The first self-earned money after studying or completing your apprenticeship – what a tingling feeling. Finally have your own money and be able to support your life financially. I still remember very well what that felt like: free, independent, world – I’m coming! How was that for you?

What feelings hit you when you remember it? What did you buy with your first self-earned money – and what did you think your life would be like next?

Men are more likely to assume that they are constantly employed. Old traditions of the family breadwinner continue to operate here, even in 2023, although there is a trend among young men to question this model of dependency. They want to live equality and be active fathers. Women, on the other hand, are confronted with the fact that this family breadwinner model pushes them into the role of housewife and mother, even in highly qualified jobs, who have to look after others as if on autopilot. Financial independence falls by the wayside – often unintentionally – due to part-time work, long breaks from work or mini-jobs.

Parental allowance bridges the loss of income for a certain period of time when we look after our newborn. However, this flow of money ends after one year and two months (basic parental allowance) or two years and four months (parental allowance plus) at the latest.

Of course, married couples without children also decide that one takes on the house and family work and the other earns the money. Why not. Every couple has free choice. At least that’s what I wish for every couple: we pool our skills and talents and share the fruits fairly among each other.

Whatever couple model we live. Part of living a responsible life is having this question clarified for yourself: Can or could I take care of myself – well into old age?

For example, when a crisis occurs? I become dissatisfied with my relationship and want to break up? The partner wants a divorce? Violence enters the relationship or a sudden personal catastrophe occurs such as illness or death? People change too, not always for the better. Are we prepared for this?

Taking responsibility for my own life means: I can take care of myself. Now and later. And if I can’t do it right now, I’ll work on restoring financial independence as quickly as possible.

This requires a clear view of the realities of life, romanticism is out of place here: a certain degree of planning and liquidity provision, negotiations with partners about the fair division of housework, care and work, independent pension provision and longer-term, joint financial or wealth goals as a couple, but also personally.

Anyone who has not worked in a partnership for decades and is neither financially secure for the old age nor the death of the sole breadwinner and perhaps does not even know the family’s income and financial situation is living a very risky life and is not on an equal footing in a partnership.

Here are a few ideas on how you can think through and ensure your self-sufficiency:

Being able to take care of yourself financially increases life satisfaction because it makes life easier, opens up opportunities, allows for relationships on equal terms and we can sleep peacefully.

This article first appeared here in the business magazine “Capital”, which, like stern, is part of RTL Deutschland.

The column is inspired by the reflection question from Dr. Birgit Happel in her book: At the expense of mothers, 2023, Verlag Kösel.