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Dropping out of the labor force

Men have been steadily dropping out of the labor force in recent decades. In the 1950s, the labor force participation rate for men was consistently above 80%, according to Federal Reserve data. In the early 2000s, the rate remained consistently above 70%. As of February 2024, however, the rate sat at 67.7%.

Economist Nick Eberstadt estimated that there are roughly seven million “prime age” men between the ages of 25 and 54 who are intentionally avoiding the job market, even as employment is readily available and some sectors face a labor shortage.

To be fair, Sam isn’t unemployed. He works as a part-time substitute teacher because his voice acting gigs are simply not enough to put food on the table.

Unfortunately, he admitted that he doesn’t enjoy teaching and is reluctant to push for more hours. He estimated a monthly income of $1,200 from this flexible teaching gig, although Hammer’s audit of his finances revealed he only made $314 last month from teaching. Combined with the $252 he made from his voice work that same month, Sam made less than $600 in those 30 days.

Since this income isn’t enough for housing, Sam lives with his parents. To be fair, this isn’t exactly unusual given that roughly one in three Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are currently living with their parents, according to data published by the Pew Research Center.

Sam’s recent engagement also makes it likely that he will move out — eventually. However, Hammer believes the couple aren’t financially prepared for such a big commitment.

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Unprepared for marriage

Sam’s fiancée, Penn, works from home earning $15 an hour as an AI chatbot moderator. Her annual income comes in at roughly $23,400. She also lives with her parents.

Although Penn earns more than Sam, she needs to save a chunk of her income for dental treatments. She’s worried about her financial future given the fact that the couple may need to survive on a single income.

According to data published last year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 24.5% of married couples relied on a single income; however, only 7.5% of those couples relied solely on the wife’s income.

That being said, Penn believes her current income isn’t enough to sustain a life with Sam. She’s considering getting another job at the post office that potentially pays more, but — as Hammer pointed out — for the sake of the marriage, Sam needs to pitch in as well.

According to Penn, her fiancé is reluctant to work due to “stubbornness, ego, and being a guy.” She added, “As far I know, he’s got nothing going on.”

Hammer recommended Sam put his dream of becoming a full-time voice actor aside to focus on providing for his family.

He believes a full-time job for Sam — whether as a teacher or working in a fast food restaurant — could significantly improve the couple’s finances. “You’re not being an adult,” he told Sam.


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About the Author

Vishesh Raisinghani

Vishesh Raisinghani

Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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