Monday, December 08, 2014

Crunching Some Numbers

The biggest deficiency in my overall fiscal responsibility has been not having a formal budget. I realize this is a big, big deficiency, but I've always been in the habit of not using credit cards that charge fees, always paying off credit cards so as to accrue no interest, paying bills on time, saving for the future, etc.

When I first was working full-time, I had enough to cover my expenses and put some money away in a Roth IRA, but I realized I needed to earn more, and since I wasn't getting any traction in entering my goal career, I took a job my university degree allowed me to take because it was a university degree, not because of what I'd studied. I was able to do that while still keeping my other job, but on a part-time basis. I hadn't expected to be able to keep my old job, so that was "extra" money. For the first time since becoming an adult, I no longer had to worry about money. Yet, I was still frugal. In addition to contributing to my Roth IRA, I had paid off my car early and saved up roughly one year's gross salary. Heck, I was working too much to spend the money anyway.

And then I got married and paid for most of the wedding and a honeymoon.

And then my part-time job ended.

And then we had kids.

She stopped working,  as planned, for us to have kids.

Since becoming a father, the finances have been a bit of a struggle, although I recently reassured myself by looking at the various accounts intended for retirement to which I'm regularly contributing and concluding that I'm saving enough for retirement. Even more recently, though, it occurred to me that I'm saving enough for me and perhaps a normal wife. But my wife isn't a normal wife. She's expensive due to her medical bills. I'll have to discuss this with my advisers.

I've always looked over our credit card and bank statements, but I recently sat down to work out a budget, totaling up our various expenses. I confirmed what I already knew: that our federal tax refund is keeping us afloat year after year. Such is the case with a family our size living where we do with one income and a wife who needs a lot of medical treatment. Planning for a real vacation or a major purchase or continued education spending is going to take some serious belt-tightening, and I really don't see how we can cut much.

After I presented my wife with my numbers and notes, I went through secretly and evaluated what the situation would be like if I was an unmarried, childless man.

Even if I had the same basic professional career (I could have probably achieved better without my family obligations), I would be bringing home more pay. Sure, when it comes to taxes, I couldn't claim dependents. But not only would I be bringing home more money, even assuming my housing costs would be the same, I'd have significantly lower utility costs, grocery costs, vehicle costs (maintenance and gasoline and insurance), and I wouldn't have most of the medical expenses I have now, most of the insurance I have now,  payment into investments that benefit my wife and children, any of the educational costs, etc.

It was profound to see just how much "extra" money I'd  have left over every month. I could use that money: to save even more for retirement; to buy into a plan for my care when I become incapacitated by age or before that due to illness or injury; to buy a better vehicle for myself; to travel; for recreation and entertainment; for a better home in a better neighborhood; for religious, charitable, and political contributions; for hobbies; to hire services for my laundry, housecleaning, and food.

I know, I know... "What about everything your wife does for you?" and "How could you put a price on having a wife and children?"

Well the answer to the first question is... she doesn't do much, if you read recent entries on this blog. She does drive the kids some places, but without her I wouldn't have kids and even if I did, I could hire someone to do that. She does some of the shopping and some of the laundry, which I could do myself or hire someone to do.

As to the second question, yes, there are some great intangibles that they bring, especially my children. But yes, a price can be put on them. Simply subtract what is spent on/because of them. Sure, if you came up to me and were to offer me all of the money I've spent on my children in exchange for you getting custody of them, I'd tell you to go eat dung. (Hey, dung is a Biblical term.) I love my kids and they bring me joy. They are the best thing my wife has done for me and probably ever will do for me. It would be a miracle if she is around and able to help me in my old age. So my kids are great. That's not really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about what unmarried, childless men should carefully consider. Yes, I knew it would be expensive to have a wife and children (although I didn't know my wife wasn't going to fulfill most of her role), but it helps men who are making the decision to be able to spell it out in practical terms using real-world examples. It's one thing to hear things from someone who is divorced. It is anther thing to hear it from someone who is married and has never been divorced.

I have a lot of stress in my life and there are a lot of things I can't do that I like doing or have wanted to do. Everything is a trade-off. I think, back in the day, I used to have the idea that my wife could go back to work during the hours the kids would be sleeping or in school, and I think my wife used to talk about that, too. It is preposterous now. It's too bad,  because we could really use the money.

There isn't going to be any money from her parents, that's for sure, I don't think we're going to be getting much social support from her siblings. My wife can't/won't do much to further my career or my social life. So, financially and in many other ways, marriage is a bad deal for me. Now, that can all be true and it can still be "worth it" because of the kids alone, but I feel like crap for what I've done to those kids by not giving them two healthy parents providing a consistently affectionate marital example and more athletic or physical cooperation.

And that's where we are.

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