Adjusting to a lower income as a family through a simpler lifestyle
Simple Living: A Less Stressful Life?
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My husband and I are considering a change in our lifestyle. Mainly, my husband is considering a career change from a professional job in the chemical industry to teaching at the college level. This would mean a significant cut in pay for our family. I am a stay-at-home mom of two children. The new job would require a long-distance move (at our expense) to a new area of the country, and also trying to sell our home.
I am looking for advice from people who have made changes in their lifestyle. We are hoping to simplify our lives --a less stressful, more fulfilling job, and living closer to family. Any advice, tips and stories would be appreciated. Thank you.
I have known several people that have done what you plan to do. In most cases, it does not work out. It is very difficult to lower your standard of living. It is not impossible, but very difficult. Taking a significant cut in pay is almost certainly is going to lower your standard of living. A long distance move, a new job, and selling your home will be stressful for a time. Your children will not like to leave their friends and find new ones. A long distance move and selling your home are a large expense.
Everyone wants a less stressful and a more fulfilling job. However a lower income can also be stressful. Will a lower income allow you to live where you want to? Will a lower income allow your children to go to college where they want to? Will a lower income allow you to have the car and home you want?
If your husband has been with his present company any length of time, he may have some retirement benefits that he will loose by changing jobs. One possibility you might consider is for your husband to take a less stressful job with his current employer. That way, you save the cost of a move and selling your house.
What We Learned
Over a year ago we sold our house in Alaska and moved to Washington, simultaneously becoming a one-income family. Here is what I learned:
- Put the house on the market as SOON as you are sure you are moving. It is much easier to sell if you are in town, and the hassle of having to move to an apartment in the meantime is nothing compared to the stress of making payments on a house that you aren't living in.
- Call ahead and figure out the cheapest company or method of moving that suits you. Then save a little more than you think you will need for the move. Remember to add hotel if you will need it, eating out, gas, etc.
- Since you are into simplifying, I would get rid of ANYTHING you don't need before you leave. Less to pack, less to unpack, less wieght, less to get broken and lost. I got rid of anything I had duplicates of, TONS of extra clothes and shoes, all toys my kids had outgrown.
- However, DO NOT get rid of quality items you paid good money for, like furniture, computer, electronics, etc. Those items will require more money to replace than you would get selling them, yet you will have less income. (Incidentally, my friend made this very mistake and sat on lawn chairs for nearly a year while trying to come up with money for a decent couch.)
- My final tip is this: Put the money you recieve from the sale of your house into a mutual fund. 1) this will provide a safe place for your money with a higher return than a standard savings. 2) It is not easy to withdraw money from a MF, so having your money "tied up" will force you to learn to live on the new income. Think about it this way, if you do use up your savings while trying to live on one income, it will be gone AND you'll still have to survive without it! So learn to live without it now, then when it comes time to buy again you will have a down payment tucked away.
Changes In Attitude
Don't expect it to lower stress. You have to change your attitude to lower stress! When I took on a part-time teaching job, I had to work three times as much to teach a class in a subject which I thought that I was thoroughly familiar with! When I retired and started living in a travel trailer, traveling from one fishing hole to another, with no schedule, then my stress level went down, my eyesight improved and I felt different.
What's "Worth It"?
In my opinion, it would mean to determine whether or not this major change is worth it or not. It's worth is not measured in dollars and cents. It's worth is measured in how much it would mean to you as a family. Ask yourself where your priorities lie. Are your priorities based on money, or they based on family closeness? Then, if your priority is more money, you know what to do. If your priority is more family time (if said new job would allow more), being closer to those you love, etc., you know what to do. In other words, not all pay is in your paycheck.
Bea in Pittsburg, Ks.
Advice from the University
I too moved from the fast paced private sector to working for a large public university. The salary decrease was a shock. But I do love working with students so it all works out in the end (or so I keep reminding myself whenever I need to make a large purchase and must creatively budget for it.)
Working for a university does offer many fringe benefits that you don't get in the private sector. For example, my husband (who also works for the university) and I have full health coverage, eye care and dental. I rarely had such comprehesive coverage while I was in the private sector (or the premiums were priced out of sight.) We have a medical center at our university and as long as use university doctors are costs are minimal. I recently had surgery and since my doctor has privileges at the university hospital my cost was $0! The insurance picked up everything.
We have access to all the university concerts, plays, etc. usually at a discount because we work here. We can use the student rec center for free so we save in health club fees (and ultimately doctor's visits). We can take up to 10 credit hours of classes for free per quarter. My husband is working on a second degree and this time it's costing him nothing!
While the bottom line paycheck is significantly lower, factor in the free "extras" in a university position and you will see that your "pay" is much higher than you think.
Professor's Life Not a Picnic
Apparently you have a quite affluent life at present. But, do not think that the life of a professor is less stressful than one in business. Of course, it depends what you mean by "teaching at the college level." But, despite popular myth, professors generally work extremely hard. They just get paid less. They have a great deal of flexibility in their work (they decide what subjects are important to research, for example, not the customer, generally) but they often work 50-60 hours per week with no notion of overtime. Getting tenure is a gruelinbg process and even after getting tenure the amount of work can be overwhelming. Teaching is only about 20% of a Professor's job. Research, writing, publication, administration and committee work form the remainder of the work. Lastly, don't assume that the ability to teach college level students just comes automatically or that any one can do it. Students and colleagues today are much more demanding that that. It takes the average starting professor at least three years to figure out how to teach (with no slack given to the fact that he or she must also publish during that period).
Professors do it for the freedom of deciding what to work on. They do it for the psychic rewards of teaching. They do it for the love of creating knowledge and always working on something different. But, do not think that they do it because the stress is low. They do it even though what they do is unappreciate and misunderstood by so many people in the society.
Now, maybe, you have found that low stress college, where teachers can waft in and out, meeting with students only on the lawns and dreaming wonderful ideas. But, in my experience for many decades as a professor, that place is a myth. Being a Professor is a wonderful life with many psychic rewards but low stress and the ability not to move household are not among those rewards.
I am sorry if this makes you rethink your plans but better to go in with your eyes open. I hope this is helpful.
In 1983, my husband left a good job in California to take a temporary job so that we could move to a smaller town to raise our three children. We settled in a small town in Washington and lived on ten acres where are children raised sheep and pigs. I did not work when my children were smaller and enjoying their 4-H, baseball and other activities.
With all the so called bad that happened there (husband had major accident at work after 8 months, etc.), we were so glad we made the move. It was lonely at times as moving can be, but our family became very close. My husband's job became permanent and life was good. Our children were glad to live in the country even if the house was older.
Two years ago, my husband took a job in Montana and after two years I joined him. It was difficult for me to give up a good job and know that I would earn a lot less money, but we are married for better or worse. With no children this time we made the move. There have been difficult times and still are. We have not sold our house in Washington, but have it rented to nice people. We are currently renting a beautiful log home that is for sale also. Even though are income has dropped significantly we have our money under control and have even been able to reduce our debt considerably in just a few months. I would never dream of telling someone whether to move or not. I think one should count the costs. However, do remember that life is full of ups and downs wherever you might be. Moving can be expensive, lonely and depressing, but it can also be an adventure. I thank God that he has taken care of us in our moves.
If circumstances have put your family in debt, find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle.
I have changed my lifestyle two or three times. One of the main things I've discovered is that if we don't take care of the inner stress, it doesn't matter what physical changes we make. When I would move to a more rural or slower environment, within weeks I would be as busy as ever. My wonderfully perceptive daughter would say "Mom, it doesn't matter if you move to the slow lane, you always create your own fast lane".
I have taught in colleges and currently am a Director of a Business Development Center. I think your husband will like the academic atmosphere--however I have one challenge for you--not to discourage you, but to help prepare you. Colleges, all colleges, are notorious for gossip, backbiting, inner political warfare and territorialism. If anyone in your husband's department feels the least threatened by him, he will have to bear that. HOWEVER--if you s tick with it, try to stay clear of the campus politics (some you have to be involved in), you will do fine. Often the amenities that come with the job make it all worth it. For you, try to find organizations, volunteer activities, etc. that are geared toward your interests. Usually there are lots of wonderful activities in a college town.
"Simplified" 25 Years Ago...
Go for it. No one has ever said on their death-bed, "I should have spent more time at the chemical plant." I switched careers 25 years ago after a very successful 20 years with NCR corp. I went into civil service for less stress and more security. I was shocked when I received that first pay from the new job. What a drop in income! However, I was able to subsidize myself (from savings and second jobs) until the inevitable raises came around. I recently retired, as was the plan after 25 years, and the pension (2% for each year of service) gives me half pay and Social Security helps the gap. And speaking of money, as I told them when asked if I could afford to retire, "they'll never be enough money but I've never been hungry."
My wife was a stay-at-home mom and we raised four children on a single income. Your plans could include returning to the work force for the college educations later but never "to live on."
Better than any other way to say it she needs to read (possibly from the public library for free but a family serious about this really should invest in their own "ready reference" copy of) _The Simple Living Guide_ by Janet Luhrs.
The ISBN number is 0-553-06796-6 and is available in paperback for from $18.00 to $20.00 (well worth every penny of the investment) and if they belong to a book club, especially a paperback book club, they can probably get it cheapter by far.
The author covers every aspect imaginable with tips, common sense, practical, and believable advice on simplifying your life. Everything from housing to how to better deal with holidays, financial issues, she covers it all!
You can read and have on hand for the cost of a dinner out what talking to a large crowd of people "might" tell you a part of.
Reviewed August 2017
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