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Mechanical Engineer - work or be a stay at home mom?
Old 02-04-2013, 08:49 AM   #1
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Mechanical Engineer - work or be a stay at home mom?


I am a 27 female professional. My goal is to accumulate enough money so that I can choose what I want to do in life rather being tied to a job.

However, I am facing with a dilemma of becoming a stay at home mom.

I plan to have 4 children (I m very firm on this), since my fiancé and I are orphans, so having a family is our dream.
However, due to my health, I don’t think I will have the energy to work full time and take care of 4 kids!

If I quit my job, I feel like I am wasting my degrees and education (Masters in Mechanical Engineer and BS in Biomedical Engineer). I also feel “lazy/useless/lack of motivations” (not sure what the right word to use...) if I just stay at home to raise my children.

I plan to go back to work once the youngest child goes to school. However I know the difficulty of getting back to work, especially in engineering if you have been out for a while. However, I don’t mind this too much as I am willing to work at any job/salary as long as it will allow me to max out my 401K & Roth.


Our financial
1. Retirement 401K & ROTH (250K)
2.House paid off (175K)
3.Her income (75K)
4.His income (85K)
5.Emergency savings (40K)
6.No debt

So far, we have a strong start and however if I stop working and we began to live on ONE-INCOME our WEALTH-BUILDING goals will be greatly severed.

If I decided to stay at home (at the start of 2014), I can no longer contribute to my 401K, however we still plan to save for retirement and live as follow:
1.Max out his Roth IRA
2.Max out his 401K & 457(b) = 35K/year
3.Max out my spousal Roth IRA
4.Save 10K per year outside of retirement
5.Live frugally on 15K-20K per year

Maybe people here can give me on some advises?
Is there a way to balance it all? Stay at home, have a still career and build wealth?

Thanks
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Old 02-04-2013, 09:17 AM   #2
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From a financial perspective, you might be facing $20,000 per year on average of daycare/preschool expenses for the next 8-10 years if you have 4 kids. That plus working expenses and higher taxes would eat up a huge chunk of your income.

We have 3 kids (including a 9 month old) and both DW and I work. Both of our jobs are flexible in terms of telecommuting and hours, however we work full time. My mother in law watches our infant when we are both at work, and we give her around 30-40% of the market rate for child care to help her out. Our incomes are a little lower than your household, so taxes are almost non-existent for us, and with childcare so cheap for us, we get to keep most of what DW earns from her employment. DW and I earn similar salaries and her benefits are way better so strictly financially it would make more sense for me to quit working instead of her (but I have been informed that ain't happening!).

The good news is you have a relatively huge nest egg saved already with a net worth of almost half a million at age 27. So you are doing excellent by any metric, so congrats on that.

One idea would be to keep working until the second kid is born then figure out part time work or no work, or take advantage of a layoff or buyout package from an employer if it becomes available or convenient. Another 3-5 years of packing away money would set you on a great trajectory to let the wealth keep growing if you take time off to be a mom. By the time the kids are in school or you're ready to go back to work, you'll probably be FI.

If you are very ambitious in your career and anticipate making big bucks in the future, you could do well with a full time nanny to take care of your kids. A buddy has had great success hiring college students or recent grads in a teaching program or early childhood development program for ~$10/hr and that has worked well for him so far. YMMV of course.

Another thing to consider is how flexible your employer is. DW's company has a great maternity leave package (3 months paid, 2 months unpaid but benefits continue) and you can piggyback vacation and possibly sick leave to stretch this further. She has been employed there during 2 of the 3 children's' births and basically received an extra 6 months off paid plus another ~3 months off unpaid. And my employer has the FMLA leave where we can use sick leave to take time off although I didn't really take advantage of that (yet!).

Regarding the 4 kids, the good thing is that kids usually come 1 at a time, so you get to decide after each one how many more you want. DW started out strongly wanting 6 and now she's pretty happy with the 3 that we have. So that "4" is a number that could change.

Regarding expenses, living on $15-20k/yr with 4 kids would be challenging but not impossible. We don't spend much more than that with 3 kids (around $21k/yr), but that doesn't include vacation expenses and car replacement costs.
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Old 02-04-2013, 09:41 AM   #3
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We have two kids - 6 and 3 (almost 4). DW stopped working after the birth of our second child. Our quality of life dramatically improved. She kept in close contact with her former colleagues for 2-3 years and received an unsolicited job offer for part time work. She turned it down twice and finally accepted for a 10 hours a week work from home position. We put our youngest in pre-school and it was no problem for her to be a stay at home mom plus handle the work. I am always supportive and do tons of housework and spend time with the kids, so that helped.

A couple months ago an opportunity for full time work-from-home came up with great benefits and she took it. The timing wasn't ideal because we would have preferred both kids to be in school, but the opportunity was worth it. It hasn't been a problem. I take additional time off work to help on certain days, so that eliminates some time off for vacations. It is a very small price to pay.

My wife is a professional whose career required annual continuing education and involves understanding laws/regulations that change frequently, but it was more important for her to maintain the human connection that the technical aspect.

My experience is obviously anecdotal, but the point is that there are potential opportunities out there to get back into things. From our perspective, the quality of life was more important than earlier retirement and we couldn't pull off a good balance with two traditional full time jobs. Some people can do it, but I think it is difficult for most. I've read many of FUEGO's post and he is highly motivated and highly focused. I am compared to most people, but I'm not at that level. Four kids would present an even greater challenge.

In regards to wasting your degree - your financial situation indicates you probably already earned enough to pay for the cost (actual and opportunity), so a job isn't the only way to 'use' your degree. In my opinion, imparting science and math knowledge to 4 kids and maybe even developing a passion in those areas is one of the best use of the degrees possible.
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:10 AM   #4
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My experience is obviously anecdotal, but the point is that there are potential opportunities out there to get back into things. From our perspective, the quality of life was more important than earlier retirement and we couldn't pull off a good balance with two traditional full time jobs. Some people can do it, but I think it is difficult for most. I've read many of FUEGO's post and he is highly motivated and highly focused. I am compared to most people, but I'm not at that level. Four kids would present an even greater challenge.
It is tough at times juggling full time work and 3 kids and dropping them off at 2 different places each morning and picking up in the afternoon. My work is very slack right now (well it was till January anyway). But I have made a career move to intentionally slow the pace down a bit, knowing I am sacrificing money. That allows me to work locally, and hardly ever have to travel overnight (for the next couple years at least).

DW has made similar career sacrifices - we could relocate to a bigger city where her industry has many more employers that pay way more money (and coincidentally I could move up in my industry too!), but our lifestyle would totally change as would our living cost structure. Not worth it since we'll still be on track to ER very early without huge amounts of extra earnings.
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Old 02-04-2013, 12:25 PM   #5
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If you can manage to find somewhat flexible part-time contract work, that might be an option I'd suggest exploring. It may not be all that common in that field (I don't have first hand knowledge), but if it's available you could still have some semblance of a "home life", earn a few bucks, keep your skill sets current and avoid gaps in your resume that turn employers off when you are ready to resume a more full-time career.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:02 PM   #6
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If you can manage to find somewhat flexible part-time contract work, that might be an option I'd suggest exploring. It may not be all that common in that field (I don't have first hand knowledge), but if it's available you could still have some semblance of a "home life", earn a few bucks, keep your skill sets current and avoid gaps in your resume that turn employers off when you are ready to resume a more full-time career.
Agree. One sector you might consider is healthcare. It has recently discovered process engineering and there are lots of opportunities for improvement. I expect this sector to be an expanding market which might welcome part timers or project managers.
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:13 PM   #7
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Can I claim a charity donation that is not in my name?

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Old 02-04-2013, 01:37 PM   #8
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Don't overlook the option of having a nanny, particularly if you space your children at 3-year intervals. The advantage of a nanny is that you don't need to worry about child care coverage when one gets sick (and with 4 one will be sick almost weekly). The cost will be a push, or perhaps cheaper, than all other child care options. My daughter's nanny drives the kids to and from school. My nanny didn't but then we were within walking distance of school and in an urban area where the bus was an option.

Try a nanny with your first child to see how it goes. My daughter screened nanny candidates throughly. She choose a woman who had worked for another family for several years, up until the children were all school age and the parents didn't think they needed a nanny any more. The woman is an immigrant, the grandchildren became familiar with a multi-lingual world. The nanny does dinner prep, grocery shopping.
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Old 02-04-2013, 02:05 PM   #9
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However, due to my health, I don’t think I will have the energy to work full time and take care of 4 kids!
Most likely they'll be coming one at a time, which may be a very different story. Maybe you can use daycare or a nanny for the first couple of years, and quit working once you get to child 3. A few more years of income would give you a really big buffer.

You mention living on 15-20k. Can you do that? Are you doing it now? I know that would be impossible for me. You may need to scale back your contributions going forward, but at least you have a good start now.

I find it interesting that us younger generations find it a challenge to be stay at home moms. I would want to be home if I had kids, but I also want to be FI, so I decided not to have kids. I do wonder why you went and got a masters degree when you likely knew that you wanted to have kids and stay home.
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Old 02-04-2013, 02:16 PM   #10
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I answered in your welcome thread before I saw this one.

I dealt with the tradeoffs when I had my kids (only 2 of them) but was an older mom (39 when I had my oldest.) I got lucky that at the time there was a shortage of engineers (dot.com bubble) and so I was able to negotiate part time work. I've stubbornly kept the part time hours even though they're now in school. My husband's industry collapsed with the economic crisis (he's an architect) so he's also part time - which works out VERY well for us.

It worked out well for our family - we've been able to keep our lifestyle downsized, and maximize our savings.

The early years are the most expensive, until college, if you work outside the home. Having two young ones in daycare was $28k/year. (When youngest was in the infant room, and oldest was in the 2's room at the preschool.) It got better as they got out of diapers and the staff ratio's changed by age. (preschool rooms have less staff than infant rooms.) Now it's a pretty minor expense of after school programs. Although summer camps are still expensive. (I don't get summer's off so the kids have to go somewhere.)

If you're planning on spacing the kids out - that's a lot of years of no income or high daycare expenses. Any chance you and your husband can go part time during these years. I have friends who avoided daycare while each worked 3 days a week. They just worked different days - so someone was always home.

I get the feeling like you'd be wasting your education thing. And that lapses in career history for engineers are challenging. That was a definite factor in keeping me working through the early years.
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Old 02-04-2013, 02:27 PM   #11
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I posted in your other thread so won't repeat that here.

Mechanical Engineer: decide to work or be a stay at home mom?

But to add on based upon what is in this thread.

You are not going to be living on 15 to 20k a year if you have 4 kids. I had 3 kids and, well, they are expensive. I do think you could certainly have a modest budget with 4 kids but 15 to 20k just seems too modest.

Also, life sometimes doesn't come out the way you expect. I had projected budgets before I had kids. But things didn't work out the way I expected. For example, one child needed to attend a therapeutic school at $28k a year. He was there 4 1/2 years. It really made a huge difference for him (he is now in college) but was a really budget buster.

Even leaving aside major stuff like that, kids are still expensive. When you go beyond 2 kids things actually become much more expensive than you would expect.

For example, having 3 kids, travel was more difficult and more expensive (many hotels do not sleep more than 4 people in a room, period so we would need 2 rooms or a suite). Automobiles - many automobiles will only seat 4 or if they seat 5 that won't work if several of the seats needed are car seats.

I think your projections of expenses are just way offbase for having 4 kids. As far as having 4 kids or not - I would simply say that biology may or may not cooperate and you may feel differently or may not once you have kids. Before I had my first child I thought I would have 1 child. I liked it enough that I ended up with 3.



We had a nanny for a brief period of time but what ended up working much better, was enriching for our kids and was less expensive was to have an au pair. Over several years we had au pairs from Germany (twice), Thailand, and Brazil. It was a wonderful experience for us and the kids and we still have contact with all the au pairs several years later.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:00 PM   #12
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My wife and I were both Electrical Engineers, earning the same money when we started our family. She wanted to be a stay at home mom until the youngest was at school. It worked out great, and she had 11 years looking after the children. Doing volunteer work and such easily filled in any spare time she might have had. She was 26 when we had our first one. (I was 27)

We had 2 children and when she was ready to start back at work I was transferred to the USA on temporary assignment and she was ineligible for work for 5 years longer than originally planned, but it worked out great for us.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:17 PM   #13
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My wife and I were both Electrical Engineers, earning the same money when we started our family. She wanted to be a stay at home mom until the youngest was at school. It worked out great, and she had 11 years looking after the children. Doing volunteer work and such easily filled in any spare time she might have had. She was 26 when we had our first one. (I was 27)

We had 2 children and when she was ready to start back at work I was transferred to the USA on temporary assignment and she was ineligible for work for 5 years longer than originally planned, but it worked out great for us.

The thing is that this works...when it works and nothing unexpected happens. Imagine you dying or the two of you getting divorced when she had been out of work for 15 years and it might not have worked out nearly as well for you. Part of what bothers me on this is that the gamble on that is taken exclusively by the stay at home spouse. That is one reason I would much rather see one or both spouses work reduced hours, even very part time hours or them switch off in terms of who stays home for awhile.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:41 PM   #14
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I agree with Katsmeow.
(But I usually do.)

There are definite risks to future employability for the SAH spouse... and that risk is NOT shared in a divorce or death.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:48 PM   #15
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The thing is that this works...when it works and nothing unexpected happens. Imagine you dying or the two of you getting divorced when she had been out of work for 15 years and it might not have worked out nearly as well for you. Part of what bothers me on this is that the gamble on that is taken exclusively by the stay at home spouse. That is one reason I would much rather see one or both spouses work reduced hours, even very part time hours or them switch off in terms of who stays home for awhile.
Life is all about risk, no doubt about it. I did have very large term life insurance on me, but as you point out, divorce is much more likely than death these days.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:51 PM   #16
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The thing is that this works...when it works and nothing unexpected happens. Imagine you dying or the two of you getting divorced when she had been out of work for 15 years and it might not have worked out nearly as well for you. Part of what bothers me on this is that the gamble on that is taken exclusively by the stay at home spouse. That is one reason I would much rather see one or both spouses work reduced hours, even very part time hours or them switch off in terms of who stays home for awhile.
We had similar concerns, but the biggest one is what if we both got laid off? We were new immigrants with no one else to fall back to. So my wife and I never stayed home to take care of our 2 kids full time, other than the brief periods when one of us got laid off.

We were lucky to have found a neighbor to take care of our 2 kids 10 hours a day while we worked, for a total of 10-12 years until they started middle school. With 2 incomes, we are able to fully fund our retirement (RE in 1-2 more years) and 2 college funds. If one of us stayed home, the other parent will likely to work a lot more years. I do not feel that our kids were deprived of any parental love and care for not seeing the parents during the day of those years. We did not think we could afford RE and kids' college if one of us stayed home.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:56 PM   #17
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Life is all about risk, no doubt about it. I did have very large term life insurance on me, but as you point out, divorce is much more likely than death these days.
Divorce happens to 50% of marriages, death is 100%. But I do know what you were trying to say, it just did not come out right.
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Old 02-04-2013, 04:00 PM   #18
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Divorce happens to 50% of marriages, death is 100%. But I do know what you were trying to say, it just did not come out right.
Words can be hard
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Old 02-04-2013, 04:46 PM   #19
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Money is important. But your choice is to raise your kids or pay someone else to. Want your kids fondest memories to be of the nanny?
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Old 02-04-2013, 04:50 PM   #20
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Divorce happens to 50% of marriages, death is 100%. But I do know what you were trying to say, it just did not come out right.
Sure, but death before a household reaches the point of FI is a lot less than 100%.
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