I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this since I published my earlier “let’s talk about money” posts: it’s all very well for me to airily declare that “I don’t care how much money he has or makes!” . However, the likelihood is that he definitely does care how much money I make! Because we live in London and life generally is so expensive then practically speaking, for many many couples, if not the overwhelming majority of couples, both the husband and the wife will need to be working to make ends meet financially for the family. This is true enough before kids show up – and I can only imagine that it is all the more true when children do make their appearance. Perhaps the reason that I have been able to blithely skip over this subject in my mind is because I am a woman. Society typically saddles men with the expectation of financially providing for their families so I would imagine that many men have sat down and thought very prosaically about this. So I was thinking that the likelihood is that any potential husband out there in London, or increasingly anywhere, has thought very pragmatically about a) how much he himself earns b) how much life costs, how much the cost of living might reasonably increase c) from that, how much he might expect or need his wife to earn d)even which career path he might need her to be pursuing, to reasonably meet financial needs both now and in the future. Perhaps he has a list of viable careers that she should be working in…
Thinking about this has brought me sharply down to earth. Wow, to think that someone might turn me down just like that, because of this! Perhaps someone might just jump to make assumptions, and would just instantly rule me out thinking that I would not be likely to earn enough to be a viable romantic contender. Woah! Imagine if someone sized you up through the clothes that you wear, the car you (don’t) drive, and instantly decided that you were not quite at the necessary level. Women have been doing this to men for generations, but to think it could now be happening in both directions!
Can’t afford to fall in love just now!
Because I have been living, romantically speaking, in a world of dreams of hugs and tighter hugs, it has never occurred to me how important the consideration of money is in relationships. I have always despised as mercenary women who seem preoccupied with considerations of how much their would-be husband might earn. And yet for the first time I think I’m starting to understand the mentality of people who seem to suggest that they cannot afford to fall in love, because it is financially just not convenient. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be deeply attracted to someone, and to have to tightly control those feelings, and ultimately walk away, without expressing your attraction, because you know that you cannot realistically afford to maintain a home or family, especially at London prices! And then to make it worse, it does not necessarily feel that things are automatically going to get better or that the average person is necessarily going to rise in their financial status. So you cannot necessarily console yourself and think: “Well I might not be able to “afford” to fall in love now, but perhaps in 5 years time….”
So here I am going to consider the actual numbers necessary to afford life in London.
I’d say that the biggest consideration is accommodation, even though pricey London transport also deserves an honorary mention!
Buying a house/flat
Linked here is a list of average house prices in London boroughs as of December 2016. This does refer to houses rather than flats; I was not able to find a comparable listing for flats. However if we were looking to bring up a family, then perhaps we would be looking to bypass flats altogether and go straight for a house.
The most affordable borough on average as of December 2016 was Barking and Dagenham. if we wanted to buy a house at an average cost in this cheapest borough then we would be looking at buying at approx £290,000. If we had a deposit of 10% then we would need £29,000 as a deposit, leaving a mortgage of approx £260,000. If we had a mortgage of 4 times our combined income then we would need to make £65,000 between the two of us every year.
Assuming that he would not reasonably insist that I should earn more than he does every year, then the minimum that he could be earning would be £32,500 per annum, in which case I would also need to be earning the same amount. Considering that the average salary in London is just under £35,000, then that seems to be viable. If he is earning £35K, then I could be earning £30K; if he is earning £40K, then I could possibly be earning £25K.
The one difficulty in this might be raising the deposit, which leads me on to the next point: Responsibility to my husband for the way I spend money before marriage, before I even meet him! Also responsibility for my financial choices, such as the career I chose…
It is possibly regarding the issues of savings/a house deposit/debt that my husband might require me to be accountable to him for the choices I made before I got married or ever met him. Perhaps he will have an expectation of how much in savings I might have built up, relative to my age. Perhaps he will listen sternly as I try to stammer out an explanation about why I decided not to invest in a regular career or profession*, but rather went all out in my hopes for business success. In a way, truth be told, I am the person above who cannot afford to fall in love just yet. This is because I have always expected to ultimately be accountable to my husband for the financial choices I have been making before marriage. However, I have also been working with the understanding that I would not actually get married until I was financially successful. In this way, any questionable choices, for instance the lack of a professional career, would be nullified and compensated for by convincing success. To be candid, that convincing financial success has not happened yet! So if I were to find someone just now, and he were to start asking awkward questions, then I would not be able to give any satisfactory answer; in truth, I did not gamble, but rather acted on faith on the hope of the financial success. To be honest, by the grace of God, I am quite confident that this success will yet materialise. However, it is obviously a lot easier to ask someone to trust in success that has already materialised. Which is why I always wanted to wait for the success to happen before I got married!
My financial decisions have been a huge expression of faith. If my husband does not have the same amount of faith that I do regarding my expectations of financial success, even if he is a very strong Christian, then to him my choices might seem a little…foolhardy. And yet, when I consider the alternative, I am grateful for the choices I have made, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the luxury to make these choices. For me, the alternative would have been to have invested myself heart and soul into a professional career, to be running myself ragged for the sake of this career, to have no work-life balance to speak of, to be on call 24/7 and to be working every hour that God gives – and then some. And then realistically speaking, I think that the maximum that I would realistically be earning even with all this would be say £70,000; perhaps £75,000 unless I had possibly decided to go into computer programming, in which case it might possibly be double that but with a huge serving of stress to go along with it. In either of those cases, I might easily have been able to afford a house, no question. Even by myself, without a husband to help! However I am quite quite sure that I would not have had the time to invest in building a business, and certainly not to make all the missteps that I have made business-wise over the course of many years! I would not have been able to pour my heart into something like this blog that I love so much. If anything, I would only have been able to invest in something more soulless but with almost guaranteed success.
The way things are currently, I am so blessed to be able to work part time to cover the bills, but then also to have time to invest into my dreams.
Looking back, I now realise that I have been extremely fortunate all along, even through all those many many years of lowly paid jobs, because I somehow always had time to invest in my dreams. And yet at the time I did not feel blessed, by any means! Rather I complained, I cried incessantly, I asked God time and time again what I was doing wrong, what I may have done to offend Him. And yet in a way it is arguable that all along I was more fortunate, even more fortunate than an alternative version of myself who might have been earning a lot more money because at no point did I ever find myself trapped into any one particular job or exhaustedly and endlessly running on that treadmill of super-stressful jobs through the need to keep earning a certain amount of money to service the financial commitments I had already made.
Ultimately, I am really hoping that my endeavours finally bear financial fruit. And if, say, in a couple of years, still nothing tangible has happened, and there is no resounding success to speak of, then I would promise to go and finally get a proper job, but I am hoping (and working so, so hard so) that interesting things will happen long before then, so I am hoping that I will not have to make that promise!
Moving forward: I don’t feel that I have adequately identified or explained in this post just why I feel so fortunate, compared to an alternative version of myself who might have thrown herself into a high-earning career
OK, I guess the reason I feel so fortunate is all about where I am now. It feels as if things have just surprisingly clicked into place. And I now realise that throughout all those years when I felt as if I was stumbling around, I did not even understand all the variables that were at play or why they were important. If I had had a fuller understanding, then I might have felt discouraged, but thankfully my naïveté in that respect cushioned me. And now I am finally in a place to make the most of all the wisdom I have gained from those years of stumbling around. Also something else is that I also grew to an understanding about myself so that now I can quickly analyse a great idea, and see whether it fits into my own personal characteristics, and whether I will likely have ongoing motivation to be committed to it. If I had chosen a more aggressive career path then on one hand I am certain that God would still have been God and He would have granted me favour in whatever career path I had chosen. However I would not have had the same amount of time to get to know Him, to immerse myself in His truth and His works. Definitely not. And I also doubt that I would have had all that time to gently make those mistakes and to glean all that wisdom, about the world of business and about how I might fit into it. Rather I bet that around about now I would still be trying to force myself into a role that did not really fit, possibly even attaining a measure of success but with that kind of stress that comes from squeezing yourself into somewhere that you were not really designed for. Also I wanted to go into more details about the actual numbers; I might create a growing post dedicated just to numbers and costings of living in London.
*I remembered after writing this that I have been a self-trained webdesigner and offered those services since 2005 – does that count?! Actually maybe not as I realised my personality just does not fit that role!