My friend, I’ll call her Jessica, graduated high school with a plan. Well, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she wanted to get married to a man who could provide for her, live in a big house, have kids, be a mother, and have a job that let her spend a lot of time with her kids.
Jessica grew up in a household where her parents worked multiple jobs to afford their middle class lifestyle, and was often left alone when she was young, so her goals were clearly aligned with having a family where the mother could afford to stay home and be around for her children’s lives.
Three years ago, it seemed her life was tracking to plan. Jessica worked full time through college, and although it took her a few extra years to graduate when she figured out what to major in, she graduated with a degree in education, and a civil engineer finance to boot. Even before they were married, he bought her a fairly large house (not as large as she wanted, but where I live the house would easily be a $1.5M property) and they spent a lot of time decorating it with nice furniture, and putting in a lot of elbow grease to fix the property. Well, she chose the decorations, he put in the elbow grease.
They were set to be married on 10/10/10. Everything was going according to plan. She was thrilled to be embarking on a career as a teacher with a husband who was both attractive and paid for the lifestyle she wanted. He even paid of $18k in her student debt and bought her numerous pricey presents over the years including a beautiful engagement ring and a few designer handbags. He took her along on his work trips to travel the world and experience the finer things in life.
Then, she found photos of him with another woman in his email account. It was just five months away from their wedding, and she was heartbroken. While she tried hard to forgive him, even going to counseling, after a while she realized that she became a crazy, jealous person and she didn’t want to live her life like that. She called off the engagement and the wedding. At 25, the girl who was to be married with a few kids in tow by 30, was single again.
A few failed relationships later, she’s lost. She still wants to get married and have kids, but she’s no longer is in a rush to do so. But what’s hurting her most is that she planned her entire career around the whole married with kids situation. She graduated and earned her teaching credentials — she now teaches at a private elementary school because she can’t find a public school teaching job — and makes a whopping $12 an hour without any benefits (after a year she’ll get some benefits.) She lives with her parents, but even without paying rent she needs help from her mom to get by. Now she’s wondering if she made the right career choice, trying to figure out what career moves to make. Grad school is a possibility, but she’s scared of going into further debt given the job market.
It’s absolutely ridiculous that she was making more money before she earned her degree as a paralegal, vs how much she makes now teaching first graders in a private school. This girl has so much potential — had she not planned her life around having kids young, she’d probably be a high-powered New York businesswoman (a lifestyle she now dreams of.)
On the other hand — I didn’t think of getting married or having children when I was younger, and now I’m scared my career won’t let me be the mother I want to be. I guess you can’t plan for the future, but my take is the most important thing is to earn as much money as you can as fast as you can. I don’t trust the stock market to work its supposed compound interest magic over the years. The best thing to do is to earn a lot, save a lot, and then, when the time comes to settle down, hopefully you’ll be ready for the lifestyle you’d like to lead.