Last December, Honey Smith was in the throes of some major life changes — her husband started his own business, only to sell it and start a new job, adding to the pressure to move and possibly buy a house. She wrote about it in her blog post “When the right choice isn't obvious” and basically asked the readers which direction she should take.
“I've been steadfastly against buying a home while our income is so uncertain. However, if Jake takes a firm job, then our debt-to-income ratio will be radically improved and we may be able to afford a house. We'd still have to be conservative, of course, but overall it's quite a different trajectory for our lives than we could have anticipated only three weeks ago. Who could have predicted this uncertainty?”
Uncertainty can make you crazy, but this reader's story demonstrates how certainty can have the same effect. At times, either situation might make you wonder if you could live with a coin toss.
“My wife and I are at a crossroad in our lives. I'm 54, and my wife is ‘a little younger.' We were both single for quite a while, but last year we got married. (This is a second marriage for both of us.) We each have two daughters — hers are married and mine are a bit younger. Of the four, one of our daughters lives with us and is going to school to get her masters. The other is about to graduate from high school and will be going to college in the fall.
“My wife is with a large firm and has a very nice salary with benefits. I have been employed in the health care field for more than 20 years. While my company does offer a good 401K-matching program, I have reached the salary cap in my field. One benefit I have is a three-day work week, but there is also some instability in my field. In the past 11 years, I have had five different bosses. The work environment has gotten even worse as new changes in healthcare are being implemented almost daily. We are renting a home to meet our current needs, having sold my previous house. We also need to do some fixing up on my wife's home before we can sell it.
“Here is our dilemma: My wife's job has become almost unbearable for different reasons, and we would both like to leave our present situations. I'm afraid that I won't be able to find another job that offers the same salary or retirement benefits. For my wife to find another job making her salary is not likely. We have savings, a minimal car payment on one car, but don't own a home. Our retirement savings is pretty good, but not where it needs to be for us to retire. When I say ‘retire,' I don't mean to sit on a rocker on the front porch. I think of it more as a transition to do something we have a passion for. As it stands, we feel a bit tied down due to our kids' needs, our salaries, and our benefits, etc.
“So here's my question to readers who have traveled this path: What did you do? Did you go ahead and make a change? Did you just stick it out for ten more years? Did you compromise and work it out to do both? No one is making us stay where we are. So maybe we are over-thinking this and doing it to ourselves. How have other boomers handled this situation?”
Unfortunately, we're left to wonder exactly what options the reader has other than to stay in a rather unsatisfying career and continue to provide for his family and prepare for retirement. However, since they would like to make changes to their situation, is there a way to make progress toward that end? What is the basis for your advice?