the $5 he used to spend on the subway for his commute to work. A $5 commute may seem paltry to many consumers, as the average American's journey to work takes 25.5 minutes each way, according to a recent report by the Census Bureau. But commuters in San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C. -- the metro areas with the highest mean travel time -- especially feel the pinch. Factor in today's high gas prices (AAA estimates the national average is $3.51 per gallon), and the journey to the office doesn't have a number of workers excited to start their day.
A stay-at-home mom is still a 'working mom'
Stanton says a number of stay-at-home parents feel many in the working class belittle what they do. "I call all moms 'working moms' because both employed moms and stay-at-home moms work," she says.
According to Stanton, a former stay-at-home mom herself, her husband was able to advance in his career because she stayed home to care for their kids, which gave him more job flexibility in terms of his hours and the ability to take business trips. "His 401k is as much mine as it is his," she says, adding she lost eight years of earnings by leaving the workforce.
The bottom line
The decision for a spouse to become a stay-at-home parent has significant financial consequences. In many cases, losing a source of income is too much for a household to bear. However, for some families, the monetary benefits and the extra time spent with their children outweigh the costs.
For a rough estimate to see if your family can afford to have a spouse leave his or her job to take care of the children, see Parents.com's stay-at-home calculator.
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But yes, agree with the article, as long as the stay-at-home person has the temperament for being with the kid(s) all the time with not many breaks and the working parent has the correct expectations. I worked the first few years, then quit to stay home when my husband's pay increased. I've never regretted it, but it is work, more work than most people realize. Hubby would come home thinking the house would be spotless, and it was a train wreck. He asked why, and I told him: we live here full-time now, 24/7, not just half the time. Even worse now that we're homeschooling, because papers and books are everywhere. Oh, well . . .
Sometimes there are other considerations. I worked in a plant that was sold/closed. My wife had a good job. If not, we would have been in dire straits. was able to go on to college, and change occupations, something that would have been impossible with a stay-at--home wife. I long for the Eisenhower years, when families could live on one income, and the wealthy and corporations paid their fair share of taxes!
Me staying at home for the past twelve years has so far been the only workable arrangement, though we are feeling it financially now. My son was born 7 weeks preterm, and had developmental delays until he was five. He required extensive therapies, and I was the one taking him to those appts, and doing the therapy 'homework' with him. And we added a baby sister when he was three, so that kept me busy! Hubby worked a crazy shiftwork and overtime schedule, so me being home was really the only way this all worked out.
I do believe that the at-home parent has to be productive. I do not keep a perfectly clean home. However, I cook quite a bit, kitchen and baths are always kept up, and the rest gets attacked when I have time. Kids and I also do the less desirable tasks of cleaning hamster cages and hauling the trash out. I do not expect hubby to come home from working long days in all weather conditions to cook his own meals. The only thing I do not do (unless hubby is sick, which was the case a few years ago) is yard work.
Like another poster mentioned, I am now re-thinking this a bit. I was a nurse (LVN-still have an active license), but can't get back in the field after nearly 13 years at home. Nurse re-entry programs are quite a driving distance from me. I have applied to numerous jobs, both medical and non-medical. It seems my previous experience works against me, as I had one HR person inquire, "why would you want a clerk job that pays much less than a nurse?" .... because I no longer feel qualified to to do hands-on nursing after so many years..... I also recently applied to a clerical home health job that required nursing experience, with no luck.
My kids are an age where they are getting braces and music lessons. I am ONE credit short for social security. Extra money and employment would sure be nice right now.
It's time to cut your losses, give her 1/2, gnaw your paw out of the trap...and RUN!
I've been a stay at home mom for 19 years. It's so hard to re-enter the work force after all these years.
It's like starting over again...and I find myself asking myself, "Where do I go from here??"
I don't regret staying home, taking care of my home, hubby and raising my kid. It's worth it. I am happy that I have this opportunity to do so.
Now that a new chapter has just begun, I just wish that there is something out there for the stayed at home moms, like myself, who want to go back to work full time.
My husband has been a stay at home dad for 9 years now, when our daughters were 4 and 2 years old. He noticed that my 4 year old smiles like her babysitter and that did not sit well on him. At the same time God blessed us with a job that doubled my income so we were able to do it.
At first, it was really hard on him but after being with our girls and have all those qualify time together, it was and is worth it. Now, they are 13 and will be 11 this year and they grow up to be a happy and secure kids and we are very thankful for that. They have a great relationship with us, but especially with him. They do love and respect their dad. He also cooks everyday so that save us a lot of money and really make our lives very simple.
Not sure if he will go back to workforce later on but we have been doing what we can to save and pay off our house. So that later on, if he wants to go back to school or wants to start something we can support that too.
Childcare can be expensive but I think $45000/year would be a bit high. I pay about $9000 which is about a quarter of my annual earnings but I still have the other 3/4 left. I've also read about what happens when your child is grown or something happens and you have to re-enter the workforce. It isn't easy when you let your skills slide. Most experts recommend you continue to work at least part time to keep yourself marketable.
If something happens and you have to go back to work, be it your spouse loses their job or the kids are older, can you get another job in your field?
It's good to see benefits of a stay-at-home parent, which often get drowned out by the equally valid benefits of both parents working, outlined. Both lifestyle choices have their pros and cons, so in the end it boils down to what's best for your entire family, both financially and emotionally.
some of you are assuming there is a husband around but he bailed out and I won't have the security I had planned on. Thirty years of achieving a goal then he wants to take the ball and go home.
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