Does anyone else remember watching the TV show Life Goes On in the early ’90s? I watched very little television growing up, but this was a weekly tradition for my family for a couple of years. Not really related to this post, other than sharing a title, but I now have the theme song stuck in my head. Anyhow.
The week before Thanksgiving, we learned that Matthew’s job would be cut to .75 FTE effective January 1, making us a household of two part-time wage earners (I currently average between 15 and 20 hours/week).
Matthew has also been carrying the health insurance for our family, and, while coverage is still available to part-time employees, our monthly premiums will double. This increased cost of insurance means that, while his hours are only cut to 3/4 time, his take home income will effectively be cut in half — gulp! (I’m looking into what we would pay for similar coverage in the health insurance marketplace.) I know we’re not the only people in this boat, but it’s a little scary.
The news came just as we were getting to the break even point most months, and maybe starting to save a little bit some months. In most respects, we’re pretty frugal, and we saved like crazy during the three or four years where we had two full-time incomes, so we’ll be okay for the short term.
Long term, we’re questioning the wisdom of both of us being in the same field (public health), one where jobs largely depend on grant funding (soft dollars), are often not particularly well-paid, and offer few guarantees position longevity.
The news also came just as we were going to go ahead and make a big purchase, a longtail cargo bike, having narrowed it down to either the Yuba Mundo or the Xtracycle Edgerunner. While there’s some temptation to put that kind of large expenditure on hold, the fact is we have the money, this is something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time, and, if we’re going to continue making most trips with Gabriel by bike instead of by car, we want (if not quite need) something other than the trailer option. For us, going ahead with the purchase makes more sense than not.
That said, we were leaning toward the Edgerunner, which will cost noticeably more than the Mundo, so we’re a bit back to the drawing board on that final decision, which makes the fact that we’re actually getting a longtail seem not quite real.
For the most part, we’re not panicking, though I agree with the sentiment of an unemployed friend who said that she’s okay most of the time, but every few weeks it all gets a little overwhelming. For me, it hits home most when considering long term savings, like retirement and G’s college fund, as well as larger [potential] expenses: the bike, getting speech/language therapy for Gabriel, and airfare and lodging for the three of us for a West Coast wedding next summer.
These things are clearly all optional, driving home the point that, in the scheme of things, we are very fortunate. We are not questioning whether or not we’ll have food on the table or a safe, warm place to live. We’re taking things as they come, while exploring short- and long-term career options (a bit more on that in a future post).
Though perhaps a bit different than before, life goes on.
I’m glad you are looking at moving forward with the long-tail option. You’ve done a fabulous job of incorporating bikes into your daily lives, and it’s key to the work you guys do. I think the purchase makes far more sense for you than it might, say, at this point for me (don’t ride for transport as frequently or have children). I would posit there may be good options for Gabriel through STL Public Schools (testing, early-development) that might be lower-cost than things in the county/private would be, and I wouldn’t sweat college unless you can save for that and retirement. I would be willing to wager the cost/post-secondary school landscape will change by the time Gabriel gets there, and he will be in a better position to tackle loans (and can choose a school where fewer borrowed dollars are needed but which still offers a great education) than his near-to-retirement parents. In the meantime, I’m crossing fingers for a good price in the Marketplace and more job options for you guys, and soon.