All posts by Joy

Still Shopping For a Home—Will We Ever Buy One?

Nine weeks pregnant with number two. Wide awake at 4am due to some pretty bad nightmares and a moderate amount of dehydration. I would go to the kitchen to get a water bottle but I can’t because I live in a one bedroom apartment my son sleeps in the living room, next to the kitchen.

I feel so ridiculous to consider my problems problems when the real problems in this world and in this country are so, so much worse. Anyone reading my story, especially without context, would think—man, what a crazy rich woman who is afraid of spending money. Maybe I am. Maybe I shouldn’t be. But my mental health issues make it really hard to know what my life will be like in a year let alone a day. So what do I do?

Looking at houses here that are under $2M and you wonder why anyone buys a house. If they cosmetically are acceptable then there is something wrong with their bones, if their bones are in good shape they are three bedrooms in a space only slightly larger than my current one bedroom apartment. With my husband’s mission to have his dad live with us (which I support IF we could find a place that worked), it makes it all the more difficult.

Part of me says — rates are so low right now, now is the time to buy your forever home. It will hurt financially for the first 5-10 years and then not be too bad. But that is if I can maintain employment for 30 years. I cannot imagine doing what I am currently doing for 30 more years. I desperately need a career change. Without a clear vision of what that is or the income on the other side, I really don’t know how to plan at all. And my husband mutters how I make unreasonable requests of him like try to earn $150k in 5 years (he is at about $80k now but works part time, and he is 38.) I try to tell him I don’t care about his income but if we are going to buy a house that changes things. I need to know we can afford the mortgage or at least most of it on one income—mine OR his.

I know many families have one SAH parent and buy a house. But around here the only families like that I know are one engineer households. If you are a good engineer at a good company you are pretty much set for life unless you massively fuck up. I’m not in a position like that. My job is a weird one that in some companies would be considered a junior role and in companies where it is paid anywhere near what I’m making it would require a lot more management experience.

So I am in this weird spot. I am earning more than I ever thought I would and my networth is climbing (it is realistic to think, if I can keep my job, I’ll have $2M in 2-3 years saved up pre tax, unless the stock market crashes) but I still don’t feel at all stable or accomplished. Yes living in the Bay Area is living in lala land — anyone reading this post from anywhere else would say leave! But my husband grew up here, our friends are here, I am better mentally without my typical seasonal depression in most of the country, and we really want to stay.

I just wish my husband would step up a bit. I know he is tired since due to COVID we lost our part time childcare and now he is watching our son all day while also working part time at night or whenever he finds time to do his work. So maybe I am asking for too much. I would like him to take an online class or something—just to move in the direction of building a career. Like my job, his doesn’t really make sense outside of his company. Some skills would translate but since he has worked for one small company his entire 13 year career, it’s harder to show variety or new learnings. I still think he could get a better paid full time job if he tried, but he never has been interested in having a career.

And some days I think—maybe I can just work my way up to VP and consistently earn, say, $300k a year. For others in my position, that might be doable. But I’m no VP. I do not like managing people or hiring or firing people. In my creative field, I find it very difficult to give feedback without redoing the work myself—and even then I don’t like what I’ve done so how am I supposed to guide someone else to do better?

All of this is to say, here I am, 36, pregnant with #2, with a good chunk of change in savings, and I feel more vulnerable and scared than ever. Up until now I’ve lived with no debts. Some of that is due to fortunately having parents who footed my bill for college (and I really want to pay my mother back for that one day!) But I’ve also bought my cars used with cash and live in small apartments that are less than I can afford based on any housing to income cost calculators.

It’s hard to go from NO debt to $1,500,000 in debt.

But isn’t that how wealth is acquired? My friends who 11 years ago paid $800,000 for a small house, probably with $180,000 down, now own a small house valued at $1,700,000. Maybe $2,000,000 in 10 years will sound as cheap as $800,000 sounds now? Though it’s hard to imagine these homes being worth $3M let alone the $2M they are going for today.

On top of all this, I dislike the real estate business as a whole. Sure, if you know what you are doing and buy the right investment properties you can do very well for yourself. But when you are buying a home for yourself, you are in it on your own while all the people who are supposed to help you don’t really have your back —

your lender — well they want you to be as low risk as possible and any small risk they say you have gives them a reason to charge you more for it. This makes sense for actual risks — but my latest finding from one lender is that we qualified for 3.125% 30 year fixed except when they realized my husband is self employed it jumped to 3.85% (clearly they don’t care that my husband has worked for the same one non profit for the past 13 years and has always made the same annual income with them plus raises while in that same time I’ve had six jobs. Whose income is more stable???)

Then, since you can’t do contingencies in the Bay Area if you want to buy a house, you apparently have to risk 3% of the price of the house (your “earnest money deposit”) and pray to god your loan closes in the allowable amount of time. If not, bye bye $30k! Well, none of these lenders are giving me much confidence our loan will close with no hiccups. With my husband’s self employment status and some new rules around that, not only will our rates be higher, they also will need to see some crazy things like a deposit within 10 days of close. Maybe that makes sense for someone with ongoing business income, but my husband gets paid four times a year for each quarter of work. That is not a big deal—to hold a check and deposit it, but only one lender told me this. What other weird rules will pop up during our closing process that we don’t know about?

your realtor — she drives a nice car, always. And she is an extrovert and smiles and sells you on why to buy a house. She may look at the disclosures and warn you of major risks, but she isn’t really an expert on that stuff, that’s what inspectors are for. But you don’t need an inspector to see that this house built 60+ years ago has issues. There are tiny cracks here and there. The floor is uneven. A tree looks like it’s roots might be going under the house. Everything creeks when you walk upstairs. The layout is nonsensical which is a cosmetic issue but still will you regret having to walk a weird way to get around for the hundredth time? What other issues are lurking in the foundation and in the walls?

The sellers, at least here, pay for their own inspections. I’ve read plenty of reports. Termites. Water damage. Fungus. Liquefaction zones. Flood zones. Seismic hazard zones. Environmental hazard zones. The list goes on. In any area where we are considering a $1.8M home (that will probably go $2.1M anyway) the ground water apparently is 0-10ft deep. That’s not in the inspection report, I found that online! But two “tanks” with one leaking(?) is in the report. What does that mean? My realtor said she would be comfortable with that risk. But we don’t know what’s leaking.

I’d feel so much better buying a 3/2 for under $1.4M. If it turns out to need work we would have the money to do that work. Husband refuses, wants a large home on a large lot with an in law where his 76 year old dad (who can pay $2000 a month until he goes into assisted living) can live. I want that too—but without me knowing I can maintain a mid-senior role in public tech companies every month for the next 30 years, well, that seems like a horrid idea.

your inspector — ok, they are going to try to find issues to help you out (that is their job after all) but given no inspection contingency is allowed in most cases, you won’t actually have your own inspector.

Ok, so maybe we should rent-forever. It is difficult to find rentals I want to live in (at a reasonable cost) and I can’t fight the nagging feeling that if we don’t buy now we will be priced out forever. I certainly know most people would recommend we rent for a few years then move to an area with a lower cost of living. But we really plan to stay here forever. At some point, into the far off future, buying becomes a better financial Option than renting. Emotionally, it is a better option day one.

The reality is that houses that really check all the boxes are around $2M-$2.5M. Y’all think I’m crazy but look at Bay Area listings on the Peninsula and in the nicer areas of San Jose. Can we get a house for less than that? Of course. It’s even possible to get a dump for $1M! But if we get what we want — 1800 sq ft, 4br/2ba with an in law or ADU on 7000 sq ft in actual good shape, in a half decent school district, that’s easily $2.2M. So then I question should we just wait until we can afford $2.2M? Will we ever be able to afford that? And by then I won’t that house be $3M and the mortgage rates will have gone up?

i know I know first world rich people problems. But most rich people have either trust funds or faith in their career and ability and skills and value, and often two parents who are earning a good income. What do I have? A few crazy good years of income thanks to RSU growth then back to earning $150k a year, if that?

I feel like I can’t buy a house until I figure out my career but at 36 that now seems like it’s never going to happen. I want my son and tbd child 2 to grow up in a house. It isn’t necessary, it is a want. But when I’m making $600k a year (what I will likely earn this year if I keep my job which is absolutely insane) I feel so confused about how I should think about my “class,” my risk tolerance, and my home purchase price. A few more years at this income and I can afford that $1.8M house. Heck, I can afford that $2.2M house. But in 2 years my income drops to $300k, then $210k, as my stock isn’t being refreshed enough since I am not a very valuable employee. I should get some small stick refresh this year so I’ll probably hover around $210k if I stay in this company in this role forever (last year I got a 1.7% raise so I’m not expecting any big salary growth here.) $210k isn’t bad either, but with my husband’s $80k that is not enough to afford $2.2M or $1.8M.

AND that $210k is IF i keep this job forever. It is good for now—I am going to stay at least to get all of my initial grant as long as I don’t get fired or let go, and maybe one more year, but then I need a change. Maybe I need to make $80k for a few years (or less) while I figure things out. Maybe I need to go back to school. Maybe I want to take some time off to spend with my kids while they are young and consult part time, I don’t know what I want but I know I don’t want to overbuy and close doors to whatever out there could make me happy, if such a career exists.

So this is where I am. We’ve agreed it we don’t buy a house by October we will rent a bigger place for a while. We are considering putting a $1.8M offer in on this 5br listed at $1.875, which I am fairly confident we wouldn’t get. I’d prefer to lose out on a bunch of bids then overpay. The house is far from my current job but I won’t have to go back to the office this year and in 3 years I can change jobs. But it’s also far from SF which most jobs I’m qualified for are. If I change careers, maybe that doesn’t matter. But it’s scary to think I might get stuck with some crazy San Jose to SF commute one day to not lose our house.

we are looking at another two coming up—not as nice, both $1.8-$2M, both with built in laws. The inspection report on one was pretty scary though most old buildings have issues so who knows.

I wonder at what networth I will be able to relax a bit and enjoy life. I have the $5M number in my head. It’s arbitrary, as all my numbers are, but I think that’s it. That’s enough for a $2.5M basic house and enough to stay in the stock market and grow as long as we keep working and at least pay our living expenses each year. That’s enough to pay my mother back for college and my wedding and help my sister out a bit if she is still earning minimum wage or close to it. And to start giving to charity in substantial ways. I mean, $10M sounds better, but more realistically I want to aim for $5M. I guess that’s my FAT FIRE number. I don’t know how I’ll get there (unless I manage to keep getting jobs at rocketship companies where my RSUs go up in value.) I mean, realistically I’m looking at $2M by 38 or so. If I don’t touch that and get 5% on it YoY, in 20 years we will have $5M. Of course, in 20 years $5M won’t be worth $5M today. The real question is how do I get to $5M by 45? That’s saving about $400k a year for 8 years in a mix of interest, stock growth, and new earnings. It seems impossible. But my first $100k also seemed impossible. So maybe it is possible. Maybe it’s only possible if I buy a house. Maybe it’s only possible if I don’t.

 

 

 

Figuring Out How Much House We Can Afford with RSUs

We are going to buy a house. It is not the most financially wise decision, but life isn’t about always being financially wise–sometimes you have to splurge (within reason) and take risks. I accept that buying a house will reduce our total networth in the future, and I’m ok with that. After all, what is the point of making money if you can’t enjoy it, and what would I enjoy more than having a home of my own to raise my kids in? Sure I’d love to take lots of international trips and such, but with a toddler and one on the way (and maybe one more in 2-3 years), that’s not happening for a while. My house will be my Paris and Prague and Tokyo.

But one thing has been very difficult to figure out — how much we can afford. All home buying calculators assume you have a fairly consistent income that goes up by a consistent percentage every year. That isn’t reality for us. There are many ways to figure out how much you can afford, but one model that I’ve decided I like is 28% of pre-tax income (I’d prefer to do post-tax but if I do that I’ll never afford a home here.)

I worked out the chart below, which shows potential annual income (pre tax) with the amount of mortgage (PITI total) we can afford per month (on the right) and then on the let, I have the house price and the total amount of PITI with a 3.5% 30 year fixed loan. Our goal would be to afford a $1.7M home with an in-law, where my father-in-law would pay some rent. This means based on the chart below we need to make $320,000 per year, consistently, to afford a home at this price point. (*my insurance estimates are probably way off but I tried to figure out what home insurance would cost in California with earthquake insurance tacked on — if these numbers look wrong please let me know in a comment.)

Total Year Total Month Mortgage Max (28%) Total Monthly House Price Mortgage (3.5) Taxes Insurance Earthquake
$210,000 $17,500 $4,900 $4,872 $1,000,000 $3,412 $933 $167 $360
$255,000 $21,250 $5,950 $5,957 $1,200,000 $4,310 $1,120 $167 $360
$300,000 $25,000 $7,000 $6,862 $1,400,000 $5,029 $1,307 $167 $360
$320,000 $26,667 $7,467 $7,767 $1,600,000 $5,747 $1,493 $167 $360
$400,000 $33,333 $9,333 $9,936 $2,000,000 $7,543 $1,867 $167 $360
$500,000 $41,667 $11,667 $11,381 $2,200,000 $8,801 $2,053 $167 $360

 

Right now, I’m earning $170,000 in base income, and my husband makes $85,000. Based on our minimum income, that gets us to $1.2M of house… which isn’t enough here. To get to that $1.6M target (which is still a small house and a fixer upper), we need $320k in annual income. So either I need to consistently make $235k, or my husband needs to increase his income, or some combination of both.

What the above does not account for is that my annual bonus is $34,000. I have no idea if I will get a bonus this year or how much of it I will get. I have received my full bonus every year for the past 3 years BUT there is no guarantee I will receive a bonus in the future, or that future jobs will pay such a sizable amount in bonus. I’m not sure if I should include my bonus in my calculations or not. I’d rather not, because a bonus is nice to have for an extra vacation or gift for the kids vs worked into our planned home expenses. It would be nice if my base was $200k, so I could actually include that in the calculations. If I could get my base to $200k and my husband could figure out how to make $120k, we’d be in pretty good shape.

In addition to the base and bonus, I also receive a large amount of my income in RSUs. My refreshes have not been great, though. And if I lose my job, then I will not be able to obtain the same amount in RSU.

When I joined my company, my total compensation was as follows:

  • $165k (base)
  • $33 (bonus)
  • $56k (RSU/yr for 4 years) (*currently worth ~$350k+/yr)
  • TOTAL = ~$254k

My current compensation once I fully vest my first grant is:

  • $170k (base)
  • $34k (bonus)
  • $12k (RSU/yr)
  • TOTAL = $216k

So, that’s good, with bonus and RSU I’m still getting close to the $235k I need to make to afford a $1.6M home, but not quite, and that’s including bonus and RSU which are all variable.

What’s scarier is that if I lose this job, I have no idea if I will be able to do better than $150k salary with no bonus or RSU (I feel fairly confident I can find a job with $150k salary since before I started this job I had a few offers for that amount at startups that I turned down as they were way too low.) So do I base my home purchase off of $150k (me) + $85k (husband) = $235k/yr of income? Then we a afford a $1M house… so we can’t afford any house here and we’ll just continue renting. However, with my RSU growth, my income this year and next year are very high, and it “feels” like I should be able to afford more house. But can I?

Top 10 Personal Finance Quotes

While personal finance lessons are taught in more than a handful of words, sometimes it’s nice to have quotes to inspire us to save more, spend more wisely, and make strategic–not stupid–investing decisions. Here are 10 great personal finance quotes to help us get to our next goal, whether that’s paying off a credit card debt, saving our first $1,000, or saving $1M.

  1. “I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.” — Warren Buffett
  2. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” — Epictetus
  3. “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” — Seneca
  4. “It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” – Robert Kiyosaki
  5. “Know what you own, and know why you own it.” – Peter Lynch
  6. “Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.” – Paul Samuelson
  7. “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” – Maya Angelou
  8. “When I look at my savings account, I don’t see pounds and pence, I see freedom.” – Merryn Somerset Webb
  9. “Smart women figure out what, exactly, makes them happiest. They spend generously on those things but cut out the rest.” – Laura Vanderkam
  10. “Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.” ? Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich

What are your favorite personal finance quotes? Post your top quotes, or write your own, in the comments below.

The Best Personal Finance Excel Template — a @TillerMoney Review

Anyone who has been following my blog for years knows I’m a die-hard Mint fan. But since it was acquired by Intuit the tool has stopped innovating, leaving much to be desired. I looked for another solution, thinking there must be something better out there after all these years of personal finance tech.

After briefly considering buying Quicken, I found TillerHQ, a newer personal finance software tool that basically auto imports all your account data into a google spreadsheet. While it’s lacking investment tracking features, it does a good job of supporting annual budgeting — something Mint does not enable. It also makes it easy to see predicted cashflow per month and plan for the year ahead, which is a great feature now that I need to think annually for my family instead of one month at a time.

It does require a bit more hands on work to set it up the way you want… while Mint makes it easy to auto categorize certain spending, the Tiller tool takes a little while to get used to. But I appreciate the customization and flexibility of the tool, as well as the pretty graphs that make me feel much more sophisticated in my personal finance planning.

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 11.13.46 PM

I think this is the best personal finance excel template. Granted, it’s not free. They have a free trial but it will cost you $60 a year. I’m a little concerned about their stability as a company–they only have 2000 followers on twitter and seem to be a bit of a small startup–so I keep my Mint.com account up to date as well (why not, it’s free.) The good news is that Tiller just imports all my data to my own google spreadsheets, so even if THEY shut down, the data won’t disappear (google would have to shut down for that to happen.)

They claim they have tools for budgeting, taxes, spending tracking, and collaboration with your spouse or a financial planner. They do not claim to have robust financial planning software like a Personal Capital or an expensive finance tool licensed by CFPs. I’d like to see them invest more in financial planning modeling and investment support, but right now they are a great tool for helping me budget and track my spending each month and for the year ahead. I love how easy it is to make a budget for each month of the year, and auto set every month as the same amount, but then customize each month if needed (i.e. if my travel budget is a lot higher in November than in October.)

What are your favorite personal finance excel templates and products? Have you tried TillerHQ?

 

 

Why Black Lives Matter and the Racial Wealth Gap

Yes, this is a personal finance blog. And yes, this is a post about racism and the horrific treatment of the black community. I’m white. And I won’t claim to be the most woke white person on the block. But I know injustice when I see it. Systemic racism is real. It’s a big deal.

This post is not about looters or rioters or social unrest. This is about what has led us here. This is a post about how today a quarter of all black households would have less than $5 if they liquidated all of their financial assets (source.) White families, on the other hand, could turn to liquid assets such as stocks or bonds or other savings. The median white household had a wealth that totaled more than $140,000, while black Americans had $11,000.

Why do I have the money I have saved up?

  1. I grew up in a middle class town with access to a good public education and extracurriculars.
  2. I never had to worry about being hungry or my parents not having money to pay the bills each month.
  3. My parents were able to save enough to put me through college without loans.
  4. My parents were able to purchase a home in a nice middle class neighborhood with a regular loan and move in with mostly other white middle class families which made the value of the neighborhood go up over time.

Aren’t there poor white people too?

Yes, there are poor white people. That’s an issue as well. There are areas where white people (and people of all colors) do not have access to clean water or a good education. Talking about black systemic racism does not mean that these other issues aren’t issues. We can talk about them separately. We can focus on them one at a time and understand why the problem exists in the first place and then work together to fix them.

“Once in the middle class, it’s harder for African American’s to stay there. More than half of African Americans raised in the middle quintile fall out of the middle as adults, compared to a third of whites.”

The long history of redlining in this country is a huge part of the problem. Decades after the formal end of redlining, blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be homeowners than their white counterparts. While homeownership is not the only way to wealth or the best way to wealth, the reality is the most people do not know how to save or invest their money otherwise. Home owners are forced to save over the years, and they also see their initial downpayment increase in value as their home grows in value over time.

You know what’s fucked up?

Research shows that property values start to decline when a neighborhood becomes populated by 10 percent black residents (source.)

Black young adults are more likely to owe on student loans (44 percent) compared to white young adults (35 percent.)

Today African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of average white incomes. But African-American wealth is about 5 percent of white wealth.

African American families were prohibited from buying homes in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, but the Federal Housing Administration weren’t able to gain equity. So, now, just 60-80 years later, just 2 generation’s later, unsurprisingly we see a whole lot of inequality in wealth building when you look at the black people  vs the white people.

My grandparents were poor first or second generation immigrant families. My mother’s parents never purchased property. She was able to move up in economic class by marrying my father. He came from a lower middle class family as well, a large working class family. But that family was able to purchase a house and send their kids to a good public school which got most of them into college where they obtained good jobs and were able to then get loans for their own houses in the suburbs and continue to move up economically. Now, I am able to do the same. This is a privilege.

Today, not only are we still segregated, we have extreme gaps in poverty and education opportunities. Yes, some kids from lower income areas are able to overcome adversity and end up at Harvard or Yale or Stanford with a well-deserved scholarship. These kids are the outliers. Most don’t even graduate high school. If I went to the schools they go to, I doubt I would have graduated high school.

Students of color in the largest 100 cities are more likely to attend schools where most of their peers are poor or low-income (source.)  Local property taxes pay for schools, and when local property taxes are low, so are the funds to pay for a decent education.

Researchers have found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.

Sadly, when you have a situation like this that feels inescapable, when you have communities held back by the racism that has torn apart their people for generations (I haven’t even mentioned a little thing called slavery which we had here in the US not that long ago) you end up with people who feel stuck and seek other ways to escape. There are criminals of all colors and at all ends of the class spectrum (plenty on Wall Street) but the ones that are punished the most by our police and legal system are those who have no way to support their own cases. Black men are sentenced to more time for the same crimes compared to white men (source.) This is not to say that we should not prosecute criminals, but we need fair and equal treatment regardless of skin color.

Black men constitute 6 percent of the US adult population but are approximately 35 percent of the prison population and are incarcerated at a rate six times that of white males.

In federal courts, the average sentence during 2008 and 2009 was 55 months for whites and 90 months for blacks.

Then, we have events like what we’ve witnessed these past weeks:

George Floyd –– whether or not he tried to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes is irrelevant. He was murdered by 4 police officers for maybe using a fake $20 bill. Really? What kind of justice is that? They murdered him in broad daylight. Many of us have seen the video. He called out for his mother. It is heartbreaking. Many other black men and women have died at the hands of police without being documented on video. We have a major problem with our police system. I support the police and think there are good cops but there are many bad ones and there needs to be psychological testing and training and misconduct reviews and firings to stop this mistreatment and murder.

Breonna Taylor — a bright young 26 year old EMT, who was in her own apartment when the cops came busting in, in the middle of the night, with a no knock warrant for someone who didn’t live there. Her boyfriend thought they were robbers, he shot at them in the confusion, they shot back and shot Breonna 8 times. She died. The cops have not been arrested.

Ahmaud Arbery — a 25 year old black man went jogging to get some exercise one beautiful day in Georgia and three white guys chased him down and murdered him. They were not arrested immediately because they claimed self defense and said he matched the profile of a robber in their neighborhood. They hit him with a truck and then shot him point blank.

This is the story of George, Brenna, and Ahmaud. It is also the story of every black man and woman who have to live their life in fear because us white people are too scared to get a little uncomfortable and admit there is a problem. A big problem. The system is set up to protect us. Yes, there are horrible cops who will be assholes to people of all colors. But the numbers don’t lie. Black people are the target of more police brutality and violence than any other race.

Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed 7,666 people, according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. Once these figures are adjusted for the population size and demographics, in nearly every state, African Americans face a significantly higher risk of being killed by police officers than white Americans (source.)

So what can we do? I’m asking myself that everyday. I don’t know the answer. I post articles like this, because it’s important to educate ourselves. I’m looking into organizations to donate to, like CampaignZero, to fight a lack of police oversight. I’m having conversations with every person who will listen. There’s so much more to do, but this is a start. This isn’t a democrat vs republican issue. This is a human rights issue. This is an American issue. And everyone deserves the same opportunities and same freedoms and same protection from police as everyone else. That isn’t how things work today. And we have to do something to change that.

Have an idea how we can make a difference? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

How I Grew My Networth from $15k to $1M in 15 Years

In 2005, I had about $5k to my name. By 2010, I had increased that amount to $88k while living in high cost of living (HCOL) area and earning an average salary of $56k for those first years out of college. Five years later, my networth hit a respectable $342.4k. I kept working at startups with decent-but-not-great pay (stock options are worthless) and lived relatively frugally over the years.

By 2017, I achieved my first goal of $500k — a bit milestone, as I wanted to have $500k in the bank before having my first child–and I made it! Thanks to finally switching to work in a public company (and that company performing stronger than the market), I’ve been able to dramatically increase my networth in a short amount of time… doubling it in under 2 years. I haven’t really spent time to appreciate that I actually doubled my networth in two years.

Do I think anyone can do this? No. I got lucky. Some of this lucky has to do with my working at a lot of different startups and building up a reputation for being good at one thing that ultimately got me the job I have now. Will I continue to make such a high salary? No — probably not. My income is largely dependent on my RSUs and after I vest the remaining two years of stock, I’ll be back to a lower (but still good) salary. I’ll need to leave my company and find a new job for a chance at making close to the same income. Hopefully by then my experience at this company will get me the ticket in the door at another company that pays well and will offer me a good compensation package.

I know a lot of people look at my income now and think–well, I’ll never make that much. And that’s probably true if you work in a different industry that doesn’t offer RSUs as part of your compensation package and you aren’t a highly skilled employee. But you can see you can still save quite a bit on a lower salary in your 20s if you are single and don’t have kids. Now, I admit I did not have college loans to pay pack (thanks to mom & dad) so you can fairly say that my total networth should be about $200k less than is now, or even less than that since I would have lost out on compound interest repaying a loan. So comparably to others who have loans, my networth today is about $800k and by the end of this year will be $1M or more.

I still have a long way to go to achieve my goals. I want to get to $2M before having my third child (whether or not I have a third child is dependent on achieving this milestone by the time I’m 38 or 39) and I want to buy a $1.7M house. Below, you can see my income, networth, and YoY growth for the last 15 years. I plan to continue tracking this for the rest of my career — subscribe to my blog to get updates and learn more about my path towards wealth. If it inspires you to save a little more each month — awesome! Remember, I live in a 800 square foot apartment with my 22 month old and husband and drive a used car built in 2011.

Year Income Networth $ Growth % Growth
2005 $15k n/a n/a n/a
2006 $35k n/a n/a n/a
2007 $50k $24.9k n/a n/a
2008 $60k $15.8k -$9.1k -37%
2009 $60k $32.7k  $16.9k 206%
2010 $120k $88.6k $55.9k 270%
2011 $90k $145k $56.4k 64%
2012 $100k $200k $55k 38%
2013 $110k $253k $53k 26%
2014 $125k $299.5k $46.5k 18%
2015 $160k $342.4k $42.9k 14%
2016 $190k $416k $73.6k 22%
2017 $130k $551.3k $135.3k 32%
 2018  $300k  $625k  $73.7k  13.3%
 2019  $400k  $1.05M  $425k  99.83%
 2020  $500k $1.3M Goal  $250k goal  23% goal

Am I Having Another Baby?

Given it took months and $5000 of fertility treatments to conceive our first child, I was momentarily bewildered by a very faint pink line on a cheap-o pregnancy test I took two weeks after our first month trying for number two. I joked to myself, as I do, that of course my previously infertile PCOS-ridden womb would get pregnant the first month we tried. I’d be taking the test on Mother’s Day weekend, so it was only appropriate to find out that I was to become a mom – again.

I had taken a test two days prior and it was negative, but I figured I’d waste another cheap-o test and move on with my life. I was convinced that it was impossible to have conceived this month anyway, since my husband and I missed the time in the month I thought I was fertile. But then, as I blurred my eyes at the test, I saw not one, but two lines. I blinked. I waved the strip in the air. I walked away and came back. I took a picture of the strip and sent it to a close friend who knew I was hoping to get pregnant by fall. She responded, “you’re pregnant.”

I dug through my drawer of random things I never used and pulled out the more pricey early response tests I saved for when I might actually be pregnant. Took one. The positive line came back dark pink. “I’m pregnant.” My friend, with one more photo to document proof, confirmed.

Suddenly, my next year flashed before my eyes. I had imagined it all, but not quite so so soon. And with the coronavirus, everything became much more difficult and scary (I was aware of the pandemic when we were trying and decided at 36 with fertility problems and the hope to have at least one if not two more kids, we should get on with it — I figured we’d probably get pregnant in a few months and I’d be giving birth in spring 2021, maybe around the time a vaccine would be available–not exactly January 2021, in the middle of what could be a bad second or third wave.)

So the next year blur — a stomach growing bigger and bigger, being unable to sleep well and having all the horrible third trimester symptoms, not being able to travel to see my mother or sister or visit my childhood home that needs to be sold, the worst possible ways one might have to deliver with COVID-19 around–laboring with a mask and with full-blown corona symptoms unable to breathe, and then just the reality of now having 9 months to move from our one bedroom apartment (a needed impetus to stop being so frugal and get more space), I sat there and took in the reality of what this little pink line meant.

And despite all that worry, I felt really happy. I pictured my son, not able to interact with any other kids these days, having a sibling to grow up with. He has no cousins, and it’s unlikely he will have cousins (my sister is our only hope and if she does have kids it won’t be for quite a number of years), and I want to give him a family (this is also why I want 3 kids even though that’s kind of crazy… we’ll see how I do with two.) I pictured my kids growing up together and fighting and laughing and having fun and being silly.

I went to get my son out of his crib and he was the first to hear the news, and he kept my secret all day. We often jokingly ask him if he wants a brother and he exclaims “or sister!” so I asked him again and told him there is a baby in my stomach. He’s 22 months old so he isn’t going to understand but I made a cute video of telling him and planned to show it to my husband at some point. I knew he would be quite surprised.

That evening, as he was putting my son to bed, I sent him the video and told him I took a cute video of our son but it was too big to upload to instagram. I videoed him watching it. At the beginning I go “do you want a brother?” and so on. My husband, watching the video clueless looks at me and says “it’s a good thing you didn’t post this to instagram, people will think you’re pregnant” (classic) — a few seconds later, when the video reveals me handing a positive pregnancy test to my son as his “present” my husband figured out that he was right about one thing… people will think I’m pregnant.

But over the last weeks, I’ve had some reasons to think that this baby won’t stick. I won’t go into details, but I ended up having an early ultrasound and with only a gestational sac and a yolk sac seen, it’s possible the baby isn’t growing and isn’t viable. It’s also possible I’m just earlier than they think (which I know is true at least somewhat) and we just need to wait and try again in a few weeks. So I’m in wait mode now. I have another appointment on June 15 and will find out if there is a baby or I’ll have to make a horrible choice between getting a D&C, taking a pill to miscarry, or waiting for my body to handle it naturally. I’m hoping I don’t have to make that decision, but accept hat may be the case. I’m 36 now, and it’s just more likely that anytime I get pregnant we’ll hit a bad egg. I’m trying to tell myself that it’s good news either way–I’ve proven I can now get pregnant without fertility treatment, and I should be able to again. And if I am actually pregnant, well, that’s terrifying but amazing and I really can’t wait to have a baby again and grow my family and continue building the life I want.

I successfully achieved having $1M before baby #1 and I wanted $1.5M before baby #2 and I should get there, adding in my husband’s savings. And $2M before baby #3, if there is to be a baby #3, also seems possible. My personal capital account, which shows our pre-tax networth, is at about $1.4M right now. That seems insane to me, as I still remember looking at my mint account with about $10k to my name, wondering how on earth I’d ever save $100k. I have a good $350k sitting in cash for a downpayment (and soon will have another $50k more thanks to some strong performing company stock vesting soon) so everything is really just working out… somehow.

Why is it I still feel so out of control though… afraid to purchase a home… afraid to make any commitments or live slightly less frugally? I really want a home. I want a reasonably nice home, which seems to cost like $2M in the Bay Area, but I’m willing to settle for something a little cheaper, like $1.7M (sigh) and handle a house that isn’t perfect but that is a place to call our own… a place to make our memories. It’s time to leave this 800 square foot apartment and move on with our lives. I’ll miss it, but I won’t miss it that much. Not if we have a home of our own.

At this point, I’m waiting until my appointment next week to see how much we need to rush the moving situation. If there is no baby, then we have a little more time. If there is a baby, then we have less than nine months to move. Even if we wanted to, we can’t legally stay in a one bedroom with two kids. So here we are, family of 3 maybe about to become a family of 4, in the middle of a pandemic, having to buy a house and move and set up our life and figure out if we move south to have a little more house for our money or stay in the area we want to live and have a lot less house or who knows. I realize financially renting makes way more sense but I’m at this point where I feel like what is the point if we don’t have a home to put down our roots in… and a sense of stability and a place that is ours. I’ve saved $1.2M on my own and I know that’s not enough to really buy a house here… but on the other hand, having all that invested in the stock market is risky too and while it will probably perform well over time, why avoid buying the one thing I really want just to have a big number in the bank?

I hope I am pregnant and I hope this forces us to move and find a house and meet our neighbors and be grown ups and grow up. Life is so short and I can’t believe I’m almost 37 and really almost 40. I thought I’d be a lot more settled by this age, but I do think that my 40 I want to have some serious domestic accomplishments, not just financial ones. And I hope that when travel is possible again I can have a guest room for my mother and sister to come visit. I hope I can have a yard to have friends over and sit around a fire pit and maybe eventually buy myself a hot tub though that will probably never happen but it’s a thought. And a garage where I can store my bike and some other things so my living room doesn’t have to be my storage room and my living room and my son’s room with his crib and toys and slide and rocking horse. And my bedroom doesn’t also have to be my husband’s office.

I guess I’m tired of making smart financial decisions and want to make ones that make my life better now. I know I’m so fortunate to be where I am and have what I have. With all that is going on in the world right now, especially the injustices against the black community, I feel guilty being concerned with any of this mundane life stuff. But life still goes on, even as the world needs a big kick in the ass and a whole lot of fixing. I’d like to figure out how to contribute to fixing the world too, but I think part of that comes with my settling down and not having to spend a lot of my energy thinking about “what’s next” and instead focus on stability in my own life and how I can then give back to the world.

Anyway, lots going on right now. I very well may not be pregnant… but I could be. If I was 5w6d at my prior appointment, or even 6 weeks (which I think I was), then maybe it was just too early to see the fetal pole and heartbeat. Or maybe the doctor I saw (not my normal doctor) rushed the appointment and didn’t spend enough time looking because she knew if she found it or didn’t, it didn’t really matter at this point… she was just confirming the pregnancy was not ectopic, which it wasn’t. She did say maybe it’s just earlier than we think and gave me a glimmer of hope pointing to a little speck on the screen saying “maybe something is growing there” so there’s nothing I can do but wait.

…And even if my next appointment, where I think I’ll be 8 weeks and some-odd days, shows a healthy embryo and heartbeat, I can still miscarry at any time or have other complications before a healthy baby is actually born. So I don’t want to get my hopes up. My last pregnancy was relatively smooth, but my childbirth was not. I am trying to just have not expectations here other than hoping that I remain healthy and safe through whatever happens. And that maybe all of this leads to purchasing our home and really starting our life as a family together–I realize that owning a home is not a requirement to do that, but it still feels like something that needs to happen before I feel like I’ve made it as an adult.

 

Should We Buy a Home or Rent a Home in the Bay Area?

East Bay. North Bay. South Bay. Peninsula (Bay). So many–unaffordable–options where to live!

Sane people would take this pandemic situation and pack their bags and head to any reasonably blue part of the country that doesn’t cost $1000 per square foot.

But we’re crazy and want to stay. And there is no reasonable way to calculate how much house we can afford because our income is SO variable. This year we might make $700k (yes that’s crazy and like double our best year ever)! Two years from now, we might be lucky if we make $200k. How on earth do we figure out what we can afford?

28% of Lowest Income Earner After Tax
The safest way to figure out how much you can afford is to plan on spending 28% of the lowest income earner’s income after tax. My husband makes $90,000 but since that doesn’t include benefits I’m going to say that’s $75,000. If we as a family made $90,000, our taxes would be lower. That would be $7500 a month pre tax or maybe $6000 after tax. We could afford $1680 on rent or mortgage per month.

Well, that’s not going to work… we’re already spending too much at $2600 per month on renting our one bedroom. I guess we can’t plan based on this conservative model.

28% of dual income assuming minimum earning potential
If I assume my husband can keep his $90k a year job even and I can manage to make $150k on average, that gets us to $240k a year. I think I can probably make more than $150k but I don’t feel comfortable committing to more than that (my base is now $170k.) So At $240k a year that’s $20k a month pre-tax, or $10k after tax. So we should spend $2800 on housing a month.

That’s about what we spend now. :/

36% pre-tax dual income minimum earning potential
Same numbers as above, but I’ve read some more risky plans suggest 36% of pre-tax income. That gets us to $3600–still not going to buy us a house in the Bay Area!

Ok, so none of these models work. So how do we figure out what we can really afford?

  • Downpayment & Emergency Fund: $380k
  • Pre-Tax Taxable: $197k ($98k after tax)
  • Taxable Accounts: $294k ($205k after tax)
  • Retirement Accounts Pre Tax: $346.5k ($242k after tax)
  • Retirement Accounts Post Tax: $70k
  • 529 College Fund: $52k
  • TOTAL NETWORTH AFTER TAX = $1M
  • Potential earnings next 1.5 years = $710k pre-tax ($355 post tax) + ~$100k savings from bonus and income (if we stay in our current apartment)
  • TOTAL NETWORTH AFTER TAX IN 1.5 years = ~$1.45M

So if I can maintain employment until January 2022, and my husband keeps his job, and the stock market doesn’t totally tank (which it could) we will have about $1.45M after tax, with $1M of that being in non-retirement and non-529 accounts (or maybe little less if we put more into 529 which we probably will.)

So let’s say in 1.5 years we have $1M in cash and after-tax taxable funds. But our income ratios say we cannot afford a home that costs more than $2800 a month.

Do we put down a large downpayment?

One way to reduce the monthly cost of a home is to put down a giant downpayment. Do we wait until we put down 50% or more on a $1.7M home? Does that work…

$1.7M home
55% downpayment = $935k!
$3875 monthly payment

Ok, so we put down almost $1M and we still have a $3875 monthly payment, which according to above calculations is still more than we should be spending on a mortgage based on our income!!!

And I don’t think we should $1M into a house probably, but it seems to be the only way to get our monthly costs down to something within a reasonable range.

How does anyone afford a house here?

Even though my income is good now, I cannot assume this will go on forever. I already know I need to change jobs in two years to get another stock grant, and it’s highly unlikely my next job will see growth at the same rate my current company has over my tenure here. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of this growth, but that’s not the reality of my future jobs. I already want to take on less stressful roles so I can actually see my children grow up. This shelter in place situation has made me realize just how important that is.

Before you say WHY DON’T YOU LEAVE THE BAY AREA just know that my husband refuses to. I don’t WANT to but every time I run these numbers I think what we need to do is rent here for another 1.5 years so I can vest my stock and then we need to GTFO of this HCOL area and live a slower, better life somewhere else. We’ve talked about moving to maybe Seattle, but I’m not a fan of the Pacific Northwest. I’m not sure where we’d move. He likes rain and grey skies, I like sun and heat. I like oceans. He likes being close to the Bay Area because his family is here. My family is in PA and FL. I feel comfortable with the job situation here–I don’t know if I could get a job or have job stability elsewhere. Maybe New York. I’d move to New York, not sure he would.

So we’re kind of stuck in this dilemma. I want to buy a house because to me that feels like I’ve made it. I want to settle down and meet the neighbors and really feel like we have a place for our kids to grow up. It also feels so not worth being in a career I don’t love and being so stressed (though less so not having to go into the office) and making $600k a year right now to not be able to afford a house because that $600k is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. And I know I sound like I should be thrown in the looney bin because $600k is a fucking lot of money–especially when a huge chunk of the country isn’t even getting a paycheck right now. I know it. It doesn’t change the math. We can’t afford a house. Not here. Not if we’re being remotely risk averse about it.

It is more challenging in that my husband is requiring us to live with his father-in-law. His father-in-law does provide part-time childcare, so I am supportive of this–and he can contribute to the monthly mortgage–but it makes it even harder to find a house that  is within the ballpark of reasonable for our projected income levels. I can’t expect my husband to get raises as he never asks for them. I got a shitty 1.7% raise last year so I’m just estimating I’ll stay flat for the foreseeable future, esp given the state the world is in today. We really need to find a $1.5M house with an ADU and put 50% down ($750,000) and then his father can contribute $2k a month and we’d be ok.

I don’t know what to do. I feel like until I have $5M in networth, I won’t feel like we’re in a good place to buy a house. But with one toddler and a kid on the way, I feel like it’s the right time to buy. What do we do?

Saving for a Two Million Dollar Networth by March 2022

Life has been busy these days. I’ve been busy saving 2 million dollars. Well, not yet. But I’m shockingly well on the way to a family networth of $2M before I turn 40. This number seems ridiciously large AND small at the same time. It’s obviously large. If $1M seemed large, $2M seems much larger. It is an amount many people would consider “rich” — although not in the Bay Area.

I also don’t really consider my networth close to $2M, since I actually track everything on a post-tax basis. I map my investments to an allocation plan that my former CFP provided. I also have a chunk in cash (not seen below) because that’s for the downpayment of the house I will be buying soon (hopefully, house TBD.)

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 7.48.24 AM

The orange are areas where I’m underinvested. I’m quite over in large cap but that’s because of my probably too high concentration in company stock. My company has performed quite well (so well that I do kick myself for selling my RSUs at a fraction of the price it is today.) I’m glad I held on to a good chunk of my ESPPs (for now) as it is unwise to do this financially speaking (you get a discount up front you’re supposed to sell immediately and not take a risk on that money) but I decided to hold a little under 1000 shares and it definitely is helping get me closer to achieving my goal. I still have a significant chunk of RSUs and ESPP coming in the next two years… so that’s where I’m estimating my family will achieve $2M PRE TAX by the time I’m 38. Maybe we’ll get there post tax by the time I’m 40.

Do I feel rich? NO. But I do feel INCREDIBLY LUCKY to have a job that pays well, let alone a job at all right now. It feels weird and I’m looking for ways to give back. I donated $100 to a local food bank but that’s not enough, so I’m considering how to give more while also still staying on track to our goals. My donation plan was always to save as much during life, invest well, and then in your will put a % of your savings towards charity. That way if times get tough later in life you have the money if you need it, but you still have a plan to give back to the world. But right now the world clearly needs it, and I’m overwhelmed by trying to figure out where to give and how much. It is definitely on my mind — but so is buying a house and having a 12 month emergency fund and hopefully being able to work part time in a few years because…

I’m apparently pregnant.

Shh, don’t tell anyone. It is top secret. It’s super early and only my husband knows. We started trying this month and thought it would take a while because last time I needed infertility treatment to get pregnant. Low and behold, boom, happened right away. I’m excited and scared and will write more about this later but clearly it shifts our financial picture. Before I was considering moving further from my office to have more space in case I had another kid, now I definitely am thinking about this option. We’re still talking about $1.5M homes, but they are much bigger and right now we want space and with another kid we will def want that space. We could still rent for a few years but I want to settle down in a neighborhood where my son can make friends  and we can meet other parents and just feel at home. I’ve been living semi frugally my whole life (we’re still in a 1 bedroom apartment even though we can clearly afford more) and I guess I’m ready to take the plunge.

I did run some numbers based on a more conservative house buying formula and found that we need the following amount in savings/cash before we buy a home for the following prices:

House Cost Cash Savings
$1.5M $436,542
$1.7M $494,000

I also determined that to have 30% of our networth be in home equity (and emergency fund) that we’d need approximately $1.95M in networth to buy a $1.6M home. (My gap analysis below) but clearly we’re not going to get there before we buy a home now, so I’m going to do my best to try to reduce the home cost while also buying something we can grow into. More on that later.

30.0% 43.0% 5.0% 27.0% 5.0% 12.0% 8.0%
23.1% 33.1% 3.8% 20.8% 3.8% 9.2% 6.2%
43.00% 5.00% 27.00% 5.00% 12.00% 8.00%
goal $450,000 $645,000 $75,000 $405,000 $75,000 $180,000 $120,000
gap $450,000 $284,705 $47,142 $252,465 $47,525 $160,066 $89,103

 

Right now my estimates have us at about $1.96M pre tax in March 2022. That’s so soon! If I can do this, it will be pretty incredible. I just have to keep my job. Through a pandemic. And a pregnancy. How hard can it be?

But the reality is I’m scared. Yes I have a lot in stocks I could sell to cover the mortgage for a while… and right now I have a job. But will I have a job in a year? Who knows. My company may need to have layoffs at some point. I really don’t understand how they would decide that and who would be laid off, but I definitely am not “safe.” So I have to assume that at any time I could lose my job, and at that point it would be hard to find a new one. I will just hold my breath through my vesting periods and pray (even though I don’t pray) that I can get through the next 19 months until I get most of my stock. That’s 8 months of pregnancy, 3 months of maternity leave, and 8 months of being exhausted and holding on for dear life.

Please, wish me luck. I’ll need it!

Financial Planning in the Age of Coronavirus

Like many of you, I’ve been trying to stay afloat–mentally–under stressors that appeared practically overnight. With the economy humming along somewhere through a very long bull market, it was clear the upward tick to the markets wouldn’t last forever. However, I don’t think anyone thought it would end so jarringly.

I sit here from my “shelter in place” apartment in one of the worst hit counties in California. My company went a little early in moving to WFH and I’ve been adjusting, but the last weeks have been a bit of a blur. On the Saturday before my company decided to move to a WFH policy, I felt I was coming down with something. I don’t think I had a fever, I just had mild aches, and my chest immediately felt impacted. I went to work on Monday (if I had a fever I definitely wouldn’t have) and waited for my company to make the call. It wasn’t far into the day Monday when whispers of the company going fully remote made their way around the office, then an email formalizing that we would no longer be coming into the office for the next few weeks.

My lungs tight and heavy managed to breathe a sigh of relief. All I wanted was to get home and keep my family safe. At the time my 76-year-old father-in-law who provides childcare was still coming to our house via the train. It made no sense. I feared for his health and safety. In those 24 hours our worlds changed. Grandpa no longer would take the train to provide childcare. But my husband and I would still continue working, albeit with both of us WFH, with no childcare.

Over the next days my lungs felt like they had a cool liquid pouring into them, a slight burning sensation, and I felt winded after walking or picking up around the house. With no fever, I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac, but I emailed my doctor and she said normally she’d have me come in to check out my symptoms (as they were concerning) but with coronavirus going around she couldn’t, so she’d just treat me for pneumonia–just in case that’s what I have. Coronavirus testing was out of the question since I hadn’t been to another country recently and had no known contact with another person who tested positive. I was put on a course of powerful antibiotics and provided an inhaler to help me breathe.

The next day, our entire region went on full lockdown.

Two weeks later, my lungs still hurt. I’m not sure if the antibiotics did anything. I’m not convinced I have coronavirus, but I’m also not convinced that I don’t. My husband had what appeared to be a bad stomach bug with a low fever the same week I first felt ill, and now coronavirus reports say that sometimes it starts with gasterontestinal issues. He too felt some tightening in his chest. Neither of us were coughing, though–so what we have could be pretty much anything. If it’s coronavirus, we’ll never know outside of suspicion. I know whatever is happening to my lungs, this cold fluid sensation and the tightness in the center of my chest, is new to me. Could it be crippling anxiety? Sure. But the cold fluid sensation is strange and I continue to have mild respiratory symptoms.

I think I’m ok. Physically I’m just trying to take it easy. Mentally, I’m a mess. I know way more than I ever wanted to know about pandemics and how they exponentially spread. I’ve spent countless hours trying to convince my boomer mother, stuck in her snowbird condo in Florida, to take this seriously–especially given she’s in an area with a lot of older people mixed with young tourists where things will likely get bad.

Then, there’s my portfolio. Down something like $200k, give or take, prob give quite a bit more in the coming weeks. I’m a buy-and-holder, and got my start in investing right before the 2008 downturn, so I believe in the power of investing when everything is going haywire and how the recovery is when wealth is made. Downturns are good for the market and give us a time to buy on sale. But this whole situation is unprecedented and things can get a lot worse than they are. It’s unlikely–given its fatality rate–that the economy will fail to recover once a vaccine is tested and brought to market. But I don’t know how the economy can handle everything shutting down for a while, especially if this goes on (or on and off and on again) for 18+ months.

I’m using this opportunity to rebalance my accounts, but not to sell for no reason. I’ve been doing some unrelated research regarding asset allocation including real estate, as well as what one should really have in cash for a home purchase. I’ll write another post about that eventually, but I’ve basically determined that 30% of my net worth should be held in real estate. I’m looking at 30% of my net worth including a downpayment, closing costs, and a conservative 12 month emergency fund. In order to afford a $1.7M house, we need $500k cash in the bank.

My CFP who I hired for a year (who is no longer my CFP) recommended putting my downpayment into municipal bond funds for the tax advantages over the low interest-paying savings accounts. Well, that plan went to shit in the last two weeks. Apparently muni bonds funds are usually super stable. But after I put $200k into them, they decided to become volatile in a way they haven’t been since 1987. So far I pulled out the $200k (down to $192k) and put it into a short term bond fund, to take the loss in the intermediate state muni. That hurt a bit. Will probably just move everything to cash soon. It seems like this will be the year to buy–that is, if I can keep my job!

On top of all of this I’m not questioning the timing of trying for my next child. Due to infertility issues (at least with my first kid) plus now my “advanced maternal age” of 36, I really don’t want to wait. I also really don’t want to be pregnant–with the weakened immune system that comes with that–in the middle of a global pandemic. If I do get pregnant, we also have to move, which isn’t horrible since I do think this will be the year to buy. But if we’re on a year-long shelter-in-place, I don’t know how we’d move. We couldn’t even look at houses–or rentals for that matter. I think we could manage a year with two kids in a one bedroom (we’d save a ton that way) but legally you’re not allowed more than 2 adults and one kid per one bedroom, so we’d be in a bad situation… if it gets to the point where I’m pregnant and we aren’t allowed to leave our homes except to get groceries and medical supplies.

My overall thoughts right now is:

  1. Make sure we have our downpayment fund (ideally $500k) secure in cash or cash equivalents by fall (we have about $363k right now if I sold the bonds, and if I needed to I could make up for the rest selling stocks, but I’d prefer to not have to do that.) Be ready to buy when no one else is buying.
  2. Try my best to keep my job. I’ve actually been making progress on my coaching plan and things seemed to be turning around. Then Corona hit and–who knows. I’d be on the chopping block if there were layoffs, probably. I’m hoping we don’t have layoffs coming, but I have to assume they are with the state of the world. If I assume they are, then buying a house sooner than later makes sense (kind of, I mean not having a job won’t be great after buying a house, but that’s why I’m making sure we have a 12 month emergency fund.)
  3. Just try to get pregnant and see what happens. Worst case, I’ll be giving birth while incubated with a shared ventilator wrapped around my head, with my husband waiting from home to hear if I’ve survived childbirth and coronavirus and if the baby is ok. Ok, that’s a pretty horrible worst case, but it’s a possible one. More likely if I were to get pregnant I’d get a different standard of care as the doctors would try to keep me out of the office as much as possible. Given my infertility situation, it’s still unlikely I’ll get pregnant naturally. I do worry about being able to get infertility treatment in the next year, especially if we need something beyond the medication-based treatment protocol we did to conceive baby #1… The good news is that I conceived baby #1 right after a 3 month in-between job break where I focused on my health, travel, and relaxing. This isn’t exactly the same scenerio–I’m working and stressed–but I think over time with this WFH situation, if I can manage to keep my job and be as productive as I know I can be WFH, I can really focus on making the most out of every hour in the day to eat healthy, exercise, sleep, and do the things that set my body up for the healthiest possible pregnancy.

Things sure are crazy for everyone these days. I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to figure out how to balance being a mom and working from home with no childcare and getting to that level of health I want–I ordered some new running shoes and plan to use them, while staying six feet away from the other residents of my neighborhood, to disconnect from the panic sensation that fills me daily and reconnect with the sounds of nature and the taste of spring air. I hope things go somewhat according to plan, but not counting on it.