CNN interviews this dude who’s written a book called “How to Survive (and Perhaps Thrive) on a Teacher’s Salary.” I’m sure he may have some good tips for living on $39,900 a year, as he claims, but that’s not what he’s doing. He’s living on $39,900 plus the value of all the unpaid labor his stay-at-home wife performs.
The interview begins by explaining that he’s a teacher with a wife who stays home with the kids. They pitch this as if it’s a luxury his wife gets to enjoy because they’re so smart with his income. But do we really have to go over yet again what it would cost to outsource childcare, let alone everything else many stay-at-home-moms do for the household? What she does at home would probably cost at least $39,900 to outsource. Even when you consider the wife’s living expenses, it’s nearly true that “two can live as cheap as one”, so it doesn’t come close to excusing his assessment that the family’s “living” on a mere $39,900/year. Just by enabling the household to avoid professional daycare costs, the wife’s labor is equivalent to several hundred dollars a month. That bumps up the $39,900 estimate quite a bit for any single parents who have to pay for daycare. Or two-income families who are just making $39,900 between their income. And of course, it’s no help to families living on less.
What happens if this man loses his wife? Either he has to find another one, pronto, or he has to start paying for daycare, which can rival your rent or mortgage. Whatever chores his wife handles, he’ll either have to take over himself or pay someone to handle. That could include maid service, cooking, and not only paying all the bills every month but also fighting with creditors over billing errors and all that fun stuff, just to name a few.
No, sorry, folks. If you have someone who’s doing the work of one or several professionals in exchange for a slightly larger grocery and clothing bill, you’re not living on just your salary. You are living on your take home pay plus the market value of the free services that person provides, minus her living expenses, and you are not simply entitled to those free services just because you have a wang. Therefore you are a very fortunate and privileged dude, and your failure to notice this is highly irritating to me.
And I’m irritated CNN doesn’t have the basic intelligence to call him on this. I mean, his situation is unusual enough in that he gets months off every year, during which he can grow his own food or do DIY projects year-round workers at the same salary might have to outsource, or, I dunno, write a book to increase the income he’s bragging about living on. Whatever!