Good morning everyone! Please help me to welcome Brian Fourman, who is a former private school personal finance and Bible teacher now turned stay at home dad and blogger. His hobbies include rental real estate, running, cooking and sports. In his down time, he loves hanging out with his four kids and hearing his wife talk about all the cool things CPAs do at work. You can check him out providing encouragement and inspiration on his blog at Luke1428.com or by connecting with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Let me know if you would like to guest post on RFI.
So, you want to be a stay at home dad? Great! I’ve recently become one after several long years of planning and deliberation. Needless to say, it’s a decision that cannot be taken lightly.
In order to reach this point, my wife and I desired for several things to happen. First of all, my wife needed to REALLY aspire – out of her own conviction – to work outside the home. I didn’t pressure her or twist her arm to make this happen. In fact, on many levels, she wanted it more than I.
Secondly, there were of course financial matters to consider. Going from two incomes to one is no picnic. We both had to focus on making the monthly budget work minus the extra income. We knew there would be less spending done – especially for wants – than there was when we both were contributing to the monthly inflow.
My wife and I felt we needed to reach a level of financial independence for this decision to work properly. We decided there were seven hurdles that had to be cleared before I could commit to such a move. Fortunately, a few of them we began to work on years ago before the stay-at-home-dad idea even ventured into our minds.
Interestingly enough, the first hurdle may have been the toughest of all.
Hurdle 1: She makes more than I do
This is purely a mental obstacle to overcome. Both parties will have to be in total agreement with this arrangement.
Generally speaking, a man’s mind is wired differently than a woman’s. A man’s existence is clearly tied to his work. It defines who we are and is a major way we find meaning and satisfaction in life. I’m not saying women don’t have this desire or an ethic to work, only that it’s a more innate quality for a man. We live to work.
So if someone desires to become a stay at home dad, they will have to be at peace with the idea that their wife will be the breadwinner of the family. It can be emasculating, especially when seen through the eyes of other men. “You are a what?” they will say with a snicker and quizzical look.
Will you be able to deal with their good-natured ribbing? Can you live with the questioning behind your back? Will you have the courage to admit this was a joint decision in which you were a willing participant? Can you admit that you actually enjoy it?
Men, if you can’t make it past this issue, then don’t even consider being a stay at home dad. You will become resentful of your wife and feel unfulfilled in your personal life. That will only lead to harm coming to your marriage.
Hurdle 2: A sizable replacement income
Remember that job you decided to give up? How are you going to compensate for the loss of income?
The best answer is that your wife will have to make up the difference.
I mentioned earlier that our decision had involved several long years of planning. Officially, it was five years from the time the idea entered our mind to the realization of the goal. It took that long for us to muster the courage to start the journey and then for my wife to transition careers, from being a high school math teacher to Certified Public Accountant.
With four kids in our family, we knew I could never become a stay at home dad and survive on her private school teacher’s salary. So a career was needed that not only provided an initial income boost but also had the opportunity for significant salary increases in the future. Being a CPA fit right into both of those qualifications.
Her income now is equal to our combined income as educators. It covers our monthly expenses and even leaves room for continued savings to accrue.
Hurdle 3: Still able to fund retirement
As an addendum to hurdle #2, the income your wife brings in will need to be adequate enough for the continued funding of retirement. To neglect this basic step would be setting yourself up for financial hardship as you both age.
Hurdle 4: Limited or no debt
Next to increasing the monthly income, this is the biggest financial issue to take care of. If significant levels of debt still need to be paid off then it would be wiser if both spouses continued to work. Getting out of debt remains a top issue in working your way towards financial independence.
I mentioned that it took us five years for me to transition into this role. I probably could have done it in year three. However, my wife and I were committed to paying off our mortgage early before I quit my job. So for two more years we held our monthly budget numbers low and used the excess income from our jobs to pay extra on our mortgage until it was gone.
I did not want to be in debt to anyone if we were going to lose one income.
Hurdle 5: Have grown an adequate nest egg
I’m 41 years old. My wife is 39. We’ve been working non-stop since we graduated college at age 22.
So we’ve been able to build up the 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency savings fund. This would be a necessity at the most basic level if you wanted to become a stay at home dad.
During most of that time we’ve also contributed to our retirement in some way. For five years, I was heavily funding my 403(b) retirement plan through work and have seen that steadily grow. Then in 2005, we both began maxing out our Roth IRA accounts each year.
In addition, since the beginning of our marriage, we’ve been taking money from any other source we could find – tax returns, money from family, selling of personal items, etc. – and investing in index and mutual funds. All the while keeping lifestyle inflation in check so that our expenses weren’t outpacing our income.
There have been a few bumps and missteps along the way but by consistently being focused on saving and investing, we’ve been able to grow an adequate nest egg. This has created a safety net for us should we fall on hard times for some reason.
At this point you might be asking, “What size nest egg is an adequate amount?” You’ll have to decide that for yourself based on your lifestyle and the stability of your wife’s job. For me personally, I’d want enough saved/invested so that I could survive a long drought of no income – perhaps 2-4 years. If that seems extreme consider we do have people who lost their job in our most recent Great Recession that still haven’t been able to return to full-time work.
Hurdle 6: Have a passive or side income source
Cleaning the home, cooking meals, shuttling the kids to T-ball practice and being the classroom dad at your kid’s school is a full-time job. But my guess is you will still have some free time on your hands. What better thing to do in that time than bring in some side income to help the monthly budget just a little.
We’ve been fortunate to learn the rental real estate business. We own three properties I manage that bring in additional income each month. I’ve also started monetizing my blog at Luke1428 and have plans to increase that going forward.
There are a multitude of things that can help generate side income. Find one that fits your time schedule and area of expertise. It will help lessen the pressure on your wife and provide some financial cushion. It will also help satisfy that inner desire you will still occasionally have as a man to contribute financially to the good of the family.
Hurdle 7: No expected lifestyle inflation on the horizon
If you don’t have the discipline to hold the line on spending, have a kid going to college soon or, by some unfortunate reason, see huge medical expenses on the horizon (like kid’s braces), then I’d proceed with caution. These expenses, along with that new home you’ve been dreaming about, may not be possible to handle on one income.
Could you be a stay at home dad without clearing all these hurdles? Perhaps. You may have little choice as your personal life situation demands it happen.
However, the more of these areas you can check off and have firmly tucked away in your back pocket the better chance of success you will have.
Good luck men! I know it’s a tough decision. If you need a listening ear or have a question about your situation, you can reach me through the contact information in my author bio.
What other hurdles are there to being a stay at home dad? Is the “she makes more than me” issue overblown in today’s culture? For the stay at home dads out there, what has your experience been like?