You are a young teacher. He worked hard to earn his degree and find a teaching position. You love what you do. You are good at it. But you love your spouse, you both want a family and you are not getting any younger. They are both well educated and know the importance of staying home with your baby for at least 3 years. New research says 5 years. You have looked at your finances and you have talked and talked and talked. Ultimately, they both decide that, for the benefit of the baby and the children to come, they will stay home with the children. Before you make this decision and quit your teaching job, you need to consider some additional issues and get some agreements in writing.

Before making this decision, you simply have to face a major problem: 50% of all marriages end in divorce. No one plans a family if divorce is even remotely being considered. But over time, sometimes things happen and you face a divorce. Suddenly, you realize that the joint decision you made years before will not have joint consequences unless you prepare yourself and have some things in writing.

He was initially faced with the negative consequences of lost income, but that was shared fairly; and your children will benefit from the positive effects of being with you. However, there are many possible negative consequences that only one of you will pay for.

Other matters to consider:

1. Never stop teaching mid-year if possible. When I got pregnant, the baby was due in June. I just would have needed to miss the last weeks of school; but “for the benefit of my students” I left in the semester. My reasoning was that students would be better off with a teacher for the entire semester rather than having a substitute for a few weeks at the end of the school year. All of that was true and very noble. However, that decision came back to bite me twice. When I went back to teaching in another state several years later and they were calculating how many years of experience they would give me, they said frivolously, “We don’t count even half a year.”

Years later, while my retirement was being calculated, again “we don’t count even half a year.” At the time, I was four and a half years old (one as a baby, one as a father with cancer, and two to take temporary positions when I return to teaching), which should have put me two years higher on the retirement table, but “no we do”. Don’t count half the years. “What was good for my students turned out to be very bad for me, permanently bad for me. Your students are important, but YOU are more important. Make decisions based on YOU, not them.

2. Understand that for every year you don’t teach, you are going down one notch on the pay scale. If you stay out of teaching for 10 years, you will enter the pay scale 10 steps below your peers. That is a huge and permanent salary difference. You can never get that pay back. While this is very frustrating, as long as you are married, it is not a big deal. But if you get divorced and did not make any arrangements in writing, ONLY YOU will get that consequence. Your spouse went straight up the pay scale while you didn’t. You need some kind of ongoing “fair payment” from your spouse so that you are not the only one paying for that joint decision.

3. # 2 also affects your retirement if your state has its own retirement plan. for public employees. Colorado calculates retirement based on your number of years of experience and your HAS (Highest Average Salary for 3 Years). If you stayed out of teaching for 10 years, then you have 10 years less experience, and because you are lower on the pay scale, your HAS is much lower. You get bitten twice for that joint decision.

Four. This problem may or may not affect you, it depends on the state. When calculating retirement, Colorado puts a 15% limit on how much your salary can increase from one pay year to the next. The purpose of this rule is to prevent people from being awarded management positions just to increase their salary before retirement. It seems logical, right? What is not logical is that there is no margin for the passage of time. So when you stay out of teaching for 10 years and come back, your new salary will likely be more than 15% higher than when you left for time alone. But when it comes to calculating retirement, your new higher salary doesn’t fully count toward your HAS. They allow you only 15% more than your last salary even though they were separated for 10 years. (And this ends every year after too.) I got caught by this twice! Without allowing time, this is a very unfair rule and the people it usually affects are parents who stayed home to raise their children. This should be against the law!

I know it seems horrible to have to think about these things when you are so excited about starting a family. I also know that it is easy to convince yourself that if something happens, your spouse will be fair. After all, they loved each other once and had children together. Correct? Incorrect! When it comes down to the almighty dollar, everything else goes out the window! I speak from experience on each of these topics. I have bite marks for everyone!

To summarize: Get in writing:

(1) An automatic increase in child support for each year. I didn’t have this, he wouldn’t volunteer it, and to get it I had to go back to another state, get a lawyer, and fight. I couldn’t afford to do that so I paid for all the raises kids incur as they grow up and finish high school. You shouldn’t have to do this. Is not correct.

(2) Some form of salary adjustment from your spouse to compensate for your lower salary scale position. Discuss this at the beginning and get it in writing.

(3) Some form of division of your spouse’s retirement or a separate retirement account for you paid by your spouse to compensate for the death in retirement. Protect your retirement. You may have to live on it for a long time. My retirement is almost half what it should be due to half the years and the unfair 15% limits. And, now, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. (The bottom line is that if you live in a state with your own pension fund, the federal government won’t let you collect any social security you’ve earned from other sources. Good!)

The decision to start a family is important and the benefits to your children from staying home with them are enormous; but the decision must be joint and the consequences (of which there will be many) must also be joint.

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