Deciding Between Working Part-Time versus Full-Time

Question

My husband and I have been married for about a year and a half. We always knew that I would be a stay-at-home mom once we have kids (hopefully in another year or so), but I realized this past summer that even before having kids, I would love to be home more and spend time being a homemaker. We already put all of my income in savings , have no debt except for the mortgage and have a decent amount in savings and our retirement accounts. I still wanted to bring in some income, so I talked to my husband about working part time.

We decided that I would talk to my boss about it after the first of the year
since we were on separate insurances for 2008. I am now on my husband’s health insurance and am all ready to talk to my boss about working part time.

Here comes the problem. Last week, my husband’s employer laid off a number of people and said that more lay-offs were possible. I am now worried that if I start working part time and then my husband gets laid off, we wouldn’t have access to cheap health insurance (my employer only offers health insurance to full time employees). I’m not too worried about the loss of income since my husband is a really hard worker and would be able to find something that would keep us afloat (though probably not replace his current income until the economy gets better).

My heart’s desire is to be at home more to take care of my husband and our home. It seems irresponsible and risky right now to cut back to part time, though. My husband is completely neutral and says he’ll support me either way.

Help!!!!

Thank you,

Becky

Answers

Plonkee says:

I instinctively think that you shouldn’t drop back to part-time. But then I think that access to health insurance is incredibly important and I worry about money and security – just because your husband works hard, doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be able to find a job quickly, nor that he’ll bring in enough money to keep you afloat.

Having said all that, if you believe that you can cope with an extended layoff and are comfortable with the risk, then go for it. Just be sure to keep up your retirement fund and maintain your savings.

Pinyo adds:

It’s a tough call, but it may not be as difficult as you think if a few things work out in your favor. First, you want to find out if your husband employer offers COBRA and how much it will cost your family if you do have to use it. Make sure this is within your family’s budget and the coverage is acceptable. Second, find out from your employer how difficult it would be to switch back to full-time. My thought is that COBRA will protect your family to the end of the year, allowing you to switch back to full-time to access all the benefits in case your husband loses his job.

If you do go to part-time, your husband will become the primary provider for your family. With this in mind, you should consider adjusting his life insurance coverage to make sure your family is well covered. Additionally, you will also want to increase your emergency fund reserve; especially in this economy.

Lastly, I’d like to encourage you to think about building alternative income streams to add another layer of cushion to your finances. There are a lot of resources on the web that discuss this, but a good place to start is with my Extra Income Guide.

Good luck. And don’t be afraid to do what you feel is the right thing for your family.

Gibble says:

I think it really boils down to the chance of your husband being laid off. I mean nobody really knows for sure, BUT I would suspect he has some level of gut feel about whether he will be impacted or not. I would do the math and make your decision based on the worst case scenario, he does in fact get laid off. Maybe he should be proactive and begin exploring the job market now to see how quickly he could find something.

I certainly don’t want to keep your from your desires, but with the current state of things, and considering you currently have no children at home, I would be a little hesitant about making a big job change like that right now. I would consider waiting until his company stabilizes and he feels more confident with his job.

There really isn’t a yes/no answer to your question as it really boils down to how important this is to you, and how big of a risk taker you and your husband are.
Best wishes to you, and let us know how things turn out for you!

My opinion:

Like I said, I had to make this decision 11 years ago. My husband and I were due to have a baby in February, and my husband worked at a small radio station that didn’t pay real well. The insurance situation at the radio station was up in the air.

In the end we both felt that I should be a stay at home mom, so I quit my job. Everything worked out, but it wasn’t always easy. If you feel that you can handle the risks associated with dropping to part time, go for it, and don’t look back. If you’re unsure, hang on for a while and wait to see what happens to your husband’s job.

What would you say to Becki? And if you have a question for the M-Network, feel free to contact me, and your question might be featured on my blog! Be sure to mention that your question is for the Ask the M-Network series.



Author

By , on Mar 4, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{11 Comments}

  1. Jen:

    If I were you, I would continue to work full time and bank money like crazy until you have kids…

  2. mb:

    ok, this is from someone with no plans for kids, but my reaction is to wait a few months for things to stabilize before going part time, and save the extra income. as others mentioned, picture the worst case, and be finacially ready when your baby does arive. best luck.

  3. Erin:

    Someone else already pointed out that COBRA is expensive and it is…we’ve done it and it was tough. I’d stay working and defer making a long-term decision until you have more information regarding your husband’s firm. The truth is, you may not know for awhile, but peace of mind is valuable.

  4. My husband and I were faced with the same decision a few years ago. Although we weren’t in as good of shape financially as you guys are my husband made really good money and I didn’t “have” to work. I wanted to be at home more, and I chose to take a low paying, part-time position that was very rewarding. A few months down the road, my husband’s job situation changed, he wasn’t laid off, but his income decreased and I had to take on another part-time job to bring in more income. Holding down two-part time jobs ended up being more stressful and kept me away from home more than my previous full-time job had. It ended up working against us in the long run. A year later I found out I was pregnant with our first baby and I wanted to be a SAHM. I quit both of my jobs once she was born to stay home with our daughter. Then 3 months later my husband was laid off. In his current job he makes less than half of what he made previously and now we are in a tough situation financially, and I may have to sacrifice staying home with our daughter to take on a part-time job.
    All of this is to say, that my advice is to keep working full-time for as long as possible. You really don’t know what is going to happen in the future with your husband’s job and how your decision to cut-back your income will change things down the road. I know that your desire is to be at home, mine was too, but you will have lots of time for that later on once you have children. If you really want to stay home once you have children, make the sacrifice right now, and work full time and put as much money into savings, and paying down your house, as possible. Then you won’t have to face the choice of sacrificing staying home with your children if something were to happen later on. In my opinion, working is the best way that you can take care of your family and your home right now – you will appreciate it once you have children and want to stay home and can do so with out a second thought.

  5. judy:

    I think you should keep working. Kids are very expensive, even with the best intentions. Also health insurance is non-negotiable. If there are any complications with your preganancy you could eat up a lot of savings in a hurry. (premature babies have a way of doing that). You should learn now that, as a parent, you don’t always get to do what you want,you end up putting the needs of your family first. If you are going to be a stay at home mom, you will have plenty of years at home. I have seen too many people get laid off who thought their jobs were safe.

  6. Courtney:

    You could think about a “major medical” policy, which basically covers getting hit by a bus, but not anything short of that.

  7. While I totally understand your desire to cut back on working now, if you know you are going to be a SAHM, I would say work and save all you can until you actually have a child. The more money you have saved, the better off you will be. I would say this even if you weren’t afraid your husband may lose his job, but since that is a possibility, I would definitely say it. Talk to friends that have kids and try to get a rough estimate of how much per month they think it costs to raise a child. Then put that aside from your husband’s paycheck, just so you know what kind of income you will be working with once you are no longer working and have a baby to take care of. Babies don’t have to be expensive, but if you get a realistic idea of what income you are working with, you will be better off. And I personally couldn’t live without health insurance. We are all very healthy, but good health coverage is something I personally hold to be very important.

  8. Donna:

    I would take the approach that you can save a lot more money when you don’t have kids. Once you have your first child not only won’t you be working but the expenses increase dramatically. I would continue to work full time and bank every penny. Then when you actually do get pregnant you have a large financial cushion it makes this decision that much easier. Plus the cushion you have built up can pay towards your house or other things that come along with children. What if you were already pregnant and your husband actually lost his job? How would these changes affect your decision? Just something to think about.

    My husband and I are self employed and we are always taking the worst case scenario into account. We have a couple of years of emergency fund set aside ‘just in case’ the worst happens to our business.

  9. blossomteacher:

    Keep in mind that COBRA is expensive. When DH quit, he was only paying about $150/month for insurance for himself. Through COBRA, the same coverage would have been over $800 a month…1/3 of my take home pay! If you and your husband are healthy, maybe look into private insurance? The teacher next door to me just had a baby, and her husband is a minister, but insurance for both of them is only about $100/month. It would have been more than $700/month to add them to her insurance here at school!

    I’m just saying…do some more research. Where there’s a will, there may be a way.

  10. jan:

    What are your priorities? Some many people think insurance is a good reason to keep working, just in case, just in case.
    You will be healthier if you are content.

  11. Also check out group coverage from memberships you have outside of employment. For instance, in my state Sam’s Club members have access to group policies from Blue Cross Blue Shield, and other providers. The family coverage with similar terms is a little more expensive than my current employer plan, but much cheaper then COBRA.

    Whatever you decide, don’t let health insurance lapse or any pre-existing conditions may be ineligible for coverage.

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