Dear Penny: My Stay-at-Home Wife Says I’m Not Allowed to Get a Side Gig

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Dear Penny,

I am not where I want to be financially. I am in the military, married and have two young kids, 4 and 6. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and has no interest/desire of getting a job, part time or otherwise. I want to get a second job to supplement my income for savings, but my wife won’t let me because she points out I won’t be around much to help with the kids. 

I’ve recently started day trading to supplement my income, but as of yet, I’m not profitable. I do know it takes a lot of time and practice to be a successful day-trader. 

I want to own rentals for income, but she doesn’t want to deal with tenants. I want to drive for Uber, but she doesn’t want strangers in our car. It’s really difficult living on my income from one job and saving for our future. I’m not sure how to approach supplementing our income in some way.


Dear K.,

You say you’re not where you want to be financially. Do you simply want more money, or do you actually know where you want to be financially? Just as importantly, do you know where your wife wants to be?

While you ponder those questions, let’s discuss a pretty surefire way not to achieve your goals, which is your “not yet profitable” day trading pursuit. A recent study of 20,000 day traders found that in a single day, just 30% earned a profit. Over 300 days, just 3% came out ahead — and even when they did, their earnings were mostly minuscule. This is glorified gambling that will only get you farther from where you want to be.

So where is that place? Pretty much everyone wishes they made more money. But few of us want to work 100 hours a week. At some point, we have to decide that an hour of rest or family time is worth more than what we’d earn from working another hour.

While your wife doesn’t have a paying job, she’s no doubt working hard as a stay-at-home mom. For many parents, COVID-19 has only compounded the pressure. When you suggest taking on extra work, you’re also asking your wife to work longer.

Sacrificing is easier when you’re working toward a specific goal, particularly one that you can accomplish within a reasonable time frame. Have you discussed how more money would secure a better future for your family? If you haven’t, her reluctance is understandable, especially since your plans for getting to wherever you want to be — getting a part-time job, day trading, becoming a landlord, driving for Uber — are all over the map.

I suspect that your wife will be more open to the plan you propose if the two of you can agree on a well-defined goal. Think “Add $5,000 to our emergency fund” or “Save $10,000 for a down payment” instead of “I want more money.” If you can agree on what you want to accomplish, you’ll each have some wiggle room on the when.

A side hustle with a flexible schedule and no major upfront investment required seems like the ideal compromise. Of the options you’ve laid out, I like “Uber driver” the best. That doesn’t mean you can’t pursue something more lucrative down the line. Starting small is what’s important here.

Make sure you’re truly listening to your wife’s concerns. What, specifically, worries her about having strangers in the car. COVID-19 exposure? Drunks vomiting in the car? If either one worries her, would she be more open to it if everyone wore face masks, or you limited your driving to earlier hours? Or what about if you used the car to drive for a delivery app instead? Is there any side hustle she is OK with you taking on?

Your kids are young, so you may not get to where you want to be as quickly as you’d like. Frustrating, yes. Hopefully this is temporary. When your children are a couple years older and more independent, perhaps your wife will be more agreeable to you working more, or she’ll want to pursue employment.

Maybe you have to work fewer hours to get your wife’s blessing, which means it takes longer to reach the goal. At least you’re focused on reaching the same place together. If you can’t agree on your goals, it sounds like your problem goes beyond how many hours you work.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky questions to [email protected].