Are Two Incomes Better Than One?
As life presents us with changing challenges and
opportunities, the idea of the "traditional" American family has also changed.
The dual income family, with husband and wife each managing separate careers
and contributing to the financial success of the household, has become
Nowadays, economic commitments and expectations often
require two incomes to meet the overall expenses of the family. The biggest
question is often "How will we save for our children's education, plan for our
own retirement, and, perhaps, help our aging parents deal with some of their
The rewards of dual income families offer both
spouses the opportunity to pursue their careers and to accumulate income to
plan for the future. However, even though dual income families may have more
disposable income to pay for all the necessities, and even some of the
luxuries of life, additional daily expenses can eat into a second paycheck.
Having both spouses work may increase job-related expenses (e.g., additional
transportation expenses such as multiple car payments, automobile insurance,
and parking fees; workplace clothing; and meals away from home). In addition,
couples with busy work schedules may require domestic help in order to maintain
when both spouses work outside the home, childcare concerns may become
paramount. High quality childcare usually ranks right after housing, food, and
taxes as one of the largest expenses of the dual income family. When all of
these additional daily costs are factored into the family budget, it is easy to
see how a second paycheck may not provide as much as originally anticipated to
help fund education and retirement goals.
One important consideration for couples reliant on
two incomes is the risk of losing income as a result of disability or death,
which can seriously strain the family's financial security. One way dual income
families may address this problem is to insure both wage earners with life and disability income
financial concerns, there is also a growing emphasis on quality of life issues
as families look for a balance between their professional and personal lives.
Work alternatives, such as telecommuting or job sharing, have emerged as
acceptable ways to achieve this balance, often allowing for more flexible roles
for giving care to children and aging parents. As the trend toward dual income
families increases, so do the issues, concerns, and needs pertinent to the
changing face of America.