Should Women Work Outside the Home (Even Without Kids!)?

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I once heard the opinion that a wife should not work outside the home – even if the couple has no kids.  

Once upon a time, I thought that advice was silly at best, and perhaps even verging on ludicrous.

That was eleven years ago.

Today, I’m much more inclined to see the wisdom of that advice. I still don’t agree, but I see the wisdom in it.

At least it is important for young couples to acknowledge how being a DINK (dual income no kids) family could establish an unhealthy financial foundation.

Why is it Dangerous for a Husband and Wife to Work Outside the Home Even When they Don’t Have Kids?

Young couples typically buy based on both incomes.

My wife and I were financially ignorant when we got married.

In fact, I often pray a prayer of thanksgiving that God didn’t make us pay a higher price for our ignorance.

Once of the greatest early financial blessings for my wife and I was that we took a job with a church that had a parsonage. Yes, I’ve argued that a parsonage isn’t usually in the financial best interest of a minister, but in our case, it was a blessing.

It was a blessing because it kept us from buying a house we couldn’t afford.

Had we not had a home provided, we probably would have done what every normal American (and Canadians sometimes) would have done. Gone to the bank and asked them how much house we could buy based on our incomes. (A practice, by the way, that I advise against).

We could have bought a house based on two incomes.

That would mean when the kids came around, we would still need both incomes. As a result, our lifestyle (which we love) would be completely different.

Consider also car purchases.

Husband is working 20 minutes away. Wife is working 30 minutes away. So both need a car. Both buy a car knowing that their income can cover the car loan payments. (A practice, by the way, that I advise against).

However, it is quite possible that by the time the kids come along, there will still be debt to repay. It is also entirely possible that you’ll want to upgrade to a larger vehicle even if you don’t have the money because you’re trying to support two car payments.

What Should DINKs Do?

Should Both Husband and Wife Work Outside the Home When they Don’t have Kids?

I think it is a fine for both to work outside the home under one condition. The couple decide to live on only one income or a small percentage of the second income.

What? I know that’s not very fun advice. It may sound painful, but it will ultimately be a blessing.

This is basically what we did to prepare to have my wife stay home.

Why should DINKs live off one income?

They are likely in their lowest salary years of their lives, and it’s only going to get worse when they drop down to one income.

Young folks fresh out of college don’t typically make as much as people who have been working for The Company for 25 years. Of course, there are exceptions, but typically what you make today is less than what you’ll make in five years.

Compound a lower salary with only one income (if one of you stays home with the kids).

In order to prepare for that season of famine, couples should store up.

Here’s what do to with the savings of living on one income.

Pay off debt

Within the first few years of our marriage, my wife and I decided to live debt-free. We were only going to borrow for a house, but nothing else. It’s an amazing feeling owning what you have. Put away your calculator for a moment and think about how it will feel if you don’t have to make decisions because of money.

Yes, even pay off your student loans. Sure, you might be able to hang on to those loans for ten years. But why? Pay them off.

Build up an emergency fund.

If you’re planning on having kids, the future will be uncertain. When you have only one income, you’ll want an emergency fund as a back up in case anything doesn’t go as expected.

With a kid in the home and one income, it will be a lot harder to reach your emergency fund goal.

Develop a healthy giving habit.

Some Christians think spiritual habits = outward spirituality. I’m not one of them. I think healthy habits help foster a healthy heart.

Giving is something we learn from practicing. If you wait until the time is right to give, it will probably never come. Start learning to give now.

What advice would you give to DINKs? Have you made any mistakes you regret? What did you do right?

P.S. I wrote this post and then realized that I’m going to be in a village this week (no electricity, no internet), so I won’t be replying to any of your comments this week. However, when I get back, I’ll be happy to join the conversation.

Comments

  1. Marie Melson says

    Craig I agree to your post entirely! As a young couple, my husband and I were financially ignorant! We too feel that we have been blessed by a low price for our ignorance. We dug our feet in the ground and have determined that debt free, we will be! We have 3 children and a dual income. Within two weeks of digging in we had an established emergency fund and within 2 months two debts eliminated! We were living above our means due to the bank making our decisions, but God has kept us focused and determined. 2 debts is a small amount of ground gained, BUT we’ve had drastic unexpected expenses come up since then and we’ve been able to pay for them without touching our emergency fund! The numbers don’t compute from our end, but from God’s side…everything does! And as for my opinion of tithing. We live much better off our 85-90% than we ever did the 100%!

  2. Michelle says

    If you are a woman, don’t assume you are going to want to work when you have kids. I have talked to many women who changed their mind once the baby came, but since they did not plan, she was forced to work. Live off one income, save, get out of debt, then you are free to chose what is best.

    • says

      Michelle,
      I completely agree. Some people do think they’ll want to work, but the moment they have kids they change their plan. Better to be prepared for the possibility that you may want to stay home.

  3. says

    You know, I initially was a little irritated at the thought of the whole ‘wife at home’ thing. I don’t mind staying at home, it’s just the mindset and expectation. However, I continued reading and understand what’s going on. I agree that a lot of people are ignorant with money, even if they aren’t married. My husband and I are lucky we somehow got our heads on straight either by our parents or life experience. That’s one thing we try set as an example at Cents to Share. We want people to know it’s possible to be debt free, have a savings, simply be responsible. Like you mentioned we live mostly on my husband’s salary, and my work is for savings — long term and short.

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