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Ask Dave

She Doesn't Feel Free

Dianna and her husband are debt-free except for their mortgage. She thought she'd be experiencing freedom at this point, but she isn't.

QUESTION: Dianna in Louisville and her husband are debt-free except for their mortgage. She thought she’d be experiencing freedom at this point, but she isn’t. Dianna wants to stay home with their children, but he’s too nervous to allow her to do so. Dave suggests asking her husband under what circumstances he would be comfortable.

ANSWER: There isn’t any reason mathematically with an $1,100 house payment making $57,000 that you guys can’t make it. It’s not going to be a cake walk. It’s not going to be like you’re rich or something. Given that daycare is not coming out of your income, it’s a big number, so probably what we could do is try to put together a budget that the two of you look at together and agree on that includes saving your entire paycheck, which proves that you don’t need your paycheck. If you can do that for five or six months and you look up and say, “Well, look. We’ve been able to live without my paycheck,” that would finish Baby Step 3 pretty easily doing that. That might give him a little more comfort as well.

I think you’re very close to being able to make that decision. You two need to agree on at what point he’s going to be comfortable enough. Under what circumstances would he be comfortable? Make him face that.

Planning is not an indication of a lack of faith. Planning is wise, but you cannot plan for everything. You have to have insurance in place for some things, and you have your emergency fund in place for some things. There are other things that can happen that are just going to be too big even then that could knock you out. Those things are always there. You can’t plan away all of life’s variables. It’s impossible. In that sense, you are walking in optimism. You’re walking in faith. But just saying, “Well, it’ll all work out,” even though the math doesn’t work—that’s not faith. That’s just stupid. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but I want to make sure we don’t let someone who’s listening to you and I right now hear that.

I think you guys just have some more communication and some work to do, and I don’t think you’re involved enough in the budget. You talk in generalities. You do not look at the detailed numbers with him. You need to get involved. It’s going to give you some logic to be able to meet this concern of his. He knows you don’t know the numbers, and so when you start saying, “Well, I think we can do it,” he says, “Yeah, based on what? You don’t know the numbers.” When you stick your nose in there and really start to learn what it takes to make it, then you can say, “Look, we can do it. Here, this, this, and this. Look, we’ve saved my entire paycheck and we’re going to budget for that for the next five months, and then I’m going to quit.” That’s how we’re going to do this. We’re going to have the emergency fund in place. We’re going to be debt-free. We’ve proven that we can live on his income. That’s logic. That’s planning. That makes sense. That removes the variables. If you can’t do that, then quitting could be a problem. I certainly want you to quit and come home if there’s any possible way. That’s what you want to do.