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Advice for a Young Couple Wanting to Start a Family

Johannes Jander

So you want to start a family soon.

Both of you work now, but you’re considering the possibility of Mom being able to stay home once the family starts. Interestingly enough, the research is showing that more and more Millennials are making this choice - even more so than their parents did.

Even if this isn’t the choice all of your friends are making, let’s say this is what YOU really want to do. Can you do it?

Answer: Well one thing’s for sure – you can’t … and be like your friends.

A generation or two ago, more women stayed at home when they started a family. In 1970, only about 43 percent of women 16 and older were working, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By 1999, that figure had risen to 60 percent. Today, the stay at home mom is the exception, not the rule.

Few things stir the emotions as much as a conversation about which choice is better for your child. Stay at home moms can be seen as privileged snobs looking down on their more ambitious or less economically advantaged working counterparts. And working moms can seem like over-achieving super-women, trying to have it all.

Both views reflect stereotypes borne out of self-conscious insecurities about one’s personal choices. Reality is probably much more complex.

So I’m not going wade into that fray today – let me just focus on the couple who has expressed a clear preference for mom to stay home and I’ll try to shed some light on what it will take to pull it off.

You cannot have it all. Economics 101 says that when you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to a thousand others. If you feel strongly about the value of staying at home with your child, you need to know you’re going to sacrifice some other things you might also like.

Your lifestyle will be different. Common sense tells you that if you have less household income, your lifestyle will be different. You’ll probably live in a smaller house, in a less affluent neighborhood, drive a less than perfect car and learn your way around a thrift store.

Your freedoms will be different. Less income also means you may not be able to vacation like some of your friends, or afford a certain private school or buy have the all the same entertainment choices.

Your friends may be different. Living in a different neighborhood or having different entertainment options may affect your circle of friends.

Start your new lifestyle now. The time to make all these changes is not when baby arrives, but well before. That doesn’t mean you have to quit work now, but you do need to adjust your family’s spending as if you were not working. Live off your husband’s paycheck and save 100% of yours. That will help you to save money and to prove to you both you can pull this thing off.

Don’t fool yourself. For a young family to decide for Mom to stay home is an expensive choice.

But I also happen to believe it’s an investment some families will find is worth the expense.

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.
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