All posts by Joy

I do not want to lose my job.

I’m already feeling incredibly guilty for taking a small amount of additional time on disability for PPD, and am ashamed to face my colleagues when I return to work, especially knowing that I will be taking additional (legally-protected) leave in the next year to spend time with my kid. I hate, hate, have being THAT woman and would not blame my employer for figuring out the fastest way to show me the door.

I’m hoping that won’t happen. I don’t pray, but I’m praying that won’t happen. I just can see how they’re understanding how they can operate perfectly well without me, and they would rather replace me with someone else–or any mistake I make will be a quick reason to show me the door. I feel bad for becoming a mother and worse for not adjusting well to motherhood.

When I return to work, I really need to bring my A-game, from day one, through day a billion. I always try to do this, of course, but now I have to fight hard and strong to keep this job. I don’t deserve it, I am not good at it, and I have to try hard to do whatever it takes to be a good employee. I don’t know how to do this, because I’m socially awkward, unintelligent, and a complete fraud. But I’ll try. I’ll try and I’ll stop telling my husband I’m going to get fired because it makes him upset and he says I need to stop telling myself this because I self sabotage.

How can I keep this job? Like, really keep it. For at least three more years. Twelve more quarters. Thirty-six more months… 1095 more days…of amazing, irreplaceable-quality work.  Non stop. Full energy. Listening to my coworkers and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals. Helping my boss who already looks great look even better. Being a team player. Never asking for anything other than the opportunity to do what’s right for the team and company. Maybe, maybe I can keep this job those 1095 days.

It’s a whole new ballgame now, being a mom. I’m terrified. I feel very alone in this journey and need to figure out how to just make it work, on my own. I wish I was smarter… higher IQ… or at least better at faking it. I’m so scared right now. It’s like I’m hanging onto a cliff with one hand with hurricane force winds swirling around me and gravity times a thousand puling me down. I’m holding on for dear life. I want to somehow minimize my interaction with others… I’ve been far to personally invested in my work projects. I get too emotional. I care too much. That’s the problem. I need to care less and do more.

There has to be a way.

And the Depression Fog Rolls In… How to Cope?

I want to be an organized, has-her-shit-together mom for my son. But let’s face it, just because I managed to squeeze a 7lb human out with relatively minimal complications doesn’t mean I suddenly am I sane, stable individual. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

I’m sitting in my one bedroom apartment living room watching my son finally in a good mood, on his back, in the little empty carpeting in the room, cooing and laughing, looking at… something? It’s nearly 7pm and I don’t know where the day went. We did a lot of me not sleeping as he snacked on my breasts and slept on me. When I tried to put him down for a nap in his pack & play he, as always, freaked out. I put a pacifier in his mouth and he spit it out, then started fussing, then started screaming. And repeat.

Exhaustion has new meaning with a newborn. I’m so grateful that I bailed on my plan to go back to work after 6 weeks and with my depression was able to get a disability extension (something I didn’t want to have to do, but I give up) and I have an extra eight weeks, plus another six that will be semi paid that is usable next year, and six weeks unpaid if I want them. The amount of stress I’ve dealt with just managing the guilt and logistics of orchestrating my maternity leave has been immense. I still don’t know how I’m going to go back to work, and then take my 6-12 weeks off throughout the next couple of months. While those weeks are “job protected,” the time in between them is not… which means my company could decide to let me go before I get to use this time off. I hope they don’t, but every single day I will be extra paranoid that I have to prove my worth and then some to maintain my employment…

That’s not good because I already feel like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, as always. I mean, I am in a better spot in this job than others I’ve had before… but I’m by no means in the clear. I’m scared, and much more scared now that I have a kid. We have a cushion and all, but I need to work. I need to work full time for a long time to afford being a mom. And while I WANT to work, I also want to see my child grow up. I don’t have a choice either way. It’s challenging to hang out with other moms who are changing their minds about going back to work and deciding to quit their jobs and stay home. I don’t want to do that, but then again, part of me does. I can’t, and so that makes it an easy decision for me. But being that I can’t, I also can’t lose my job. And my husband get so annoyed at me when I constantly say I’m going to get fired–and I know that’s not the most productive thing to tell myself, but I just feel so lost and hopeless. I’m almost 35 and I haven’t the faintest idea how to do my job well. Fortunately my boss seems to like me, but that can change at the drop of a hat. If I make her look bad, even by accident, even if I try my best, why would she like me anymore?

Being this exhausted is not ideal for returning to a job that I don’t know how to do. I’ll just hang in as long as I can… which may be months and may be years… and try to save as much as possible. But I’m on a whole different wavelength of reality than my husband right now, which isn’t good. He earns $85k a year without benefits, and I’m making somewhere between $170k and $300k, and I carry the family benefits as well. If he lost his job, it wouldn’t be great, but we could survive. If I lose my job, that’s another story.

The stress was added to this week when I found out it’s unlikely I can qualify for term life insurance because of my history of depression. That’s plenty to be depressed about. I’m not sure how much life insurance I should get, but I was thinking a $3M policy… $150k for my son’s college, plus 30 years at $300k of salary. I could probably do less than that, but it doesn’t matter since I can’t qualify. I’m screwed because I tell my doctor that I occasionally think about killing myself. How am I supposed to get help if I can’t tell my doctor things like this when they ask me? Thank goodness we have a ban against refusing healthcare for pre-existing conditions these days (though who knows if that will last) but life insurance has no such rules. I feel like such a failure for my son and my family.

Meanwhile, I don’t know how to get into a routine of being a mom. I want to give my son a good childhood, I want to engage him and help him develop, and right now I’m not working and my husband is, so that’s really on me. But we barely sleep at night… I’m lucky if I get 4-6 hours of non-consistent sleep which isn’t even good sleep because of my son’s grunting and whimpering. It’s getting. little better but it’s still not good, and it won’t be for a long time. How on earth will I be able to be a great employee on this little sleep? I’m already daydreaming about the catnaps I’ll take in my office parking lot at lunch after pumping.

I’m not complaining here because this is a choice I made, and I’m so lucky to have more time off and protected than many other women in this country. And for now I only have ONE kid to take care of… I can’t imagine what it’s like with more than one (though I’d like to have at least one more when I’m ready–and by then maybe I can do the stay at home mom thing for a year or two? Wishful thinking.)

My kid does get to stay home with my husband’s parents while I’m at work and not go off to a daycare at this young age, which would be much harder. Still, I’m missing the opportunity to be my son’s mother, or that’s how it feels. But, then again, as I glance at him now fussing on the floor, clearly over this once nice position for solitary play time, coos, and giggles, I also think how grateful I am that I will be going back to work and that this isn’t going to be my full time life. So clearly, I’m torn. I just don’t know how to do both, or even this alone, but I’m going to have to figure it out.

On Being A Mom, Financially Speaking

My son is a good kid, so far. He doesn’t sleep much at night, but we’re working on that. Despite telling myself I will not buy frivolous things for my child I have bough frivolous things for my child… mostly clothes, some toys, and a few overpriced items like a swing that he uses on occasion that last a few months. If my spending patterns in the last two months tell us anything about how much this kid is going to cost me, my whole “I will NOT spend $250,000 on my kid before he goes to college” motto might as well be thrown out the window.

At the moment, living in this one bedroom apartment makes me feel OK about spending some amount of frivolous money on my son (I mean, gosh, those 3 month old clothes on sale at Gymboree are just TOO CUTE.) And, I feel rather hopeless around being able to afford big ticket items at this point, so the $10 shirts are fun to buy. I have hand-me downs from a number of friends (benefit of being one of the last to have kids) but the styles are so, bleh. It doesn’t matter AT ALL but I want my son to look not just nice, but appropriately styled to be my (/our) son. And, $5-$10 for an outfit just seems so cheap, even it it only lasts 3 months. Hey, I’m breastfeeding so at least he’s food is free, right?

What’s most challenging is this massive fear that I will never have a stable job. No job is really stable, but I’ve been in this industry/role type for over 10 years now and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and that I don’t deserve my paycheck. in fact, I’m half convinced when I go back to work from maternity leave my boss will see how horrible I am in the role, wait until she’s safe from firing a “new mom” and then poof, I’m gone. I’ve gotten to the point where I think I can probably get another job, but it could take months, and who knows what it would pay. This job happens to pay a lot, especially with my bonus (if I get my bonus), but that’s temporary. How could I ever commit to a monthly mortgage payment for 30 years (!!!) when I can’t imagine holding and keeping a job for longer than 6 months at any given time?

It would be nice if my husband’s income was enough to support our family just in case  I can’t get a job… but that’s not how it is either. He makes $85k a year in consulting income, which is pennies for an area where a basic mortgage with PITI will cost us $5k-$7k a month, and that’s with a hefty downpayment. I know people do it here on “low” incomes, but certainly not as home owners. I’m somewhat ok with renting, especially in a good school district once my son is old enough to go to public school, but my husband really wants to buy. I’d rather buy–for the stability and to feel like I’ve “made it” but I don’t know, I don’t know if I have it in me to make that kind of terrifying commitment.

My networth right now is about $620k and should be closer to $700k by the end of the year, depending on stock market performance (and if I can stop myself from buying more cute things for my son.) For most people, that should be more than enough to provide comfort in financial security, at least enough to buy a house. But it feels like pocket change to me. I’m pretty sure once I get to $1M I’ll start to feel like I an afford to buy a house. That’s still what I think about my home purchase plan… but I’m worried I’ll wait to long as housing prices have already doubled in the last 10 years here and interest rates are going up. Or have I really already missed my opportunity to buy here and the smart thing to do would be to leave?

Besides buying a home, there are lots of things I want to purchase for my son over the years, including a sibling or two. 🙂 Even if I have only one kid, there’s enrichment activities (especially since the school systems do not offer arts education here), summer camps, traveling, etc. We don’t have to spend a fortune but I’d like to give him some semblance of a middle class childhood–one that I had when I grew up. And–if I can keep my current income of $170,000 a year, give or take, and we rent or find a home that is somehow cheap enough to go in on with my husband’s parents (and live with them) that our monthly payments aren’t, like $9000 a month (which I guess we could qualify for but WTF how could we spend $9000 a month on a mortgage when we take home about $10k a month after taxes. Something doesn’t add up.

Well, I feel all sorts of shitty… knowing I’ll probably never make enough money (*consistently, for the next 30 years*) to give my son the life I want to give him. We’re saving now on daycare since my husband is working PT from home and his parents are helping out (which is great) but I still want him to experience preschool at some point in the next few years. If I can keep this job I may be able to make over $300k for this year and the next 3 years. That’s amazing. I don’t want to count on it, but it will be nice. After tax, it’s still not a lot… it would be great if I make $300k a year for the next 30 years of my life, but let’s be real… that’s not happening.

…A big chunk of that income is in options which happen to have increased in value a lot–but they can also decrease in value before I get them and after my options are all acquired, I won’t have any worth that much. I’ll be back to my $170 salary… or less, if I need to find another job (although I made $200k at my last job, when I was interviewing this time around offers were more in the $150k range at startups–where I’m more likely to get hired.) If my husband made $150k and I made $150k, we’d be doing ok… I feel like one can live on $300k joint here, and even on $150k should one partner lose their job for a while. But… $250k, and, $80k (should I lose my job) is not doable. Better yet, we’d both be making $250k consistently… but he hasn’t asked for a raise in years and refuses to take on any other clients (now at least it makes sense since he’s taking care of our son during the day)… and I, well, I’m not moving up at work ever. My title and likely pay is already inflated. I’m just trying to stay where I am and not rock the boat.

I’m scared. Scared, but not too scared, as long as we are renting a one bedroom for $2450 a month. No matter what happens, I feel like we can afford that. We can afford that on his $85,000 self employment income. We can afford that on a job I can find for $100k if I lose other jobs. But any more than that? Even renting a two bedroom for $3200+… I just, don’t feel ready for that. I don’t think I ever will.

Real Estate: Buying Property with Mother-in-Law?

The costs of home ownership in the Bay Area are, well, terrifying. My husband and I (and now my husband, his mother and I) have been visiting open houses each weekend –just to get an idea what, if anything, is in our price range. The short answer is–not much.

Although we’re definitely not wealthy, we now have the benefit (?) of his mother joining us in our home purchasing endeavor. And, by joining us I mean joining us to live with us in an in-law unit (or second unit of a duplex) that we purchase together. should be super-duper grateful that she’s offering a $1M cash downpayment to make this possible. I am. But I’m also super-duper nervous because the other $1M (since the properties we are looking at are about $2M) will come from my husband and I (mostly me myself and I) – and the way their family communicates is practically non-existent so I’d be wrapping my future everything up in a property that’s co-owned by his mother (or, she “gifts” him the money so it’s fully owned by us, but the ownership then is a lifetime of debt to her in other means.)

Do I like my mother in law? Good question. She is, for all intents and purposes, a quiet person who keeps to herself. She marches to the beat of her own drum, but we get along. Would I prefer not to live on the same property as her? Yes, of course. But she’s also willing to help out with childcare and as much as I am nervous about her providing childcare to my kid(s) once they’re of walking age (she’s doing a fine job now with the 10-week old), it’s certainly nice to not have to spend $20k+ a year on daycare, and it’s extra nice keeping it in the family.

The actual scenario we’re looking at is that his mother gifts us the $1M, we get a mortgage for $1M, then his father (who is not married to his mother–never has been–but who is friends with her) gives us $2k a month in “rent” to bring down the monthly costs. All-in-all, financially, doing this with a ~$2M duplex or a reasonable single family + in-law unit makes a hell of a lot more sense than spending $1.5M+ on a single family home with no future rental potential. Even if our mortgage is $7k a month, my husband’s father’s contribution of $2k brings that down to the $5k that is that max I feel comfortable paying monthly for our PITI. I’d like it to be less than that, but at this point realistically it’s not going to get under $5k for what we need to make this work.

I’m just struggling with the lack of fiscal communication here, and how it feels like I’m dealing with a bunch of elementary school students in handling a very serious, very costly purchase, should we make it. That said, what right do I have to ask for any sort of special communication when it’s my husband’s mother who is making this purchase possible at all… shouldn’t I just roll with it? He’s an only child, his mother has practically put her income after very low expenses under pillows her entire life, and she seems to want to offer that to my husband and my child(ren) more than spend it on herself… I mean, for a women who has never owned a home, car, or pretty much anything “new” in her life, I doubt she’s going to change suddenly and spend that money. If I thought she would, or even would enjoy spending it on something else, I’d refuse the cash. I don’t want to be responsible for destroying her retirement. But all she wants in her retirement is a small place to live with a backyard and, most importantly, to spend as much time with my child(ren) as possible.

The entire situation makes me so uncomfortable because even though I grew up with a lot of privilege and my parents providing for me, I have been extremely independent since I graduated college (outside of my wedding.) I feel guilty for the privilege I’ve had, but have always told myself that as long as I make my own money for the life I want to live once I graduate college, I’m doing right by the world.

There’s a very long post I will write one of these days regarding my own parent’s financial mess (my father passed away this summer and let’s just say the family networth went from $1M to $400k in about 4 years–again, that story will be saved for another post(s))–but I’ve been struggling too with coming to terms that I always thought there’d be something left to provide backup should I financially fall on my face one day–but the reality has sunk in that nothing will be left. I am in a much better financial situation than my sister who is 28 and still earning a little higher than minimum wage with no benefits, so I can’t complain. It’s still a scary feeling, nonetheless (to be written about in another post.)

But I’ve also saved up now $650k, give or take, in retirement and investment accounts, and I feel like I’m capable of buying my own property without the help of others. Well, I would be, anywhere else in the country. Here… anything under $1.5M is pretty terrifying, at least with a 30 minute commute from my job south of the city.

That leads me down the road of… why buy now? The prices are coming down a bit (I’ve seen a bunch of $100k price drops in the last few weeks which seems substantial), but do we really need to buy this year? Our 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment lifestyle isn’t that horrible, especially given the size of our apartment (800 square feet) provides rather large rooms compared to 3br, 2ba houses for sale (some of those “master bathrooms” are masterly tiny.)

His mother doesn’t have to move now either. She’s still living in her parent’s house (I believe, for free, which she’s done her entire life), so she is ok there until her mother, who is in her 90s, passes away (clearly not wishing this on her at all, but there’s the reality that few humans live past 100.) Once she passes away, we don’t know what will happen with the property other than that it will be sold and, we think, his mother will get 1/3 of its value (possible that won’t be the case but no one talks in the family about things like that.) Even without that inheritance, though, she will still have the $1M waiting its use for a home purchase with or without us.

Part of me wants to power through the next few years in our 1br/1ba and enjoy the rent control we have with our $2450 rent. I’m 45 minutes from my office in rush hour, but maybe I can work out an alternative travel the where I get that sweet 30 minute each way drive. I’ve considered moving us closer to my office… but we can’t get anything near nice enough at $2450 a month. We could pool resources and live with his dad for $4450 a month… but we know without a private unit / in law that would be a mess. We’re not even going to try that…

So, we may just wait it out as long as we can. When his grandmother passes away, that will make everything happen faster, since his mother will have to move. Until then, nothing is making us leave this place. Our son can easily manage to live in a 1 bedroom with us until he’s at least one, and maybe longer. It does suck not being able to invite people over, but heck, what people would I invite over? I don’t really know anyone. And I work all the time anyway, or at least I will when I get back from maternity leave.

That seems like the right option– even though we could qualify for a loan that, with his mother’s cash, would enable us to buy a property now. Yet I’m not sure buying is right at all anyway… home ownership is a hot mess from what I can tell… it’s costly, it takes all your time, there are issues you don’t know about when you buy that pop up later… and in the Bay Area you have to buy “as is” with no contingencies which just sounds like a recipe for financial ruin. Why bother?

Well, why bother because I have a kid and I want him to have a stable life… both my husband and I grew up in houses from the day we were born until adulthood, and we value not moving around every couple of years, especially for our family. So there’s that.

Leave the Bay Area? Maybe. If we don’t buy now… and if I can keep my current job for the next 3.5 years to collect my stock, and that stock remains valued at what it’s worth now or more, then who knows… we could pick up and move. His parents won’t want to, but we could buy a place on our own. He wouldn’t want to be far from his parents, so–I’m not sure it’s really an option, but if we can have another kid (or two more kids) it may be the best one.

In any case, I’m not sure what to do… as always… but after looking at probably 100 open houses over the last year… all I can say is I really don’t want to buy anything I’ve seen. That’s not a good sign.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Poor Con

Recently a good friend of mine made me a proposition that was too good to be true–she had signed up for a real estate investing class and as part of this, she received free enrollment to a three-day seminar on stock/commodity trading. Not only did she receive a free three day ticket to this educational event, she also was offered a free guest pass–and she was looking for someone who would be interested in attending with her.

Normally I wouldn’t be able to take work off to attend such an event, even if it was free, but my current situation on leave enables provided ample opportunity to join her. My thought process was–I want to learn more about stock trading and it will be a really good test run for going back to work, both for me (attending an all-day event and pumping throughout the day) and notably my husband and his father, who will be taking care of our son when I return to work.

What I didn’t do, that I normally would do, was research the event at all before attending. I mean, free is free, and I thought it would be interesting as I’ve never attended any financial education events. I thought maybe my friend had paid enough for this fancy real estate class that the additional programming would be of quality. And, if not, I would get to spend time with this friend who I never see, and maybe I’d still pick up a thing or two that I don’t already know.

The only thing she mentioned regarding who was running the event was that it was from Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I’ve never read the book, but I’ve heard of it, so sounded credible enough (for a free guest ticket.) What I didn’t know was that I was in for a rather brilliantly depressing seminar which surely conned many individuals out of $20k to $60k. It managed to be both highly educational (if you know nothing about the stock market and trading commodities) all while managing to make it sound like it’s both incredibly easy AND incredibly hard to make massive % gains in short turns using Puts and Calls and Covered Calls and Naked Puts and Options and the Futures Market and so on.

Now, as a “buy and hold” investor, I know better than to believe I can beat the market consistently enough in day trading to end out ahead. Perhaps their “mentors” they sell for a heck of a lot of money can help one learn the ins and outs of day trading and their strategies may be legit to some extent–but do you really need to spend $40,000 to hire a mentor and license their software to do them? Of course not.

But, there was indeed brilliance in their pitch. I watched the audience (well most of the audience) fall for it. The show (and I call it a show because it was that, not a class) was hosted by a clean cut, attractive 23 year old dressed wise for his age. He was good. At his job. He negged the audience and filled them with hopes and dreams at the same time. Every concept was taught in a way where it felt extremely complicated but also easy to grasp, if only there was more time. It was crazy how each subject and topic was thrown out in a way like we were going got get back to it later… but we never did. Questions were not welcomed. The few that were asked may have been plants. He moved so fast it was impossible to ask anything.

My friend was quick to scold me on how I wasn’t paying attention on the first day and that my comments were rude and negative (admittedly I was wondering what I got myself into and half paying attention, and I did sent her a slew of links to articles on why this educational brand is a scam that night) and I apologized to her for being so rude and made a valiant effort to be positive and engaged the remainder of the seminar.

The second day was a bit better, in the sense that I learned something–though I learned something in a way that made me want to hire someone to teach me how to do it better because clearly your can’t do this on your own (I wouldn’t hire them, but they certainly were working me as much as anyone else in the audience.) Luckily as a guest I was ignored, mostly. Those who were class attendees each received a free 15 minute meeting with their “advisors” to come up with a “trading plan” — which, from what I overheard, was just an opportunity to hard upsell everyone on their very expensive classes. Before these meetings, the attendees had to fill out a form which listed ALL of their financial information including their assets, salary, etc. It seemed their target was people who have $100k+ in their 401k/IRA, who want to get better returns from it–especially those who have old 401ks they never rolled over. (The whole series started out with a very, very brief talk about how mutual fund fees are horrible and ETFs are better, to plant that idea in everyone’s mind early–even though $40k for a class is some fee.)

I could see a lot of people were falling for it. “Don’t leave here without a trading plan,” they coached us. Everyone lit up each time the instructor told “someone’s” story of how they got rich. I sat biting my tongue, wondering how everyone would believe these stories that may very well be completely made up. (Then I remembered Trump is our president, and it made sense.)

During day 2, they also had everyone in the room go to a peer-to-peer lending site and figure out how much money they could borrow for what rate. The general idea was borrow other peoples money and invest it to make money. Red alarms went off in my head, but everyone else seemed cheerful to learn they could take out $20,000 for 20%. I cringed thinking how many of the P2P loans I’ve made over the years have defaulted. The “instructor” let us know, pointedly, that putting in our information to find out how much we could get at what rate would be a soft credit pull, and would not impact our credit score. He failed to go into what happens if we cannot repay the loan because we’re making risky trades.

Risk was talked about only as something you have when you are sitting on the sidelines, not actively trading the market. My friend loved the seminar, and felt she learned a lot. We left day two with her telling me she is going to keep reminding me to “get insurance” on my stocks. That, of course, is because they did a very good job of scaring us all into thinking if we don’t own covered calls on our stock, we’re taking on too much risk. But, they failed to mention how covered calls cut our gains, and how the market over time goes up… so far.

My major issue with all of the ideas was that taxes were not mentioned at all. So even if you “won” more often than lost, you would be paying income taxes on gains and not able to deduct losses if you buy same stock within 30 days. When I mentioned this to my friend she didn’t want to hear it, She was so enamored with their show she could not imagine these folks were telling lies or that taxes should even be considered.

The big, big takeaway and fear mongering centered on the upcoming market crash. They showed the tech bubble and the housing bubble and now the bubble of capital being injected into the markets. The discussion on the economy centered on how money used to be backed by gold and now it’s backed by nothing. This means, supposedly, the market will crash, and it’s important to be trading not the up of the market, but its ebbs and flows. Making money when it goes up, down, and even sideways.

Sounds good.

But then the logic started to fall apart. Their risk formulas, which I think are actually somewhat legit, still seem more risky then they implied. Basically you look at a stock’s trailing volatility and do a basic formula to figure out how much it might go up, if it’s starting to go up, and how much you’re willing to risk on this bet. So, you’re willing to risk $1 to make $9… a good bet. I’m still a little fuzzy on how they come up with their odds (and how charting really works since past performance rarely predicts future gains or losses of a stock), but maybe there’s something to it. If you can take less risk for more gains… as they put it in their illustration of a coin toss… as long as you win 60% of the time, you win. You’re the casino. If you can do better than 60%, you can win big.

Ok, sounds… great… but if that’s the case, why aren’t there a billion stories on the internet of people who took their class and are now bazillionaires? Why are they spending time teaching this class in the first place when they can all be enjoying the lavish lifestyle sure-bet, rapid investing provides them?

The “instructor,” and his directors behind the curtains, clearly knew this was a question that would come up and gave him a quick answer… he is wealthy, for sure, but he is still acquiring wealth and to do this he wants to be around all of these smart people all the time, which he has access to as an instructor (and we can have access to if we spend $60,000++ for a mentorship!) Hey, seems like a reasonable enough answer (not really, but then again, was anything reasonable enough in this “class?”)

Well, as PT Barnum reportedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” This organization clearly knows it. I’m sure they aren’t looking for people like myself to attend these seminars, but they get plenty of takers anyway for their slick con business. It’s amazing these types of programs are legal, all under the guise of education.

 

Never Enough Money But Always Too Much of It

Meeting with CFPs feels very adult and yet very depressing at the same time. Too much shit has gone on in the last few months to handle, and on top of all that I’m turning 35 next month which seems like a substantial age which no longer has the veneer of youth on it at all. Thirty-five is, if you live to 70, middle age.

I’ve spent the last decade-and-a-half obsessing over money in somewhat nonproductive ways. Twice a month I’ve typed my networth calculations into my trusted google spreadsheet that goes back to my early 20s when I had about $20,000 or less to my name (that’s now over $600,000.) I know I spend too much on things I don’t need still, but spending is the only thing that makes me feel in any control in this crazy world. Of course that sense of control is not real and fleeting.

My question du jour is if I should pay a CFP $5000 a year or ~1% of my portfolio ($6k and growing) to help manage my family’s finances, or if I can (and should) do this on my own. I feel like even though I’m probably much more fiscally literate than most people my age, I’ve gotten to the point it’s time to bring in the experts. No more randomly buying Vanguard funds and individual stocks… I don’t even know if I’ve beat or lost to the S&P 500. And I don’t have life insurance. Or a will. Or an estate plan. Or an open dialogue with my husband about money.

The keeping our finances separate plan works well until it doesn’t. I realize that right now as the person who makes more money he’s allowing me without guilt to spend as I wish with the money I earn–but one day the tables may turn and I may choose to or no longer be able to work… what then? Perhaps I can save enough to “early retire” but in reality that doesn’t seem possible. I mean–maybe, if his family really contributes $1M to our joint housing in the near future–and we find a cost-effective duplex for something like $1.5M, and I pay the mortgage off as quickly as possible so our fixed expenses are very low… then, perhaps my expertise in my industry can garner me a few freelance contracts a year that will cover maintaining my lifestyle and also getting my car fixed every once in a while.

I just hate this suffocating feeling of locking myself into anything financially. I called a loan agent at a bank to learn more about mortgages and get a sense what we’d qualify for. He went through some basic questions and when he got to the part about debt he didn’t believe me that we have no debts. He asked me about 10 times… “you sure you don’t have any debts” and he was shocked. I told him there’s about $1000 on the credit cards and that gets paid off monthly. We drive used cars, paid in cash. Our credit scores are 755 and 800+. I guess we’ve had the privilege to avoid debt and beyond that neither of us believes in spending more than we have.

So why, after 35 years of that working, change that now?

I’m not so sure. In theory, owning property and not having to pay for a chunk of it (since his mother WANTS to gift us that money and she’ll be living there as well) is smart financially. Even with her $1M in cash we can’t get a place for all of us… we’ll need to spend $1.5M to $2M. And the $1.5M options will likely require either a lot of work, a huge commute, or both.

I go back and forth on what to do. My latest and greatest idea is to rent a house or townhouse with his father that’s much closer to my work. We pay $2400 a month for our one bedroom and his father pays $1800 for his tiny apartment, so together we’d have $4200 without changing what we’re paying to rent a house. There isn’t much you can get for $4200 that would work for us, but bump that up to $5000 a month and there are some reasonably nice houses near my office that we can rent. The price will go up annually, and we’ll lose our rent control, but realistically how long can we last in our one bedroom apartment with a child anyway? The plan was one year…  but I’m starting to think six months, max.

I don’t know. I want someone to come in and provide all the answers. My father seemed like the type of person who would do that in my life, but we never talked about money. He didn’t understand how I managed my money, or why I chose to rent a small apartment, or perhaps he didn’t care. All he cared about was me getting married and having children… and not needing him to fund my life, I guess. I’d like to ask him what to do still, but he’s gone, and I know I never could ask him about finances because he’d make some snide comment and make me uncomfortable–either saying I’m rich and expect me to pay for everything and judge my semi frugal lifestyle choices, or he’d be concerned about my finances and offer to provide support even though, as I now know, he didn’t have the resources to provide at all. But, I wish I had a father who I could talk to about money, especially since that’s what he did for a living. I thought about telling him what I had in the bank… I wanted, more than anything, for him to be proud of how well I’ve saved, how smart I was with my money… but he’d just think I was a failure for not being able to afford a home, or a failure for being able to afford a home and choosing not to.

It doesn’t matter now since he’s gone, dead to cardiac arrest and a host of suspicious medical decisions and actions and non-actions that will haunt me and fill me with guilt until the day I die. One day I need to write all that out, but it’s much too painful right now, and I’m spent. I’m petrified of this horrid negotiation with HR and my boss about my maternity leave that has gone on far too long, I’m reeling in PPD-tinged grief and a lifetime of depression raging through my veins and causing daily meltdowns, gasping for air and unable to find any in a fully-oxygenated room.

And I try to tell myself, hey, dad lived to 67, that’s really good–that so many people lose their lives much younger. That tsunamis and mass shootings and disease take so many far too soon. He lived his life and made many decisions that led to his passing, though it’s unclear if he could have lived longer if the doctors didn’t completely mess up and fail to communicate or provide him proper care.. but how can one cry over 67 when so many fail to make it that far?

Still… I cry. I mourn the loss of my father, as confused and complicated as our relationship was, and how sad I was for him as he lived his life with so much anxiety and feeling like he could never fully provide for a wife and family that overspent left and right. I keep thinking this is just a nightmare and I’ll wake up and he’ll still be there, and we’ll still be figuring out how to navigate the healthcare system and get him the care he needs all while he makes it through one delirious episode after the next, and we wonder how far gone is his, but surely he’s not all gone.

He is. And that’s life. I sit in my rocking chair and stare at the little person I’ve created now 8 weeks old and am in awe of how fast he’s grown. I know the coming years will storm by and I’ll be left on the other side of them, wrinkled and grey, still wondering what happened. I can’t believe how slow childhood goes and how fast adulthood shoots by. I’m fighting my mind that wants time to disappear so everything hurt less and my heart that wants everything to slow down even if it hurts more.

So here I am, on extended disability leave and counting the days until I have to go back to work… to a job I don’t feel confident in (though I actually like, mostly)… to one I must keep in order to provide for my family. I understand what my father must have felt like as the breadwinner although as a woman and one who has a husband who has a job I’m not in this all alone–but still alone in being capable of earning enough income to create the life I want for my family (although to be fair my husband’s future inheritance is maybe worth equal or more than what I’m capable of earning in my lifetime.) Still, that’s a long time off and today I’m looking at this life and wondering what it is I want, because it’s becoming more clear with the passing of my father, the birth of my child, and my own aging officially to my mid 30s. I know I want a sizable family–2 to 3 kids–and a home large enough to accommodate us all, and the funds to travel on occasion to trips to local camping grounds and distant adventures. And I want time–which seems to contradict all of that–time to see my family and not have the years pass by and before I know it I’ve afforded a decent house and a few vacations and other than that I’ve never seen my kids (that’s what life was like for my dad… maybe he liked it that way… but I don’t want a life like that.)

I’m continuously terrified of trying to make this work. I am a mom now and that’s really all that matters. Time will disappear if I let it, or if I don’t, but maybe I can grasp it tightly and try to slow it down a bit–cherish every day, every moment, every baby freakout and future temper tantrum and teenage meltdown… and the sweet moments as well. I’ll try to avoid this crippling anxiety… the spinning in circles about every what if even if one may eventually be the what if that pans out. And, I’ll see what I can do about making the money situation be ok… enough ok that it won’t be a disaster for my family if I lose my job or just can’t work due to my mental state. I’ve got a long way to go, but I think I at least know the road I ought to take.

 

A World of Changes, Loss and Life

I haven’t written on this blog in quite some time because I’ve been very, very busy. I gave birth to my first child a little under two months ago, and shortly after that lost my father, and it’s been a whirlwind since. I have a ton to write about regarding finances, but just haven’t found the time.

Money is top of mind right now as a new mom and as a daughter trying to help her mother navigate her own finances as a widow, all while processing a massive amount of grief and joy in such a short time. I’m an emotional mess and trying to hold it together for my son.

One thing that helps me hold it together is having a somewhat stable financial situation for myself. My goal of having $500k in savings/investments before having a child was hit and then some… I made it to a little over $600k before giving birth. Even though I don’t feel financially secure, I still feel better than I would if I had no or very little savings. I’ve been able to pay for my mother to stay in hotel and visit us, and am paying for my sister to fly across the country to meet her nephew. I’m even paying for my mother to get therapy because she needs it right now and her access to liquid capital is quite limited — I can write a thousand posts on that situation and may at some point (or a book) but in the meantime, my own financial story is ever shifting.

We still live in a one bedroom apartment rented for now $2400 a month (split 50/50.) I’m close to obtaining my first year RSUs which means that this year I will earn by far the most I’ve ever earned in my life (over $300k plus my husband’s consulting income of $80k), which feels good, although not as great as it could. I still feel lost in terms of how to create a stable life for myself and get to the point where I’m not afraid to spend money on big important purchases like buying a house. I’m also feeling guilty in knowing that the only way we can afford to buy is to go in with my husband’s mother who has about $1M in cash saved up apparently — due to her frugality and hatred of capitalism. We’re starting to look for a duplex or single family home with in law unit, where we could all live together — my husband, myself, my son, his mother and his father. I’m forcing myself to get over this feeling that living with his parents (and accepting the money to make buying possible) is a sign of personal failure–that I can’t afford to provide for my own family. But then I look at what we could afford to buy if we were to just use our own volatile income and it doesn’t look pretty, so I give up. I’ll take the feeling of failure and the guilt in order to provide a stable life for my child(ren.)

Speaking of child(ren), I’ve decided I really want to have three. I always wanted three, but it seemed like a bad idea–but since my father passed away I realized how important it is for me to have a sizable family. I’ll focus on having my second in a year and see how that goes first, of course–and since that means I’l be giving birth to my second at 37 chances are I won’t be able to have a third anyway–but I think I want to try. I may get my embryos frozen next summer ($$$$) in order to make it possible to have a third (and potentially to ensure that I can have a second.) My age is really hitting me smack in the face as being 35 and having kids not only means my biological clock is ticking and running out, but also that my father ran out of time entirely and my mother is an older grandmother and when my kids are in their teens she’ll be in her 80s, if she lives that long. And I’ll be in my 50s(!) — someone should have smacked me in the face when I was 20 and shared the little secret that it’s nice to have everyone be younger when your kids are growing up. The guilt I have that my father will never get to spend time with his grandson will never leave me. On a more positive note, I feel very committed to ensuring my son gets to spend time with his remaining grandparents, even my annoying, neurotic mother, and that means putting money and time behind getting us to the east coast to see her and helping her afford to visit us in between her summers at the pool and winters in her Florida condo… at. the pool.

Life is just hitting me so hard right now and I’m struggling a lot. I’m on extended disability for PPD and find myself crying every day and having some suicidal thoughts, though I’ve been through depression enough to know they’ll pass. I love my son, and find joy and meaning in being a mother. I don’t know how long that will last as he grows up and decides he disagrees with everything I say–but for now, as he starts to realize I’m his mom, and as we get this breastfeeding thing down, I feel a deep sense of things being right as he sleeps across my chest, and an urge to make a good life for him, to provide him with a family of siblings, and to love him more than anything in the world.

I’m so scared of going back to work. I’m scared my boss will hate me and already does since I’ve taken an extended leave due to the PPD. I’m scared every moment I request more time off I’m entitled to (or should be) and I’m scared I’ll go back to work FT and not be able to keep up because even before I had a child I struggled with my role and career. Now I really need the money and I’m going to do my best to hold it together and survive the next 3.5 years at least until I’ve collected the income from my stock and perhaps have had my second child and succeeded at hitting $1M in networth. I don’t know what that means anymore, but it’s still a goal that seems good to have. I won’t be able to track my networth cleanly once we buy house with my husband’s parents–but I’m now considering our going household networth to be $750k, and still want to see us cross that $1M threshold by the time I’m 38. I think, too, if I can have kid #2 at 37 then when I turn 38 we can decide to try for a third child…

Goals:

Before Child #1 Born: $500k in stocks/savings (done)
Before Child #2 Born: $1M in stocks/savings
Before Child #3 Born: $1M+ in stocks/savings + own $1.7M-$2M home with husband’s parents

2018 – child #1 (age 34) – $700k networth
2019 – (age 35) – $800k networth
2020 – (age 36) – $900k networth
2021 – child #2 (age 37) – $1M networth
2022 – (age 38) – $1M networth + purchase home
2023 – (age 39) – move to part-time work, pregnant with child #3?
2024 – child #3?? (age 40) … family networth, including home = $2M

Of course, this plan assumes I would be pregnant at age 39 and giving birth to my third child at 40. I’m not sure that’s possible or a good idea. But in order to have three kids, this really is the only way it would work “safely” as I’m supposed to wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. I don’t have to, but it’s more risky if I don’t. My doctor said a year should be ok. So, I could try for the following…

(assuming I suddenly become very fertile — unlikely but this would be the best plan for actually having 3 kids…) 

2018 (August) – child #1 @ 34
2019 (August) – pregnant, child #2 @35
2020 (May) – child #2 @36
2021 (May) – pregnant, child #3 @37
2022 (Feb) – child #3 @38

But that plan would be very, very hard with my career and networth goals. I just don’t want to regret not having the family I want because I was too focused on money. Even if the above schedule pushes out until I’m giving birth at 39 for kid #3, that’s probably better than 40 (and I should be more likely to get pregnant when I’m 38) — it’s still hard to plan since with pregnancy esp at this age I’m at higher risk for all sorts of issues, miscarriage, defects, etc… who knows if I’ll even make it to having a second kid. I don’t want to feel rushed into having kid #2, but I do think I’m going to start officially trying for my second after my son turns 1 year old. If I happen to get pregnant right away, I’ll take that as a sign I’m meant to keep trying for a larger family. If not, I’ll keep going until hopefully I get pregnant with my second. Who knows how long it will take–if I got lucky this time (with fertility meds) or if I can get pregnant again pretty quickly. The one thing I know now is I want to focus on getting healthy in the next year to set myself up for the best pregnancy possible, and hopefully not gain as much weight next time.

In short, I feel old and overwhelmed, but that’s life and that’s what it’s like to turn 35…

When Long Term Care Insurance Terminates (Or, Almost Does) Due to Dementia or Confusion

Welcome to the sandwich generation — taking care of kids and elders all at once. That was the message that I got loud and clear this week at 37 weeks pregnant and with a father in the hospital who has, sadly, accepted that he needs to begin using his long-term care policy to receive in-home living support.

The challenges of being 37 weeks pregnant are largely understood, but what about managing the care for a father with a terminal illness who has been to the hospital with repeat episodes of source-unidentifiable delirium within the past 2 months? Continue reading

June Networth Check-In: $612,000

I haven’t written on here in a while, so I thought I should check in on my networth goals for the year. Things are looking strong for the year thus far, with $612k in networth hit June 1. The goal for the year is somewhere between $650k-$700k, but I’d really like to hit my stretch goal of $700k by Jan 1.

This seems somewhat doable if the stock market continues to perform as well as it has for the first half of the year. I’m likely going to see about $50k-$55k from stock before the end of the year as long as I keep my job, which leaves less than $40k to make up to get to that $700k goal. Of course, maternity leave is not going to help me achieve this at all, but that is what it is.

I’m still very confused as to how maternity leave will impact me financially. I have some idea on this, but there are so many nuances to the rules it will only make sense after the fact. I know that for my disability leave I get a percentage of my pay for six weeks, but it’s pre-tax, so maybe it will be somewhat close to my total salary. I also know I won’t be eligible to contribute to my ESPP when I’m on leave, which is crappy but makes sense since I’m not actually earning income during that time.

At this point, to minimize the hit on my financial goals for the year, I’m planning to work up until my due date and then to take the 12 weeks off that are semi paid and deal with the losses from those weeks which hopefully won’t be too bad. I can take another 6 weeks protected unpaid, but I’ll prob save those weeks until 2019 and decide if I want to take them then, since if I manage to keep my job all 2019 I’ll be in a higher tax bracket then and the loss of income will be less noticeable, maybe. Still, may decide not to take that time since it’s unpaid and I can’t contribute to the ESPP again then.

Really, my #1 focus is on keeping my job as long as possible. With my stock (which is RSU not options) at this point my networth is really ~ $892k+, but I’m not counting the stock that isn’t in my back account yet since I don’t actually get it until I get it. But, seeing $892k as my approximate networth feels good and makes me think that $1M goal before kid #2 is achievable. After all, I’m $112k over my goal of $500k before kid #1. So grateful for saving throughout my 20s and focusing on savings. Once I get to $1M, I’ll feel a lot better about my life stability.

Why I’m So Stressed Out About Maternity Leave

Three months ago, I met with the director of benefits at my company who, after congratulating me on my pregnancy (then just starting my second trimester), told me point blank that I was not eligible to take more than 6 weeks off immediately following the birth of my child (paid or unpaid.)

Due to the way the California policy works, I would be eligible to take 12 more weeks off (6 of them semi paid, 6 unpaid) once I hit my “year” mark at work, but given I’d only be at 9 months when I would give birth, I was basically SOL.

I did ask if I could use any vacation time to make the leave longer (since we have “unlimited vacation time”) and was told no. I asked if I could take an unpaid leave and was told that I would be let go if I did not return to work at the start of week 7. It basically seemed like I had no choice, so I just accepted it, three months into my new job, grateful to have any protection and moved on.

But now that baby is just around the corner and I’ve been talking to more moms, I’m terrified of going back to work at 7 weeks post birth. Like, I will be nursing every two hours through the night and I just don’t know how I will be able to do this. Even if I do make it to the office I’ll be a zombie and useless. I’ll certainly perform poorly leading to getting let go anyway. I mean, I’m not sure I’ll suddenly be on my A game again after 10 or 12 weeks post birth, but it sounds like at that point baby might be sleeping a little bit more through the night, and hopefully so will I.

So now I’ve contacted the head of HR and I am worried I’m just making things worse for myself right now. But I talked to my (newish) boss who basically told me she wants me to take all the time up front and I tried to explain to her I can’t. Maybe if she talks to HR I can, but really they’d have to work something out as it seems like I can’t do this on my own. I’m already so terrified about pissing my boss off–I am not the type of person bosses like to begin with, so I’m just really trying to keep my head down and get my work done… but now I feel like I’m just a walking target the next time they’re looking to downsize or just get rid of that one person who doesn’t fit on the team.

And it sucks because I don’t even want to take that much time off… I feel like I’m doing ok now… not great, but ok… ok enough to maybe every day not feel like I’m about to get fired. Except when I’m gone for 8 weeks or 10 weeks or more, well, then people will forget about all the effort I put in this year and I’ll be back to square one. And regardless of when I go back I’ll certainly be more exhausted even if I try not to be since I am baby’s food source.

There are days I think I should just quit but I know I can’t. There’s the salary plus the health insurance plus the fact that my stock is worth a substantial amount and I don’t see any of that until early next year. I’m fortunate to be in this situation but at the same time I’m crying every single day because I don’t know what to do — how hard to I push HR? I’m so new to this job. I don’t deserve any protection. I know that my skillset is somewhat unique and hard to hire for — so there’s a chance they wouldn’t find a replacement for me in the extra six weeks I’d take. There’s also a chance they would.

Part of me feels like I should just shut up, come back to work at 7 weeks postpartum and hold my breathe for the rest of the year until I vest my first chunk of stock and get some of my bonus (whatever they decide to give me) and then if I’m completely frazzled and ready to jump off a bridge I can consider leaving if necessary. I don’t WANT to leave but at that point I may need to. Or maybe I won’t. But at least then I’ll have made it through phase #1 and should be at about $650k networth. It would still be very upsetting to leave as I’d be throwing away my career at that point, along with substantial upside, but I’m scared and feel like I’m constantly on edge and really just not doing so well from a mental health perspective right now.

I wish my husband cared to make more money but he doesn’t. He provides in so many other ways and will be home to take care of the kid while I work, and for that I’m grateful. But the costs of living here are just really too high and he could be making more if he wanted to but he consults for one small business on a part-time basis and never really gets raises so every year his income is worth less and less. Now with baby the flexibility is worth a lot but it just feels like we could be in so much of a better place if he had any interest in financial stability for our family. I know that’s not his thing and I knew that from when I first started dating him, so I can’t put this on him at all. It would just make it easier if we both earned about the same, but we don’t. It would make it easier if I was better at my job or wasn’t having a baby, but all these things are not the case.

I feel really really really shitty about asking HR for more than the 6 weeks, and for every single conversation I have with my boss about my leave. I feel guilty for having a kid and I feel guilty for knowing I won’t be able to dedicate the time I want to raising it because I’ll be so paranoid that I will look bad at work that I’ll probably increase my time and output at work compensate. All the while I’ll likely be extremely exhausted. Maybe I’m thinking too much worse case scenario but how awake can one be waking up every  2 hours to nurse all night?

So many parts of me want to just quit but those parts want to quit because I hate the guilt and embarrassment of being a pregnant woman less than a year into a new job and dealing with crappy US maternity leave policies and also not wanting to seem like I’m entitled to anything just because I made the choice to be a mom. I guess if it gets to the point at 7 weeks where I just cannot return to work for my mental wellbeing, I don’t, and I deal with the financial consequences (which would be brutal to the tune of $100k-$150k+ in lost earnings, depending on when I return to the workforce.)

And I have no one to talk to about this which makes it even harder. I can’t talk to my boss–she wants me to take all the time up front and doesn’t care (nor should she) about the pay or no pay situation. I can’t talk to HR because their job is protecting the company. I can’t talk to my husband because he knows I lose my jobs often and just sees this at yet another one of those situations. I can’t talk to my family, they don’t understand. I can’t talk to my friends–my female friends who have kids have husbands who make $300k+ per year and either are stay at home moms or run part-time businesses. I can’t talk to my therapist about it because this isn’t a mental health issue this is a I need advice on how to handle maternity leave issue. So I just feel really alone right now and that’s what hurts the most and leads me to this very dark, hopeless place. I’m trying to be excited about having a baby but I’m just scared. I know I’m lucky to have even 6 weeks of covered leave at semi pay, but what happens on week 7?