When engineer Tom Holben lost his job in 2009 at a Colorado copper mine due a fall in the commodity’s price, he joined the ranks of millions of Americans who had to leave their families to work elsewhere.
Holben landed some 1,600 miles away in New York City, while his family stayed in Denver. As Tom and wife Donna saw it, their choice was between living separately or together, possibly, on one income in New York or Denver. With two sons in college, the decision was obvious.
“The company Tom works for did not offer to help sell our house" in suburban Denver, says Donna Holben, who manages an apartment building the couple owns in Colorado. “With the depressed housing market, we did not even attempt to sell it.”
Like the Holbens, American couples have increasingly been faced with parting temporarily to either make ends meet or find jobs in line with their skills.
About 5.6 million couples live separately, according to the March 2009 American Community Survey, administered through the U.S. Census Bureau, up from 4.8 million in 2005.
“This recession has caused more widespread cuts and separations that we haven’t experienced before,” says Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and an expert on relationships. In addition, she says the rise in well-paying jobs for women has contributed to more separated couples, as women are less likely to follow a spouse than in years past.
If you find yourself faced with such a dilemma, making sure you agree on values, life goals and finances is especially critical, says Elizabeth Jetton, a certified financial planner in Atlanta.
Here is what you need to address:
Transportation: Having a corporate car is a sound way to save, said Tessina. Failing that, using a secondhand one that gets good gas mileage is best for the spouse who’s living alone. Holben, for example, gets around the New York area in the car of his son who is living in Macau.