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“My Boyfriend Wants to Quit His Job and Live Off My Income”

Love or money

I have been with my boyfriend for three years and living together for about two years in Los Angeles. He makes a decent income of 70k, which is half of mine, and we plan on getting engaged soon before I hit 30. Recently, he decided that in the near future, before or after our wedding, he wants to quit his job or go work just part time for a while (I told him max of two years is my limit) to get more serious about his goal of becoming a screenwriter and work on making an income from writing. This means that right at the time that we are married and try to have kids, our income will take a hit.

I have been so excited to get engaged and am suddenly very uncomfortable to marry someone who wants to use me as support. I am not sure if I should be a good partner and support him even though it makes me feel used as if he was planning this all along, which he says he wasn’t and that writing after work does not give him enough time. I am so confused and not sure if I have wasted three years. We truly love each other and really get along but why am I suddenly scared to marry him? — Not Interested in Being Used

What readers don’t know is that the subject line in your email to me was “I make double my boyfriend’s salary,” which is interesting because it suggests that it isn’t just the idea of your boyfriend quitting his job to focus on writing that bothers you but the fact that right now your boyfriend doesn’t earn as much as you do. That, coupled with your protests of “being used” and not wanting to support him indicates that you need to do some serious communicating before you talk seriously about getting married.

My 15 things every couple should discuss before getting married is a good starting point. But the two of you need to think about what you individually see as you imagine your lives 5, 10, 15 years from now. Do you want to continue working full-time after you have children? If so, how important is it to you that you have a partner who is equally invested in his career? How important is it that his career be one that is on par with yours, financially? What about your future children? If both parents were to work full-time, what do you envision for childcare? Even when kids start school, they still need childcare coverage when they’re released at 3PM. If you had a partner who had a more flexible schedule — like, say, a screenwriter who set his own hours — that might solve the problem of school pick-up and afternoon care.

The thing is, when you marry someone and agree to be life partners, you agree to support each other — emotionally, physically, and yes, financially. So, to say you don’t want to “be a good partner and support” your maybe-future-husband is… well, it’s an odd choice of phrasing at the very least, and perhaps an indication that you aren’t yet prepared for the compromises necessary to maintain a successful marriage. The reality of marriage is that one person never fully supports the other person all the time. Even if we’re just talking about finances, in the course of a long marriage, one partner — even one who starts off making double what the other does — could find herself or himself dependent on the other. Jobs are lost and gained. Screenplays are sold. Raises and promotions are offered. Life happens. And even if one partner is the main breadwinner for the entire marriage, it still doesn’t mean he or she is the main supporter and the other partner is simply supported. What about domestic support (cooking, cleaning, childcare, grocery shopping, etc.)? What about emotional support? Isn’t there enormous value in those things? Isn’t love itself a valuable currency of its own?

You need to sit down and talk with your boyfriend and you need to think about the following questions:

1. How do you both define “success” as a writer?

2. How long are both of you willing to give your boyfriend to achieve that success while living on his limited income? What sacrifices would you have to make to live on just one income and are you willing to make those sacrifices?

3. If he doesn’t find the financial success you both agree is necessary by whatever date you choose he needs to achieve it by, what are the next steps? Does he give up his dream of being a screenwriter and find another source of income? If so, what would he do for income? Can he go back to the work he is currently doing? Is there other work he can do that will be meaningful for him? How can he maintain a stable source of income, even if it’s a small one, while he writes screenplays so that he may have that income to fall back on and pursue should he decide to throw in the towel on screenwriting?

4. When do you want to have children?

5. How do you plan to care for the children in their early years (A nanny? Day care? Stay-at-home parent? A combination of those things?)

6. What support do you want from a husband? And what support does your boyfriend want from a wife?

In the end, you have to follow your gut and make choices based on what will make you happy and what fits your long-term life goals. If what you want is to be with someone who will work in a stable industry and whose income will always match yours, then maybe your boyfriend isn’t the right match for you. If you want to eventually stay home with young children, then a screenwriter just starting out may not be able to make that dream a reality for you. You have to think about what you value and then prioritize your values and goals. Is it more important to have the emotional support of someone you love or is it more important to love someone who can financially support you? And are you willing to give up one without the certainty of another?


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 9:12 am

If I made enough money that my husband could quit his job and pursue a passion while also incidentally keeping house and watch the kids I’d be delighted. He was recently unemployed for about six months and as difficult and stressful as that was it was really nice to come home to a clean house and dinner started. If it hadn’t been for the stress of not quite making enough to cover our bills, let alone our groceries, I would have told him to stop looking.
What works for one couple won’t necessarily work for everyone, of course, and you are totally entitled to have a preference and to build your life around that preference, I’m juuuuust saying. It’s nice to come home from a long day’s work and be greeted at the door with a glass of wine and your smoking jacket and slippers.

avatar csp February 11, 2014, 9:18 am

I love this and Wendy has good questions. I have one other question to ask. Do you believe that he can structure his life to be a writer. Is it a passion or something that he just kick around. When given a lazy Saturday to do what he wants, does he write or play video games all day?

So I think I have a story in me. When I am commuting, I think about my “Book” and think of the plot, how it will form. But when push comes to shove, I never put the time in the writing. It isn’t a priority. I wouldn’t trust myself. So overall, I guess all these questions lead to if you believe in him?

Miel Miel February 11, 2014, 9:40 am

I second this. In my experience, writing requires three things simultaneously : time, inspiration and energy. Sometimes to have an hour of free time, you have that super good idea for a dialogue, but you’re so incredibly tired that you just lay there and watch tv. Some other time, you have a free day, you want to write, you’re sitting at your desk ready to write, and nothing good comes out.

Writing is the hardest hobby. It’s always easier to read a book than to write one. It’s always easier to watch tv, or play video games, or even go for a walk outside. Some people can write a book in three weeks, some others take 10 years. If your boyfriend quits his full-time job, what will happen ? A scenario in three weeks? Or three weeks of video games because he hasn’t find the energy to write yet ?

avatar AmyP February 11, 2014, 9:48 am

Here’s an idea–encourage him to start devoting say half of his vacation days to his screenwriting and see what happens. If nothing happens, then it’s not a good idea.

Also, encouraging him to take classes in screenwriting would be another step forward.

avatar TECH February 11, 2014, 10:00 am

Yeah, I guess it just bothers me that he feels he cannot be “serious” about his writing while still working full time. I have a family member who works full time, teaches part time, and wrote a book and launched a website, all at the same time. I also have another family member who happens to be in the entertainment business and worked full time on a cable television show in production, and wrote several screenplays (yet to be purchased or produced) while also having poetry published. When you work hard, you can get it all done.

CatsMeow CatsMeow February 11, 2014, 11:13 am

It reminds me of the last Girls episode! I don’t want to be too spoiler-y, but basically


Hannah gets a full-time job and wants to continue to write more “fulfilling” things in her free time, but then she falls asleep the second she gets home from work.

avatar NavyWife February 11, 2014, 2:35 pm

Agree with this completely. If you’re really passionate about something, you’ll find a way to get it done.

I’m not an avid Dr. Phil watcher or anything, but I happened to catch an episode the other day that reminds me of this. The husband had quit his job to “write” a zombie novel, while the wife was busting her butt at the office every day, then coming home and taking care of their child and doing 90% of the housework. The husband was clearly a loser, but was defending his “book” and his need for time to write, etc. Dr. Phil starts asking him about the book, getting published, etc. and the guy was clueless–“writing a book” was his excuse to be lazy and play video games all day, rather than contributing to the family’s income and/or chores & parenting.

Dr. Phil also brought up a good point…he said that a lot of writers need to be out in the world, talking to people and experiencing life. to get their creative juices flowing. They might be inspired by a conversation they overhear, or a story a colleague tells them. They hear a phrase that could be used in a dialogue they’re working on. Basically his premise was that for most people, sitting at home staring at a computer screen all day is not going to get the book written.

bittergaymark bittergaymark February 12, 2014, 12:55 am

Doctor Phil can’t even fucking host a decent program — yet alone pen anything worth reading. PS — Name one successful writer that KEPT their day job?

avatar uunaluuna February 12, 2014, 9:37 am

Well, Isaac Asimov recommends to “Be reasonable, don´t quit your day-job until you got a publishing deal” ,among many other advise to aspiring writers.

And Stephen King didn`t quit his janitor job until “Carrie” was published.

Successful writers don`t keep their jobs. But aspiring writers should.

avatar csp February 11, 2014, 10:49 am

This is a great idea!

avatar MMcG February 11, 2014, 1:29 pm

That’s what I was wondering… the LW doesn’t mention whether this is a lifelong dream that he has always talked about, and has writen SOMETHING in the past or done anything towards that pursuit, or if this just is coming up now in a quarter-life crisis sort of way, i.e. “I don’t like my job, I’m going to become a writer!” Those are 2 very different situations in my world. One I would be much more comfortable supporting/shifting timelines for marriage and kids, than the other…

avatar csp February 11, 2014, 1:47 pm

Yes, is this something that he can focus or do? Like, I see jobs like Radio show host and think that would be fun. But am I ready to quit it all in pursuit of that? Or be a travel writer for a magazine? There are a bunch of things I would like to do but I am not ready to give it all up for that.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 9:19 am

It sounds like you have different priorities at the moment. He wants to focus on his career, you seem more focused on having children (if I’m interpreting correctly). I guess it would be good for each one of you to just kind of lay out the vision you have for the next 5 years or so and then see whether they go together. If you don’t like where he wants to go in the next few years then your marriage would likely become strained. Personally, I think I’d be fine with supporting a partner financially if they had a good plan for advancing their own career or if they were interested in staying home with the children. I wouldn’t be ready to support a pipe dream.

avatar kerrycontrary February 11, 2014, 9:23 am

Yeh I think I’d be fine if my fiance wanted to take time off for grad school or to try a different career or something. I think only the LW knows this, but some people can be “working on their screenwriting” and can be total bums, while others are disciplined and serious. And we can’t know what her bf is like. But if I had a partner who would be serious about it and wouldn’t waste away the day, then I would support this.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 9:28 am

Another important point is that screenwriting is intensely competitive. So he doesn’t just need to be serious but also seriously talented as well. I would only want to support the launch of a writing career if my partner was ALREADY writing and writing well. I’d need to seriously belief that he could make it in that career.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 9:29 am

wah, believe not belief

avatar TECH February 11, 2014, 9:48 am

The only problem is that a talented writer will often not be able to sell his screenplay. Believing that your partner is a good writer and will succeed won’t make him succeed. Also, in order to get meetings you have to have connections. Does he even have an agent? And even if you have an agent or connections in the business, you still might not get anywhere.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 9:54 am

Agreed, I was thinking more of a minimal requirement. At the very least he needs to be very serious about this and very talented as well. Even if he is both those things, he’ll still need a lot of luck (and probably connections), but that’s needed for all big dreams.

avatar kerrycontrary February 11, 2014, 9:19 am

WWS. There’s a lot going on here but, I’d like to add though if the bf/husband is working part-time (so lets assume 20hrs a week) and screenwriting 10-20 hours a week, if not more, it’s pretty similar to working a full-time job. So if you had kids in that situation, he’s not just going to be a stay-at-home dad who can watch the kids and clean the house and make dinner. You’ll have to treat him like he’s really working. So I would figure out if you could financially swing it for him to only work 20hrs a week and pay for daycare/childcare. Bulk up your savings before he leaves the workforce. I think you need to take a hard look at how you view money and sharing finances in a marriage though. How would you feel if the situation was reversed and you wanted to stay home with children? This may be something you two should discuss with a therapist or pre-marital counselor.

avatar AmyP February 11, 2014, 9:52 am

Also, set some sort of deadline. For instance, two years of working half-time and writing half-time would be a good idea, and quite fair. At the end of the two years, check in and see if he’s made progress toward being able to make a living at this.

I wouldn’t delay having kids for his screenwriting, but as people have mentioned, he can’t be doing the screenwriting and at the same time caring for little kids. (Once they hit about five, though, it’s much more feasible.)

avatar jottino February 11, 2014, 9:33 am

Ugh. This sounds so much like a bad long-term business deal than an almost-marriage. Being supportive of your partner is SO HUGE! I mean I’m not saying you should tell him to quit right away & pursue his dreams, but instead of setting time limits & due dates, what about some kind of compromise where you can discuss, “Ok, if this is what you really want to do, let’s figure out a way that it’s possible.” Maybe a savings plan (start now!), or part-time work, consulting, freelancing, etc. This is a conversation that you need to have with your man. And as a fellow overplanner (i.e., getting engaged before turning 30), I’ve learned that you can’t plan all of these things out. How do you know you will have kids in that time frame? How do you know his screenplay will take so long? So many things can happen that change all of your preplanned ideas, and you should want someone who will stand at your side as you face these unexpected moments.

And to be honest, the second paragraph of the letter is just … if he expresses a dream, or a life goal, and your immediate reaction is to go to the “I just wasted 3 years of my life” place?! Or the “He was planning this the whole time” place like he was plotting to inherit your fortunes?! Hmm.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 9:47 am

I know I’m quick to shout mooch on here, but the savings plan comment stuck out at me for some reason. If this was his dream all along, has he saved any of his money to reach this goal of not working and writing?
Another thing – if you expect him to go back to a job full time after two years, it might not be that easy.

avatar starpattern February 11, 2014, 4:53 pm

Your point about the savings plan – if I were in LW’s position, that would be the kind of thing I would be looking for. Has he demonstrated dedication to this goal for years, or is this something that just came up when he got serious with a woman making a good salary?

becboo84 becboo84 February 11, 2014, 10:25 am

Loved this response!

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 9:43 am

You guys, especially Wendy, gave such awesome advice on this one! You’re all so much smarter than me.
Anyway, I’ll just add that if you are already feeling so uneasy about this, don’t force it too much or you’ll come back to those feelings every time you feel like he’s not doing enough or being lazy.

avatar TECH February 11, 2014, 9:43 am

“I am not sure if I should be a good partner and support him.”
LW, it’s okay to not want him to quit his job and take up screenwriting. Feeling that way does not make you a bad partner.
I know Wendy said that fortunes and circumstances change throughout a relationship. For the most part that’s true. But the other side of that is that people don’t change all the much, and luck plays a major part in getting a screenplay purchased.
I’m going to be very realistic here and say it’s likely that your boyfriend will probably always make a lot less money than you. Furthermore, I’ll be pretty blunt and say that if he pursues screenwriting, he will likely never sell a screenplay. You seem like a smart young woman and I’m sure you’re aware that screenwriting is a bit of a crapshoot and is extremely competitive.
Listen to your feelings here. You’re not okay with this plan. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be either.

avatar csp February 11, 2014, 11:40 am

It isn’t so much luck as connections. So if you have family in the business or work in an Entertainment adjacent industry. So if you are in film marketing, you will know the right people to submit your resume. Heck, if you are the receptionist at a literary agent. I think removing yourself from the working world can lead you in the wrong direction. Ya know. I mean, there is luck but there is a difference between just mailing your screenplay blind to an agency and having it handed to the decision maker.

avatar NavyWife February 11, 2014, 2:50 pm

Totally agree about removing yourself from the working world being a bad idea, especially in the writing business. I’m kind of of the mindset that writers need to be out in the world to get inspired: talking to people to figure out what makes them tick/get ideas for a character, overhearing a story or conversation that drives a plot, or a phrase that could be used in a dialogue they’re working on. This makes me think of the TV show “Castle”…the main character is a crime novelist who shadows an NYPD detective for ideas for his books. Sitting at home blindly staring at a laptop screen would not work for him.

Guy Friday Guy Friday February 11, 2014, 9:57 am

I mean, it’s not like the guy is saying “no way in hell will I make a penny.” He’s offering to work part-time and focus on his screen writing. I’m going to be totally honest with you, LW: I know different areas of the country have different costs of living, but If you’re making $140K+ per year I find it a bit hard to believe that you can’t survive on that. Yes, you might have to tighten your belt a bit, but it’s not like you’re going to be on the streets and starving. My wife and I both have solid jobs, and combined we make a good chunk less than $140K, and we just bought a fancy house, you know?

As Wendy said, there’s value in the home factors that should be considered. When I took a potentially lower-paying job (or at least a fluctuating pay one), it was understood that when we have kids I’m going to be doing more of the care and dropping off/picking up and whatnot. And I’m fine with that, because my job’s decently flexible and I can do that, and because my wife and I are a team. But if he can screen write and still take care of the house and cook dinner and leave you with virtually nothing to do when you get home at night, why is that somehow less valuable than money? Would you consider a stay-at-home wife to be a mooch?

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 10:01 am

I think you are discounting cost of living, and I only say that because if you have a fancy house off a combined income of less than $140k, you are not living near me, or any big city likely. She mentioned they live in LA, too.

Kate Kate February 11, 2014, 10:15 am

Agree, LBH. We live near a major city and our combined income is considerably higher than that, but if one of us quit our job, we’d have to make major changes in our lifestyle. Like MAJOR. We’d have to move way the hell up in NH or something to afford a “fancy house.” And I don’t know what I’d be able to do for work up there.

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 10:18 am

I’m with you LBH. $140k in NCFL and we’d be living like kings. But in LA or NYC or Philly? Not so much.

avatar bethany February 11, 2014, 10:33 am

True that. I was just thinking “if we made 140K we’d be rich!” But then I realized that we make almost that much. And we are soooo not rich!

avatar AmyP February 11, 2014, 12:21 pm

I am a big fan of Jim the Realtor (bubbleinfo.com) who works out of San Diego, and I’ve seen some very humdrum million-dollar houses on his website. There are a lot of places where a million doesn’t get you that much. $700k is a screaming deal in some of the neighborhoods he features.

I’m not sure what LA is like these days, but I remember back during the bubble looking at Compton (yes, that Compton) Craigslist real estate ads and finding that $500k was totally normal for Compton.

So, yeah, I can imagine $140k not going very far.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 12:41 pm

“during the bubble” being the operative phrase.

Addie Pray Addie Pray February 11, 2014, 10:21 am

I agree with LBH. In many cities, $140k won’t get you too far.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 10:49 am

I don’t want to turn this into a class wars kind of thing, but I don’t care what city you live in, if you can’t find a way to live comfortably off 140K a year you are BAD AT MONEY (provided you don’t have staggering debt/loans). You may not be living in the wealthiest neighborhood, it might be nowhere near as nice as what you’re used to, but you will not be living in the slums, either.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:04 am

I think you’re wrong. I know plenty of people living in shitty and very tiny apartments in NYC that make more than that or around that.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 11:11 am

They are probably trying to live in a place that’s outside their means or they have debt/other expenses that are affecting their finances. That’s their prerogative, it’s their money.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:16 am

I don’t think you understand why people live in the city or what the cost to live in a city is. You may pull in $140K by working in the city, but the cost to live there (in a small place) is just as much, and oftentimes it doesn’t make sense for people to commute (commuting costs/time lost). Years ago, I turned down a job in the city that would’ve doubled my salary because the time/cost of commuting made it not worth it.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 11:25 am

Not intimately – 140K/year where I live would, in fact, make me rich. I’m not totally clueless, though – my whole extended family lives in Jersey, my aunt lived in the upper west seventies for years before buying her house in Westchester and an uncle of mine took the train to the city from Sussex for a couple of years until the commuting took its toll and he found another job. I still say you would not actually be living in poverty.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:30 am

Well, yea I don’t think they would be living in poverty per se, but not necessarily well off or close to it, by any means.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:45 am

Man, the minute people discuss $, the thumbs start frowning.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 11:50 am

Right? I think it just shows how touchy a subject it is for people.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 12:03 pm

It so is! I hope I wasn’t offending anyone. I agree $140k isn’t anything LOW, but I’ve just seen how crazy cost of living can be for my siblings and friends.

avatar AmyP February 11, 2014, 12:31 pm

It wouldn’t be poverty, but there would be a big difference between a household income of $210k for a couple of DINKs (which is where they would be currently) and a household income of $140k for a married couple with two kids (which is what the LW probably would like). That’s a huge drop in standard of living for coastal California. That would be doubling the number of humans in the household while slashing the household income by 33%–not fun! The LW’s disposable income would immediately disappear.

Also, there’s the issue of public school quality. The $210k income could buy them into a much nicer school district than $140k would.

I wonder if the boyfriend realizes how much financial sacrifice would be involved in living both his dream (the screenwriting) and her dream (having kids). I wonder if he’s really prepared for that, or if he just envisions living the same life, except with more time for his writing.

iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson February 11, 2014, 12:18 pm

I’m on your side LBH, if it matters. Life is all relative, and yeah their are many places where $140,000 is equal to $30k, and a family could not support themselves on 30k, we’d all agree.

avatar NavyWife February 11, 2014, 3:01 pm

In a lot of cities, it’s the crazy taxes…if you live in New York, for example, you’re paying city, state and borough taxes, PLUS federal income tax and FICA (SS/Medicare). I just used an online calculator and making $140K/year in NYC, you’d pay roughly $55,000 in taxes. So now you’re down to 85K. That’s still a nice amount of money, but everything is more expensive…housing, groceries, transportation. Assume you’re putting money in savings or a retirement account, maybe a 529 plan for your kids…?That money goes FAST. You wouldn’t be in abject poverty, but you wouldn’t be “rich” either!

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 3:03 pm

I hadn’t even thought of taxes! Property taxes by me are INSANE. I spend as much on those per month as I used to pay for rent. :(

Lindsay Lindsay February 11, 2014, 9:01 pm

I get this to an extent, but I made $45,000 living in NYC and I was able to purchase the things I needed and often wanted, I flew home for visits, lived in a decent apartment in a nice neighborhood, etc., and still was able to save money. I know that things differ, but I think if $140K is hard to live on, then it’s a matter of your chosen lifestyle, not just where you live.

Like there may be people who DO have trouble with it, but it doesn’t mean it’s the rule.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:17 am

And these people I know aren’t living outside their means. I mean, they live in shitty, little apartments and rarely go out to eat, etc. It sucks.

Moneypenny Moneypenny February 11, 2014, 1:15 pm

I agree- in my area, $140k puts you in the middle class, and average home prices are approaching a million dollars. The standard of living might be high, but cost of living is almost higher!

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 11:09 am

Like, think about it:

140K/year, say you take home 100K/year after taxes. That’s 8,333/month. Most financial advisors would tell you you can comfortably afford rent/mortgage payments of 2,500/month. Check out what you can get in LA for that much on Zillow. Not horrible! If your stay at home husband is enriching your life in other ways, plenty of people would find that worth the sacrifice of an extra 70K/year.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:19 am

Totally agree that plenty of people would find the money pinch worth it, but I’m not going to blame anyone who doesn’t want to radically change their lifestyle.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 11:30 am

well then those same people should not be thinking about having kids.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:34 am

Why? You might like a radical change of having children, but not a radical change of cutting your income in half.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 11:53 am

well you said you dont blame anyone for not wanting to radically change their lifestyle… kids are a huge lifestyle change. even more then a money change, id say.
i also dont blame people for wanting to keep a certain lifestyle, but i mean you have to be realistic.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 12:05 pm

Right, that’s what I meant. They are both huge lifestyle changes, but that doesn’t mean they are similar really. I would totally understand wanting to have kids but not wanting a big pay cut, or vice versa.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 11:31 am

Oh, no no no, I’m not blaming anyone either. Everyone gets to choose how they want to live as long as it’s within their means, I’m just saying that let’s not forget that 140K/year is so far above the poverty line that acting like that’s an income to sneeze at is super disrespectful to the people that live in those cities and make it work on, say, 60K/year.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:42 am

I wonder if I could make it work in the city on 60k. I’ve pinched the shit out of pennies before. haha. That would be a fun game for students – finding ways to make it work on small salaries (not that 60k is small, just depending on where you live).

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 12:06 pm

I am positive you could – according to this chart, plenty of people do: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_New_York_City#Income

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 12:21 pm

Yea, if the average in Manhattan is $75/k (I assume per person, not per household), I guess you are right! I’m really not trying to be offensive to people, not sure why my comments are all thumbs downed. I’ve lived off WAY less than the lowest income shared on here, I just don’t think I could’ve while living in Manhattan.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 12:26 pm

Don’t let the thumbs stress you out, I knew when I posted what I did I was going to lose part of a star, too. Whatever, we can’t all be Pollyanna forever.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 12:55 pm

I am a total child when it comes to being sad to see thumbs down, haha.

avatar MMcG February 11, 2014, 4:13 pm

I can’t even see the thumbs today…

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 1:25 pm

It says “per household” right on the chart silly.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 1:30 pm

Haha, you always have to point out my failings, don’t you. As if my stars getting down to 4.5 wasn’t enough for this day!

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 1:42 pm

I couldn’t resist! The median household income in our town is $27k haha. We’d seriously live like kings if we made $140k!

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana February 11, 2014, 12:16 pm

Yeah I have many friends who live in both NYC and Washington DC and make much less than 140 K, I mean not even in the same range, talking 45-60K tops and live great lives in nice apartments etc. I really think its a matter of what you want/are accustomed to. The minute you start making more $ you become quickly accustomed to a life where you can’t imagine having less than that, which is totally fine! My family grew up really rather poor and then our fortunes changed and I think it would have been hard for my parents to imagine my mom staying home again and taking the huge hit to their combined income. I think that this LW is sort of struggling with that fact, especially coupled with a pay cut and kids in the near future, she definitely has a lot to think about.

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 12:28 pm

Ohhhh definitely. My husband and I went from a combined income of about 40,000 to twice that over the last three years and I cannot imagine being able to live well on what we had, even though I didn’t feel particularly broke at the time. It’s all what you’re used to, you’re right.

Addie Pray Addie Pray February 11, 2014, 11:14 am

I actually agree with you. If you can’t find a way to live comfortably off 140k a year then you are bad at money – provided you don’t have staggering debt/loans….. but ALSO provided: (1) you don’t have an expensive life style/tastes – e.g., at that pay in Chicago you couldn’t necessarily live in the nicest place and eat out every day and still put away what you need to for retirement; and (2) you don’t have dependents (add in a need to support aging parents or other family members or kids and BAM that 140k doesn’t stretch as far).

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 12:08 pm

I agree with you on point (2), but on point (1)…I guess it comes down to the definition of comfortable, in that case. If someone is only comfortable living in the nicest place and eating out every day I find it a little harder to be sympathetic, although again, they earned it, they get to decide how they spend it.

Moneypenny Moneypenny February 11, 2014, 1:22 pm

I’m going to agree that generally, you are correct. But I also disagree because in some cases (NYC or, my hometown SF) that salary isn’t going to get you as much. It’s just not. One bedroom apartments in my city are renting for $3,000 a month, no joke. It’s insane. Someone considered middle class like myself is still paying 40% of their income in rent, or living with roommates. And that’s with living a non-extravagant yet comfortable lifestyle (eating/going out sometimes but not all the time, etc).

avatar iseeshiny February 11, 2014, 2:22 pm

If you’re making 140K/ year, you are in the top 15% of earners in the nation. That doesn’t make you super rich, since wealth is concentrated in the top 2% for the most part, but you are still doing better pay-wise than 85% of the nation. If you are making 140K and you don’t have a bunch of student loans or own a house you owe more on than it’s worth you can make it work. That is all I’m saying. People are acting like living off 140K is going down below the poverty line and it’s just not. Not even in SF, not even in NYC. Maybe in Dubai, I haven’t read the numbers, but there is nowhere in the US you can’t live well off 140K/year if you are making good financial decisions.

Moneypenny Moneypenny February 11, 2014, 3:15 pm

I do agree with you, but my point is mainly that that amount of money will not stretch very far in many locations. The cost of living is way higher in Sf than say, St. Louis (for example). And a lot of it also has to do with supply and demand, at least as far as housing goes, because for all of the folks who might want to move in, there isn’t a big supply of housing (esp with home prices averaging at almost a million dollars). Anyway. No way is 140k near poverty (I’d be in big trouble if it was), but my point is that, in some parts of the country, that amount doesn’t stretch very far, especially if you want to buy a house or raise kids.

avatar MMcG February 11, 2014, 4:11 pm

I agree in theory, but then having experienced the reality – NO. Bad Money management has nothing to do with the costs of living in DC, NYC, SF, LA, etc. etc. And some people (like myself and husband) are in careers/industry where living someplace outside of a major metro area just isn’t going to work either.

$140k per year in DC… wanting to have a house and family = pretty much slums (I’m checking into daycare options now and it could easily be over $2000 per month for a reputable place, which is mind-boggling). And I don’t even mean DC proper, anywhere around the beltway where you aren’t commuting 3 hrs a day for work. And LA is crazy expensive, and car dependent. Lived there back in the day and just EVERYTHING costs more.

avatar MMcG February 11, 2014, 4:17 pm

Also, a major factor is how much debt you have. I am able to make a really good living and live in an expensive city where I feel “comfy” but I also put myself through undergrad and lawschool and my student loan debts are a HUGE chunk of money that takes away a lot of the wiggle room. I think just looking at salary/income and not factoring what you may have had to contribute or are still contributing to get there skews things a lot. Add in whether you have family nearby (the kids issue), what support they may give you in daycare of financial help and other variables… well it’s just darn near impossible to compare apples/oranges across the Board.

avatar ktfran February 11, 2014, 9:58 am

I love Wendy’s advice. I would do what she says, LW.

So, I’m friends with this married couple. He’s a computer guy and she’s an aspiring actress / works for a law firm. A few years ago, she went part time at the law firm (three days a week) so she can spend more time pursuing acting. He was happy to support this, because this was her life goal. Fast forward a year or so, he was unhappy working a corporate job. He started his own consulting business. That didn’t quite pan out, but now he’s working for an established, small firm and thriving.

I guess I’m saying this is because both have made concessions so each could do something they really wanted to do. And they supported one another.

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 10:06 am

“am suddenly very uncomfortable to marry someone who wants to use me as support. I am not sure if I should be a good partner and support him even though it makes me feel used as if he was planning this all along”

This passage really stood out to me. There is something super off about the feeling that your partner “planned it all along” to use you for financial support. I don’t think that’s a normal place to jump to when your partner wants to follow their dreams…

avatar Lucy February 11, 2014, 10:46 pm

This. The LW sounds like she has serious trust issues, either with her boyfriend, or with everyone. She shouldn’t marry someone she doesn’t trust. And if she’s a naturally suspicious person whose mind goes to “he’s been planning this all along!” as a matter of course, she should get that sorted out before she marries anyone, because that way of thinking is poison.

Fabelle Fabelle February 11, 2014, 10:06 am

I don’t see what the problem is, really… I mean, the only potential issue pertains to future childcare—who would stay home? I’d say he’d be the perfect person, but if he feels being a stay-at-home dad would interfere with his screenwriting, THEN there could be an issue (where would the money come from if he expects her to stay home, for example?). But if he’s game to be a stay-at-home parent, then honestly, what is the problem? I hope I’m not over-stepping to mention this, but Wendy stays home, takes care of Jackson, & runs this site—what if Drew was like, “sorry babe, I’m not comfortable with being ‘used’ that way” (not sure how much the site makes now, but at the beginning, it was nothing/not much, right? so that’s why I’m drawing the parallel)

It’s cool if this particular LW isn’t comfortable… that’s her choice… but I don’t get why.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 10:14 am

If he’s working part-time and writing, there won’t be enough time for him to be a stay-at-home dad. I could see it working it out if he stops working altogether & just does the writing and child rearing.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 10:15 am

Its interesting everyone is saying he’ll be home for the kids…they aren’t even engaged yet, and this is supposed to be a 2 year experiment.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 10:19 am

Plus it may not be what he’s envisioning at all.

Fabelle Fabelle February 11, 2014, 10:42 am

Well okay, then it’s a 2-year experiment & won’t affect childcare at all— then, even more I don’t see a possible issue? I don’t know, I can’t give this my full attention today (which is why I missed that he’s planning to still work part-time? oops) but I do think LW’s concerns are a bit intense. She is making a good salary (I see the discussion above, but It SEEMS like she’s not concerned about the money so much as the “feeling used” “he planned this all along” etc. )

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 10:57 am

I totally agree on your last point, and believe there is a reason for this – either a valid one, or that its not the “norm” for a woman to support a man. I hope its the latter for her relationship’s sake.

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 10:15 am

I think logistically, the time and focus commitments of screenwriting and being the primary childcare giver don’t mesh. Like for us, GGuy is writing his dissertation. It’s like an 8 hour a day, locked to his desk, absorbed in history crap. There is absolutely no way he could make progress and watch a child. One or the other would get neglected.

Kate Kate February 11, 2014, 10:11 am

Ugh, I’m torn on this. I like Wendy’s advice, but then the way this is worded, worries me: “Recently, he decided that in the near future, before or after our wedding, he wants to quit his job or go work just part time for a while.” It’s when someone “just decides” they’re going to do something that’s totally different from what you planned, particularly when it relies on your income to pull it off, that huge problems can arise. I guess, bottom line, he’s telling you this BEFORE you get married or even engaged, so you can decide whether it’s ok with you or not. My first husband did this to me a few years into our marriage, and he literally never worked anything other than a minimum wage job again after quitting an extraordinarily good job with a secure future. But you’re not engaged yet, and you have time to figure this out. Forget the “before I hit 30″ deadline and assess how or if this is going to work for you. If it’s not, no shame in moving on and finding someone who wants what YOU want. But do NOT marry him if you’re not ok with this. It will destroy your marriage.

avatar SasLinna February 11, 2014, 10:17 am

Yep, the “before I hit 30″ deadline isn’t helping her. Neither is the thought of having “wasted” 3 years if she ends up not marrying this guy. This kind of thinking is never good.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 10:56 am

after the “just decides” line, though, she says that “her max is 2 years”- so they obviously talked about it. maybe that is her still being resentful over the fact, but it does sound like they have at least agreed on it somewhat….

Kate kate February 11, 2014, 11:00 am

I saw that, but then she says later in the letter that she still feels “uncomfortable” and “used.” So she’s got to think more about this and figure out if there’s a way she can be ok with it. If not, it would be a huge mistake to continue with an engagement.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 11:10 am

oh yea, i definitely agree.
i wonder what exactly is the cause of all the discomfort, as AP was saying… where does that stem from? i dont get why someone is “used” if they support a partner. i mean that happens all the time, it actually used to be completely normal. its still the picture of the american dream. how is it different for this LW?

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:12 am

That’s why I feel like there’s more to this story.

Addie Pray Addie Pray February 11, 2014, 10:12 am

LW, I’m interested to know why exactly you are feeling uncomfortable about this. I see a few possible reasons: (1) You yourself aspire to be a stay-at-home parent, to take a different job that pays less, or otherwise do not want to have to keep your high-paying job in the future should you later decide you don’t want it; (2) You plan to keep at your high-paying job but don’t want the stress of being the sole bread winner b/c, you know, should you get laid off or whatnot, that would suck; (3) The idea of financially supporting your husband is, I don’t know, off-putting to you; (4) You don’t think it’s fair, basically, that he gets to live off you while he pursues his dreams while you slave away in the office; (5) …. I dunno…. I there are probably lots of other reasons but there are a few possibilities.

I think pin-pointing exactly what irks you about this situation would be helpful to you. If it’s No. 1, you may just not be compatible because, typically, you can’t both be stay at home aspiring writers or artists at the same time … I mean, if you want to start a family and keep up your life style, someone needs to earn money while the other stays at home or tries to get his screen writing career off.

No. 2 I get. It’s hard enough worrying you’ll be able to keep up finances for your own upkeep. Add in being responsible for others, and that’s scary! At least to someone like me who can be a little bit of risk adverse and who needs a big safety net just in case. But I dunno, when you get married and have a family, it’s never just you anymore so you’re going to have to BE responsible for others, financially or otherwise… I dunno, I get this reason though.

No. 3 … I don’t get this one. I mean, if you would be ok with letting hims support you, why not support him? Provided he’s working hard, helping out in other ways, etc.

I’ve already forgotten the other possible reasons I’ve listed. In short, just tell us, what exactly is causing you to feel like this is not a good idea?

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 10:22 am

Oh! Idea. Since money is obviously a big theme, why don’t you live off of what you project your income would be if he did this for say a year while he keeps working full time. So if you project your income will be $170k once he starts writing, start living off of only that much, and putting the rest of his income into savings. Then you’ll be able to see if it’s feasible to live off of the reduced income, and have a big chunk of savings built up for emergency.

avatar rachel February 11, 2014, 10:30 am

I think this is a great idea, especially since they want kids. Although, honestly, I’m not sure the LW and her boyfriend have really gotten to the point where they consider income “ours” rather than “his and mine”.

GatorGirl GatorGirl February 11, 2014, 10:32 am

You’re right. I think it could be done with out looking at it like “our” money. You know proportions and such…each save their own etc. Totally stole the idea from Bethany too.

avatar bethany February 11, 2014, 11:46 am

I gave you a thumbs up since you said my name :)

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:48 am


avatar bethany February 11, 2014, 1:45 pm

best comment ever.

avatar stickelet February 11, 2014, 1:26 pm

This stuck out to me too. She seems to regard her income as ‘hers’ and his income as ‘his’. Perhaps they want to continue that within their marriage, but if they are going to do joint finances it seems they really need to talk about that and figure out what it means for each of them. If they are going to be engaged soon, shouldn’t they have figured this out already?

othy othy February 11, 2014, 10:40 am

I was just going to suggest this. It’s such a good idea to do a ‘practice run’, and you build up an ‘oh shit’ fund.

othy othy February 11, 2014, 10:47 am

Othello and I were in a very similar boat last summer. I was making more than double what he was making, he was miserable at his job, and he wanted to go back to school, finish his bachelor’s degree, and write. We sat down, assessed our finances, and decided to go for it. He’s much happier now that he’s not in a job he hates, and he’s glad to be pursuing something he wants to do.

I’m now trying to encourage him to look into either a MFA or a PhD in creative writing for when he graduates next year. His university offers both programs, and offers a stipend for students (very small, but he’d still be paid to go to school). For the thesis/dissertation of the programs, he would have to produce a novel length work of ‘publishable quality’. I think it would be a great test to see if he has the discipline to manage his time effectively and see if this is something he really wants to do. If not, there are many other writing related jobs he could go into where he could still put the degree to some use.

Kate B. Kate B. February 11, 2014, 10:48 am

This is a dilemma all creative people face. Let’s face it, most people don’t make a living in the arts. Most people also want to have a decent standard of living. (Not living in your car, for instance.) Someone in the house has got to make the money. I would love to quit my day job and spend my time singing, dancing, playing music and writing. I do all if these things, but I also have bills to pay, including a mortgage. But in order for me to do this, I would have to find a partner who makes enough money so I could quit, it take a lower-paying but more fulfilling job. He’d have to be okay with supporting me and I’d have to be okay with being supported. Wendy is right. There are other ways to support your partner than just financially. In return you’d get a happy, fulfilled life partner. Is that enough for you? I’m also wondering if this isn’t an effect of the changing gender roles in society. Do men feel used when their wives make less than they do?

avatar SpaceySteph February 11, 2014, 3:48 pm

+1 billion for “Do men feel used when their wives make less than they do?”

I think the LW should think about how much of this is falling into the traditional gender role trap, she may not even realize that is what makes her uncomfortable.

avatar BeckyGrace February 11, 2014, 10:54 am

What hit me about this letter was this part: “Recently, he decided…” This sounds like the boyfriend/fiancee has already made up his mind without it being a team decision. I am one who makes more than my husband and I would be fine with this kind of decision but ONLY if we made it together. Its a team decision not one he should or can make on his own and if he has already “decided” I would kick him to the curb because intuition is that he is using her.

avatar WAPS February 11, 2014, 12:38 pm

Well, it says he decided that he wants to, which is different.

Fabelle Fabelle February 11, 2014, 12:59 pm

yeah, he didn’t make a unilateral decision. If he up & quit without mentioning his desire to do so—then, okay. But he is mentioning it FIRST— so, isn’t it kind of on the conveyor belt to a team decision?

avatar TheTruth February 11, 2014, 10:55 am

Relationship is doomed, so any advice is a waste of time.

What I want to know is wtf she does for a living to make $140K a year under 30? Damn… I thought I made a good living.

1% problems.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 11:05 am

“This means that right at the time that we are married and try to have kids, our income will take a hit.” -well, duh. whether by someone staying home or childcare, and medical bills, of course your income takes a hit.
personally, if my partner’s dreams of quitting work to write at home coincided with us having kids and we could work out *both* dream writing career and childcare (two birds, one stone thing), id be so happy. thats awesome. jake has always said he would love to be a house husband. id do it. that sounds like a great life.
i think that this issue boils down to the fact that you two arent a team. if you were, you would WANT to support him to make his dream possible. this would be an exciting time for you guys, both of you, because his joy is your joy. then i think there is a secondary issue here of you being uncomfortable with being the breadwinner. personally i think that is a shitty attitude to have, and i think that you should change that about yourself. i wouldnt want to ever be with a partner who was uncomfortable being the breadwinner, and i hope no one would want to, because like wendy said, life changes. you can never predict anything in life ever. like, take the people on shark tank, for instance. there was a lady recently who was a stay at home mom and needed something for her kids and then started selling them- she grosses some amount of millions a year. she is now the breadwinner, over almost just coincidence, you know? (and yes, of course not JUST coincidence, but its not like these women go out with the intention of being the breadwinner and taking tons of money). id be livid if my partner was then uncomfortable and/or gave it up. overall i just think its really sad the things that women still think and believe about making money in a household. no one would bat an eye at a woman who told her boyfriend “oh id love, after we got married, to stay home and do x, y, z and potentially watch our kids while you keep your high paying job”. no one. but if a guy says that all of a sudden he is a gold digger. so sad.

i really liked the above suggestion of therapy. i think you both should go as a step to getting married to talk about this- not now, because it seems you are really far off of that point, but before anything legal and/or real plans are talked about. you gotta be a team if this is ever going to work, and you automatically thinking that you boyfriend is a gold digger is not a team mentality.

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:10 am

It sounds like a lot of people are saying that he wouldn’t be able to be a stay at home dad though if he is serious about writing.
Anyway, I do understand being scared about being the sole breadwinner. It IS scary. Like, terrifyingly scary I think. But then, lots of things are scary but worth it.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 11:26 am

and i get that- but maybe that can be her condition. he can stay home, but he still has to quit his job completely and take care of the kids for x amount of time per day, or whatever.. like wendy has. that seems like a really nice set up, to me anyway.
i understand about how its scary to be the sole breadwinner, but that happens all the time, everyday. men are the sole breadwinners constantly. its not like this isnt a normal situation!

avatar lets_be_honest February 11, 2014, 11:33 am

They aren’t even engaged yet, so I think this whole thing is gonna be over before kids are a twinkle in their eyes though (if they stick to the 2 year plan). Its strange everyone keeps saying he’ll be a stad (to kids that don’t even exist yet). He won’t be. He’ll be working on his writing all the time.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a nice setup to have a stad.

katie katie February 11, 2014, 1:07 pm

oh, well i only link them because that was how the LW put it… “This means that right at the time that we are married and try to have kids, our income will take a hit”

avatar WAPS February 11, 2014, 11:27 am

I almost 100% agree, except that I think this relationship should be over and that the therapy should be for her and not couples therapy. Because how much does it say that she feels “used” that he brought it up, especially because he didn’t decide TO quit, he decided that he WANTS to quit and is discussing it with her. I just get a bad vibe from this letter. When I think about the fact that I will make more money than my husband, and how I’d feel about him pursuing a less lucrative/more fulfilling career – I just don’t understand this LW. I’d love for him to do it, especially if I have the means to support him financially, because my life is richer for having him in it. The LW has to decide what she wants- she can keep her money all to herself by dumping him and being alone, she can guilt him into working where he’s unhappy and then resenting that he’s unhappy, or she can decide to be part of a team that supports each other, whether it be emotionally, financially, or with household support. What she can’t do is force him into a box where he has to make x amount of money at his current job AND be happy about – cake, eating it too, etc (I loved that, even though I disagreed with its application last time!).

katie katie February 11, 2014, 11:37 am

yea i pretty much have a bad feeling about the end of the this story, like you. but i was trying to be optimistic! lol

avatar Lovelygirl February 11, 2014, 11:06 am

WWS. I married the man of my dreams 6 months ago who makes a lot less than me. Like one third of my income. And it’s actually something that doesn’t matter in our relationship. His love and genuine nature means so much more than a paycheck and if I always make more than him then so be it. He makes me a better person and I absolutely love everything about him and how he makes me feel. It’s time for you to evaluate what’s really important to you. If you think he’s using you, then move on and find someone that doesn’t make you feel that way. If you can learn to let to of the monetary inequity, you too can have a very fulfilling marriage.