Category Archives: Economy

A Woman’s Work on Economic Equality is Never Done

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival!

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s proclamation in the Los Angeles Times this spring that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Current News & Events, Economy, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Work-Life Fit, Workplace and Employment

This is NOT Progress: Americans Now Think 40 hrs is “Part-Time”

This is definitely NOT the direction we want to be heading. From Business Insider:

Americans consider a 40-hour work week as “part time” in most professional jobs and as a sign of a stagnant career, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress.

Just as income inequality grows, so does the divide between those who have too much work, and those who have too little. We are a nation divided into the overemployed and the underemployed – a result fueled by the structure of our workplaces, our cultural attitudes about work, and increasing economic insecurity that pressures everyone to try to get ahead and stay ahead no matter what it takes.
And look at the jump the number of middle income and professional women working over 50 hours a week (3.4 > 8.3% and 6.1 > 14.4%), that’s the result of families increasing the number of hours the woman works in an attempt to make up for increasing fixed costs and stagnant wages for men.
On both ends of the income scale, we’re at the breaking point.


Filed under Career-Life Fit, Economy, Fatherhood, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Workplace and Employment

6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make

Tonight I’ll be leading the chapter meeting for our local Mothers & More chapter on “The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make.” Join us and bring a long a new or gently used purse for our donation to Elizabeth house! Here are the “mistakes” I’ll be discussing with moms tonight.

1. Making “To Work or Not To Work” Decisions Based Solely on Short-Term Family Budget

When mothers wrestle with questions about whether to stay employed or not, or whether to scale back employment to make room for family, the conversation usually centers on whether the current family budget can afford those changes. Can we still pay the mortgage or rent? Could we trim expenses to make up for lost income?

Too often, all the longer-term implications are left out. How will this decision impact my ability to save for retirement? My Social Security benefits? How will this decision impact my future earning potential?

Whenever faced with an employment or financial decision, ask yourself:

How will this decision affect the short- AND long-term finances of my family?

How will this decision affect my own short- AND long-term financial security?

2. Falling Into the “Can I make enough to pay for childcare?” Trap

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. Estimating the income we thought I could make in a job with reasonable hours, we subtracted taxes, childcare, and work expenses. There wasn’t much left. Working for pay didn’t pay much. So we decided I wouldn’t, because we could afford for me not to.

Three different things lead many mothers into this trap. Continue reading


Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Economy, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes

Tax Day Question: Can I Make Enough to Pay for Childcare?

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. The question we asked ourselves was, “Could I make enough to pay for childcare?” If not, we reasoned, it would make sense for me to take care of our baby myself.

Little did we know that the question had nothing to do with the cost of childcare and everything to do with tax policy.

You see, before World War II, the United States used an income tax system of separate filing for married couples in which tax rates applied to each spouse’s income separately.* As Ed McCaffery, author of Taxing Women, explains in his book, when the war ended and the costs of war went away, Congress saw an opportunity to reduce taxes. They did it by eliminating separate filing and replacing it with mandatory joint filing for couples. At the time, Congress also had an interest in wanting families to return to normal. In other words, they wanted mothers who had entered the workforce during the war to go back home. Joint filing would encourage them to do just that. As the legislative counsel of the treasury at the time remarked, “Wives need not continue to master the details of . . . business, but may turn . . . to the pursuit of homemaking.”

Joint filing introduced what McCaffery calls the “secondary earner bias.” The one who earns less, even today usually the woman, will be taxed more, which acts as a powerful but unseen disincentive for her to be employed.

Sue Hill Zamparelli for "This is Not How I Thought It Would Be"

How does it work? Married couples filing jointly are required to combine their incomes, no matter who earns what. However, the money doesn’t go into a common pool that is all taxed at the same rate.  As my friend Kimberly Tso explains in her blog post at The Two Penny Project, “Our federal income tax system uses graduated marginal rates. This is how to think about it: Imagine each dollar that you earn is stacked one on top of the other. Next, picture a large wedding cake next to the stack of dollar bills. Each tier of the cake (called the tax bracket) has a corresponding tax rate that increases as you go up each tier. …You only incur the higher tax rate if your stack of bills reaches that layer.” (See picture for example using hypothetical tax rates.) The policy goal of taxing the top layers more is for individuals who earn more to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes compared to those who earn less.

For a couple, combining the incomes into one stack and then applying increasing rates to each layer has another effect—the secondary earner bias. When my husband and I faced the question of whether I should find a job or not, we thought of his job and his income as primary because he already had a job and he earned more. So we also thought of his income as first in the stack—where it would get taxed at lower rates. Continue reading


Filed under Economy, Marriage, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood

Power of a Purse in Pasadena!

As part of the national Mothers & More Power of a Purse campaign, I’ll be leading the April 19 meeting of our local chapter here in Pasadena on 6 Big Money Mistakes Mothers Make AND our local chapter will be accepting donations of new and gently used purses to donate to the Elizabeth House which provides  “shelter, hope and support to homeless pregnant women and their children, addressing the physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic needs in a nurturing atmosphere.”

The Mothers & More Power of a Purse campaign is “designed to draw attention to mothers’ economic issues through the act of collecting new or gently used purses for mothers in need. Purses symbolize a woman’s economic power, something we wish for all women, especially mothers in need. More than an accessory, a purse and its contents reflect the many roles and responsibilities mothers shoulder every day.”

In addition to the chapter meeting and the purse drive, I’ll be blogging all month about financial and economic issues facing mothers and families. We hope you’ll consider checking your closet or picking up an extra purse on your next shopping trip and bringing one or more to the April 19th meeting.  If you can’t come but still want to make a purse donation, send it with a friend or please contact me via Facebook, Twitter (@KristinMaschka) or by emailing kristin (at) remodelingmotherhood (dot) com.

6 Big Money Mistake Mothers Make

Mothers & More Pasadena. Tuesday, April 19. 7:30 pm

Neighborhood Church, 301 N. Orange Grove Blvd. Room #23 (upstairs). Pasadena, CA 91103

While everyone makes a money mistake now and then, mothers have a few all their own. Even if you were a financial whiz before kids, you may not know the ins and outs of money issues that are specific to mothers – everything from retirement to negotiating salaries to making decisions about childcare. LA Times Bestselling author Kristin Maschka reviews the 6 biggest money mistakes mothers make and how to avoid them!

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Filed under Announcements, Economy, Events, Money, Motherhood

Stay-At-Home Moms SHOULD Be Mad at the Fed

Today a guest post from my good friend and a tireless advocate for women, Debra Levy. Here she explains why a largely unnoticed new regulation reinforces the old “he who earns it owns it” assumption rather than the remodeled “family income and wealth are the result of joint work—both family work and employment—so they are owned jointly by both spouses” – with chilling effect on mothers’ financial well-being.



MSNBC was onto something the other day in their piece Why Stay-At-Home Moms are Mad at the Fed.

Our regulators seem unaware of how families divide tasks or how women work, or even what they earn compared to men, and a new move by them may penalize women and erode progress on women’s access to personal credit.


It happens all the time. You go to a store whose merchandise you value, like and trust to make a family purchase, nothing for yourself. Jeans for your son. Underwear for your daughter, or loads of flooring for a home construction project at your area large box hardware store. You wait in line at the register and tick off the errands still on your list, that work email you have to fire off as soon as you leave the store.

You whip out your wallet to pay for your purchases and then the inevitable questions: debit or credit? Then, would you like to sign up for our [insert brand name] credit card and save 25% on today’s purchases?

I’ve done this once or twice. Store affinity cards can yield fabulous yearly discounts, exclusive to its members-debtors. Such cards are “marketing in a heart beat” for retailers, and sometimes they make our spending easier and more affordable.

Raise your hands, women and men of America, if you ever have opened a credit card account at a  point of sale transaction? Now, think back. When you did this, did you list “household income,” or “personal” or “independent income?” Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Economy, Family Work, Guest Posts, Money, Motherhood, News & Commentary

Desperate Parents Compete for Corporate Dollars for Schools

I have to congratulate Don Benito Elementary on being one of the winners of the Avery Dennison Give Back to Schools contest for $10,000 worth of school supplies. I have to because well, I have friends there and I am happy one of our local schools made it to the top of this national contest.

At the same time, I am not happy at all. No, it’s not just sour grapes…at least not entirely.

I watched – and participated – on Facebook as parents around our district posted reminders to their networks to “vote for their school.” That’s how the contest worked. The schools that had the most online votes tallied by a certain date won. So one of us would post a reminder to OUR friends to vote for OUR school, which would then remind all of our friends to post a reminder about THEIR school to THEIR friends.

As one friend accurately noted, we created “spectacle of hundreds of educated adults running around clicking html buttons for amounts of money, that in the end only represent a tiny amount relative to operating budgets.”

It is a spectacle that frustrates me on so many levels. And not just the level of “Humph, my school lost. ” Continue reading

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Filed under Economy, Education

On Carpool and “A Market Punishing to Mothers”

I was about to go to sleep tonight when I thought I’d just quick check my New York Times app on my iPhone. There in the Latest News list was a piece by David Leonhardt – A Market Punishing to Mothers. My exhaustion from a day of trying to juggle caring for our 9 year old, helping out my in-laws, oh and yes, doing my job disappeared for a moment – replaced by giddiness that someone was calling attention to the economic challenges uniquely faced by mothers.

It’s a great piece. As Leonhardt says,

…our economy exacts a terribly steep price for any time away from work — in both pay and promotions. People often cannot just pick up where they have left off. Entire career paths are closed off. The hit to earnings is permanent.

The fact that the job market has evolved in this way is no accident. It’s a result of policy choices. As Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia University professor who studies families and work, says, “American feminists made a conscious choice to emphasize equal rights and equal opportunities, but not to talk about policies that would address family responsibilities.”

“Family responsibilities.”  Hmmm, I believe that term covers things like driving carpool to summer camp, taking three cell phone calls from the 9 year old at camp, calling to arrange overnight care to help my mother in law care for my recovering father in law, scheduling someone to come repair our washer that keeps staining our clothes, and then picking up carpool crew from camp. All while fitting in my job early in the morning, in between carpools, and late at night.

“Women do almost as well as men today,” Ms. Waldfogel said, “as long as they don’t have children.”

Yes, I’m with Mr. Leonhardt. It’s time to take the next step and stop just talking about policies that would address the family responsibilities both men and women have for both children and their aging parents. It’s time to DO something.

(Also see my April post on The Wage Gap Between Mothers and Everyone Else)

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Filed under Career-Life Fit, Economy, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood

Why Families are Feeling the Squeeze

A couple of weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times business section ran a short article on the cost of raising children, Children Don’t Come Cheap. Grand total for middle class family from birth to 17 was $222,360, which doesn’t include college tuition. “That’s 22% higher than the 1960 cost – adjusted for inflation – of $182,857,” the article reported.

Where’s all that extra money going? The common narrative implies that parents are throwing away “extra” money on gadgets and fancy clothes and big houses and even organic groceries or dining out more. Not so. The data continues to confirm what I wrote about in my book This is Not How I Thought It Would Be and in this blog post, Busting Stereotypes about Families and Money, using information from Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren.

It’s the increase in fixed costs that are eating up families budgets these days and making them feel like failures because they can’t get ahead.

  • “the report called child care and education expense ‘the most striking change in child-rearing expenses over time.’ Those expenses grew from 2 percent of total child-rearing expenses to 17 percent.”
  • “Housing was the most expensive expenditure in both time periods in the USDA report, and it increased in real terms over time.”
  • “A child’s health care expenses doubled as a percentage of total child-rearing costs from 1960 to 2009. It also climbed in real terms.”

It’s that triple threat of child care/education, housing and healthcare that is eating up family budgets.  Even two-income families today have LESS left over after fixed expenses than their parents did a generation ago. As a result, families feel even more pressure to get their children a good education to ensure their children’s economic future and in the process driving up the cost of housing near good schools and the cost of private childcare and education.

Food and clothing costs have gone down over time.

  • “Changes in agriculture over the past 50 years have resulted in family food budgets being a lower percentage of household income”
  • “a child’s clothing and miscellaneous expenses decreased as a percentage and in real terms from 1960 to 2009, due partly to ‘globalization.'”

How about you? Do you feel these pressures on your budget? Do you compare your family to previous generations and wonder why you can’t get ahead?


Filed under Economy, Healthcare, Money

Big Shock: “Most Americans Support Paid Sick Leave”

The Economix Blog at the New York Times highlights a new poll in the post Most Americans Support Paid Sick Leave, Poll Finds. I sort of want to say, “Well, duh!”  This is such a no-brainer for basic worker protection, public health and family care reasons.  The Senate needs to move on the Health Families Act now. I suppose if they need a poll to convince them of the obvious, well then now we have it.

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Filed under Economy, News & Commentary, Workplace and Employment