Real Talk for SAHMs: Be honest about the economic fragility of marriage as a career

This one is going to be a quick list of brief points because each small point could easily be a post of its own (and probably will be a few months down the road).

Simply put, it is wrong for conservatives to encourage young naive Christian women to marry and set up as SAHMs without any understanding of the financial issues involved.  What follows are just a few of the big deals that conservatives ignore when they say things like “avoid college, girls!” and “marry young and stay home and have kids, so long as he has a job!”

  • No paying into Social Security.  Housewives are protected if the marriage lasts, for as long as it lasts.  But if it does not, well, now that SAHM is out of luck and at best dependent on her adult children and church/local community.  And that is also not nearly as common as it ought to be, just as divorce/abandonment of conservative Christian SAHMs is not as rare as one would like.
  • Risk of outliving husband (all states).  This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but having no ability to earn a living and a husband who doesn’t have a pension means big problems when his steady paycheck or his own Social Security check disappears because he’s dead.  This is further compounded by the pressure of some conservative subcultures to have men be self-employed without bothering to explain the financial ramifications of that choice.
  • General risk of divorce/abandonment at all (varies by state).  This varies not least by whether a state is community property or not (and the difference is really, really, really important from a risk management perspective).  It also varies by what I note last, what kind of husband a woman ended up with.
  • Discouraging real vetting of husbands, which is what makes the divorce/abandonment problem an especially major one in the modern era.  By this I mean that women are encouraged to simply marry a man with a job who attends church regularly, regardless of whether he is disordered in important ways that can affect his ability to provide for and maintain a wife and children.  Mostly what is embedded here is a sort of residual expectation of paternalism/tolerance of flaws towards a “hardworking family man” that simply does not exist anymore as some sort of widespread norm in workplaces.  Women can’t afford to SAHM with a guy who is constantly getting fired for anger problems just because maybe thirty years ago he would have been shunted off to a back office because “he’s got a family to support, man”.  They also are really in for it if they marry a “self-employed” man who bounces around from scam to scam, never really able to put together a real earnings path for his family.  And there is very little mention of this issue when conservatives promote early marriage and no college for young Christian women.

It is not easy street and financial security if you just marry at 19 and start having kids.  A lot of young and middle aged SAHMs are finding out the painful way that there are financial risks nobody warned them about and which nobody will help them with when they hit.

Some conservative family values, eh.

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10 thoughts on “Real Talk for SAHMs: Be honest about the economic fragility of marriage as a career”

  1. I really appreciate this post. It reminds me very much of my best friend who was ready to marry her fiancée right out of high school (he had already graduated college). He insisted that she get go to college and refused to get married until she had earned her degree. His rationale? What if something happens to me? You need to be able to work and support any children we may have. She has been a SAHM all of her married life, and has worked part time as her children got older and it made sense for their family (they have 5 children). I think his point was well taken. And in my own case, if I did not have the benefit of my education and workplace skills, my daughters and I would have been rendered destitute when my husband left. I don’t think one should dismiss the necessity of an education – these days you can barely get a secretarial job without a BA/BS in something. I think it’s very dangerous to assume that there will always be someone there to take care of us and our children. We need to know that we could support our family if it became necessary.

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  2. Yes, yes, and yes. The risks are worth the rewards in my experience, but the risks are very real.

    That last point? It’s a source of irritation to me that so many in the reactionary/red pill sphere denigrate young marriage minded women for having reasonable standards while they wax on about their quest for the perfect wife, fully formed and ready to go.

    This one goes on my delicious links list.

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  3. Oh, on the issue of death:

    When you marry, go ahead and get a big fat life insurance policy on you both while you’re young and healthy. That’s what we did. Good planning should be able to mitigate destitution as a result of a husband’s death.*

    I’m aware that there is the issue of paying the premiums, which is why I strongly suggest opening the policy when the premium will be most manageable, while young. It’s not a guarantee that financial hardship won’t later lead to dropping the policy, but it’s better than nothing.

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    1. i just read the other day, can’t remember where, that your husband’s life insurance should be 8-10 times his salary. My husband’s policy is adequate and it gives me peace of mind that I would have enough to pay off the house, pay for a 2 year degree for an ultrasound tech or something of that nature or to open a licensed in-home daycare, not to mention health insurance for my family while I’m in school. It would buy me a few years time to get on my feet and to pay for child care if needed so I could attend school.

      I went to business school for an Associate’s Degree in Management and worked in management for 10 years (even while going to school) before we married. However, with how technology has changed so much in the last 18 years since I got my degree, i would need more schooling at this point to earn a breadwinner’s salary. I feel like my degree is obsolete and I haven’t worked outside the home for 14 years so I feel my previous experience wouldn’t count for much either.

      One other thing, my husband has a smaller life insurance policy on me that would cover funeral expenses and leave enough left over for a few years of child care expenses should I pass away. SAHM’s shouldn’t forget their worth to the family and what the cost of their not being there would be for their husband and children. A husband without a Stay at home wife/mom would need to pay for child care and possibly household help without her.

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  4. This is one of those things that gets caught up in the ideological battles of liberal versus conservatives. If careerist feminists are bad, bad, bad, then doing the opposite and doing nothing to have a skill set marketable to the broader community must be good. I think there is also a tendency to ignore the rapidly shifting realities of our economy in favor of remembering “when I was growing up, you only had to…”

    I have also wondered whether some are assuming significant parental support financially. The possibility of parents or family in general filling in the gap is something that varies widely from family to family in both ability and willingness.

    And the point about discouraging the real vetting of husbands is something that really warrants being talked about more.

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  5. No paying into Social Security.

    IIRC, divorced women can collect on their ex-husband’s record if they do not remarry. Also, as I’ve learned first hand, widows can collect SS starting at 60 on their husband’s record as well, but with a massive cut compared to collecting at 62. If you’re disabled, you can collect at 50, but again with a cut in terms of what you can collect. My mother as a widow feels that SS cheats her out of money even though she collected two years earlier, and feels that she should get her SS and my father’s SS.

    Mind you, like Elspeth, I’d recommend that one buy considerable amounts of life insurance. Buy as much as you can, but at minimum, enough for gentle glide path for your spouse. I’d also recommend some proper planning to ensure an orderly transfer of assets to avoid lawyers and probate courts. Wills tend not to be magic bullets that people make them out to be, especially if there are considerable debts that need to be paid off. Plus, make sure that your wife and your responsible children know how the finances work.

    at best dependent on her adult children

    That’s actually a real problem for some women now as their adult children are still dependent on them, and unable to properly support them in these cases.

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  6. One of the big issues, too, is that like marries like. A university educated professional man is very unlikely in this day and age to marry a woman with no education. For a start, she would have missed out on a key life experience that marks a milestone in contemporary society. In these days of hedonic marriage, having a spouse who is an intellectual equal is as important as one who can cook. A girl who doesn’t get an education can certainly get married, but she will automatically exclude a whole cohort of desirable men by not pursuing higher education. Plus educated men tend to get married later, not earlier.

    Then there’s the issue of home schooling. The people calling for women to stay away from college often seem to be in favour of home schooling. How good an education will children receive at the hands of someone who is herself not educated?

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    1. Well, I am certainly no promoter of the current hedonic marriage model, and obviously I don’t think everyone is suited to college or homeschooling. But it’s also not essential to be a college graduate to be educated or homeschool effectively, either.

      Everyone overestimates how often university men married not-bright beauties. There’s a reason plenty of period work talks about how disastrous smart guys marrying dumb women or vice versa can be as a match.

      There are many ways a woman can prepare herself to marry young without having to go to college, but she does need preparation beyond being willing to have kids young and stay home with them.

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  7. I agree with this. A woman needs to prepare to have a valuable skill(s) if she plans to be a stay at home mom or wife.
    Also, even if a husband makes a decent salary, sometimes the wife may still need to work and I think having a college degree could make it easier for her to find a job that has flexible hours with good pay.

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