Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Living conservatively

My wife and I are fairly conservative with our finances. We only buy things we can surely afford. This year we have been on a bit of a buying spree. I think it's in preparation for a few years of living on less.

Next year we are planning to have our first child. This will mean less money for "fun stuff". Two thousand nine brought new floors for 70% of our house, a new dishwasher, new couch, 2 new flat screen TVs, and a new Xbox 360 elite. Quite a bit. Doubt we will be buying much next year.

Our finances really depend on my wife's salary. I pay for my car payment, gas, student loan and whatever I spend while on a trip (I normally make twice on per diem than I spend). Not a whole lot left.

Below is an excerpt to a very detailed and eye opening article about a pilot at ExpressJet Airlines who went from First Officer to Captain to First Officer. His family used his pay to plan life events. Made since as he earned the most. When the economy began tanking and he was demoted back to First Officer, major life changes happened.

(taken from This New York Times Article)

They closed on the house in August 2008, on the eve of the downgrade, and soon there were regrets. “We would not have bought the house on a first officer’s salary,” Tracy Lawlor said. She had considered giving up teaching to be a stay-at-home mom. “We felt we had some breathing room for the first time in our 11 years of marriage,” she said, “and that went out the window with the downgrade.”

She was sitting at her kitchen table, and her husband, across from her, winced, but did not disagree. Even if his captain’s rank and pay are restored she will continue to teach, she said. His pay could be cut again. They are convinced of that and, in preparation, they made certain there would be no more children. Their fourth, Jackson, was just 4 months old when the downgrade came, and soon after, Mr. Lawlor underwent a vasectomy.

“We could not take the risk of having another child,” he said.

Silver, and Dark, Linings

The West Coast assignment, while representing a promotion, meant long, often overnight commutes, with Mr. Lawlor sleeping fitfully in the jump seat of a FedExcargo jet or in a sleeping bag rolled out in the cargo area. His first day home, he often spent dozing on the living room couch. His wife hated the time taken from the family, and her husband’s exhaustion.

“He was totally worn out the first day back, and tired the whole time he was home,” she said.

One year later, even after such a big pay cut, Mrs. Lawlor sees her husband’s shorter commute to his new base at Newark as a blessing she is reluctant to give up. Her husband says that moving back up to captain, with a captain’s pay, might mean commuting again to California. “If that is what it takes, I’ll do it,” he said, and this time his wife winced.

“I would probably not be happy,” she said. But she “wouldn’t trade him for another husband,” as she put it, and while she had never wanted her husband to be a pilot, at this point she would be alarmed if he left aviation in an attempt to please her.

“He likes what he does,” she said, “whereas before he did not like what he did. That has made him easier to be around, whereas before he became a pilot, he wasn’t happy at all.”

Before I made the jump to being a pilot, my wife and I discussed finances. We agreed that we would always "live" off her salary and use mine for savings/extra. This might change years from now if I have more than 50% of the pilot group under me. Right now I have less than 10% of the pilot group under me.

Anyone looking to get into this field should take a few minutes and read the article.

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