All posts by Joy

Every Business is the Same.

Unless you work for a non profit, you know the routine — business has one motive – to make a profit (eventually.) Business is a mathematical equation which pits the variables of humans against an improbable outcome measured by quarterly earnings and loss. What goes up must come down, despite the general theory of relativity not being related to business, it’s still quite relevant.

It doesn’t matter what product or service you sell, how much it cures a rare disease or makes the sky rain tar,  if you’re in business, you must decrease costs and sell, sell, sell, and compete against others who are your mortal enemies due to deciding to work for a company names X instead of Y, and you have to be so sure why you’re better and why you are the best (despite your products/services known shortcomings) and you all must drink so much of the kool-aid you get a stomach ache and end up in the hospital for gulping down too damn much of the saccharine, chemically-endowed beverage. Drink up. Continue reading

What’s Next: Thoughts on the Future While Firmly Planted in the Present

May 9, 2017. Tuesday. I’m in a state of purgatory between employed and unemployed, a limbo where my employer has kindly provided a period of time in which I can complete a few key projects and look for a new job.

Although I’m well aware the logic behind this is to help minimize risk for the company, it is a luxury to have any sort of a transition period after being shown the door. Even though I collapsed into an embarrassing ball of tears upon being let go, I know they’ve done this in a very respectful way. I’ve yet to step foot back in the office — though I will later this week — and I’ve attempted to mitigate my supervisor’s faux interest in creating smooth communications regarding my “decision” to leave the business for new opportunities. Maybe others could play this game well, but I’m a horrible liar. Everyone knows (or will know) that I’ve been asked to leave, and I don’t imagine I’ll attempt to adjust the story if asked. I just want to be heads down, get my work done, and survive the last few weeks of this job before… who knows what. Continue reading

Day 3: Unfunemployment

Day 3. Told husband. He’s sad, but not surprised. He knows I’ve been struggling for a while (i.e. all my life.) The reality of the situation is sinking in. The “transition” period my boss mentioned is now clearly going to be two weeks at most, likely less. At least I have a few days to wrap up projects and try to leave on a positive note, vs the ‘ol being walked to my desk and out the door.

I regret how I handled being notified of my firing as I was not prepared in the moment and thus my reaction was shock more than anything. It was in some ways a release of accepting that I was in far over my head, or that my anxieties rapidly dug me into a hole too deep to every dig myself out of.

Looking back, I am trying to embrace this as a learning opportunity to determine where to go from here, and how to make sure I don’t fall flat on my face when I get there. In terms of my career, in 2010 I started doing some freelance work for a company that sold software to other businesses. Seven years later, I’ve worked for 4 businesses like this, and in each role have learned a bit more. I’ve never learned how to effectively build and lead teams, but I’ve learned a lot about my specific area of business, and what works and what doesn’t.

There’s still the very real issue of my poor interpersonal communications (and just overall people skills.) Had people in the organization liked me more personally, they might be more willing to forgive a few less-than-stellar moments. But I have no social skills and I don’t think this is going to change significantly enough to impact the outcome of my career.

As I meditated on life in a park yesterday in between doing probably too much work for the day I was told to not do any work, I thought about the people who I worked with over the last year and then immediately thought about my childhood — as a kid, I didn’t fit in with the kids who were highly political, smart, yet extremely competitive. I work with a clique which I clearly am not capable of being part of — a sorority of people who say they’re nice and accepting but really who want only other people like them on their team.

That’s not just this company – that’s most companies, especially small companies where people really do become this odd sort of family. I’m that odd duck cousin that no one really wants to invite to the holiday party but they do anyway to keep up appearances, and then everyone talks about me behind my back the second I walk out the door “isn’t she odd.”

I haven’t actually worked for a company where I felt like I fit in, with the exception of one which at times I felt connected with the team because they were a bit more quirky and open to weirdos like myself. The issues I have with interpersonal communication were still quite present, but the feel of the whole company was more open and accepting, so less of my energy was spent on failing to fit in.

I still have few ideas re: what’s next. I spoke with the head of a small agency who does some work for me and told her I’ll be leaving the company, and she offered to provide some consulting work to me if I was interested – which really meant a lot to me because I work with her often and she knows my talents and lack there of, and she didn’t have to offer. I might take her up on that and will at least explore the option of freelancing for a while.

I wanted to experience management and I have, and it’s not for everyone. Or, it may be for me at some point in the future, but in the mean time I want to really focus on being good at what I’m good at, and with that improve my communication skills versus trying to do this AND trying to figure out how to manage. It’s just too much at once. I’ve got plenty of time to be a manager in my career if I want to be, maybe in 20 years after my “kids” have grown up and moved out. So I’ll be 55 and then can be a manager. Or maybe it will happen sooner — or maybe it will never happen again. Freelancing can be quite lucrative as well… so that might be the right path.

No more shoving this square peg into perfectly round holes.

Day 2: Unfunemployment

I’m doing work, because that’s all I know how to do. I put together a transition plan for my boss that’s likely to get massively rejected, keeping me gainfully employed though mid June. I actually do have enough high-value work to stay employed until then, the question is whether she is willing to provide this long of a transition period. I’m getting the feeling that’s highly unlikely. I’m actually getting the feeling that she may say it’s best to conclude the relationship immediately. We’re oil and vinegar and she’s not in the mood to let me float.

I feel bad about not telling my husband yet, but he’s already worried about his job security and was just accepted into a teaching graduate program and I just don’t want to share the bad news when it isn’t necessary. He also is completing some work for the company and I don’t want him to feel awkward about finishing projects. As long as I get budget approved, then we can have a clean transition. He already knows I was planning to start looking for new roles in summer, so it’s not exactly a surprise.

I also, fortunately, have enough savings to get through a rough time without anyone knowing the better… though eventually I’ll have to tell him since we either have to go on COBRA or free market insurance (or I need a new job before this happens which is unlikely since I’m not in active interviews at this point.)

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Was Today Always the Day?

While the timing was a surprise, the act wasn’t. Here I am, yet again, told that “it’s just not working out.”

Usually I have a good idea that it’s going to happen. I knew my boss was not thrilled with my work overall, but I thought our meeting today was going to be an opportunity for her to detail out exactly why she’s disappointed with me and then I’d get a formal warning and I’d be on my way out with a last chance effort to show that I’m not so shitty of an employee. However, when I walked into my meeting and saw the head of HR sitting there, clearly not concluding another meeting, I heard a loud stunned voice in my head go “oh. shit.” Continue reading

Rationalizing Depression and Hopelessness

There are plenty of days when life feels so incredibly overwhelming in its abstract and concrete abilities to suffocate the soul. Life is shit and beautiful all in the same blob of time, this conveyor belt with tall walls surrounding that we’re trapped on from birth until we part.

My life has become my job, and I’m not even any good at it. Regardless of what or what wasn’t told to my new boss during her interview process, she’s very quickly seeing that I can’t keep up – at least not at the level I’d need to be at for my title and compensation. She swooped in and minimized my role either hoping I’d quit or be productive enough to be worth keeping on, at least for now, and I’m trying but it’s all a big cluster.

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The Cost of Getting Healthy: Worth It

With my somewhat aggressive savings plan, my networth has eeked over the $480k mark, leaving “just” $20k left for the remainder of the year to hit my annual and “before giving birth*” goal of $500k. (*still not pregnant, so it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll hit this goal.)

While I’m far from frugal, I started doing some longer term calculations and realizing that perhaps I’m saving too much of my paycheck (is there such a thing?) I’m not a Mustachian — I have no desire to “retire early” — and maybe I don’t need $200k a year (after inflation) in actual retirement because I hope to always be able to work (albeit in a different, lower paid and more meaningful job once I’ve saved enough.) Continue reading

Congrats to 1500 Days to Freedom on Early Retirement…

I’m kind of sort of part of the personal finance blog community. Kind of sort of as I write way more about my mental illness and its intersection with my finances than specific and actionable financial advice for others. When I started writing this blog in 2007, just a little under 10 years ago, there were a handful of personal finance blogger types who had a strong following, and a lot of folks who had a handful of readers and intended to stay that way. Today, it’s kind of crazy how the personal finance blogging community has picked up and become quite the business.

One segment of the community is the “early retirement” folks — the ones that blog about saving money and investing in order to retire, usually in their 30s or, more realistically, 40s, in order to live life on their terms. This week, blogger 1500 Days to Freedom left his FT job with $1.4M in networth. I guess between his family’s frugal living, gains on his portfolio and the lower cost of living in Colorado where he’s based, $1.4M will last him and his family a lifetime. it’s a significant accomplishment, especially at age 40. Strange as it is, I’m only 6.5 years away from 40, and it’s highly unlikely that I will have $1.4M, even collectively with my husband at the time… Continue reading

Smile, Though Your Heart is Breaking: My Memoir

The older I get, the more visits with the parental unit become concrete episodes of psychological disorder ripe for analysis, versus emotional jabs to the heart. An obese, hot-tempered and narcissistic father dying from not one but two-types of cancer yet beating the odds thus far despite terminal illness, and a mother who has no ability to process emotion and who lives solely for capturing life in posed photographs where everyone looks happy, never mind how they actually feel.

When I hear of yet another occurrence of my father jabbing my mother with his cane or throwing her phone against the room, shattering its screen, or him calling her any number of degrading terms, I can’t help but blame the victim, or see them both as victims, as she has no ability to empathize with others, only to nag and focus solely on the illusion of happiness in moments captured on camera with no context to the disorder and discomfort underneath.

If I were to write a memoir, perhaps its title would be – Smile, though your heart is breaking. I had rationalized throughout my life that every family takes photos, that smiling and looking pretty in pictures was a normal part of life – which is it, if not to the extent of addiction to photographs without having the ability to live in the moment. The measure of the success of any life event or family outing could be measured in two ways — did my father not have an outburst, and did my mother capture photographs of everyone smiling at the camera with our eyes open and teeth showing just the right amount.

Yesterday, I had to stop my father from flinging across the room the $700 point-and-shoot camera I had purchased as a gift to my mother for the wedding. At dinner with my grandmother, sister and parents, my mother asked the waitress to take a photo on her phone, which inevitably didn’t come out that great because it was dark and the phone doesn’t take good pictures, so she asked the waitress to take another photo on the camera instead. This prompted my father to threaten to toss the camera across the room in a way where you knew he was serious. His mother luckily talked him down and the photo was taken by the waitress, albeit with my father purposely with the back of his head to camera.

Earlier in the day, a friend from childhood came over to visit. She was in town as the same time as I was by coincidence, but she actually had planned to see my parents at the time when she didn’t know I would be there. She came over and talked to us for a bit – time wise it was not ideal as we had to leave for dinner with my grandmother. We had to say goodbye and get going to be on time, but of course, my mother needed to take pictures of us smiling for the camera. My father nearly struck her with his cane, but company was present so he somewhat behaved himself. He took a swing as to threaten, but did not get near her.

I hear that this year when they were at their winter condo in Florida, with no one watching the moment, he struck her on the side. She knows that’s not ok, but at this point it’s just her life.

Mom complains about going to the hospital with my father for his surgeries, and shares that she is not looking forward to “taking care” of him if (when) his cancer gets worse. It breaks my heart that she can’t empathize or sympathize with her husband of all these years, of another human being who is dying of cancer and who has his best years behind him. But then I remember all the things my father has done to her, and I can’t blame her for her reaction – though it would be the same if he were a loving, kind man, she’d still only care about herself. She’d still complain about how the events are harming her life, not showing any modicum of care for another human life.

Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking. — I see my family infrequently, and when I do, I always remember why I moved so far away. I wish I could have a close relationship with them, but that just isn’t in the cards…

I knew, getting out of the car, that my jeans had shifted too low and my shirt to high, and my stomach, plump with the roundness of a long winter’s depression and its related binge eating, was protruding in a non-flattering fashion. My father, of course, had to comment. “I am going to say it,” he said, and I knew what was coming. He paused, for a moment, clearly about to say I look fat but instead shifting the language to say “you should change before we go to grandma’s, she won’t appreciate how you are dressed.” I took a deep breath and said “I just need to pull my shirt down,” and left it at that. Years ago the comment would have been more direct towards my weight gain, but I think at this point since I have a husband he doesn’t bother me with that, only the inappropriateness of my clothing choices, despite having just traveled to visit them.

I know it could be worse – much, much worse. I’ve heard stories of friends who have parents who have done horrible things, or who just weren’t there at all. Parents who were divorced, who got remarried, who dated abusive men or women and alcoholics and drug addicts. Plenty of people are born into much worse situations – perhaps into loving families, but in areas of the world riddled with war. Few, in th history of time, come from healthy, stable families. Some do. And those who come from stable households often struggle with life when it gets rough unable to handle any imperfections. Perhaps in a way being hardened early is a blessing as life only gets more emotionally challenging over time, with the loss of loved ones built into not one the status quo, but the inevitable.

I’m trying to break free of all of this to find myself – before I have my own family. I have a wonderful husband who is everything to me. As I said to a friend the other day — one can be grateful and still miserable. Today, that’s me. Grateful, but broken. Appreciative, but empty. In awe all that I have, but have long forgotten what happiness feels like, my mental definition of the emotion locked in as a moment where I tilt my chin lightly downward, pull my shoulders back, open my mouth slightly with lips tilted upwards at the smile, and wait for the flash to capture the shell of a person who appears to be having a wonderful time.

Holy Sh… Estimated Taxes… WTF… as a Married Couple

Getting married is wonderful for so many reasons. Taxes is not one of them. Besides the horrific marriage fine levied by our tax lords if you happen to want to be an independent woman and continue working post tying the not, there’s also a whole host of tax intricacies which suddenly make TurboTax no longer a viable option and accountants your new BFF.

My husband is an independent contractor.  He usually makes anywhere between $80k and $110k per year, depending on how business is going. As a single person, he was able to take advantage of safe harbors designed to protect self-employed folks from overpaying taxes to avoid fines for coming short on estimated tax payments.

Safe harbors for estimated taxes for single, self-employed folks basically say that you can either pay 90% of your current year’s eventual tax bill OR 100% of your prior year’s tax bill. As a single person, this is pretty easy to figure out — even if it’s hard to guess what 90% of this year’s tax bill will be, you can pay 100% of your prior year’s tax bill and know you’re safe from fines, even if you end up owing more at the end of the year. If business isn’t going quite as well this year, you’ll get a refund, and you’ll give uncle sam a loan for a while, but it won’t be that bad.

Of course, getting married makes this all sorts of more complicated, requiring expensive accounting help to make sense of this mess.

Estimated tax safe harbor for higher income taxpayers. If your 2016 adjusted gross income was more than $150,000 ($75,000 if you are married filing a separate return), you must pay the smaller of 90% of your expected tax for 2017 or 110% of the tax shown on your 2016 return to avoid an estimated tax penalty.

Thank you IRS for an explanation that is not clear at all. It sounds like if your AGI is over $150k as a single OR married person you are considered a higher income taxpayer. This means Mr. HECC would not have been considered a high income taxpayer as a single person, but now that we’re married we’re well over $150k and he can no longer use the safe harbors for his estimated taxes.

Instead, we have to pay 110% of our 2016 taxes (including my taxes) in order to not get penalized this year. Suddenly, my W2 withholdings are no longer an annoyance of over or underpayment to the government, but they can result in substantial penalties.

So – we need an accountant, stat. I consider myself fairly financially literate and the IRS explanation of all of this is the most confusing thing I’ve ever read.

Are any of you married with one partner earning W2 income and the other self employed? How do you manage your estimated tax payments?