finance and relationships

New Rules of Finance for Relationships Apply to Men and Women

I got an interesting response to my last post What Went Wrong This Weekend – Women’s Edition from a female friend of mine. She took issue with what she claimed was my mischaracterization of women as “gold diggers”, when all they really want is a man who can support a family and pay the bills so that they can have the opportunity to take care of the kids and home. She also pointed out that many of the men in their later 30’s and 40’s that she comes across (or sometimes dates) seem to be just “scrapping by” financially, which is highly disconcerting to her (and a big turnoff).

So here’s my response, which is really directed to all the single men and women that in some way identify with either the questioner or the object of her dismay.

Stay Home Mom

Call me old fashioned, but I’m a firm believer in the benefit of having mom be at home with the kids. I personally have an issue with the idea of Jewish children being basically raised by women of various non Jewish belief systems and cultures. No, I’m not a racist…this has nothing to do with race. But I am a rabbi and I recognize the innocence and impressionability of the minds and hearts (and souls) of our most precious treasures, and I strongly believe that they must be tenderly cultivated by the Jewish mothers who can pass down to them the values and spirituality that they require.

I’m very much aware that most of the nannies out there are loving and trustworthy individuals who take great care of their little employers (despite what you see in Central Park where the nannies are talking on the phone or chatting with their sister nannies while the kids just sit there bored out of their minds with absolutely no stimulation, while the handful of mommies are talking to their kids, singing with them, and playing with them).
But there’s no replacement for a real mommy. Having a mother actively raise a child is priceless.

That’s the ideal. Unfortunately in today’s world, particularly in the Orthodox community, maintaining an above average standard of living for a family is painfully challenging with only one income earner unless that income is substantial. In some cases that income might belong to the lady of the house (i.e. Mr. Mom). Sometimes, even when the husband is earning enough to support the family the wife chooses to pursue her career.

So basically, there really are no rules any more. If a couple can work out an arrangement whereby mommy can (and wants to) stay home with the kids, that’s awesome. If they need the double income, then things need to be worked out. Maybe mom can stay home for a few months, a year, two? Maybe a part time job will suffice? Maybe working from home is an option?

Today’s economic conditions have made the stay at home mom simply an option instead of the rule.

Scrapping By Won’t Cut It Either

Recognizing and accepting today’s economic realities, and the difficulties of supporting a family on one income, the obvious solution would be to save as much money as possible during your single years to bring into your marriage. But alas, as my friend rightfully pointed out, many single men in their 30’s and 40’s are just “scrapping by”. That means they won’t be bringing any cash to the Chuppah. In some cases they might even be bringing credit card debt instead.

You’d be surprised on how little a single guy can get by on, even if he lives in the city. When I was single I had my own rent stabilized apartment on the UWS, which I paid less than 2k/month for. My food bill wasn’t too high. I didn’t spend a lot of money on clothing or toys, and I didn’t go on expensive vacations. Yes, I was able to sock some money away, but a lot of guys don’t. They spend what they make, and are happy as can be. Life is easy. Life is good.

When these guys get married they get the shock of their life. Expenses are through the roof, especially when kids come into the picture. If they only knew that when they were single, they would have done things very differently.

Well, gentlemen, you’re hearing it from me. Start saving, now. That means you need to have a job. If you do already, then maybe you should strive for a better a job? Maybe you need to start your own business (something real that actually can make money)? It’s hard to feel the pressure when you’re single and making ends meet with little to no pressure, so you need to either use your imagination or trust me or any of your other married friends.

Once you stop living for the moment and start planning for the future, you will be viewed differently by the women you’d like to be dating but who are turned off by your perceived lack of ambition or work ethic. You will transform from a “luftmensch” (ask your bubby what that means) into a potential spouse.

Ladies, you can earn and save money too while you’re still single so that you can contribute to the family treasure chest when that long awaited happy day arrives.

If you’ve been blessed with rich parents or a hefty trust fund, ignore everything you’ve just read and have a blast. You’ll be fine, whatever.

For the rest of you, accept that the rules our parents grew up with have changed. Two income families are common out of necessity. Making a living and raising a family now has to be shared by both spouses. Mom might have to work and dad will (always) have to do his share taking care of the kids and cleaning house (if you can afford a maid, go for it!). And save money while you’re single! You’ll need it.

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