The Change from Dual to Single Income

Loh Yong Cheng

“Hi Claire’s mummy, what are you working as?”

“Oh, I’m a stay-at-home mum.”

It is not uncommon for my wife to have such conversations outside our daughter’s school or at the playground. The general perception in our society of dual-income families would be that either the breadwinner makes a lot of money to support such decisions or that we have a special needs child.

We all have our unique circumstances. Often, the decisions we make are influenced by our childhood experiences and social norms. Taking a leap of faith to have one of the parents be at home is one of those major decisions we made together in our marriage.

I hope to use this article to journal our considerations and hopefully, it can be of help to any parents who are considering doing so.


Both my wife and I grew up having our mother being around most of the time, especially after school. We see the benefits of it. Our hope when we become parents is to replicate that. The original plan was to execute it after our first child goes to primary school. It will allow my wife to work and have her social life that comes along for as long as possible. On a practical note, it will also give us time to build up our finances.

After our second child was born, we decided to bring forward the plan by 3 years. It was not an easy decision to make. A few considerations went through our thought process. By being at home, it is easier for my wife to breastfeed our son. Our elder daughter was breastfed for a year and we saw the health benefits of doing so. Secondly, we hoped for our son to be cared for at home, instead of infant care, until nursery. We also noticed that almost on a daily basis, our daughter would have a serious meltdown after a full day in school. We learnt that she was going through “after-school restraint collapse”, and hoped that by having someone pick her up earlier from school, it would give her more time to wind down before dinner.


When we thought about bringing forward the plan, the first question we asked ourselves was, “Financially, can we do it?”.

Fundamentally, we were concerned about our day-to-day expenses and how we could manage them. There are also long-term goals we are committed to, such as funding our children’s university education as well as our retirement. In the longer term, it is important for us to be financially independent during our golden years and not have our children bear the consequence of our decisions today.

In view of our needs, resources, and what will really make us happy, these are some major financial decisions we made.

  • We decided against getting a car.

Both of our parents are within walking distance from where we stay. Our daughter’s school is a block away. Also, both of us acknowledged that I am a really lousy driver. I have a poor sense of direction and get angsty when I must wait for parking lots. Getting a car may jeopardise our family harmony.

Solution: We take taxis, rent a car via car-share or just hop onto the MRT, opposite our house. Taking public transport offers our children perspectives of the real world and exposes them to various mini interactions such as giving up seats, moving in for others, and speaking softly.

  • No full-time domestic helper.

We confess that we are too “soft” to handle such domestic HR issues. We also do not like the idea of having another person in our house all the time.

Solution: We get a part-time cleaner to come in twice a week. It costs us less. It also frees us up from a good part of domestic cleaning so we can spend quality time with our children. It also helps that our 4-year-old daughter enjoys folding and keeping her own clothes.

  • Ensure that we are still on track to meeting our travel-the-world retirement goal.

Solution: My responsibility as the planner at home is to plan for family expenses. Apart from ensuring continuity for my wife to have money to spend on herself and her parents, I also plan for our future – children’s education and retirement.


While we agreed that this is an ideal arrangement at some point in our children’s growing-up days, we are also cognisant that it is a huge sacrifice on my wife’s part. It was all made out of love for our family.

It was not easy for her to leave behind a good career and put our family as the priority. The hours as a stay-at-home mother are longer than her working hours. Naturally, in her mind, she assumes responsibility for all domestic affairs such as school matters, our food, housework arrangement, and dealing with stakeholders such as our parents and part-time helper. These are mental loads that are perpetual and do not go away, unlike our corporate deadlines.

Our social norms tell us that a modern mother should be able to do well in both family and career at the same time. To give up a career to focus on family requires a huge mindset resetting and reassurance.

One of the things we promise to regularly check in with each other are:

  • if this arrangement is still fulfilling its purpose;
  • if it is still financially feasible for us, both short-term and long-term; and
  • our mental well-being, especially hers

Despite the inherent challenges in the past year, we are glad that this arrangement is currently working well for our own unique circumstances. We also acknowledge that it is a luxury to be able to make such a decision due to our financial ability.

Despite the practical challenges, we are afforded more mindspace as a team to “divide and conquer”. Collectively, we also get to spend more quality time with our children. If anyone were to ask us today if we would make the same decision, our answer would definitely be a yes.

This is an original article written by Loh Yong Cheng, Lead of Advisory Team at Providend, Singapore’s First Fee-Only Wealth Advisory Firm. 

For more related resources, check out:
1. A Letter to My Beautiful Children
2. In Tribute to the One That Sacrifices
3. Story of Yong Cheng: The Little Things That Make Him Feel Warm and Fuzzy

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