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Working with a spouse for more money, yes or no?
Old 03-16-2008, 09:20 PM   #1
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Working with a spouse for more money, yes or no?

My wife and I have an arrangement. She is the career-driven one and as such she makes the big bucks working full time (and enjoying it for the most part), while I have been working part-time making much less money than her but taking care of all the household chores (cleaning, shopping, miscellaneous errands...). This has improved our quality of life as we don't have to run errands on weekends as we used to when we were both working full time. We can now enjoy our weekends and time together. We are both happy with our present arrangement.

Her company has made me a potentially lucrative job offer. It would be a full time job paying $50K more per year than my present job. I would have access to a 401K with match (I don't have any employer-sponsored plan right now). The job itself would be pretty much in line with my current one.

Now, the catch is that I would have to work with/for my wife everyday and my office would be right accross the hallway from hers. We both have mixed feelings about that and feel that it has the potential to spoil our relationship down the road. For one thing it would be hard to leave work behind when we go home. Plus we have two very distinct personalities (she is more type A and I am more type B), which has the potential to result in work-related conflicts between the two of us. Plus I may have to work nights and weekends at the new job and we will have to go back to run errands on weekends, therefore spending less quality time together.

The FIRE ASAP part of my brain says that I should consider the offer very carefully. If I continue working part time we could reach FIRE at age 45. By taking the full time job, we could retire at age 41 (all extra income would go to the ER kitty).

So, if you were me what would you do? I know I am the only one who can make the final decision, but I wanted to know if anyone else has ever worked with their spouse and whether their relationship suffered because of it. Right now I lean towards declining the offer because it feels like the risk is not worth the extra money.

PS. My dad and step mom have been working together for 20 years and it is as if they are on the job 24/7. It has worked OK for them, but I can't see myself live like that.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:15 PM   #2
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My wife and I have worked together off and on since before we were married. (18 years)... Today, I stay at home, goof off most of the day... do misc things around the house. Do misc things consulting... mostly goof off.

There are some really nice things about working together. One thing we found is when we were spending our jobs together, we would take a break on the weekends, and actually go do things apart. We talked shop during working hours, and maybe the drive home... but rarely would we let it go any further when we got home.

To give you an idea how close our jobs were... In the last job where we worked together, I was the Manager of the System Admin side for a Credit Card/Check processing company, and she was the manager of the programmers developing the check (ACH) product.

We worked together very tightly. In the job before that, I was a System Admin, she was a Network Admin, once again, hand and glove togetherness. We both enjoyed working closly together... but I think it takes a certain personality (or personalities) for it to work. The willingness to say ... "Lets agree to disagree until tomorrow where we can take up the argument again." is key.

The ability to not take disagreement personally, but treat it like a business. We are arguing about how to do this business activitiy.. it has nothing to do with "our life". Its purely business. ... and never every "crap talk" about each other... you have to respect what each brings to the table. I may disagree with my wife 100%, but I argue with respect. I am amazed at some of the things I've heard in arguments. Always argue with respect even more so when your spouse is involved.

My attitude (after many years) is that if I couldn't convince her that my way of doing it was right, then I really need to take a good hard look at doing it that way... Either I'm not communicating "my way" correctly, or Its very likely, my way isn't going to work the way I think it is. Rarely would we actually hit a point that I said... Left... and she said Right...

I think working together has made our relationship very strong. We got to have disagreements where we had no "personal skin" in... and figured out how to fight them out.. so when we have "real" disagreements (like how to discipline our 5 year old son), we have techniques to hash them out and come to a resolution.

I suspect its one of those things where you either click together, and love it... or nothing can go right, and it rips your marriage apart. Kind of like riding a tandem bicycle. If you have never done that.. I'd try that first, if you can successfully do that, then you can work together:

I'm somewhat joking, but somewhat serious. Riding a tandem bicycle is a very good indicator of how well you can work CLOSELY together. Everything you and she does immediatly impacts the bike. You can't see what the other one is "doing" but you can feel every twitch they make. You have to learn to move in-sync with each other.

Is there an activity you do together that is very tightly a team activity? Have you built something together, put something together... make the bed together... what actives do you do where team activity is important... How well do you get along doing it? How well do you drive together in the car? How well do you take vacations together? Do you each take up pieces of responsibilities based on what you are good at? Do you share the load in a fair manner? (does she agree?)

Good luck with either route you take.

Laters,
-d.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:22 PM   #3
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Plus we have two very distinct personalities (she is more type A and I am more type B), which has the potential to result in work-related conflicts between the two of us.
This would be the deal breaker for me - in our case it would get ugly quick. And my wife is a saint!
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:23 PM   #4
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You really seem to have more negatives than positives in this situation. Putting off retiring for 4 years at your young age, to me, is not a big deal.

My DH and I worked for the same company at the same building for nine years. We rode there together and came home together. Took different lunch hours most of the time. It worked ok for a long time, but it got to the point where work discussions simply became too much a part of our lives.

So, I left my job about 10 years ago. We were financially able for me to do so. But, if we were not, I probably would have left anyway. It was the right decision for us.

I might get smacked for saying this...but sometimes money isn't everything.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:34 PM   #5
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HI d,

thanks for your comments. The tandem test is a good one but I fear we probably would fail it miserably. We often joke that if we ever sign up for the "amazing race" we would probably be fighting the whole way and end up divorced. We do a lot of things together and most of the time we work well together but I avoid doing certain activities with her. She is very competitive and I am not, so sometimes sparks fly. I refuse to play bowling on her team for example, she gets too worked up if I screw up. And she is ultra-competitive when it comes to work, so that's why I think working with her would probably rock the boat!
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:36 PM   #6
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My wife and I worked for the same company and had offices very near each other for some time. We both retired from the same company. We did not work for each other but were very aware of each other's work as we had been peers for some time even before we married.

I can't imagine working for or being the boss of a spouse. That is too much and most companies will not allow it anyway. We did talk shop at home and worked many hours at home on our various tasks...in different part of the house.

Working for the same employer has good points and bad. It all depends on how close you two will be working and if any future promotions might cause severe interpersonal issues between you two if one gets it and the other does not.

One downside is if the company has problems you both might lose your jobs.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:43 PM   #7
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I can't imagine working for or being the boss of a spouse. That is too much and most companies will not allow it anyway. We did talk shop at home and worked many hours at home on our various tasks...in different part of the house.

One downside is if the company has problems you both might lose your jobs.
My wife wouldn't be my direct boss (which is why her company agreed on offering me the job), but in practice I would still work for her group and therefore for her indirectly.

The risk of both of us losing our jobs does not worry me much right now because if she lost her job, my current part time job would not cover much of our current expenses... So not a big downside risk.
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Old 03-16-2008, 11:12 PM   #8
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Her company has made me a potentially lucrative job offer. It would be a full time job paying $50K more per year than my present job. I would have access to a 401K with match (I don't have any employer-sponsored plan right now). The job itself would be pretty much in line with my current one.
If you feel that conflicts will be unavoidable and may jeopardize your relationship with DW, it does NOT make a lot of sense to accept the offer unless you really feel this is a once-in-a-life deal/opportunity. It seems that you are interested in getting a full-time position with substantial increase in pay. Start exploring for other opportunities that may exist in other companies.
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Old 03-16-2008, 11:34 PM   #9
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It seems that you are interested in getting a full-time position with substantial increase in pay. Start exploring for other opportunities that may exist in other companies.
Not really looking for a full time job. As I said before I am happy with the part time gig and lower pay. But my thought was that in this particular case the extraordinary pay raise could convince me to suck it up, go back to full time and sock away the extra $$$$ for ER. But I don't want to ruin my marriage over it.
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Old 03-16-2008, 11:58 PM   #10
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But I don't want to ruin my marriage over it.
A wise choice.
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Old 03-17-2008, 12:09 AM   #11
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It depends on your personalities, and from what you said earlier, it may not work out well. I had 2 close friends/co-workers who dated for a while. It turned out ugly because one of them took work very seriously and was competitive. When they disagreed professionally, he regarded it as an insult to his intelligence and could not let go. They are not even talking now and it's quite awkward since they are still in the same department. (I know, very high-school-ish) I expect one of them to quit soon.
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Old 03-17-2008, 03:29 AM   #12
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You did not describe the company and office environment. But my general reaction would be not to do it.

If you do not report to your wife directly... it might work out better. Otherwise she will be accused of favoritism if she has other direct reports. Plus, you might influence her and put her in a bind with office politics.

If they are offering you this money, is it as a favor to your wife or are you able to get the wage on your own merit?

IMO- If you are able to get the wage on your own merit... get a job somewhere else.
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Old 03-17-2008, 06:51 AM   #13
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Upside - you both retire 4 years earlier - you are already semi-retired and she likes her job.

Downside - it ruins our marriage you divorcee and neither can retire for a lot longer, having split your money into two smaller piles.

Looks like an easy decision.

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Old 03-17-2008, 07:41 AM   #14
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Don't do it!! My congrats to those who have successfully managed such a situation, but generally speaking it is very hard to work for one's spouse without some emotional baggage getting in the way.

Take it from one who knows: divorce can be financial DISASTER for both parties. It is not worth risking your marriage, both from an emotional and a financial point of view. Surely you can find work elsewhere.
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Old 03-17-2008, 07:59 AM   #15
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Not really looking for a full time job. As I said before I am happy with the part time gig and lower pay. But my thought was that in this particular case the extraordinary pay raise could convince me to suck it up, go back to full time and sock away the extra $$$$ for ER. But I don't want to ruin my marriage over it.

My comments are directed more at the decision for you to return to FT work, i.e. decision to change your current lifestyle (independent of the fact that it would be with your spouse). We had this dilemma last summer. I work part-time, DH works FT, for the same reasons you listed. I had a chance to essentially go FT and make a ton of money to propel us hopefully to ER a few years earlier. Well, I did it for about 4 months, and it turned out to be way too stressful for me. I eventually returned to part-time without any repurcussions. Would you have the ability to return to your part-time job if this full-time one didn't work out? I think it's really important to have an escape plan if you go forward with this. Don't burn any bridges.
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Old 03-17-2008, 09:09 AM   #16
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I had a chance to essentially go FT and make a ton of money to propel us hopefully to ER a few years earlier. Well, I did it for about 4 months, and it turned out to be way too stressful for me. I eventually returned to part-time without any repurcussions.
Good point - why risk the chance of taking on more stress just for the sake of expediting ER by a few years? Is it true that one of the reasons for ER is to have a peaceful and meaningful life?
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Old 03-17-2008, 09:26 AM   #17
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My wife and I worked for the same companies twice back in the late '70s and early '80s. Neither of us was the boss of the other. We carpooled together and went to lunch in the same group. We were pretty low level computer programmers working on different projects. We liked it. We've been married for over 31 years.

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Old 03-17-2008, 09:46 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
Not really looking for a full time job. As I said before I am happy with the part time gig and lower pay. But my thought was that in this particular case the extraordinary pay raise could convince me to suck it up, go back to full time and sock away the extra $$$$ for ER. But I don't want to ruin my marriage over it.
I think you already answered your own question/concern.

How many years until you reach 41 if you accepted the job offer?

Would you would you prefer having much more $$ and end up resenting each other to having a happy marriage and a later retirement?
Just based on your personality description sounds that someone is asking for a trouble. Imagine you both earning that great money and retirement nearing fast, but what about your stress (working late and/or weekends), unfavorable friction between each other? And imagine the worst scenario: DIVRORCE . Then you'll end up retiring not at 45, but 55 or 65
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Old 03-17-2008, 11:37 AM   #19
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Another thought on this all since I don't see it being discussed yet...

I assume you have talked with your wife and she is okay with you not accepting the job, and not looking for something that pays more than part time, because if she isn't happy with those choices, you may want to factor that into your decision. ... Or you may end up in divorce anyway Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

How did the job offer come about? Did your wife have anything to do with it? Is she trying to make some sort of subtle hint? (yea I'm just making WAGs, I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I thought I'd throw it out there for consideration)

laters,
-d.
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Old 03-17-2008, 12:05 PM   #20
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Hi d,

The job offer had nothing to do with my wife. Somebody quit, her company's HR director (whom I met several times at company functions) knew that I would have the qualifications to replace the person who quit and since we live in a small town with few qualified candidates in that area, she was wondering if I would be interested in the job. My wife did not suggest anything. In fact she seems relieved I am leaning toward declining the offer. She says she is happy with our current situation.
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