Friday, May 30, 2008

Making the Most of being a Two-income Family

Jo Hunter Adams

I recently began a new job, and it's been busy adjusting to a new day and new schedule. It's the first time we're a real two-income family, and the first time I've been working regular hours indefinitely. There are a couple of amazing opportunities in my new job.

I am able to drive through a variety of different areas of the state, most of which have a completely different feel to Boston. A few times a week I meet people who are committed to the health of potentially vulnerable populations, and to better serving these populations. There are people all over the state who are working on individual and collective health of whole populations in a superbly down-to-earth way.

There are also new decisions to be made. On the one hand, we still have my student loan to pay off, but on the other, we have relatively more wiggle room because the rate at which we pay off the loan is up to us (although we would obviously pay a different amount of interest). We are committed to living simply, but what does that actually mean?

During the past few months we've had the opportunity to talk about our resources regularly in a group setting, through our church. What has been striking is that money is usually something that we're not used to talking about-- whether we have a lot or a little. I think part of the reason is you don't want people to feel pressured to change their behavior around us (or perhaps, we don't want to shift our behavior to suit other people's financial positions). Although choices about money are extremely personal, I think one way of keeping money from having too powerful a hold is by being really transparent on how it is being spent, and what we have or do not have. In the context of openness, even if someone disagrees with your decisions they know you better through understanding your priorities, and you can hear their perspective on priorities, rather than on one specific financial decision. I reserve the right to find out I'm wrong in the future.

Three resources have been really helpful in this financial transition to two incomes:

This website offers insights on how to step out bravely financially. What I like about the website are stories that describe people with different resources, giving for a whole variety of reasons. In those stories I was able to better articulate my own motivations, priorities and desires right now.

2) Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan
(By Tracy Gary and Melissa Kohner)
This book offers very practical advice on how to be deliberate in your giving. In a way, it assumes you are deliberate in your spending generally and from there you can be decisive and make incredible choices about where to give, how to give, and when to give based on your priorities.

The most illuminating section of this book was the pyramid of giving. It explained that most people give most of their money towards obligations, or socially (forming the base of the pyramid) and far less on transformational giving. Inspired giving turns this pyramid upside down, where far less money is spent on obligations (helping in family settings, etc, or treating people to dinner) and far more is spent to empower or be part of specific organizations. That is not to say that you care less about your family or other obligations. Rather, you are deliberate in how much you allocate for expressing your support for the people in your life. I believe this may mean you are able to make that money go further and be more creative in the ways you express support and love.

3) Related to finding creative ways to show your support for those you love, we discovered Ten Thousand Villages here in Boston. It is a wonderful organization, with two shops in Boston and great quality, unique fairly trade gifts.

More to come! Hopefully more quickly. Our plants are doing really well, and we're starting to enjoy salad for lunch and dinner.