Of course they do. That’s a ridiculous question.
Anyone with kids, who doesn’t hire a nanny/maid/chef to do literally everything, works.
I know. I have kids.
It’s work that I help perform at night and on weekends.
It’s work I love most of the time, but it does require real effort and selflessness. These little ones don’t take care of themselves.
Therefore, if a parent chooses to perform a different type of work (say, advisor to the President), that person would then have to hire someone else to take care of the kids. You couldn’t get away with just leaving your one year old in the house by themselves all day (believe me, I’ve tried). That alone is evidence that it is work to raise kids, and equivalent to a job (even though it doesn’t come with a wage).
Additionally, it’s important to note that the person who leaves to go to a job outside the home each day still has to come home and work nights and weekends with the kids.
So, now that we’ve established that we all work, let’s move on to a few related points that I think are important for stay at home parents to understand regarding their finances.
1. Understand and Participate in the Family Finances
This advice is really aimed at both parents, whether you are working at home or working in a job outside of the home. Both parents should be active participants in the financial decisions (and actions) that affect the family: debt reduction, spending decisions, savings efforts, etc. Don’t let your job choice be an excuse for ignorance. If one member is clueless to certain aspects of the household finances, it creates a weakness that could lead to trouble down the line. Stay at home parents should be listed on the banking accounts and credit accounts (including the mortgage) to maintain an active financial history, and should also consider getting life insurance.
2. You Don’t Need Two Incomes
Note: My point below obviously isn’t directed at the more than 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, who have difficult choices to make when it comes to getting support, earning a living, and caring for their kids.
In my opinion it’s an outright lie that you need two incomes to get by today. People change jobs and lower their standard of living all the time so that one parent can be at home with the kids. If this is your desire, do it. Don’t let anything stop you.
Some families choose to maintain a high standard of living and also choose to maintain two jobs outside the home. Cool. I accept that families can choose to make this move, but please avoid thinking that you *have* to. You don’t.
3. Contribute to a Separate Retirement Account
Just because you work and don’t receive an income, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be contributing to a separate retirement account. You can contribute to an IRA (sometimes referred to as a Spousal IRA) each year just like your spouse who works outside the home, as long as you meet the income limits and file a joint return. If you’re a stay at home mom or dad, go open up an IRA today and get started with your retirement savings.
4. Look for Ways to Bring in Extra Income
Make use of the free time you do have at home to generate some extra income for your family. Emily, freelance contributor to this site, is a stay at home mom, who I know makes a solid income through her efforts. There are lots of good jobs for stay at home moms and dads that you could explore. Talk with your spouse that work outside the home about trading some of the cleaning and cooking duties so that you can pursue an extra income while at home with the kids.
Image by Cia de Foto