Budgeting to Achieve $500k Goal Before Kids

As my long-time readers know, my “impossible” goal of hitting $500,000 in individual net worth before I have my first child is somehow within sight. It’s still seemingly impossible, but I always aim high and see how far I can get. I’m not pregnant yet, so that gives me at least nine months to get there. Below, I’m going to detail my budget plan to take me from where I am today to where I want to be before my first child is born.

On 7/15/16, my networth calculations = $379,412.

This leaves $120,588 to save prior to having children.

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to say that I will have my first child – at the earliest – in 2017, getting pregnant in January. This means that from today until the day I give birth, I would at the least have 14.5 months – I’ll round that up to 15 to make the math easier.

That means I need to save $8600 per month for the next 14 months starting in August to achieve my goal (combination of savings and interest earnings.)

Here is how I am going to get there… in theory…

Income non 401k months = $9000.

August – December (net worth increase goal = $43,000)

5 Months After Tax Income = $45,000
– Rent = (-$6750) = $38,250
– Food = (-$5000) = $33,250
– Clothes/Personal Care = (-$2000) = $31,250
– Health = (-$5000) = $26,250
– Travel/Entertainment/Gifts = (-$1000) = $25,250
– Bills, etc = (-$500) = $24,750

This leaves a gap of $18,250 to make up for in next 6 months, or with interest.

Income 401k Months  = $7000 after-tax income

January – June

401k pre-tax Investment = $18,000
6 Months After-Tax Income = $42,000
total income = $60000

– Rent = (-$8100) = $51900
– Food = (-$6000) = $45900
– Clothes/Personal Care = (-$3000) = $42900
– Health = (-$6000) = $36900
– Travel/Entertainment/Gifts = (-$3000) = 33900
– Bills, etc = (-$600) = $33,300

$33,300+$24,700 = $58,000

Ok, so in the above scenario – without any increase in interest from my investments, my networth as of having my first child next June would be approximately $437k, not $500k.

Now, to actually get to my goal there I’d have to find a way to save an additional $63k in the next year. AND, this is all very hypothetical based off of keeping my job for another year, which is unlikely, so I probably won’t even get close to these plans anyway – but knowing the numbers certainly does inspire me to try my darnedest to keep my job until I have kids. It’s the only way I’ll get close to my net worth goals.

Assuming annual growth on current networth of 5% (which can be off since it can definitely go down too) that’s $18,000, making the gap “only” $45,000. If I wait six more months to have kids AND keep my job during that time, I can probably get pretty close. So, in order to achieve my goals I need to —

  1. keep my job and current income with no breaks in it until January 1, 2018
  2. save at a minimum the money listed above per month or ideally spend less than this budget
  3. keep investing in the stock market so there is a chance the return over the year will be at least 5%
  4. wait until March to get pregnant – at the earliest – so I have more time to increase networth

I think this is actually all somewhat do-able if I follow the steps above, most importantly, step 1. I also could seek supplemental income but at this point I think I’m better off focusing on doing well in my current job and keeping that as long as possible. Once I get to $500k, life will be a lot less stressful. It’s not like I’ll be able to afford a house here or anything, but I just feel like $500k is the right insurance for my mental health issues, especially before I have children. I hope I can get there.

 

 

 

Marriage Is the Worst Financial Decision of My Life – And I Don’t Regret It

The marriage tax penalty is real and it is painful if you live and work in a region of the country that tops the “highest cost of living” lists. While you can make the argument that this is a “choice” and that incomes tend to be higher in that region versus the rest of the country (if you work in a high-paying field), it still doesn’t balance out. I’m glad that I knew going into marriage it was the worst financial decision of my life (my husband says the wedding was, but actually the cost of the wedding was pennies versus what I’ll personally lose over my lifetime, financially speaking.)

There are numerous benefits to marriage, and above all else I’m a sap who believes in love and cares more about stability and security than wealth. I’m happy to be married. Happier than I thought I’d be (at least a month in) as it shockingly feels very different from being single. I didn’t expect it to feel different at all, especially after dating over a decade and co-habiting for the last two years. The only difference, I thought, would be that I can’t just walk out the door without repercussions, and neither could he.

Well, after the festivities of our wedding ended and the haze of wedding-night hangover faded, I realized that I was a married women – and I had this huge weight lifted off my chest. It was strange and unexpected to say the least. I’m a modern working woman with – at least from appearances – a strong, stable career and good savings for my age. I don’t need a man. But there’s also a huge part of my psyche that has been engrained to lock in a guy for the rest of my life. When I wasn’t married, I always looked around at other men and thought how horrible it would be to have to date again, but that I better continue to keep myself in the mindset that someday I might need to be back on the market again. Given that I hated dating and was horrible at it, one of the biggest stressors of my life – even though I didn’t realize it – was that I might end up back at square one (and be a lot older to boot after such a long relationship.)

Some people do fine being alone all their lives, but I’m not one of those people. My social anxiety keeps me away from most social interactions, yet I crave social connection. I think I’ve always had this full-blown ongoing panic attack about being alone. Granted, getting married does not preclude loneliness – either caused by two partners growing apart, getting divorced, or god forbid, one passing away (which eventually happens no matter what.) But, to me, knowing that every day I get to come home to the same smiling face and curl up in his arms is the only thing that matters to me. I could live in the middle of nowhere and earn 10% of my current salary and I think I’d be ok. That statement alone is why marriage has been so life-altering for me.

As far as the financial “benefits” to marriage, I won’t see any. I’m fortunate that my husband has no debt – which, despite his lower income job and lack of dedication to investing – is something that made it much easier to say yes to marriage. While I know many people have large debts from school or other smart purchases, it just would have been harder to basically say – I’ve saved up $350k over my entire 20s and now I’m going to marry you and wash out all of my savings. Many men feel like this in relationships with more traditional gender roles, and I think there’s a more accepted level of silent bitterness that goes into marriages when this is the case – or an expectation that the woman will play her part around the house and in the bedroom, which puts an unrealistic pressure on a marriage that splits many couples up. I’m glad that we have no debt and a decent amount of savings. I realize we’re very lucky and well ahead of most people our age.

Yet, if I were to stay single, my income tax would be lower (*if he ends up staying at home and earning nothing then I could see a “tax benefit” but really that benefit is just my husband not having to work, and me having to work harder over my lifetime.) Men who become stay-at-home dads are great, and we may end up in that scenario at some point, but the reality is that most women end up doing a lot of the housework regardless because men just don’t care about certain parts of homemaking (i.e. ironing clothes, signing kids up for classes, and general planning which tends to be more of a woman’s mindset.) For example, in my marriage, I know it’s best to encourage Mr. HECC to continue earning income because if I stay in my high-stress career I’d prefer to hire help than have extra “work” on top of my full-time job. It would be much worse to get into fights about what I expect a stay-at-home dad to do around the house, which is pretty much a standard marriage ending issue except usually it’s the man making the big income and the wife staying home but not living up to the husband’s expectations.

Financially speaking, the financial pros of marriage really only apply to the side of the couple who earns less money. Yes, the social security benefit is great as the husband or wife who earns less can take the higher social security benefit amount – BUT – and this is a huge but – that means the person earning more (to get the best benefit) must work longer (until age 70 at this point) to get the full benefit for both partners. This is a pro for the person in the marriage who has earned less all their life, but I see it as a major con for the partner who now has to work longer. It makes sense for the woman to play this role anyway because women usually live longer, but there are no guarantees.

Other financial benefits of marriage largely benefit the partner who earns less income. The biggest financial benefit of marriage is being able to pass all property and savings to your partner tax free in the event that you die. This is a significant benefit to either partner, but it’s really a much better benefit for the partner who would have, as a single person, saved much less. This is a morbid thought, indeed, and of course if you love your partner you aren’t thinking about how this really isn’t a financial benefit when you’re mourning your horrific loss, but really the amount of tax you would pay on an estate to someone who isn’t your married partner may not make up for the extra taxes you end up paying each year due to the tax penalty. In reality, the smartest way to handle marriage is to cohabit throughout life but only to marry right before social security is about to kick in, when your savings are substantial and one of you is more likely to kick the bucket. You can even wait until one of you gets sick – which is a risk – but would save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra taxes throughout your life. If I was smart and not sentimental, I would have done that. But, instead, I’m married.

If both of us end up making $200k a year each and have two children, we will pay over $15,000 a year more in taxes than we would if we were single. Simple math here – say we earn this amount over 25 years. This is a $375,000 penalty. But this amount would also earn interest if we could invest it, say, in a house or stock fund. If that were the case, and you earned 5% interest over 25 years on an additional $15k savings per year – the harsh reality is marriage ends up costing you $802,497(!) in taxes. So in a more moderate situation – let’s say one partner makes $200k and another makes $80k – and you have two kids. Your tax penalty is $7000 a year, costing you, with 5% interest potential, $375,000 over 25 years of being married.

It really WAS a horrible financial decision to get married. I still don’t understand how the government legally can penalize dual-income households so much, and why there isn’t more outrage over this.

Still, is marriage worth it? So far, I say yes, for piece of mind alone. I think it’s important to talk honestly and rationally about the true cost of marriage and how unfair it is that our government penalizes married couples with two working partners (and how this is very sexist.) We’re not talking a few hundred dollars here, the true cost to dual-income households over time can easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Black Lives Matter and The Concept of “Woke”

I always get myself into trouble talking about this subject (because it’s rather controversial no matter what you say about it), but as a privledged white woman living in the US today, both due to my skin-tone and childhood socio-economic status, I often wonder what I can do to help minimize the inequality within our own borders.

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation (ok, maybe more like heated debate) with a few people on Facebook who said that racism (in the US anyway) was purely a “white people problem.” While I disagree (everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes, according to the musical Avenue Q) – I do know that being white and being black (or a person of color, for that matter) is an entirely different life experience in this country no matter how much money you make or where you end up living.

There is so much anger from the black community, and in many cases rightfully so, but it’s hard to inspire change through anger alone. There’s this concept going around now calling being “woke” where you are aware of what is really going on in the community. In other words, to be aware of the racial injustices that are happening every single day in your own community, not just on the news about some other country where such inequality is unfortunately expected.

In April, The New York Times posted an article titled “earning the ‘woke’ badge” – something alone the lines of being not only aware of your privilege but also somehow transcending that privilege to be hyper-aware of the bullshit around you – being one with inequality or something like that. The concept itself isn’t a bad one, but it puts white allies on edge for always having to prove their one-ness which often comes across as too fake, too forced, and not “woke.”

The majority of people would argue I’m not woke. I have my prejudices like anyone else. I’m less seeking “woke hood,” if you will, and more how to DO something to help the cause. I acknowledge and feel horrible that being black in this country makes it harder to thrive than if you were white. I am horrified that police shoot innocent black victims because the police are more trigger happy when they are interacting with someone who happens to have a darker skin tone. I’m enraged that 38% of black children in America live in poverty versus 22% for all children in America, and that 27% of black men, women and children live below the poverty level versus 11% of all Americans.

The Black Lives Matter movement is separate from the fight against poverty or violence within the black community, as it should be. But the radical anger which is sparked by hundreds of years of systemic inequality seems to get compartmentalized to a point where no one wants to address the bigger picture. Then you get conservatives who throw out stats on black-on-black crime, where 93% of black homicides are by other black people. This doesn’t excuse ONE police officer from executing an innocent white victim, but it is clearly just a fact that I’m pretty sure is not allowed in the conversation of being a “woke” white person.

I will keep repeating that these stats do not excuse the murder or discrimination against ONE individual based on the color of their skin, but the facts also can help us get to why these things happen in the first place, so hopefully we can change the way our society works. Unfortunately, blacks committed 52 percent of homicides between 1980 and 2008, despite composing just 13 percent of the population. Across the same timeframe, whites committed 45 percent of homicides while composing 77% of the population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The numbers get even more troubling in big cities.

There are many, many, many black people who are not involved in crime and there are many, many, many white people who are horrible murderers and rapists and overall criminals. But when you get into inner city neighborhoods where black crime rates are extremely high and you populate the city streets with jumpy white cops who are prejudiced based on what they’ve seen, you get cops who eventually do something really stupid, even if they didn’t think they were racist and didn’t think they’d react that way. This is not an excuse for those cops – this is not saying they should get a “get out of jail” card for their “mistake.” But it’s a bigger problem. If we want change, we need to discuss our prejudices and our fears. We can’t say that this is 1) racist to talk about being prejudiced and 2) not macho to talk about. I imagine if cops in these neighborhoods would be freely able to discuss their fears and talk about how they react in theoretically life-or-death situations where they have to make split-second decisions, to think through if their actions would be different if that person where white or black (or another person of color.) I think this might help a little bit, if it became part of the overall training cops receive. I don’t know exactly what training they do receive, or what sort of psychological programming exists for them on an ongoing basis, but to start we need to stop saying prejudice is bad and start saying it’s natural – and in most cases won’t kill a person – but when you’re a cop you have to make these split second decisions and any ounce of prejudice is going to push you into the wrong decision if you’re not self aware.

I don’t really see this type of discussion being played in the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s a lot of anger, as their should be, but there’s no real solution presented. The right wing argues that the rise of black-on-black crime has to do with the breakdown of family in black societies. As economist Thomas Sowell points out, before the 1960s “most black children were raised in two-parent families.” In 2013, over 72 percent of blacks were born out of wedlock. In Cook County –which Chicago belongs to – 79 percent of blacks were born to single mothers in 2003, while only 15 percent of whites were born to single mothers.

This is not to say that single mothers can’t do a good job raising their children – but when you have single mothers in poverty, you have a recipe for disaster. I don’t blame the mother – this country does not do a good job in supporting working women, and tax law also benefits single women over married couples at the bottom end of the socioeconomic totem pole. This is a really deep problem that goes much further on both sides than anyone is willing to admit beyond those waging their figures at the other side.

Racism in America is not something we can just protest. Slavery ended in 1865, only 151 years ago, which isn’t that long if you really think about it. Even more recent, in 1964 Brown vs Board of Education said that black children and white children could attend the same schools, ending local laws requiring segregation. That was just 52 years ago. Many of our parents were alive when that happened. What being woke is about, in my humble opinion, is that racism really isn’t over. It’s far from over. Yes, we have a half-black president and there are now black CEOs and other politicians and popular artists, but that doesn’t mean that everything is hunky dory in terms of equality. Things in the world just don’t change that fast. Heck, look at Europe and the mess they’re in because of colonialism in the 1800s. We’re living history, and we like to forget that – but we’re just another sentence being written in the history textbooks that some future generation will speed read through.

The second you look at the community itself as an outsider and question why abject poverty persists and how one can help, you are not welcome. It is not your movement, it is not your right to comment on the challenges internally by the community, only to break down barriers that the white population is imposing in terms of freedom. But it can’t be one or the other. We need to work on educating white people about their prejudices and making it OK to be prejudiced (as long as we do not act on it, or we act against it in our awareness, and educate others) AND to want to help reduce poverty in black communities — but even this can be seen as racist as one should not intrude on culture, or to comment on black communities as an outsider. We are only allowed to be woke insofar as being a quiet ally and keeping ourselves out of the picture.

To address poverty as a whole, one must wonder why some communities are able to escape poverty while others cannot. For example, Jewish immigrants came to the United States with nothing. Being white, they did not face ‘color of skin’ racism, but there was plenty of racism against Jews in the US (although in the debate I was in yesterday I “learned” one cannot be racist against a Jewish person since they are white) – in any case, looking different is a pretty easy way to enable discrimination.

Then, we come back to this concept of being Woke, which really is about examining how white people are very much so contributing to this problem of keeping black people down, despite not even being aware of it in many cases. Being woke is being aware that (and likely angry that):

  • A white man with a criminal record is more likely to get a job than a black man with one
  • Black women are more likely to be evicted and are less likely to be given leniency when facing late payments
  • Stop and frisk targets blacks and latinos. In NYC over 53% of those searched were black.
  • Black people face stricter punishments for the same crimes as white people – in fact, black men receive 20% longer prison sentences then white men for committing the same crime
  • Turn on the TV or any popular movie and you’ll be lucky if you find one token black character
  • College professors are more likely to respond to students they believe are white men (link)W
  • White people are more likely to have done illegal drugs but far less likely to go to jail (this is a big issue)
  • White people (including police) see black children as older and less innocent
  • Black children are more likely to be tried as adults – of the 2,500 juveniles who have been sentenced to life without parole, nearly all (97%) were male and (60%) black. And even the best behaved black kids face a lot of discrimination in public schools because of how they naturally look and are 3.5x more likely to be expelled from school
  • White people are more likely to support the criminal justice system when they think it’s disproportionately punitive towards black people (link)
  • The more stereotypical a black defendant looks in a murder case, the higher likelihood he’ll be sentenced to death, especially if his victim was white (link)
  • White people falsely recall black men they perceive as smart as being lighter skinned, and we apparently view lighter-skinned people of color as being more intelligent, competent, trustworthy and reliable
  • I want to repeat the issue with a really big issue with our legal system that is actually core to a lot of the inequality –  most of the Black men in today’s prison system are not even locked up for criminal offenses, but for illegal sale and possession of drugs (crimes largely ignored in middle class and poor White communities). Whether or not you’re on the side to legalize drugs, it can at least, I hope, be agreed upon that it is unfair for one group to be put in jail for these offenses while another group doesn’t get prosecuted in the same way.
  • And, apparently, the new laws let police keep private property in the event of a raid on someone who they think may be guilty of a drug-related crime, even if in the end they find out they weren’t guilty at all (what in the hell?)

Really, what being woke is is saying that discrimination is very real today, and it’s not just a one-off problem or something that we should only talk about when a policeman shoots an unarmed black man. The systemic discrimination that we’re all guilty of to some extent (even subconsciously) plays into this ongoing breakdown of race relations in our society.

Then you have to go back to the poverty issues, which don’t excuse ANY of the REAL discriminatory issues above, and ask why violence has gotten so bad inside black society today. Things like how the Black church was targeted by banks and paid by banks to promote subprime mortgages (a mortgage with an initial low-interest rate that skyrockets within a few years) which have decimated the Black middle class community.

On the other side of the coin, white people think racism is over, and many think whites are discriminated against more than black people. In a 2011 study, whites believed that discrimination against them had increased from an average of 1.8 in the 1950s to 4.7 in the 2000s. While most white Americans acknowledge that racism is a problem in the U.S., white people are half as likely as black people to see it as a major problem. Three out of four white Americans say that racism is at least a “somewhat serious” national problem, compared to nearly nine out of 10 black people who say the same, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. However, many more black people consider it to be a  “very serious” problem — 68 percent of black respondents, versus 31 percent of whites. One-tenth of white respondents said that “racism is an issue in my community and I’m able to take meaningful action against it.”  A quarter said that “racism is an issue in my community but there’s not much I can do about it.” But the majority — 56 percent — said that  “racism isn’t really an issue in my community” and thus, there wasn’t anything they could do to address it.

Going back too the notion of racism, there is the argument that black people can’t be racist because racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race, and black people can’t be racists because they don’t stand to benefit from such a system (this was the best explanation I could find of this concept which is taken from 201’s Dear White People.) The Huffington Post notes – “but in the very specific context of American history, white people have not been enslaved, colonized, or forced to segregate on the scale that black people have. They do not face housing or job discrimination, police brutality, poverty, or incarceration at the level that black people do. This is not to say that they do not experience things like poverty and police brutality at all. But again, not on the same scale —  not even close. That is the reality of racism.”

On the other side of the coin, however, you get Trump’s America. I have a few “friends” on Facebook (high school acquaintances mostly) who grow increasingly frustrated with black America’s “poor” being treated differently than their own. There is a real reason why Trump has risen to power so much – even if he doesn’t end up winning the Presidency his rise to the head of the republican ticket surely says something about our society today – he is running largely on racism as a platform. Racism and fear.

I’m not going to touch much on cultural appropriation in this post, because it’s something that comes up with the racism topic and being as I believe the best way to resolve racism is to not have any cultural segregation or any other kind of segregation for that matter, I think it’s hypocritical to want equality then to be upset when a white person does something that is for “blacks only.” Regardless, this small part of the larger conversation does not change that racism is real and black people bear the brunt of it and we have to stop pretending racism was resolved in the 1960s because it wasn’t.

As I think to my own racism and prejudice, I can’t avoid that I am at the least prejudiced and possibly also racist. It started as a child when my neighborhood had one black family that my mother would refer to as “The Black Family.” They were a lovely family yet I’m sure they felt awkward in an all-white neighborhood to some extent. In high school there was a black boy who bullied me to no end, destroying my property in art class, and constantly picking on me. While I had been bullied in the past I found his antics more violent and upsetting. Was that because he was black or because he was just an asshole? I don’t know. I had a few black friends in high school – the arts really were the only place where that type of integration existed in school in my life. In college I tried to be friends with black women from the midwest, who were typically activist types who held such anger in their hearts. I could not relate to them as much as I tried. Our friendships didn’t last. Today, I have no black friends and I live in an increasingly white upper middle class world. On a daily basis the sad reality is that my interaction with black people is limited to walking past black homeless men with mental illness on the way to work. We have one or two people of color at my company, but in Silicon Valley black people at work are even rarer than women.

Today, I sit puzzled as to how to help, aware of my privilege, but also wondering how we can find a balance between accepting and acknowledging the reality of systemic racism and competing true injustices in society while also inspiring a culture of personal responsibility amongst blacks who – despite starting “behind” – can still peacefully break free of a system that holds them down. We are not living in post-racial America, and whoever thinks we are definitely needs a little woke juice. For the rest of us, there are so many issues to tackle, and so little we can do other than try to be as aware of our own prejudice as possible and never allow it to effect who we befriend, hire, or even say hello to on the street.

 

 

 

 

Who can afford to have kids?

Now that I’m getting around to this whole phase of my life where I will be trying to get pregnant (soon), the actual cost of kids is rolling towards me like a giant boulder chasing after Indiana Jones. Kids. Are. Damn. Expletive. Expensive.

Mr. HECC and myself are in a very good financial state compared to most people our age. We have $0 in college loans thanks to our parents covering our undergraduate tuition in full (I don’t know how we’ll be able to give the same gift to our future children) and we don’t have any other debt. We own our cars (which we bought used) outright and while our rent is not super cheap, we can afford to pay it on one income should one of us lose a job at some point – at least for a little while. And, together, we have about $450k saved up. For newlyweds in our early 30s, we’re doing ok.

Still, the cost of having children almost seems prohibitively expensive. I’ve been reading a lot of forums where they detail the cost of the basics – childcare, food, some activities, et al, and it adds up fast. Apparently pre-school around here costs about $2k a month or more ($24k a year.) Ouch. No wonder many of my friends ended up choosing to leave work, at least temporarily, to raise their kids as stay-at-home moms or part-time workers.

Since my income is much higher than Mr. HECC (and currently I’m the only one with work-provided insurance) it looks like if anyone ends up staying home to take care of our hypothetical future children, it will be him. I think I’m ok with that, but I also know he isn’t the “take care of the house” type so I’ll still have to at least be the main cleaner (which isn’t my forte.) He’ll cook so at least we have that covered. I’d be the full time worker, house cleaner and financial lead of our household. I’m pretty sure that my stress levels – which aren’t that low right now – will be through the roof should I have kids. The numbers just don’t make sense.

Clearly, lots of people have kids. Lots of people with a lot more debt than we do have kids. Lots of people who will never be able to take a vacation or enjoy a night out have kids. People have kids. Or they don’t. But it’s rare that a couple really analyzes the cost of children and then decides to have them because it’s a smart financial decision. It costs about $250k to raise a kid BEFORE college costs are involved. So it’s about $500k just to raise a kid if you’re going to pay for their undergraduate education, give or take $100k. Mr. HECC rolls his eyes at those figures – he grew up in a pretty modest household and their family trips were going camping in national parks and he never owned new clothes, so he doesn’t have the same kind of expectations that I do for our children. That said, I also now acknowledge that the amount of new toys I had as a child was ridiculous and I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on trendy clothes each year at the mall. There’s definitely somewhere in between our childhoods that we can settle on. No matter what, it’s going to be very expensive.

I feel that I’m now on the edge of this cliff looking at the abyss of a very frugal life, and back at my life so far where, despite ups and downs in my career, I’ve had quite a few luxuries and still have been able to save a substantial amount. I think about the “DINK” lifestyle – dual income, no kids – and wonder if maybe that’s the way to go. I don’t have that long to decide… if I want kids, I have to have them soon. It may come to having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments to have a kid, which adds to the cost of actually having them.

I’m not complaining about the costs, just trying to be realistic with if this makes any sense, or if I should stop and think a lot harder on whether or not it makes sense to have kids given my inability to keep a stable job and my husband’s lack of motivation to increase his earning potential. We’re both doing quite fine without children, but with kids – even one kid – things will change. And it’s not something you can take back once you have them, so you better be damn sure you want them before you do.

I AM sure I want kids, however. I want two children and Mr. HECC and I have already named them. I don’t know if I can have them, and I’m not quite sure yet if I’d be devastated if I’m unable to have kids, but I know that if I can have them I want them. It makes absolutely no sense yet that’s pretty much all I can think about these days. I don’t have any fairytales about having kids being easy either. I see my friend’s kids and they are all pains in the asses, even the ones that are relatively calm and charming. But – I have so much love in me it’s bursting at the seams, and I’m tired of living life for work. I want to live life for family and build a strong and stable and hopefully happy family and lots of memories before I kick the bucket.

So then the question becomes WHEN to have kids. I’ll be 33 this fall, which is old in baby-making years, especially for a first child when your goal is to have two – it’s very unlikely at this point I’ll have my first kid before I’m 34. I’ve always wanted to have my second by 36. I like the idea of having two kids close in age but at the same time having kids that close together is really, really, really hard – especially if the woman is the primary breadwinner of the household. I just don’t know how it all works. No matter how I picture it, everything breaks down. Either I quit my job, we move somewhere more cheaper, or both, and, still, that doesn’t help matters much. My savings that I’ve worked so hard to acquire slowly gets depleted until we’re in debt and can’t dig ourselves out. We have one medical emergency after another and we can’t afford good medical care and we end up on food stamps and we can’t help our children with their own issues so they end up in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Ok, so this is an exaggeration of what could happen, but I don’t see how anyone affords kids!?!

Babies on the Brain – Preparing for My (“Our”) Future

The majority of my friends are popping out their first children or well on their way to their second child by now. My Facebook feed, filled with folks I went to school with, mostly lesser educated yet clearly happy people, showcases families now of three or four kids. At nearly 33, I remain childless. I don’t FEEL old, yet it terms of childbearing years I’m getting up there. If I can get pregnant easily (which is unlikely) then I would have my first child before 35 – which is fine. However, I don’t want my second child to feel rushed as I know how much work having one child is, and I want time to enjoy being a mother of one before rushing on to try for my second.

Although I’ve thought a lot about the logistics of getting pregnant and childbirth before, the reality of the situation has never felt quite so pressing. Now that I’ve checked the marriage box there really is nothing holding me back from getting pregnant – except maybe an overdue international honeymoon which I was unable to take after the wedding for a variety of reasons (call me silly to put off getting pregnant until a honeymoon but I’d like to be able to enjoy this trip as much as possible and not feel sick on it, and I’d like to try regional cuisine including wine/sake depending on where we end up going.) But – I’m also at the point where I’m sincerely concerned about my ability to get pregnant and although I keep telling myself life will go on should I not be able to actually procreate, I feel like everyday we don’t try is another day I might eventually regret.

Before you say I’m being ridiculous, let me remind you at the ripe young age of 15 my gynecologist told me that my irregular periods were not to be of concern (and did not mention PCOS) but that as long as I have my kids before 30 I’ll be fine. That comments haunts me to this day. I am terrified that because I didn’t heed her advice, I’ll blame myself when we are stuck in cycles of IVF, I’m taking dozens of unpaid leave days from work and ultimately losing my job because I’m massively depressed over all of the emotional drama that goes along with infertility treatments and getting used to failures and picking back up and trying again and watching our bank accounts drain at what amounts to playing fertility roulette.

Mr. HECC is the type that doesn’t worry about the future. Generally, this is a good thing. He lives in the moment and I admire that. He doesn’t really have plans and while he wants kids he isn’t getting himself into a tizzy over how hard it might be for us to make them. He figures we’ll deal with it when it’s time to deal with it and if we can’t have any then we might adopt. I’m not sure about adoption (I have very mixed feelings about it and that’s something I won’t think about until I really have to) – but in the mean time I feel like this is pretty important and there are so many things that effect my ability to get pregnant and be pregnant and have children that require proper planning for a what may amount to a non-occurance and in this case I think I’m in the right to be a bit concerned about what this future of ours looks like which may or may not include offspring.

Work isn’t exactly stable right now. My company has no written maternity leave policy and because they have under 50 people they have no legal requirements to provide time off. Basically, how they treat maternity leave would depend on how much they want to keep me around. They can’t fire me if I get pregnant, but they certainly can make it not the easiest to stay. And, honestly, with the amount of responsibility I have I can’t say I’d be the best employee with such distractions. I’d never admit that to my employer, as that might set all of women back hundreds of years, but it’s kind of an unspoken truth – especially in the case for someone like myself with very clear mental illness who has already proven herself incapable of handling personal stressors and maintaining quality, consistent work at all times. The thing is – I WANT to have a few good years of focusing on work with no distractions. Even if I am uncertain of my career, I do like doing good work. I have been so distracted with the wedding (which was just a frivolous, inconsequential life event beyond actually getting married) that I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when I’m rushing off to IVF treatments (should they be needed) and waiting to see if one of them happen to take. Even just trying to get pregnant the good old fashioned way can be extremely stressful – as can be the potential of miscarriage, which is, according to some reports, 30% to 50% more likely in women with PCOS.

The amount of emotional stress that will go into getting and staying pregnant with my condition is above and beyond the normal challenges faced by pregnant women who work. Two of my good friends had horrible first trimesters where they were constantly nauseous and sick, and if such illness struck me I honestly don’t know what I’d do with having to work and not having time off to take. I’m already in a not-so-great situation in my current company where my company isn’t sold on my value, but if I leave and go to another company it would be even harder to ask for time off should I need it to deal with infertility treatments or standard morning sickness. Larger companies are probably better overall in handling the challenges that come with getting pregnant (in most startups I’ve worked for the majority of employees are men and the women in the company are typically younger / not of childbearing age. Executives are rarely female and if they are they are often childfree by choice. My last company was the exception with one highly-valued exec who was pregnant and had a child – and she barely took any time off to do so.) I dislike that at this point in my career not only am I trying to sort out my career but I also really do need to think about how this will effect my ability to have a child and remain gainfully employed. As I’ve noted many times before, I make more than double what my husband makes, so I really can’t stop working. I don’t want to stop working either – but I am worried about the sheer biological and emotional challenges which I cannot avoid once I start trying to get pregnant.

As is, I have about 15 PTO days per year (no “sick” days) – which is actually really good for a US company – and I’ve used nearly all of the ones I’ve accumulated so far on getting married. If I do take the extended honeymoon I’ve dreamed of since forever (Mr. HECC and I have never traveled internationally together in our 10+ years of dating), then I’ll wipe out the remainder of my PTO once I have enough to actually leave for two weeks. It will take seven months with absolutely no days off (no sick days, no vacation) to collect enough time off to actually take a two week vacation. Unfortunately I’m taking a day this July for a funeral so that means my accrual of days starts in August. That means it won’t be until March that I can take the time off to travel for a real honeymoon (well I can maybe negotiate some unpaid days earlier but I’d prefer not to lose income – the amount it costs me to miss a day of work isn’t worth it.) Meanwhile, I have friend’s weddings which require travel and I’d like to take some PTO for them this fall, but I can’t because I want to save up for the trip…

The bigger problem is that once I do take a honeymoon I’ll be left with zero PTO days just when it’s important for me to start immediately trying to have a child. It’s an easy conversation to tell your (male) boss you are pregnant, but highly uncomfortable to discuss how you are trying and have PCOS and need to go see multiple doctors and you don’t know exactly what the process is going to look like or how long it will take or if you can get pregnant but you are going to try really hard and you need some time to go to the doctor and you don’t know how much and you just used up all your PTO on your vacation but besides the fact you want to stay at your job and keep your job you also need your health benefits so you HAVE to stay at your job…

And as this is all so soon, I feel like I should be thinking about it and planning. It’s not just typical HECC anxiety/neuroticism, it is my life, my career, my income, my stability, and my future. I can just wait and deal with it as it comes, but I see exactly how this plays out and it isn’t pretty.

My current plan is to stay at my job at least until December and then maybe take a few weeks unpaid between starting a new job, ideally at a larger company that has a maternity leave policy and that supports pregnant mothers. I don’t know if I can get a job at one of these companies, but at this point in my life that is probably the most important benefit I can seek out (other than good health insurance.) If I was thriving in the startup world I’d fight harder to stay, but my successes are few and far between, and I think life is point me towards some kind of change. Mr. HECC may go back to school for teaching in a year, and with that I hope he’ll have a stable (albeit low-paid) job which enables him to maintain a level of happiness and take care of our “who knows if they will ever happen” children while I continue to do whatever it is I end up doing professionally. While I don’t see how we can afford to stay living in this area, his plan is to have his mother live on the same property we do and help with the down payment (my thoughts on that are for another post at another time.) In any case, life is complicated as always. I am happy to be married, but thought I’d be a bit more stable in other aspects of life by now. It will certainly be an interesting ride over the next few years of adulthood. I think the only thing I know is that I want kids, so I somehow need to manage a life around making that happen… even if financially it isn’t the smartest and logistically it isn’t the easiest.