I know you’ve all been waiting to read this. It’s time for me to reveal my best and worst financial decisions. When I began thinking about this topic, it didn’t take me long to figure out what to write about. Two decisions jumped out at me right away. I asked my husband what he thought our best and worst financial decisions were, and right away he confirmed exactly what I was thinking. And my choices might surprise you.
Since I’ve always been a person who likes to save the best for last, I’m going to tell you about my worst financial decision first. The year was 1995, and my husband and I were getting married about a month down the road. Unhappy with my job at a group home for disabled adults, I decided to go back to school for a teaching degree in Special Education. The program started the week after our wedding, and it seemed like the perfect time for a change in my career direction.
So without giving it much thought, I applied for financial aid and ended up taking out a $10,000 student loan. I had about $4000 left on my loan from my undergraduate work, so that brought my total student loan debt up to $14,000. Not a great way to start off a marriage. Still, my husband and I weren’t worried about it, because everyone knows that if you take out a loan for school, it’s a good investment, and you’ll be able to pay it off after you graduate, right? I can’t tell you how wrong that assumption was.
We made several mistakes in deciding to take out a student loan. First, we didn’t consider the timing. Deciding to go back to school a week after getting married wasn’t a smart thing to do. In retrospect, it would have been better to give myself a year to get used to being married, before adding the stress of school and big financial obligations. This loan added unnecessary stress to our first year of marriage.
Second, we didn’t consider the future. At the time my husband was working at a job he didn’t like. We didn’t consider where his future would take us. We didn’t consider what we would do when we had children. We didn’t consider how paying back the student loan would affect our budget in the future.
Finally, we took out more loan than what we needed. Instead of taking a loan for only the amount of tuition, we took out the maximum amount that we could. We used it to pay for housing and other expenses, as well as tuition. If we had only taken out a loan for the amount of tuition, perhaps we wouldn’t still be paying it off twelve years later.
In the end, my husband ended up getting a job 100 miles up the road. Instead of stressing our new marriage with a long commute, I dropped out of school a quarter and a half later, so we could move closer to his work. We ended up with a $10,000 loan for a degree I never got.
Now on to happier times. This is the decision that might surprise you. My husband and I agree that the best financial decision we ever made was having me be a stay-at-home mom. I know that might be hard to believe, especially considering the hard times we’re going through right now. And this isn’t the first time we’ve gone through hard times either. But I would still consider our decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom the best financial decision we’ve ever made. There are several reasons I feel this way.
First, it has allowed me to be involved with the kids. Since both of our children have had speech problems, it has been nice that I’ve always been available for speech therapy appointments, IEP meetings, and conferences with their teachers. I also like being the first person who sees them after school, so they can tell me about their days. I enjoy running them to soccer practice. And I like that they don’t catch illnesses from daycare.
Second, my career as a stay-at-home mom has forced us to learn frugality. Sadly, my husband and I didn’t have a clue about money before we got married. We have made a ton of financial mistakes. We have lived paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes not out of necessity. But through the hard times, when my husband’s income hasn’t been much and with no second income to fall back on, we have both learned to be better managers of our money. If there ever comes a time when we earn a lot more, I am confident that we could handle it at this point. Before I became a stay at home mom, I am confident we would have frittered away a large income.
Finally, being a stay at home mom has showed me things about God that I never would have learned if we had the security of a second income. In times of financial desperation, God has always provided us with what we need. Not always what we want, but we have always had food, shelter, and clothing. There are plenty of times that we’ve been able to pay the bills when on paper it just didn’t make sense. In response, my faith has increased. It’s been 10 years since I left my last job to become a stay-at-home mom, and I can see that my faith has grown by leaps and bounds. Even though I get tired and discouraged when our finances get tough, I never worry about whether we’ll end up on the street. I know God will take care of us, and that He has a plan for our lives.
Though I can’t say our best financial decision resulted in a million dollar portfolio, through being a stay-at-home mom, I have learned and experienced things that are more important than money. I don’t want to alienate my readers, and I am only speaking to my own situation. I have many women friends who work outside the home for various reasons, and I respect their decision to do so. But for our family, me staying home to raise the kids has been the best financial decision we’ve ever made because we’ve reaped more than what money can buy.