Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Lucky Type of Poor

I have been thinking about why Marcos and I have managed to go relatively unscathed this past year in a world of such unsure economics, and I think it's because we're just a lucky type of poor: Not so poor that our daily stressors are pushing us to the edge, and not rich enough to have lost anything of any real value. Just some form of poor in between.

But the situation has made us think. A lot. One of the things on my mind lately is that we need to prioritize our marriage relationship above everything else. In older, well-established couples around me, I have seen the toll that job loss is taking on 30+ year solid relationships, and it's shocking what that type of instability can do to decades of working together. Yesterday on NPR, an economist was saying that the financial state of our country has been especially rough on men, who dominate the sectors of finance, construction, automobile industry, etc. that have been hit the hardest, and that unemployment is taxing a massive number of marriages. He added that although we like to think of our current marital set-up as fairly modern, the trend seems to be that women who are entering the work force in order to make ends meet (mainly in the service sector, which has not been as hard hit) are not coming home at the end of the day to find that their unemployed husbands have picked up any more of their share of household duties. Understandably, financial stress plus role shifting is causing some real upheaval, but ironically, break-ups are possibly the most expensive solution to the problem. Cohabitation has some real financial benefits that most of us overlook.

Another thing that has been on our minds lately is our need to set ourselves up for success in the future, however that may look. For us, it means waiting to invest in big things until Marcos has completed his education, and making sacrifices now so that we can lay the foundation for the future that we want. Although Marcos' full-time job as a computer programmer has allowed us to do wonderful things over the last year and a half that otherwise we would not have been able to do, we are realizing that relative comfort and convenience will not compare to finishing an education and setting ourselves up to be marketable and have bargaining power in a world that is increasingly more and more educated. The thought of giving up a "comfortable" salary is hard, but it will be much easier to do in the near future than later when we have a house payment, car payments, and kiddos to boot. We may have graduated past sleeping on an air mattress after 1.5 years of marriage, but we haven't come all that far since then; we still have relatively few expenses. Our plan is to gradually shift from full-time work and part-time school to part-time work and full-time school.

Yikes, but it needs to happen. We may be a lucky type of poor now, but there is nothing glorified about being poor forever...


Lauren said...

We've been pretty "financial-crisis" resistant" too (apparently it doesn't affect school loans :)).

Whenever I talk to established married couples who have gone through a "poor student" experience, they always say it was the happiest, simplest time of their marriage. That always kind of makes me sad. Like money is some kind of poison. But I'm sure what you said about putting marriage first is the key.

Drew and Alicia said...

I love the roll of toilet paper money! Good luck with the shifts in school and work. I know you two will do great things together in the future!

Tay said...

One works a lot, and the other works enough to help out while getting the education needed for the future. It's a sad comment, but people are judged by the letters behind their name. And, you guys are incredibly "successful" (in my estimation).