My long-term boyfriend and I, both 45, finally had our first child last year after years of trying.
Due to our age and some other factors, he is likely to be our only child. He is the light of my life, and I’m realizing that as I only get one chance to experience these magical early years with him, I hate that I’m doing it while also working full-time, robbing me of the precious little time I have with him as a toddler.
I am the primary earner in our household, making about $150,000 a year in an intense job. My boyfriend has been out of work for over a year after a failed attempt at switching industries, and probably won’t have a new job for a little while longer as he recalibrates what’s next.
Though I’m very successful in my career, the birth of my son has cemented for me that I hate the 9-to-5 grind, and it’s not what I want to do for the next 20 years. I would love to work for myself, with a flexible schedule that allows me to spend more time with my son each day.
Since he’s been born, I’ve been researching ways to both do that as well as building some other passive-income streams. In an ideal world, I’d love to start those up and get them moving so that I can leave my job in the next 7 to 8 months.
My main concern is that I’m terrified that, no matter what I cobble together, I won’t match my current income with the new plan. While I’m hopeful my boyfriend will also get a new job in that time period, I’m thinking conservatively and only accounting for one income (mine) in this plan.
Before we had our son we were in a great financial spot — all housing costs were coming in at under 30% of my pay and I was maxing out my 401(k). However, with childcare costs and his lack of income we’re now basically living paycheck to paycheck. If I am able to take on this new self-employed dream some costs (childcare) would go down, but others would increase.
Six-figure trust fund
There’s one catch, though. I have a trust fund that is worth a very high six figures. I rarely ever touch it: I mainly look at it as an enormous emergency savings fund should the bottom fall out of the economy like it did in 2008.
But the other day, as I struggled to crank out numbers for this new life plan, it hit me that I could just take from the trust to supplement any shortfall. In four to five years when my son is in school, if my self employment isn’t working out I could always reenter the traditional labor force.
But this plan scares me, simply because I’ve always viewed my trust fund as my safety net, and I’d be depleting it. Is this a good idea? A bonkers idea? What else should I be thinking about?
For context, it’s not my only source of investments: I currently have about $395,000 in my 401(k) and Roth IRA, a $10,000 “slush fund” investment account, and about $80,000 in company stock, with more stock due to vest over the course of my (potential) remaining time at the company.
I have an emergency cash fund in a high-yield savings account, but I’ve had to pull from it lately so it doesn’t even cover three months of expenses right now. So should I go for it? Money I can always earn, but this time with my son I will never get back.
Time is Fleeting
Dear Time is Fleeting,
First, a warning: There’s no magic bullet.
Of course, we should all — in an ideal world — feel fulfilled by our jobs and partners and life, but our wantonness will keep us looking for more ways to find that magic elixir. Happiness is an inside job. When you change one thing in your life, you may realize that there is something else that you need to fix, and then something else, like a house that always needs repairs, and never quite suits your needs. One of my favorite pieces of advice: “Listen to your body because your mind lies through its teeth.” Don’t act from a place of fear, anger or ego. Listen to how you feel.
If your trust fund can buy anything, however, it’s peace of mind for the future. I agree that it should be used to help you maintain a semblance of contentment for the here-and-now. There’s no point having a six-figure trust fund with high six figures without touching it — like a treasured china tea set — if you are not going to tap it at the most critical and important times of your life. If you want to spend the next couple of years with your son, instead of paying for childcare, you could do it. One major caveat: Wait until your boyfriend finds a job before making any move.
Millions of parents are in your boat. Weekly daycare costs for children in the U.S. are now running at $284 per week, up 54% over the previous decade, according to Care.com. If you can save that money, and withdraw from your trust fund over, say, the next two years, it is essentially fulfilling part of its purpose. You don’t say what profession you are in, but women who take time out of their careers to raise their children obviously lose promotional opportunities and, when they return to the workforce, their pay tends to fall behind that of their peers.
MarketWatch recently built a tool that uses Department of Labor data to show the average cost of childcare by county and how that compares to your income. As MarketWatch reported when the tool was launched: The average cost of center-based group care infant childcare in Queens County, N.Y. was $23,635 in 2022. A family would need to make at least $337,647 per year for that to be 7% of their income. The median annual income for families in Queens in 2020 was $81,193, so they would need to spend roughly 26% of their income on childcare.
In the meantime, ask your employer if you can work remotely two days a week and/or see if you can move to a part-time schedule. It may be that you can keep your job and spend more time with your son, too. It may not be an all-or-nothing scenario. If you do decide to give up your job for now, and you are in a career that you could easily return to in the event that your business idea does not work out, and your boyfriend finds work, you will be in a more secure position to take a career break. So many “ifs.” But you’re right. You won’t get this time again.
Talk to a financial adviser and a therapist because it’s almost always a bad idea to make a financial decision based on emotion. Of course, we should have agency over our own lives, but bringing in third-party help will bring a fresh, independent perspective. Sometimes, we often think, ‘If I could just change this one thing, I’d be happy.’ But that’s often our mind and emotions playing tricks on us. What you don’t want to happen is one year down the line, feeling overwhelmed with full-time childcare, and wondering why you gave up a $150,000 job.
Give yourself some time to get used to having this new person in your life, and see how the next six months play out.
More from Quentin Fottrell:
My father has dementia and ‘forgave’ my brother’s $200,000 house loan. The nursing-home notary said he was of sound mind. What can we do?
My husband bought our house with an inheritance. I signed a quitclaim. He said I could live there after he dies, but changed his mind. What now?
Low-paying jobs are the economy’s way of saying you should get a better job’: I’ve decided to stop tipping, except at restaurants. Am I wrong?
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