Monday, January 09, 2006

Housewives are expensive

This rather Bengali obsession with a mishti Ghorer Bou is in practice extremely corrosive. Not to say it reeks of male chauvinism.

Consider the effects:

1. Huge financial loss. I cannot overstate this. Let’s say women earn 80% of men on average. So 8000 saved over 45yrs compounded at 8% interest = 3921057. This can mean the difference between one kid or two. A residence in a bad part of town or good. Kids going to a private school or a public one. A lifetime spent cocooned in a tiny flat or widening your horizons from lots of traveling. All very important life choices that not only affect the couple, but also their kids, and hence future generations. It’s often argued that men can earn all that is needed and therefore women don’t need to earn. But can they? I beg to differ. Even if the guy is super qualified, unless he is in the top percentile of his income bracket, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a man to earn the equivalent of a man + a woman's salary. For example, let’s say a man earns 100000 and a woman earns 80000 for a total of 180000 per annum at the outset of their career. How many men do you think will be able to earn 180000 from the first day of his career? This will hold true for all subsequent years also. Suppose that our man indeed starts earning 180000 after 20 yrs experience. But by now the wife also earns 140000. What is the likelihood that the man will earn 320000 after 20 years experience? Salary structures in the organized industrial sector are normally range bound. These ranges are hard, impossible to transgress in government jobs (and very very difficult, though not impossible, in private sector jobs) no matter how big a star you are in your work. For salaried professionals, who most Bengalis are, it’s a must to have a working spouse.

2. One-stroke-destitute. With the husband as the only bread earner, imagine what would happen if the husband were to become incapacitated or die due to an accident. With living conditions as they are in India and accidents all too common, I wonder how many families have met this terrible fate. Dual income families have the insurance of a second income to sponge up the debilitating effects of say, a malfunctioning machine or a drunken lorry driver. Short of that, a single accident is enough to destroy your life, your kids and your entire blood line.

3. Long loneliness. Age differences of up to 10 years in these marriages are routine. Now, with women's life expectancies far outstripping men's, they are typically widowed, and lonely, for a good 16-17 years. Without having spent a life in the workforce, the housewife is bereft of the social networks that develop at the workplace and which can sustain one even when her spouse is no more. These twilight years become a curse on her physical and mental wellbeing. Loneliness is a curse for the aged. Its no wonder our grandmothers are never role models for our daughters.

There is of course the not-to-little effect on the woman’s self esteem, women’s rights issues (which come with self reliance and a steady pay check), healthy exchange of ideas at work, learning opportunities for women that I am not going into for the moment.

But if you are still hell bent on getting a housewife, then you have the following options

1. Become rich the old way. Inherit it. Be lucky by birth to have so much money from your family that you will not need to work a day of your life. Then you can extend that privilege to your spouse as well.

2. Marry a rich girl (in practice this often means - with a rich father). Like Athina Roussel Onassis.

3. Be in some profession where income is dependent on your performance. E.g. be a businessman, a stock trader, a sports star, or on a commission-basis pay. Here there are potential huge upsides to your income could offset the lost income from your housewife spouse.

4. Don’t have kids.

In summary: Housewives are a luxury. Be sure that you can afford them.


Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Looks like you have thought it all through. Nice read.

11:46 AM  
Blogger  said...

I violated all 4 rules you mentioned at the end. Sigh ... looks like I am looking towards the ruin of my life :-)

11:38 PM  
Blogger Bengali Guy said...

@m - thanks

@kousik - :-) are you ? It really depends on your personal situation, your goals and your lifestyle. I merely contend that you would be financially far better off having a working spouse rather than a housewife. Is your spouse a housewife ?

12:33 PM  
Blogger Amit Pandey said...


Raj singh Dungarpur was extremely close to Lata. Do read the article..

There was also an excellent article on him in the Feb 2004 issue of Man's World.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Kele Panchu said...

Dude, do you work for a bank or an insurance company? Your numbers are so accurate! I agree with you and luckily I followed your advice long before you've written this post. In Bengali marriage you have to promise that you'll take care of your wife's 'bhaat and kaporH' (only roti and kapra, no 'Makan'). As promised my wife paid the rent after our marriage. But if you're not married yet let me tell you, 'kapra' itself can account for the other two combined. :) So put another cap including the 'donkey's one' (topor)while you promise!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Red said...

Quite funny. I have never figured out why my country(?) men want wives with PHD's who won't work, or at best will teach at Montesorri

8:55 PM  
Blogger Bengali Guy said...

@amit pandey: Thanks for the pointers. I could not read the Man's World piece because it requires membership.

@kele panchu: Our forefathers were visionaries who could forsee the exponential increase of the cost of real estate. So they cleverly left "bari" out of the marriage vows. But due to the rising feminist movement, the battle was only half won. So it was not incorporated as part of the women's responsibilities in the vows. Isn't it unfair ? Maybe we should start a reform movement to reform the Bengali marriage vows ? But wait a minute. Allready all the desirable women from Bengal are running off to Bollywood to become stars and they will all eventually get married to non-Bengalis. Its better to keep quiet for the time being. Our day will come.

@red: Smart folks. Now you can offload the education of the children on the wives, them being both highly educated and having oodles of free time. But seriously, I've seen this phenomena too, but only among guys who are PhDs themselves. They usually court during their PhDs and get married afterwards. Normally most men, from all countries, have the same expectations of a wife, and most are disappointed sooner rather than later.

9:36 PM  
Blogger  said...

well my wife works and kinda offsets a lot of costs :-) but I am sure I could have bought an aquila .

5:28 AM  
Blogger Tapan said...

Nice read... some very very valid and coherent points.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Bengali Guy said...

@kousik - you have a working wife, so you will be far better off in life than your peers who chose a housewife. Be happy Mr rich :-)

@Tapan - thanks

3:25 PM  
Blogger Raps said...

Bengali Guy: Thaks for dropping by

8:38 AM  

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