This week is a sad week. As I mentioned before, after much consideration, I have decided to end my business partnership with the New Yorker. On Wednesday we meet with the tax consultant to draw up the final papers. This decision was not made because of my relationship with the New Yorker, nor was it because the company was not doing well. Rather it came because of a disturbing letter, which brought a financial house of cards down on my head.
Shortly after giving birth, I received a letter from the Deutsche Rentenversicherungbund (the German state pension plan) congratulating me on having a baby, and oh by the way, during your maternity leave the state will pay for my monthly state pension taxes. I found this a little odd. In Germany the vast majority of individuals pay into the state pension fund via taxes and their employer. However, as a self-employed person I was told that I was exempt from this. (I bet you already know where this story is going . . .)
A few weeks later, the state sent me another letter informing that I had not paid into the system. However, they needed to audit whether or not I owed anything and would I please fill out the enclosed “survey” about my work experience in Germany as well as my income tax records. At this point I had been home with my baby for only a few weeks and was pretty much brain dead. The German and I attempted to get a hold of our tax consultant, but to no avail. We did the best we could and sent off the answers to the state.
A few months later we got the bad news. I owed over 6000 Euro in back pension taxes. It turns out that there are a certain class of self employed individuals that are not protected from the system; teachers are among them. The German and I immediately contacted our tax consultant. He admitted that he dropped the ball. Teachers slip through the cracks because of a law dating back to 1906 or something. 1906?!? Seriously, Germany still had a Kaiser then. Turns out that I could have avoided all of this if my company had employed a part time secretary, which our consultant also failed to tell us about.
Because of my new baby and the new realization that I have to pay more taxes, I began to look at the math of working. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say that I teach a training seminar from 8am to 3pm. This is 8 teaching hours, for which I might get about 160 Euro total.
Now let’s add up the costs.
Taxes: 32 Euro
Childcare: 45 Euro
Gas/Transportation: 5 Euro
Total costs: 82 Euro
Actual income earned: 78 Euro
When you consider that I would have to be away from the Dude for about 9 hours (not including the prep time for the class or grading papers), I would only be making about 8.67 Euro an hour. I had to ask myself, isn’t being away from the Dude worth more than 78 Euro?
Essentially, I am staying home now because it just does not add up to work full time. The only way to get around this problem it to get a job with a company or at a public school, where I get paid more and they pay part of my pension taxes for me.
I mentioned to a friend of mine, who is also a successful businessman, that I might look into jobs at companies. Although he was encouraging, he looked at me and asked, “But how will you be able to juggle everything; husband, child, house, job?” Companies might now want to hire a woman with a baby.
Then I got pissed. Is this a question a man would ever have to answer?
Part of me has been very depressed about this lately. I love the Dude more than words can say, but I have had to change my career twice in three years because of my other life choices (i.e. marriage, moving to Germany, having a baby). I take stock of my education (10 years, a PhD, at least $40,000 in tuition) and I wonder if it was all worth it. Did I really do all of that to become a Hausfrau?
When I expressed my disappointment to my MIL and asked her what my education got me, she said, “A house, a husband, a child!!” Yeah, I did not need to spend 10 years at university to have a baby. When I began my education, I had many dreams and aspirations. None of those hopes had anything to do with a husband and children. Am I supposed to just hang up these dreams because I had a baby? Where is my working life going to take me next?
After the Dude was born, I could not imagine working again. When I left for an English lesson I would call at least twice to see if he was okay. Now, when I get into the car, I put on my sunglasses and turn up the music and actually enjoy the time away; the time to be Claire BC (before Christopher). But now fuzzy math has got me in a corner, and I don’t know how to get out of it.