Holy Hell the Stock Market is Down (Just Breathe)

I’m a bit obsessive about my networth. Ok, a lot obsessive. It’s this game I play which helps me weather the storm of the everyday ups and downs of life. I know you’re not supposed to monitor your stocks on a daily basis, but I do, because that’s what I do. It’s certainly thrilling when they go up. Not so much when they go… down… and down some more.

Today the stock market had its 9th biggest decline in history so – when I looked at my Mint account and my jaw dropped to the floor with little birdies flying around my head – well, that was not an overreaction. It’s pretty painful to see all this money you’ve been saving for the year just poof disappear, at least on digital paper. It could come back tomorrow, or more could disappear. Who knows. China is making everyone freak out. My Apple stock is tanking, but so is the rest of the market.

I am not going to sell. I am not going to sell. I am not going to sell.

My entry into the stock market was interestingly timed. I got in right before the great recession. I had enough money in to feel the pain of losing almost half of it, but I was making so little at the time that the amount I was able to invest wasn’t really significant enough to cause serious long-term damage. Then, as the market recovered, I obtained jobs where I made more money, and more money. And I didn’t really like to spend all that money at Sephora, so I invested it each month. As the stock market went up, so did my networth. It was incredible to be investing in the market at that time. It clearly wasn’t going to last forever…

Today the market is overvalued. It’s due for a few major corrections. The trick of corrections is to A) not sell and B) buy more each time your heart jumps to your throat when you check your life savings, but not too much more in case the market continues to drop, which it probably will do.

Think Long Term and Forget About the Short-Term Fluctuations

Today I bought $1000 worth of Vanguard funds and $500-ish of Tesla stock. I’m fighting my stock market fears by throwing money at it whenever it surprises me with a swift downturn. Hopefully that will pay off in the end. It’s not rocket science, but it seems to have worked thus far.

I’m holding my breath right now as I have a feeling 2015-2016 is going to be a majorly bumpy ride. Are you in buy mode right now? How much do you think the market will correct itself before it stabilizes? Do you have any favorite funds that perform well when China implodes on itself for its overvalued currency?

Oh, and forget about my $400k networth goal this year… now I think $350k networth is a much more reasonable goal to close out the year with. That’s still $50k more than I closed out last year, but given my salary increase I thought this year would be a lot stronger. The whole $500k before kids goal is seeming more and more unlikely — though if I can maintain my income level… my plan is to get pregnant in June/July 2016, and then have a kid in March/April 2017… that’s still about a year-and-a-half from now, so I could be somewhere in the $425k range at that point, which isn’t HORRIBLE. $425k growing at an average of 5% per year after 30 years, if I don’t touch it, will =$1.8M, just shy of my $2M retirement goal.  But if it grows at 10% over 30 years then that’s $7.4M. So all I need to do is not touch that future basis and hope that the economy doesn’t entirely crash for a long term depression. $400k-$500k before I have a kid is the NEW goal.

 

 

Wedding Budget Woes and Excitement-Crippling Guilt

My father WANTS to pay for a $45,000 wedding. So many engaged couples planning their nuptials would love to have that generous offer. I do love it, but I also still feel ill when I think about it. $45,000 for ONE FREAKING DAY – AM I OUT OF MY MIND?

Well, yes, I am.

I’ve searched high and low, east and west for the ideal wedding venue. I’ve done tons of research and put together budget sheet after budget sheet to try to cut down on costs while pleasing all who need to be pleased — it can’t be on a Friday night because of religion, can’t be in the winter or spring or fall because people have kids in school, can’t be on a holiday, can’t be at a venue that doesn’t have lots of seats during the cocktail hour, can’t be at a venue that is too far from an airport, can’t be somewhere that only serves beer and wine because god forbid we ask people to come across the country and don’t even deliver an open bar…

At the end of the day, I realized I had two choices (ahem, have two choices) – one, I do a wedding that’s truly for “us” – I pay for it all out of my own pocket, I narrow the guest list down significantly, and heck maybe I do something totally non-traditional and just have a picnic or something in a park. I do it in the winter… on a weeknight… because who cares, the wedding isn’t about other people, it’s about us, getting, you know, married.

OR – this is an event for my family, namely my mother and father. My dad (who is equal parts terminally ill and obsessed with his daughter having a big fancy wedding and getting pregnant two seconds after the wedding ends) would be somewhat upset if I didn’t have a sizable shindig. To be fair to him, we don’t know how much longer he will live, and if he’s saved up money throughout his life then why not give him the party that he’d want, and hopefully also manage to put on an affair that stays true to my fiance and I.

But, come on, $45k on one night? I just… there are people who can’t afford to eat in this world… and I’m spending $45,000 for one stupid party?

The saddest thing of all (after the whole people in the world not being able to afford to eat) is that when I run the numbers, $45k isn’t really going to cover everything. I’ve already given up on a Saturday night wedding (minimums too high at the venues I like) and I’m doing a Sunday night, which is one of those things that all the frugal wedding blogs suggest. And I’ve already had a few people grumble about the Sunday night wedding saying they’ll leave early and not party as much (so, yea, there goes the value of that standard premium open bar.) The venue itself has a minimum of 135 people on a Sunday night, which is the one thing that may keep me from booking it — though at this point I have a hold on a date and I just want to book it and get on with my life! 135 minimum with $170 per person cost, plus some random extras that they don’t include but I consider necessary (on-site rehearsal for instance.)

For those of you who hate math, that’s $23,000-ish just for the minimum venue/catering fee. That’s BEFORE dress, band, photographer, videographer, florist, officiant, gifts, tips, rings, and the therapy I’ll need to survive all of this.

I am ridiculously torn between saying FUCK IT and eloping or saying FUCK IT and just closing my fiscal eyes to how ridiculous the entire situation is. I really wanted to figure out how to do the entire wedding for $30k and I thought Sunday night would help with that, but really there’s no way to do it for that price unless we either rent a hall and bring in catering (and have a smaller guest list) or… well, have a wedding somewhere in the middle of nowhere… and then no one will come, which is maybe for the better.

I really want someone to talk some sense into me and tell me that spending $45k+ on one day is the dumbest thing ever – even if it’s mostly my parent’s money and even if it’s money my parents want to spend. Someone knock some sense into me! I keep looking at all these wedding photos and videos and all I can think is how silly I’ll look in that set up. I feel too old for all that. And that money could be put to much better uses – either for my parents or for my future family.

The 135 minimum is really freaking me out now. I don’t know if I’ll get that many people. I’m inviting something like 150-175, but with people all around the country I bet RSVP rates will be 60% – which, for those of you who don’t like math, and who want to cringe with me, is 105 people. That means we’ll be paying $5100 for 30 people who aren’t even there.

Why are weddings a thing again?

Life Goes On and On and On…

It’s pretty damn depressing when you get to that point in life (i.e. your early 30s) where you go from thinking one day you’ll do something big (creative or otherwise) and worthy of at least a Wikipedia page – and then you look around and realize that suddenly your future greatness never happened and your life is going to be just as normal as the next person’s – at best.

Culturally, we raise our children to think they’re special. Their art project deserves to win a statewide contest and be featured in the local newspaper. Being the lead in a school play is the end-all-be-all of importance for one’s happiness and self worth. Life is about being impressive and unique. Well,  at least that’s the way my parents raised me. And I’m sure feeling the effects of it more than ever now.

I’m definitely as a turning point in my life – one where I have a choice to really stop what it is I’m doing and make a significant, strategic or haphazard change – to grasp at whatever sort of inner psyche voice is willing to talk at me to produce some form of a future that makes sense. I know the entire career I’ve somehow got myself into – while lucrative and actually quite stable if I were good at it – is not right. But then I think I’m just lazy and no career will ever be right and I just need to, you know, suck it up until I’m old enough to retire – and then I’ll be bored because I actually like working.

Things I think I’d like to do and why I haven’t done them yet…

  • Psychologist / career counselor — I enjoy helping other people plan their lives and giving advice. But I don’t know if I’d want to do that for a living, or if I should just stick to trying to be a good friend to a few select individuals who occasionally ask for advice. The amount of schooling required to switch to this career is immense and I’m so far behind now it would be challenging to make such a change, especially if I’m not 100% sure that I’d be happy in this field… which I’m not.
  • UX designer — this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as in 8+ years. There are many different ways into the field but I am convinced graduate school is the best way to transition at this point. I daydream about studying design but then I also worry about it being too limited — many UX designers have to basically listen to non-designer managers tell them what to do, and the entire experience is frustrating and soul-sucking. Plus, UX designers don’t only get to do the fun strategic design work, but they also have to create hundreds of pages of detailed wireframes. I’m not the best when it comes to details or sticking up for my points when someone else says I’m wrong. I worry this dream career would be more like a nightmare.
  • Teacher — I don’t think I have the patience for teaching, but I do like the idea of feeling like I’m actually doing something meaningful in my life. The reason why this is even on the list is that I really enjoy helping people, and I know if I could feel useful everyday I’d be much happier.
  • Writer — the whole journalism thing didn’t work out… getting scoops was so stressful I ended up just getting myself scoops of ice cream instead. Social anxiety also gets in the way of interviewing random people for your stories, and I never could come up with my own story ideas anyway. Writing a novel is appealing but I’m terrible at plot and dialogue, so that’s a no go. Professional blogging is a thought, but a bad thought, as I can’t even keep up with writing in this blog and I only post when I’m feeling inspired (i.e. frustrated.) I’ve received a number of offers for sponsored posts on this blog, but I don’t want to turn this into that type of a site. If anyone actually reads this blog still — well, they know that it’s not about trying to sell crap.
  • Photographer — I enjoy photography but I don’t know how to do it correctly – even though I invested in a fancy camera a few years ago. Being a photographer is a huge investment and it also means that you have to basically give up your entire life to the trade. Wedding photographers are busy all weekend every weekend, especially in the nicer months. Photojournalists travel the world and rarely see their own bed. I think I’m looking for a job in my “old age” with more flexibility, not less.
  • Film editor – I often think this would have been an idea job. I enjoy telling stories and taking stories and putting them together. But to be a film editor I’d have to first learn how to use the latest tools, then start at the very bottom, and who knows if I could ever move up. I have a friend who does editing in LA and she seems to like it but she works long hours and the pay is not good. There are so many people who want to be film editors that the agencies that do this can basically screw people over. But really, I don’t want to move to los angeles, so getting a job in film editing would be quite challenging in most other cities.
  • Character Animator — if I could learn to create animations that would be pretty cool… but I don’t think I’m talented enough to do the work that I’d actually want to do.
  • Mother — not that being a full time mother is actually possible, but I’d like to do this for a little while. Maybe by the time I get done dealing with a screaming baby 24/7 I’ll be ready to go back to the corporate world doing just about anything.

Well – those seem to be my options – or I can just stay where I am now, career-wise, and try to focus on the parts of it that I like. I’ve just concluded that I need a job which is based on projects that have a certain timeframe so there is a sense of natural momentum and also a good feeling of being DONE with something before moving on to the next thing. I’m not good at the type of job that is never, ever done (well until you quit or get fired) — even your best results are just temporary. I wish I went into film or some more creative field where you worked on projects one at a time. I need that sense of completion. After 6-12 months I start to feel restless, which isn’t healthy or positive for my current career. I need to focus and just pretend to be someone else for a while – and to figure out what it is I’m doing next – because I have about two years before my first child (knock on wood) and I need to have my shit together by then.

Eloping Sounds Really Good Right About Now

I seriously underestimated the amount of stress a wedding would churn up. It’s an excuse to throw an awesome party for my friends and family, I thought, unaware of the guilt and guilt trips I’d experience from those friends and family alike, as well as myself. At this point, eloping is looking like a pretty darned good option.

The challenge with a Jewish east coast wedding is that you pretty much go big or go home (well, go home meaning you have your wedding at home, like in your backyard, and unless you’re going to decorate the entire property in gold and diamonds, people will think you’re cheap and your family will never live that down.)

…For example, I’ve been seriously pondering a Sunday night wedding which would be by no means cheap, but which would bring down the minimums of the guest counts and the price per person a bit. I’ve estimated with 150 people it would save about $10k on the food/venue (at some venues a bit more at others less, but averages out to that at most of the nicer venues where on a Sat night you’re spending $35k+ on this basic cost alone before getting to everything else.) But an aunt of mine made a comment about how she doesn’t like Sunday night weddings because then people can’t drink and have fun – they have to go to work the next morning. While I’d like to just say/think – so what? It’s my wedding and I don’t care if people leave early or don’t have that much fun… but, I mean, if we’re throwing a party that costs more than $5,000 I’d like people to have some fun — more than $30k and I hope I can create an entertaining occasion.

That gets me back to wondering when weddings became about entertaining guests with the fancy venues and amazing food. I’m admittedly caught up in the nice venues (not ballrooms but really elegant, modern or rustic, historic places) and wanting to have amazing food that everyone is taking about and an incredible DJ with the perfect color scheme and yadayada. It’s fucking ridiculous. I’m not 12. I’m not working with a party planner to create my lavish Bat Mitzvah centerpieces and custom t-shirts. Why do I feel like my wedding has to be some big, impressive affair? Well, I’ll tell you why.

My parents care more about what other people think (about them) than what I want. And who the fork knows what I want right now anyway. Ms. Devil says “just throw an amazing, relatively expensive ($45,000) wedding and if you need to chip in more of your own money to make it even better. Yes, it’s one night but it’s THE night. YOUR night. If you don’t have some big wedding now you’ll regret it later. I’m not taking 200 people but even 100 people can seem big and be pricey.

But I think I’ve also gotten too carried away, looking at venues designed for people with parents who are multi-millionaires, not just $1.something millionaires. For people who have parents that don’t need to worry about their money one day running out due to a father’s illness or a mother’s penchant for television shopping networks and clothing salespeople’s oh-so-sage advice. The reality is most people, especially people who grew up near me, didn’t have super lavish saturday night weddings. They maybe had saturday or sunday afternoon weddings – which, even at nicer venues, can significantly reduce the cost.

My mother, of course, says no afternoon weddings – she doesn’t wake up before 10am and she needs a lot of time to get ready. She pretty much will boycott my wedding if it’s in the afternoon. I also don’t love afternoon weddings because people really don’t celebrate in the same way they do in the evening. I’ve been to a wedding that had a lovely ceremony at a historic mission followed by a brunch – no music or anything, and then there was an after party at the beach at night. It was nice and good thing it wasn’t that expensive because two years later and the couple is divorced – but, still, given the expectations of my family, doing something like that would actually embarrass my father. He might be ok with the earlier wedding time but he still wants a band and a party. AND GOD FORBID I HAVE A WEDDING IN THE WINTER “OFF PEAK.”

Meanwhile I’m having fantasies about getting married at our favorite spot in Yosemite. They apparently do ceremonies for up to 50 people and you can have a picnic lunch afterwards. At this point my dream wedding would be all my good friends and family flying to Yosemite, being there for the ceremony, and then staying with us to camp for a few days and bond. It’s a fantasy because it could never happen. I just think we’d feel more comfortable with a small ceremony that is meaningful versus something big that is more of a theatrical production than exchanging of a lifelong commitment. I used to be a complete attention whore but now I don’t really want all eyes on me anyway. My s/o and my relationship is quite, ahem, special — and by that I mean odd — and by that I mean I don’t really know how to share that relationship publicly with people who aren’t close friends and family… and even that, well, it’s kind of terrifying, when I think about it.

And… I can’t help but feel like the entire wedding experience is completely lopsided. Not that I really care how much my engagement ring was worth — but it is one of those wedding costs that comes out of the groom’s budget. When my family is facing a $45k bill for the wedding itself, having an engagement ring worth <$500, even though I don’t care how much the ring cost and I like my ring, seems off kilter. I mean, the average cost of an engagement ring in the US is $4000 and some people spend $10k or more. So then you can say ok, the groom’s side is paying for the $10k engagement ring + rehearsal dinner ($2k) + honeymoon ($3k) and so the groom is paying for $15k and then the bride’s side is paying $25k+ for the wedding itself, but at least the costs come out a little more evenly. Not that anyone splits things this way anymore, but with a $500 ring I feel like having a wedding over $10k makes absolutely no sense. At least you wear the ring for the rest of your life and can pass it down to your children! (*note, I tend to misplace jewelry and other items so my fiancé didn’t want to get me anything too expensive that I might lose, which is understandable.)

Lately I’ve been browsing local hotels and their wedding package prices… they seem to be on the lower cost side. It’s so frustrating trying to talk wedding budget with my parents because my mother is always clueless when it comes to money (I can’t help but tell her that it’s a bad idea for her to spend $45,000 of the money she will likely need as she gets older) and my father, well, he starts to throw a temper tantrum whenever I mention hat I’d like to find some place that is more “cost effective.” He certainly doesn’t know the difference between a wedding venue that I’d like ($30k-$40k price range for venue/food) and a $20k-$30k venue at a hotel or country club, and he’d consider both nice (as long as the food was good enough and there was nothing super tacky about the place.) But, really, $20k is STILL too much to spend on a venue/food for a one-night event. And this would be the somewhat lower cost venues that I’ve looked at so far. I can find cheaper ones still — even airport hotels host weddings(!) — but then I start thinking if the wedding is going to be at a crappy hotel in some god-awful conference-style ballroom then why bother doing that at all?

I do feel rather alone in all this, which is silly but still sucks. I can’t have a rational conversation with mom and dad about the wedding and my fiancé is in the mindset that our wedding should cost no more than $10k, but he’s fine if my parents want to throw a bigger affair than that – he just won’t chip in more than $5k of the whole thing. And the frugal, personal finance blogger side of me can’t even make the argument that he should be putting more of his savings into this wedding, because really he shouldn’t. No one family or person or two families should be spending this much for 5.5 hours. But still in me is that little girl who loved disney fairytales and dreamed of her wedding day… the same girl who is pinning a bunch of wedding stuff on pinterest (and has been long before she was engaged) and who now knows enough about wedding venues and dresses to start her own wedding planning business.

Anyway, this is all just super stressful.

Going to the Chapel and We’re Gonna Spend M-O-N-E-Y

Jewsus Crust, weddings are expensive. While my father has offered to pay for the entire thing up to $45k, that offer hasn’t been sitting well with me as I’ve shopped around for everything from venues to gowns. I’m a grown-ass woman and I should pay for my own g’damn wedding… or at least a reasonable, sizable chunk of it. And so, tonight I had a bit of a epiphany — I’m going to pay for my own wedding (catering/venue) for the guest list I feel comfortable with (100-120 attendees.) Any additional attendees my parents want to invite (their friends, distant family) they can invite but they would cover.

The whole bride’s family pays for the entire thing and the groom’s family pays nothing is completely outdated and actually offensive. Sure, most brides want a wedding that’s a bit bigger and grander than what a groom would select, but that doesn’t mean that the entire wedding is a bride-only affair.

My father is very traditional – to a fault. He expected to pay for his daughter’s weddings and has theoretically saved for the big day. However, that money should be kept for my father’s medical bills over his hopefully long life to come and my mother’s wellbeing throughout her retirement. Spending their money on five hours of my life at this age is a concept that makes me physically ill.

I feel really good about my latest idea — that I’ll pay at least for the venue and catering. It seems a little more stomachable to accept a gift of a dress or band for the event, vs having parents pay the whole thing. Really the gifts from people attending should partially repay for the actual cost of the reception, so if I pay for the reception then some of that cost would be recovered in gifts. It doesn’t make my sense for my parents to pay for the reception and then the gifts to go to us. I know that’s the traditional way of doing things but it’s all sorts of wrong.

Paying for my own wedding does mean that I won’t reach my networth goal of $500k before I have kids — but at this point I’m pretty much retracting that goal and just focused on having a happy, healthy life. I’ll probably move somewhere with a lower cost of living in the next few years and hopefully be able to start a family. My priorities have definitely changed since I went from being sad and single to part A of a happily home-bodied couplehood. Paying for my own wedding also makes it feel more real and meaningful, vs just a big fancy party.

I’m just not sure how I’m going to tell my parents yet that I plan to pay. I figure I can just put down a deposit somewhere and then let them know that the venue and food are taken care of. Will my dad be offended? Probably – but that’s because he’s always offended over anything that goes against anything he thinks or offers. But then he’ll probably be happy to see I’m no longer relying on him to pay for any part of my life. And if he wants to provide a gift towards the total cost of the remaining items in the wedding, I’ll gladly accept. That just feels way more right, and brings my stress levels back to moderate.