I can across an interesting article that coincides with what I’ve been thinking hard about these past few days. It’s about black people and wealth disparities. You can read it here . As the product of two generations of a middle class family (grandparents and parents), I don’t have anything to show for all their hard work. No property, no trust fund, no assets. Just a crippling amount of student loan debt. And I know that I’m not the only one in this predicament. Growing up, my father worked and my mother stayed home to care for us. She decided that she wanted to raise her children and homeschool us so she did. As a result, we lived in a single income household. A phenomenon that I’m experiencing now with my household of one. There are so many things that I want to do now but I won’t be able to because of my financial obligations. Transitioning to teaching or a post-doctoral position would require a pay cut of about 20k to 40k per year and I can’t afford that. This year one of my goals is to become more financially literate and I’m working on it. However, I wish that I didn’t have to start from the bottom and if I ever make enough money to afford kids I want them to have a different experience. It’s like I’m starting off at a disadvantage and don’t have the opportunity to at least start at baseline. Definitely tough.
The topic of this article is somewhat near and dear to my heart. To the extent that I was seriously considering doing my dissertation on something related to it, but decided not to because I already have some strong opinions that would most likely prove me to be biased. The article raises some valid points as it relates to rates of marriage. Among the people I know, many are working to become financially secure before they get married. In contrast, many people from my parent’s generation got married young and struggled. One positive thing about that path is that if you’ve already made it through hell when your marriage is young, you’ll probably be less likely to leave the partner who stood by you during that dark period. However, while there’s nothing wrong about being in love and being poor, it’s not the easiest of lives to lead. Add children to the already financially stressed couple and you have a recipe for a super stressed relationship that could easily lead to divorce if the couple has not developed some good communication skills and a genuine friendship with each other. One of the premises of this article is that marriage can lead to wealth but the rates of marriages are declining. People are waiting longer to get married. I know of a couple who became wealthy simply because they only lived off the salary of one of the partners and then invested the salary of the other partner. Decisions like that are impossible when you’re living on a single income. People want to know that they have some sort of a buffer in marriage and aren’t coming into it with nothing. For some people, marriage is the best financial decision that they’ve ever made. I wonder what the lasting effects of people getting married at later ages will be on wealth accumulation as a whole?
One thing that I’ve admired is women who voluntarily become totally 100% financially dependent on their husbands in the early stages of marriage. Something about that makes me shiver inside. While it could be an expression of true love to go into a marriage without any resources of your own, it’s a scary thing. They say that the area of conflict in most marriages is money. It would seem to me that there would be added stress in that department when one person is making all the money ALL the time. I’ve met women who want with all their hearts to leave their husbands but they can’t because they don’t have any way to support themselves. While there may be housing options available, many do not want that experience. They don’t have the resources needed to sustain a decent quality of life, and many times it’s vastly different than the one that they had with their husband. While some may argue that keeping finances separate and having your own money goes against the “togetherness” concept of marriage, I think it needed in quite a few circumstances. You aren’t planning for failure but you are leaving room for the humanity of both people. Relationships and marriages fail all the time. And while we all want to believe ours is the exception, wouldn’t it be smart to have a backup plan just in case it isn’t? Dropping several socioeconomic classes because you had to leave despite not having adequate resources is a hard experience to have. But it can be avoidable. Not in all situations, but in some.
In the past few days I have been presented, or rather challenged with a big decision. I’m usually pretty good at making decisions. I have my own method of looking at the pros and cons and then coming to a conclusion. Once I make a decision, I rarely change my mind because I’ve already done the leg work. The reason why this particular decision is so hard is because it is indicative of a battle between my emotional side and my rational/logical side. I’ve found that the hardest decisions happen when you have to decide between what you want and what you need. This is especially hard for me because I have always been someone who put responsibility and duty over convenience or feelings. I know that making one decisions will be really good for my mental health and general state of well being but it will cost me a huge chunk of my career goals and will mess up my entire five-year plan. Yeah, making a decision based on my emotional side would make me happy. But is life really about happiness? The truth is that I’ve spent so much time working towards my career and abandoning it would be a huge waste. It all comes down to how bad I want it and how much I’m willing to sacrifice to get it. Hard questions. But at the end of the day, I can’t make a huge decision based on my emotions because even they are subject to change. I may not want to make a decision but I NEED to. Plus, maybe I’ll be able to pinpoint a place where I’ll get the best of both worlds. Until then, I’ll just hang out in the valley of decision for a little while.