A Provider

Lately, I’ve been pondering why I have less admiration for men who claim to be retired but have a working spouse. Is it fueled by envy? It’s possible, considering I wouldn’t mind if my wife were the breadwinner, easing some of the financial strain on me.

The sentiment is akin to observing several of my neighbors, able-bodied men in their thirties, still living with their parents after 7-10 years. Come on guys. Let’s get it together already! You can’t depend on them forever.

I’m also struggling to resist the urge to keep working hard despite having amassed a comfortable net worth. Sure, there are new expenses due to buying a new house, and my liquidity is stretched. However, I could liquidate an asset to cover upcoming costs instead of stubbornly adhering to my first rule of FIRE: generate enough passive income to cover all basic living expenses.

Whatever happened to lounging on the beach in my mid-40s?

Since I prefer not to dwell on negative emotions and dislike being stuck in dilemmas, I’m actively striving to evolve and become a better version of myself. Positivity is better than negativity! Maybe you are experiencing something similar yourself and can’t figure out why. Let me help you.

Evolution And A Man’s Need To Provide

After some deep introspection, I’ve realized my feelings for such men and my inability to do nothing largely stems from biology. Given biology is innate, we can’t help but act the way that we do.

Fathers operate on what I’ve termed a “Provider’s Clock,” where our DNA is encoded to provide for our children for at least 18 years after they are born. If we fail to fulfill this role, we often feel inadequate and view other fathers who don’t provide in the same light.

Perhaps I’m being a bit stringent, but biology tends to be unyielding to ensure the continuation of our species. Biology may also be a reason why there is sometimes incredible pushback against the FIRE movement, since the majority of participants are men.

When society sees able-bodied men choose not to continuously work traditional jobs to provide for their families or be productive in society, it goes against convention, or everybody’s Provider’s Clock.

Declining fertility rate graph gives women the feeling of having a Biological Clock, while men have the feeling of having a Provider's Clock

The idea of a man’s Provider’s Clock parallels that of women’s Biological Clock for childbirth.

As women approach 35, the chances of conception decrease significantly due to an increase in eggs with abnormal chromosomes. By age 45, the natural conception rate drops to less than 5%.

More couples marrying and having children later in life has lead to a rise in the IVF industry to combat infertility. Therefore, a woman’s Biological Clock may start ticking as early as puberty and may stop by age 45. In other words, a woman’s biological clock may last for 30 years.

Similarly, some men feel a strong urge to provide for their families once they become fathers. A man’s Provider’s Clock begins after his children are born and continues to tick until they reach adulthood, typically 18 years later. My sense is that a father’s Provider’s Clock may also last for 30 years, or until their child is financially independent or has found someone to take care of them.

Just as a woman may feel pressured to start a family before 45, some men experience a profound desire to prioritize their role as providers.

When a woman hears her Biological Clock ticking loudly, she may experience feelings of dissent toward women who are not prioritizing motherhood. Likewise, a man with a resonating Provider’s Clock might perceive other men as irresponsible for not taking fatherhood as seriously as they do.

Not Everybody Needs To Have Children Or Needs To Work

Let’s address several key points before we go on.

1) It’s entirely acceptable to opt out of having children.

Life can be simpler, less expensive, and less exhausting without the responsibility of raising kids. Not everyone finds a partner they wish to start a family with either, and not everyone has the financial stability or time to commit to raising children. In these circumstances, choosing not to have children is a rational decision.

2) It’s fine to take a break from work, temporarily.

Perhaps you built a successful company in your 20s and sold it for a substantial sum in your 30s, granting you the freedom to pursue other interests. Or maybe you diligently saved and invested a significant portion of your income for many years, allowing you to retire early. If you have the means to forgo work due to luck or hard work, then it’s nobody’s place to criticize your current lack of productivity.

However, unlike the biological constraints that may prevent some women from conceiving, a man who is capable of working but chooses to rely on his partner for financial support can raise eyebrows. Moreover, if a man opts out of work simply because life is more enjoyable without it, he deprives his partner of the same freedom. This behavior can be viewed as selfish.

3) Women obviously have Provider’s Clocks too.

In addition to Biological Clocks, women also experience Provider’s Clocks, adding to their pressure. In contrast, most men do not have Biological Clocks, just the acknowledgment of their mortality.

Many women aspire to work and earn as much as possible to support their families. Moreover, there is a growing number of women who out-earn in cities such as New York and Washington D.C., while also serving as the sole income providers.

map of U.S. where young women earn as much or more than men

Those driven by a Provider’s Clock inherently desire to care for others rather than be dependent on them. Therefore, witnessing an able-bodied individual being cared for can evoke discomfort, envy, and even disdain.

However, with a Biological Clock, no matter how much a 45+-year-old woman wants to conceive naturally, it is likely not going to happen. Therefore, society doesn’t display the same amount of negativity for women over 45 who don’t have or want children.

The Provider’s Clock And A Man’s Responsibility To Care For His Family

I’d like to outline three key responsibilities for fathers based on our inherent Provider’s Clock. Becoming a father is a choice and with that choice comes certain obligations.

Given I am a man, I’m sharing my point of view. If you are a woman who hears her Provider’s Clock, feel free to share your point of view as well.

1) Presence until adulthood

The Provider’s Clock begins ticking at birth and persists through adulthood. At that point, children may choose to pursue college or leave home to start their own lives. It’s often said that over 80% of the time you’ll ever spend with your children happens by the time they turn 18. Therefore, the imperative to be present and involved begins from the moment of birth.

While life events such as divorce or long-term travel for work may occur, these circumstances shouldn’t hinder a father’s presence in his children’s lives. Even if physical proximity is not possible, maintaining regular communication through emails, text messages, visits, sleepovers, and video calls is essential. Consistent and persistent efforts should be made to ensure that all fathers remain actively involved in their children’s lives until they are capable of providing for themselves.

The ultimate objective for fathers with loud Provider’s Clocks is to raise their children to become financially independent adults who embody qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and productivity. If a father’s Provider’s Clock is soft, then he may leave the family well before his children become adults.

percentage of children with married parents, solo moms, cohabitating parents, or solo dads

2) Financial provision until children reach adulthood

Whether through full-time employment, part-time consulting, side ventures, or entrepreneurship, men driven by their Provider’s Clock must sustain some form of employment until their children reach at least 18 years of age. It is incumbent upon all such men to ensure that their families have access to adequate food, clothing, education, and shelter necessary for their children’s development into responsible adults.

While a father need not necessarily be the sole breadwinner, he should aspire to earn a sufficient income to cover the essential needs of his children. Although life may present challenges, the earnest desire to provide is paramount. With determination, a father will find a way to meet his family’s needs.

If you are aspiring to be a FIRE parent, this second responsibility of a father means that permanent early retirement is against the nature of a man’s Provider’s Clock. Even if a man was able to generate enough passive income to cover for his family’s basic living expenses, a man must continue to be productive in some capacity.

Good thing is that you will likely find it impossible to do nothing once you have children.

3) Ensuring the family’s well-being in case of premature death

Those driven by the Provider’s Clock not only focus on the present but are constantly planning for the future. Given the unpredictability of life, including accidents, illnesses, and unforeseen events, there’s no assurance that a father will be present to see his children through to adulthood.

Consequently, the Provider’s Clock prompts men to establish contingency plans, such as drafting a will, organizing a death file, and setting up a revocable living trust. Furthermore, this innate drive encourages proactive measures like building an emergency fund, investing in retirement accounts, and cultivating a taxable portfolio capable of generating passive income.

For those attuned to the Provider’s Clock, obtaining a life insurance policy is indispensable. The extent of coverage required depends on the individual’s circumstances, with a larger policy often deemed necessary to ensure peace of mind in the event of an untimely demise. Consider getting at least 3X your annual expenses as a death benefit amount.

One of your main goals as a parent is for your kids to live on completely fine once you are gone.

Everybody’s Provider’s Clock Size And Volume Are Different

“Have children and the money will come.” – Unknown

Men are inherently inclined to provide, but this inclination may not be equally pronounced in all individuals. Consequently, my three fundamental principles of fatherhood may not resonate with every man, as fathers are entitled to parent in the manner that suits them best.

This innate drive to provide can be traced back to evolution. The first phase involves the desire to have children, the easy part. While the second entails nurturing them into adulthood, the infinitely harder part.

The strength of one’s Provider’s Clock correlates with the likelihood of passing down one’s lineage, as children raised with the necessary skills are better equipped to thrive independently.

For those who choose parenthood, recognizing that children did not choose to be born underscores our responsibility to provide for them until they can fend for themselves.

As soon as I realized the strength of a man’s desire to provide is predetermined by genetics, my negative view of able-bodied men who do not work or rely on their wives to provide dissipated. We simply cannot help who we are just as we cannot change our hair color, height, or motivation engine. Therefore, we must accept and respect all people for who they are.

The Solution For Men Who Feel Unsettled

If you’re a man feeling unsettled about not providing for your family while your wife works, consider re-entering the workforce, whether in a part-time or full-time capacity. While your wife is at work and your children are in school, utilize the downtime to explore job opportunities. Eventually, you’ll regain a sense of fulfillment once you can generate income again.

If, for whatever reason, re-entering the workforce isn’t an option, then create your own business. Not only is it rewarding to create something from nothing, you’ll also work toward doing something meaningful for you and society.

If your family is ungodly rich, then consider creating a trust fund job that gives you a sense of purpose. It doesn’t have to be immediately successful or profitable. The key is to take action to give your life meaning and a sense of responsibility for your children.

Alternatively, if you’re comfortable with your wife being the primary breadwinner, more power to you. You’ve been able to conquer the innate desire for a man’s desire to provide.

Reader Questions On A Provider’s Clock

Do you believe every father has a Provider’s Clock? If so, do you think the men who choose not to work despite having a family to support have quiet Provider’s Clocks? Does every man’s inherent need to provide explain why there is so much disdain for the FIRE movement, given it is mostly compromised of men? What are some other responsibilities of fathers?

If you’re in the market for affordable life insurance, I highly recommend checking out Policygenius. With just a few details, you’ll receive personalized quotes in minutes. My wife and I both utilized Policygenius to secure matching 20-year term policies amid the pandemic. With mortgage debt still on our plate, we find immense peace of mind knowing that if the worst were to happen prematurely, our young kids would be financially secure.

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