Hello 32. Such a strange age.

I woke up this morning from one of my continuous wedding nightmares as of late and I completely forgot it’s my birthday. I guess that means I must be 32. This is the age when some people have been parents for a while and their kids are starting to become serious “kids” or even young adults. For me, this is the age I’m getting married, starting a new job, and maybe starting to build my family.

What does 32 feel like? I am not “old” yet, but certainly not young. There is a huge gap in behavior and mentality from myself and the youngins. Even college students, once the epitome of youthful old age, are babies, while 40-50 year olds are relatively childish and childlike. No one seems to really grow up ever, it’s just that young people change in their ways so the old youthful behavior suddenly seems like old people behavior. But we’re not much different from who we were when we were kids.

I don’t feel excited to turn 32. I’m excited I’m alive, of course, but nothing really feels like a “happy” birthday. The next birthday really worth celebrating is 50, so I have some time until then. At this point I just know my life is really rolling on and I’ve got to make some quick decisions to make it work. As each day goes by the more and more I want a family. It doesn’t help matters that many of my friends have their first child – even though few of my friends gave birth in their early to mid 20s, the majority of them hit that milestone prior to now, expect the ones that don’t plan to procreate (there are exceptions, of course, with some having waited even longer.)

I went and tasted cake last night for my wedding – felt that was a good “goodbye 31″ celebration to have secretly in my mind. After 30 I think we should be celebrating the day before our birthdays, not the day of. Celebrating making it another year, the never-ending sun setting of our youth, and all of the things we survived mentally and physically in the year prior. No need to celebrate getting older at this point. Nothing to see here, carry on.

When you’re 20, or 20-something, that’s a great excuse to make mistakes. I made my fair share. Then 30 rolls around and you don’t quite accept that you’re not in your 20s anymore at 30. You try to forget the whole turning 31 thing. Then 32 is here and you can’t deny it, you’re heading rapidly towards your “mid 30s.” Biologically this is significant. As a woman, you only have a few more years left to bring life into the world. As a professional, the lines forming on your stressed forehead mean you’re suited finally for those coveted VP and partner jobs, or at least you’re getting closer to those opportunities.

You always looked young. You always got carded. You haven’t gotten carded in a while.

When we’re 2, we expect to grow significantly by the time we’re 12. Yet there is a grand denial about the aging process between 22 and 32. But, man, I’m OLDER. Older than I was. That’s how life works.

At 32, I see my family less and less. Everyone is moving away, even though I deserted them years ago. My sister may move off to the midwest soon and work weekends and holidays, so I’d only see her on specifically planned joint vacations. My parents have their new winter condo in Florida so should a work trip to the east coast occur during the months they’re gone I won’t just happen to be able to have dinner with them. I’m at that part of my life when your family unit is depleted and you must start to build your own. I am fortunate to have a partner in life, because if I didn’t I’d feel horribly alone and depressed right now. I look at us and see us aging and hope that we have a long, relatively and fairly healthy life together. That’s the most one can do, is hope.

What did I think I’d accomplish by 32? Heaven knows. I never had a plan. I wanted to have $500k in net worth, but I’m only about 70% there. Not bad. Not great. But it’s something. I never thought about when I’d have kids, just that I’d have them and not wait until the latest possible time I could, which really means I thought I’d probably have kids by now. At least I’m getting married to a man who will be a great husband and father. Check. That’s some progress. I’m terrified of this whole adult thing which I’ve put off for so long. It’s time to grow up. Goodbye 31. Hello 32.





This Wedding is Costing Too Much… and I’m trying not to care.

With the state of the world these days, it feels extra strange to be hyper-focused on planning a rather lavish wedding where my budget is the only thing that is shot. Nonetheless, I have a wedding six months away and I’m furiously meeting with vendors who charge market rates for their services that add up to holy shit this is a lot of money.

I wish I came from a family that didn’t care about things like weddings, but I really had two choices here – go big or go home, literally. I opted for the big east coast wedding for a few reasons – 1, I worry I’d regret not having one; 2, my dad is ill and won’t be around much longer and he really wants a big wedding; 3, I’m out of my mind to think this was a good idea.

The reality is that weddings are expensive, no matter what type of wedding you have, unless you elope. Even $10,000 weddings are expensive for the people who have them. I’ve completely gone off the rocker and completely fell for the wedding industry. I said I wasn’t going to, and here I am, looking at killing my net worth goal over one day. Don’t ask me how much I spent on my dress. That was a fiasco that ended up in me making some very bad decisions. I like my dress, but if I could do it all over again, I’d not allow myself to purchase an outfit that cost almost as much as my first (used) car.

Then again, I tell myself that I should let myself splurge a little and enjoy this day. I’m not frugal by any means, but with most of the country having barely any savings, even my current – $328k in net worth (yes after wedding purchases and unemployment for a brief while and stock market performing poorly it’s down significantly) is something I can be proud of and dip into a little bit to treat myself. My parents are paying for a huge chunk of the wedding (and if they weren’t I WOULD be having a $10k wedding!) so I figure if I spend $10k above and beyond what my parents are paying on it, that’s, well, reasonable isn’t the right word – but it’s not completely crazy.

Still, if I could do this all over again I’d take a long hard look at a realistic budget and 1, book a cheaper venue and 2, buy a cheaper dress. Other than that there aren’t really a lot of places to save money at this point. Even DIY adds up. Flowers are $3k, video is $4k, photography is $6k, music is $1k – $6k depending if you want a DJ or a band (my dad said it’s my choice then continues to whisper behind my back how disappointed he’ll be if I get a DJ.)

I know I’m extremely fortunate to have parents who want to throw money at me for this wedding. But I also think it gets more stressful the more money you have to work with. I’ve discovered that the true “get whatever you want” wedding really costs $100k. That sounds crazy, but it isn’t. Anything less than $100k and you have to make compromises. I’m not advocating $100k weddings, just putting things into perspective for people who look at the wedding industry and roll their eyes.

Hopefully a wedding (day/weekend) is an experience I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my life. It’s a one-time production bringing family and friends together. There are hundreds of photos taken from every angle and, selfishly, I want to look good. Everyone wants photos with the bride. I could have looked good in a cheaper dress, but that story which I’ll tell one day equaled me making a very very dumb decision on that front. Beyond the extravagent dress (which, btw, doesn’t look extravagant, it’s just a designer gown with amazing embroidery so it’s classy and understated by also double my initial dress budget, oy), though, it’s really a fairly standard east coast wedding. It’s even on a Sunday to save costs.

When spending this much money on something, I become super OCD. I don’t want things to just be ok, I want them to be as close to perfect as possible. Which isn’t possible, but I’ll try. And trying to please everyone is also impossible. Ie right now hiring a DJ would make way more sense financially than hiring a band. But dad is paying for huge chunk of wedding and dad wants a band – I should get a band. Logic brain says get a damn DJ. My fiancé doesn’t even like to dance.

Anyway, the wedding is happening… and I’m starting a new job… and I’m just mildly stressed, but trying to get amped up about both. It’s so important that I go into all of this with a positive attitude. I am excited about the new job. I’m mildly enthusiastic about the wedding. I’m more so excited about finally getting married so I can move on with my life and start a family. That’s all that really matters.


November Networth Check-In and Retirement Update

Now that I am “in between incomes,” so to speak, I am re-focusing my objectives for total assets this year, and beginning planning for 2016 based on my potential earnings at my new opportunities.

As a reminder, my goal was to close out 2015 with $400,000 in net worth. That figure was always a stretch, but it isn’t going to happen this year. My new goal is to wrap up the year with at least $350,000 in net worth, which is about a 15% increase in my nest egg – not bad but not great either. My goal is to give birth to my first child in the summer of 2017, when I’m about to turn 34 (yikes.) That means getting pregnant in the fall of 2016 or soon after would be ideal. That means that I still want to aim for $500k in net worth by the time I have my first kid (let’s call that July of 2017.) This is about 19 months to increase my net worth by $150k.

Let’s start with where I am today — according to www.networthIQ.com my current net worth is $380,783. I will subtract my car ($8000) and stock options that will soon be worth nothing from that ($16,000) to what is my “actual” net worth — so about $356k. I’m also losing money now since unemployment doesn’t cover my monthly expenditures, so assuming the stock market does decently this month and I land a new job for December start (which is looking quite likely) I should be able to close out the year about $350k. A reminder, in January of 2009 I had about $5k to my name (see graph below.)

november net worth

In order to hit my goal of saving $150k in 18 months (assuming ending 2015 with $350k), I need to “save” $8333 per month. How is THAT going to happen?

If I (knock on wood)  increase my income levels in my next job to $190k (which is super exciting and feels like too much yet if the market will pay that for my services, I’ll take it!), that is a take-home of about $9400 a month (which is a lot and really starts making this dream possible – this is where it gets exciting!) Even with my average spending of about $3500 a month,  I will have $5900 per month to put away. But this also, theoretically, is two years of 401k investment, which I can max out each year. So that’s $36,000 of the total $150k right there (assuming I can keep my job and do well at it!) Ok, so one opportunity has a 3% match of your salary on that, which is awesome (I’ve NEVER had a 401k match in my entire career!) That means each year I’d make an extra ~$5700 just for putting the money in my 401k (if I’m understanding the match thing correctly.) So that is $11,400 on top of the $36k. Ok, so that takes care of $47,400 of the $150,000, and leaves a slightly more realistic $102.6k left to save over 18 months, or, $5700 per month. Income is reduced a bit with the 401k investment, of course, by $18000 a year – but that’s all pre-tax. But with bonus, etc, it should balance out to still taking home somewhere around $9k a month, or maybe a little less. That’s still a lot for the short-term goal.

Now, let’s assume my stock portfolio / the market increases by an average of 5% each year. It could be less and it could be more, but let’s say 2% – 5%. That is somewhere between $7000 and $17500 for year one, and a max of $20.9k in year two (at 5%), minimum of $8368 (for the entire year, but I’ll count that in these numbers since even if I’m not working my portfolio will continue to gain interest.) Ok, so on the more conservative end with just a 2% year-over-year gain, I’ll have another $15,368 covered by investment interest…

$150,000 goal
$36,000 = 401k investment
$11,400 = 401k match @ 3% of income
$15,368 = portfolio interest at 2% YoY
$87,232 to save in 18 months, or,
$4846 per month

This is very doable, as long as I select a job where I can stay a minimum of 18 months. One opportunity does not have 401k match, so I am leaning toward the one that does, since this clearly helps substantially in reaching my long-standing goal of $500k by childbirth.

Once I have kids, I am expecting to work part-time and see my annual savings levels decrease. Of course, I’ll have a husband who is also working, but he doesn’t earn as much as I do or invest his savings beyond a Roth IRA (which he’ll no longer be eligible for once we’re married – yeay marriage.) We’re not really combining incomes when we’re married – just continuing to split major household expenses. We’ll probably start to split a little more… right now we just split rent (I pay more since I make more) and food (we spend way too much on food for two people) — but in the future when we’re married I can see us splitting healthcare expenses, and maybe things like gas/transit. When we have a kid all those expenses will be split too. Luckily I have a penchant for household accounting. What a great hobby!

Seriously, though, if I can get to $500k before I have a kid, this frees me up so much from this looming fear of the future I have. It’s not exactly a nest egg that will make me rich, but it’s a very good start to be at $500k by 34. The goal was by 30 but so what… goals are meant to be hard to reach, but they keep you focused on getting to where you need to be.

With $500k, if I can manage to not touch that money until I’m 65, at an annual return of 5%, that gets me to about $2M in retirement (not counting any future earnings or my husband’s earnings/savings. At a 10% YoY return that’s about $8.7M in retirement. Heck, if that grows at 10% YoY in 20 years once hitting $500k, that will be worth $3.3M – not exactly placing me in the .01%, but certainly providing enough income for early retirement / starting my own business / doing what I want when I’m 55 years old. I know a lot of women in their early 50s and I can see this age being a good time to have that flexibility. You’re still healthy enough to trade and have fun, your kids are old enough to appreciate spending time with you (hopefully) and overall if you’ve been smart about saving over the years, you can take a moment to actually enjoy life.

So when people read this blog and comment about how this $500k goal is so silly, well, it really isn’t.

The MOST important thing right now for all of this is picking a job where I can stay stable at for the next 19 months, at a minimum. That’s a long time and I’m going to take it month by month and focus on being so productive my employer couldn’t even dream of replacing me. 18 months is just 6 quarters, and that will go fast, especially if I’m pregnant for half of them!

I really hope I can do it. I’ve come so far. This seems within reach. Having my first kid at 33/34 is not ideal, I’m going to have to have my second at 36 and if I want a third, well, that’s going to have to be pretty much right away after that. This leaves me little time to keep earning at the same rate, especially in my field, where having kids doesn’t seem to align with the amount of hours required to work. I have to make the money now, so I can leave the options open for the future.









The Gender Pay Gap from the Top and What to Do About It

Last week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that the company paid $3 Million dollars to correct gender pay imbalances across its organization. Although this isn’t a huge number for a company of it’s size, it’s still telling that the firm found $3M in imbalances to fix in the first place. This means that when they ran the numbers they believed that women were earning less than men in the organization for roles of a similar level, and they decided to publicly fix this. But why was that the case in the first place?

As I approach my job negotiations for a senior-level position, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with doing so, I remind myself that I have to negotiate because any male in my position would. As one woman, I’m not representative of all women, but I can say I find it incredibly hard to negotiate. As a woman, I may read negotiation advice and bring a request to the table based on research from online websites that give some idea of pay ranges. And, as a woman who doesn’t like to shake the boat, I’d typically pick the average to ask for because it feels uncomfortable to ask for anything more.

But I’m not an average woman, and I try to push myself to ASK. This gets harder and harder as the numbers get bigger. I always like to state that it is a PRIVILEGE to have this problem, but it is an issue nonetheless. According to this Harvard Business Review article, the Gender Pay Gap Widens as Women Get Promoted. Basically, the higher up in the organization a woman is, she is likely earning less than her male counterparts. A female executive earns 6.1% less than a male, compared to only a 2.2% gap in an individual contributor role.

The problem with negotiating as a woman is that you can’t win. There is plenty of research that shows women pay a higher social cost for negotiating. I’ve experienced this first hand. In my last role, I negotiated very well (in my opinion) but the I was reminded pretty much every single day from my boss that I was making “so much money” and this made me insecure and ultimately defeat myself in the role. I would have been more comfortable had I been earning less and not rocked the boat.

But what I come back to is this – my role is one that generates clear revenue for the business (well, if it doesn’t, I don’t get to stay for all that long.) I’m working for a for-profit organization in a revenue-generating role, and I deserve to be paid for it. Even then, I have no way to know if I’m overstepping — a man in a senior role can ask for anything. He may not get it, but it’s accepted that he’ll ask. A woman in a senior role worries she’ll offend someone. That’s just how it works.

The HBR article notes that while it’s not clear why female executives are paid less than men, it appears that women need sponsors in organizations more than they do mentors. My strategy has been to change jobs relatively frequently in order to move up and earn more. I would not feel comfortable negotiating for higher pay once I’m on a successful track within an organization. It’s at least a little easier to negotiate at the start — but the big question is, how often do men negotiate throughout the year when women do not? Do men ask for bigger raises each year, or do they request salary increases at a more regular frequency than women? Are the raises of similar frequency but just more substantial due to executive sponsors? These are questions no one seems to have a good answer for, so we’re all left in the dark.

In order to solve this problem, organizations need to be provided training from the top down and bottom up about negotiating. It’s tough to do this because it’s in the best interest of the organization to pay each employee as little as possible to keep them engaged and working as hard as they can. If one employee will accept less than another, this is good for the business, at least on paper. And if no one knows how much everyone else i making, how much can it hurt? But wouldn’t it be crazy if a business actually taught people how to negotiate and encouraged it, making typical negotiation timelines around promotions (official and non-official) more transparent? I wonder if anyone would do that. What Salesforce did is a good first step – but also a good PR move. How long will it be before those salaries are unequal again? And what can we do to fix that?

To start, I’m always going to ask for more, even when it makes me sick to my stomach, and even when I know that my likability factor is dinged, because in the long run to be successful, if you’re a woman, you can’t be liked. You can only be respected.




How to pick a job when you want to have a child…

In California, if you qualify for paid family leave (PFL) you can receive up to six weeks’ worth of wages at a reduced level. You are eligible for about 55% of our average weekly income during this base period. The maximum weekly benefit is $1067. Both parents, as well as same sex domestic partners, can qualify for this leave.

Also the FMLA (family medical leave act) says that you can take 12 weeks of unpaid time and you have to be offered the same job or a similar role when you come back.

That’s a great benefit to living in the state of California. But there’s a catch – your company must employ at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius in order to qualify for both of these.

When deciding on a job opportunity, I don’t want my potential future childbearing situation to be part of the decision. Maybe that’s naive, but I don’t even know if I can have a child or how long it will take to do so. I might get pregnant the second I start trying or it can take many, many years – and by that time I could have been employed at a smaller company with great success.

Granted, my story reaps of privilege – my income level makes it possible to save (if I continue to rent an apartment anyway) and be able to have gaps in employment without resorting to food stamps. That said, I am a woman who is looking at two job opportunities and I know one will have to give me six weeks off with 55% of my income if I do have a kid at some point while working there, whereas I’d be shit-out-of-luck at the other.

Every - Single - Article I’ve read about negotiating for maternity leave before you’re even pregnant agrees: DON’T.

In short, they say wait until you get pregnant and then deal with it.

While smaller companies aren’t focused on parental leave policies, larger companies in Silicon Valley are making inroads for maternity and paternity leave.

Let’s remember that the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that does not require some kind of paid leave for new mothers. According to the Department of Labor, only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to it.

In Silicon Valley, small startups offer nothing (or, at best, it’s a case-by-case basis that you can’t predict) while larger tech companies offer significant improvements to enhance their culture, talent acquisition and retention.

Facebook gives 4 months PTO, Google gives 18 paid weeks for moms and 12 for dads, and plenty other well-known firms are coming out at supporters of new parents (Adobe and Netflix have gotten some good PR buzz lately from their policies, certainly helping their recruiting efforts of top talent. Netflix, with it’s buzz-worthy ‘unlimited time off’ policy for paternity leave, is only offering it for the company’s highly-competitive streaming division – which isn’t getting as much buzz but important to point out.)

To be fair to a small startup, losing one employee for a substantial amount of time can be a much bigger challenge when they cannot be replaced temporarily. And life is a balancing act where you’re never fully balanced. You have to make hard choices and sometimes that means giving up a job opportunity for more stability and parental leave or just sucking it up and dealing with losing your job should you need to take a significant amount of time to recover from childbirth and bond with your new child. That’s life, right?

But when you look at the lack of women in tech startups, you should ask yourself if that has something to do with the fact that dudes are running the show and not thinking about what would attract female talent. In a survey of 101 women in Silicon Valley, 61% said they wouldn’t work for a startup or tech company that didn’t have a maternity policy. That pretty much means 61% of women wouldn’t work for a Series A or B startup for this reason alone.

Of 97 tech companies polled, one-quarter offered less than a month of paid leave for new mothers.

One CEO talked to 716 women who left the tech industry about their reason for leaving. Women who successfully negotiated unpaid time off at smaller companies were still expected to work, albeit remotely. I saw this first-hand when a very senior-level executive at my last startup went through her own pregnancy. She’s a rockstar and can hold it together with a lot of competing priorities, but I know she was working at least for part of her maternity leave, and probably a lot more than I even know. And the company was very flexible with her because everyone would agree she’s irreplaceable (or it would be just very challenging to replace her and not worth pushing her out.) What about everyone else who can be replaced?

Of those 716 women surveyed, 465 are not working today. 251 are employed in non-tech jobs and 45 are running their own companies. 625 of those women say they have no plan to return to tech.

And we wonder why there are so few women in tech leadership roles. You can say it’s a choice – and to some extent, it is. But a man doesn’t have to make the choice. A man doesn’t have his body taken over by a child for nine months, and then have to feed that child from his body for many months after that. And as long as startup CEOs don’t acknowledge the need for parental leave, or deal with it on a case-by-case, depends how much we like you basis, women in tech – esp in senior leadership roles – will be few and far between.