I versus Me

This question to MarketWatch caught my eye.

Dear MarketWatch,

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years to a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. I’m 32 and I don’t see a clear deadline for when I can return to work. My husband makes 150k a year and is contributing to his 401(k) at 3% with a 3% match.

My question is, how do I secure a financial future for myself? Obviously I need to go back to work but am I too late in the game to be able to enjoy “retirement” years? Any help is appreciated!

Here’s a married woman who seems stuck on using “I” and not “we”. I thought marriage was a partnership. What this women should be doing is having a detailed financial discussion with her husband including working out a plan to assure income and survivor benefits for both husband and wife.

And, her husband should be saving far more than 3% with a $150,000 income.

6 comments

  1. Richard…many thanks for asking the right questions no matter how painful …pretending to be a victim of something and/or someone is the new badge of honor.

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  2. Your point of “We” vs “I” are well taken as well as saving more than 3%. The source article is not cited for me to read the answer.
    However to help diversify the retirement income sources, she can still put money into a traditional IRA. Most people do not realize this. If she had any earned income, she can put money into a Roth IRA. Although the limits are ridiculously low, I was able to do this for my wife at a much older age than this women. Now she feels that she is contributing to “our” retirement by covering one week vacation or all the presents and gifts for a year (using the 4% rule). I think it will also help this women that will stay married for love and not being “trapped” by financial handcuffs.

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    1. I agree with your comment about having a ‘we’ conversation but I needed to comment about the other statement about saving more than 3% . I believe you are showing your age. Today $150 k is a decent income but not a very big salary. Think about buying a $650K home on which you placed 25% down. That leaves let’s say 450k mortgage. With that the taxes in most places in North Jersey that means you probably have a property tax of $14k +/-. So between P, I and tax the monthly nut is close to $3,000. If you have an income of 150K the take home is likely about $120k after Fed tax and perhaps down to $115k after state tax. Then take out the 3% for 401k and that leaves about 110k take out say another 6k for health insurance if the company pays a piece of it or much more if its all on him and the take home is down to 104k annually or about $8700 per month. Now dedcuct the 3k and they have about $5700 per month with which to live. Does that sound like it can cover all the normal expenses plus some savings for their 3 childrens education, food and car expenses ? My gut answer is yes but not with a lot to spare. Back in 1980 I made about a third of that and while I saved for my sons eductaion I recall that I was unable to place a full max in my 401 k. It was a struggle to put my one child through school and so while I see the $150k as decent, I won’t criticize the fact that only 3% is going to a 401k. If they can keep up with 3% the 5K per year should leave them in decent shape in 30 plus years from now, as they should have at least $600k in the 401 k in present day dollars. Also as things go forward they hopefully will increase the savings rate to a higher percentage as the mortgage will start to be a smaller and smaller percent of the their expenses. As you often remark, it is important to plan, but from my quick read of this couple in their early thirties they are doing okay.

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      1. I tend to look at it from another angle. If you earn $150,000, you first save $15,000 pre-tax so it’s actually less. Then you set your living standard. The issue is not I can’t afford to save, it’s what can’t I afford to spend. Maybe you can’t buy a $650k house, lease an expensive car, go on Disney vacations or whatever. $150,000 is still more than twice the national household income median. Actually is there an alternative, except a much lower living standard in later years?

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      2. After reading the article, I agree that they are ok, mostly because they are doing something and planning ahead. Hopefully they will be able to save more than 3% later.

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