Category Archives: Family

How to Help My Mother NOT go Broke

They paid for college and a relatively lavish wedding and a lifestyle we apparently never could afford. They made a lot of bad money moves along the way–constantly adding on to and updating a house that was already the most expensive on the block, buying worthless art and “collectables” to clutter the house, taking money out of the markets around 2008 and missing out on the potential returns. Oh, and the kicker is that in 2015 and 2016 my father took a ton of money out of his IRA to buy a condo in florida and pay for my wedding without paying nearly enough in taxes to support those withdrawals, not to mention apparently not filing at all those two years, leaving my mother with $60k in tax debt and fines. For a man who made a career out of planning financial risk, he sure did a horrible job of planning for his and my mother’s retirement.

Dealing with his pretty traumatic death (a week after my NICU son was born last year) was hard enough–but not having to help my mother somehow NOT GO BROKE is going to, well, break me.

Now, I realize they paid for my college AND my wedding and I do feel a responsibility to 1. help her not go broke and 2. pay her back a reasonable amount for some of these expenditures. On one hand, had I known how bad the financial situation was, I might have made a different decision on where to go to college (public vs private school, which was an option) and I would have been less reckless with my spending at the time (when I didn’t understand budgeting or the value of money, sad to say.) But I did save on interest on student loans and I feel like I owe it to my mother to pay her back for at least some of my college education.

…The wedding was a beast of an event–but for my father dying of cancer it was as much his party as it was mine and for what it’s worth I saw him enjoy it perhaps more (much more) than I did with his family and friends. I had offered to pay for it up front so he wouldn’t have to withdraw from his IRA and he flat out refused, but I didn’t have a clue that ALL the money was in the IRA and the wedding plus their condo purchase just killed them tax wise those years. I can’t really blame myself for that as he told me “$50k for the wedding” and I went with that budget. He was too proud to admit that really he didn’t have the $50k for my wedding (and supposed $50k for my sister’s wedding that hasn’t happened yet) — maybe he thought he did. Maybe he was in denial. I don’t know. We shouldn’t have spent that money in 2016. I should have eloped.

I guess until tonight I hadn’t come to terms with just how bad the situation is. It doesn’t HAVE to be as there is a decent pension and social security, but my mother refuses to adjust her spending beyond perhaps not buying 4 matching pants to go with the 8 shirts on sale she just has to have. She’ll buy 2.

After interviewing a ton of CFPs (mostly fee only) I just felt like they weren’t going to add enough value to be worth their 1% annual management fees. It’s not that they wouldn’t tell her the right things she needed to hear, it’s that she would hear it and it would go in one ear and out the other. She’s just so far off from OK, I’m not sure WHERE to start. Scratch that, I know we should be selling her tri-state home IMMEDIATELY to start saving along the lines of $30,000+ a year — BUT, even that just scratches the surface of the issue. Even if I paid her back for the wedding and my entire college education, I’m not sure that gets her where she needs to be.

After all the CFP interviews I set up an appointment for her with Vanguard personal advisory services which is “just” .03% of her portfolio (really not that bad since her portfolio is just $400k in IRA at the moment, but also I get the sense that its’ about .03% of a real CFP service. What I like about it is that it’s .03% split out per month and you can get out at any time, so we can get some advice for cheap from a real CFP (or team of people who work with CFPs) and get some sense for what to do before investing in a private CFP. For free, they ran a basic plan for her… which was just depressing… and had me revisiting her spending and income and, well, the picture isn’t pretty. The picture has oozing wounds and horse shit that’s been festering for centuries covered in maggots.

And she’s doing BETTER than most people in America right now. She has $70k in fixed income (taxable, but still), $400k in the IRA and a home probably worth about $250k cash after it’s sold. But that’s nothing. She’s 65 and she’ll be broke by 70 at this rate.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get her to take this seriously. She is in LALA land. I don’t want to give her $25k or $50k or more UNLESS she can actually learn to budget properly and makes plans to help smooth this all out, somehow. Instead of saying that she CAN’T sell the house next year, she realizes that she HAS to sell it next year (sadly) and really she should sell it THIS YEAR. She CAN’T get a storage unit to keep all her random things and she HAS to sell what she can and move to her condo full time as soon as possible – even if that means not going to her condo this winter and staying in the cold weather to pack (but, as she says, she would have to buy a whole new winter wardrobe, which would cost a lot, so she should not stay there to pack up the house this winter.)

My thought on helping her out financially is that I need to get my ducks in order first (i.e. buy a house, pay off said house, have a stable career for next 10 years, invest my money) and if in 10 years she has been spending smartly then I can help pay for things like buy her a vacation package or even pay the basic bills if needed, up to a certain point, especially to ensure she’s comfortable in old age when she needs to have help.

It just all feels so unsurmountable I’m erring on the side of just being delusional like my mother and letting her run out of money at 70, go into credit card debt, and then… then what? She has an HOA to pay (her condo was “cheap” but it’s not cheap on a fixed income, and who the hell knows what special assessments will come up over time?)

Any advice on what I should do, other than send my mother a check for $50k and run the hell away from this?

 

Florida

Surprise Trip to Florida to Tell Parents I’m Pregnant

As of today, I’m 7 weeks, 4 days pregnant. Due 8/4/18. I don’t particularly feel 7w4d pregnant, but that’s what the doctor tells me I am, and what my ultrasound reveals. Given I went through infertility treatment, I know pretty much exactly when conception happened. Isn’t science amazing?

Anyway, I’ve yet to tell my parents I’m pregnant. There are a few reasons for this. One, it’s ok to wait until your second trimester to tell anyone you’re with child, given miscarriage rates are high. Continue reading

Why I Can’t Even With Small Talk… And Medium Talk Even.

What are you supposed to talk about with your family that isn’t god awful over the course of a normal dinner out? I don’t see my family all that often, so you’d think we’d have things to discuss. Yet the conversation usually goes something like this, in no particular order…

  • How is your job? Do you still have a job? (It’s ok. I still have a job.) There’s nothing really more to discuss about my job because no one understand what I do and it’s not interesting to them, so that’s pretty much the extend of that conversation.
  • Politics – whoever is in office is doing a good job or isn’t and everyone at the table will have an opinion but according to my dad his is the only right open
  • Did Mr. HECC apply to grad school yet? Is he going to get another job / figure out what he doing with his life? (*this comes up only when he is not in the room)
  • Other family issues du jour as long as it’s about “not our direct family” — cousin tried to attempt suicide? Let’s all solve her problem over dinner. Aunt and uncle about to get a divorce? Good idea or bad idea — it’s the perfect time to debate this.
  • Let’s gossip about whoever else we all know…
  • Complain about something else…
  • Be sad for a moment about someone who has passed away…
  • Return to complaining or gossiping.
  • Bonus – not yet, but you know they want to bring it up – when are you having kids / buying a house / growing up like a real adult now that you are married…?

Do other families talk about anything else over dinner conversation?  I guess all that’s left is entertainment and sports, and since I don’t talk about sports that leaves talking about television or movies or books or other productions. But that conversation is rather bland and again someone at the table has an opinion that must be right even if I hate the show clearly I’m in the wrong on that one.

What should families talk about? Or, for that matter, what should people talk about? I occasionally like to tell stories about things that have happened but most often I don’t know what to say. Even with friends / peers / coworkers this is an issue. I never know what to talk about.

 

Our American Dream: Two Sisters Losing the Middle Class

We grew up in a nice suburb of New York where you would run into a mall in 30 minutes any direction you drove unless you were to drive towards the ocean. Our dad went into the city daily for his job that kept him out late, mom stayed home and took care of us by trying to get me to do my homework and fighting the school system to ensure my learning-disabled sister got the access to the education she needed. Outside of my father’s raging temper and my mother’s relentless narcissism and hoarding disorder, life was pretty good. It was all we knew.

I definitely took my class status for granted, and my sister is now learning that she did too. My sister is seven years younger than I am, and with her learning disability also graduated college later than I did. Nonetheless, after going to a private school for special needs students, she managed to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a state school. Unfortunately, that degree didn’t help her much in terms of setting her up for the real world.

Continue reading

Pregnant-Woman

How Lack of Maternity Leave Hurts Working Women

I’m 32 going on 33 and my biological clock is tick-tock ticking. If I’m going to have at least one child, it’s most likely going to occur within the next 1-3 years of my life. I have significant savings so I can afford to take time off to have a kid, but that doesn’t make the whole lack of maternity leave situation any less stressful.

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. In fact, the US is one of just two countries in the world that doesn’t ensure any paid time off for new moms, according to a report from the International Labor Organization. The other: Papua New Guinea. Continue reading

Wedded Bliss and Chaos and Thank God It’s Done

I’m back. From my wedding, that is. My ridiculously expensive, I now wish I could go back and revise my budget (and stick to my original budget) wedding where in the grand scheme of things I’m over the moon to be married despite it not really changing much of anything in my 10-year relationship. After a very short mini-moon we just returned home and things are back to normal, except I have a ring on my finger and he has one on his desk because it’s too tight and he needs to get it stretched. And, in the eyes of the government, we’re legit family now. If I die he gets my savings. I guess I should watch my back. 😉

So I have a lot to say about the wedding, but I’ve spent my last week spinning in circles on what went right and mostly what went wrong, and I’m not sure how much I can get out right now without going off a deep end. The wedding itself was lovely. People had fun – some told me it was the best wedding they’ve been to with such passion I actually believe them. The food was great (so I’m told, I didn’t get to eat much of it – damn missing cocktail hour for family pictures) and my band rocked (despite more than half of the guests spending most of the wedding outside on the beautiful balcony overlooking the lake and missing the entertainment.) I’m trying to look on the bright side of things because a lot went right at the wedding. The ceremony was magical and just perfect – his uncle officiated and we spent a lot of time revising the script so it really reflected us and wasn’t a standard boring wedding. It was super hot and I’m shocked none of the black-tux wearing groomsmen passed out, but other than that the ceremony was a success. Ok,  than the fact that my florist sucked and put the cheapest wrinkliest possible fabric on the previously beautiful birch-wood arch causing it look crappy and the violin-cello duet chose to play “Yesterday” right before my groom walked down the aisle (which, is a beautiful song, but “yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away now it it looks as though they’re here to stay” is not what you want to hear the second before you are to meet your wife at the alter, even if no actual lyrics were involved in the playing of the song at that point.) I’ll give the ceremony a 9/10. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure came close.

I’m such a perfectionist, of course, I’d never be fully satisfied with my own wedding – especially after spending – between my parents and myself – upwards of $70k or even more on one day. I haven’t added everything up yet, but I’m pretty sure we are at least at $70,000 total for a Sunday night wedding in June. I really wanted to stay under $40k and the original budget was $50k so… I failed. After the wedding, I worried I’d feel a huge letdown and be so ashamed to have spent that much money on one day and, while I do think it’s ridiculous, I felt that one day was so full of richness that it was more than just 24 hours. Or, as I tell my now-husband, I want to talk about the wedding every day for the next year at least and ensure it provides some entertainment to our lives so we can amortize the cost of it over the next 365 days. 🙂 But, really, while I know I’m very fortunate to be able to spend that much on a wedding – and equally aware that weddings that cost $5k or less can be just as memorable and wonderful – for me, and for my guests, it was the right wedding to throw. Looking back, I could have saved at least $10k by not splurging in places that didn’t matter (*cough*flowers*cough*) but mostly I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Except my florist and my dress.

My florist was an unfortunate mistake. She meant well -and the flowers weren’t awful by any means – but spending $4500 on flowers was something I was against from the beginning and by two months before my wedding I had gone off the deep end and gave into the wedding industry. My father was paying for the flowers and my parents kept telling me they wanted wedding flowers, nothing tacky (which means nothing cheap looking) and so – after my initial $2k florist flaked on getting me a contract – I was stuck with no florist and went with the best of what was still available, or so I thought. She was a lovely, passionate woman who tried really hard but in the end there’s a certain thing called talent and also something called skill and I think she lacked in both departments – maybe skill more-so than talent, but for $4500 I expect … more than what we got. Well, we got a lot of flowers, for sure, and they were fine – just not flow-y and green like I wanted. She didn’t get the style. The only thing that really bothered me, though, was the arch in the ceremony (now mentioned twice in this post.) The flower arrangements were huge — she says she needed to make them that big to cover the foam but my florist friend assures me that isn’t true. Then she added this horrid, horrible, no-good, going to ruin all my ceremony pictures and make me cringe fabric to drape on the beautiful birch wood arch. When I showed up to the venue and saw it, I freaked, and send the women there and my florist friend (who happened to be my bridesmaid) into a flurry trying to figure out what to do. I was not in the right brain mode to make decisions at that moment so when they asked me if they should cut it down, after one side was already cut down, I said no – and then they wrapped it to the pole making it too short and look even worse. What I realized later is that the drape of fabric at the top not only looked cheap as all hell but also casted horrible shadows on our faces – especially my groom’s face. I went back to the picture I showed her of the draping (as I did ask for this) and it featured a very, very skinny transparent and not-cheap looking fabric (i.e. no wrinkles, folds or pulls) and it barely covered the wood. Her version was just tacky. Later she told me I should have called her to come back but I wasn’t thinking straight at the time. She knows it looked worse once they cut it down and tied it but I was trying to fix things and going absolutely crazy. My $4500 flowers turned my almost-perfect ceremony aesthetically into quite a disappointing picture. — Then, my sweetheart table actually never had flowers on it — she had told someone at the venue to move the special arrangement she made for it to the table after the cocktail hour but whoever she told didn’t remember so we had no flowers on the main table that was being photographed all night. That was less of an issue but just something that I look back on now and realize damn, I should have hired a wedding coordinator for the day of the wedding. I really needed a wedding coordinator.

Ok, so the one thing I didn’t spend on – that I wish, I wish, I WISH I did was a wedding planner. Wedding planners come in all shapes and sizes and costs and not all would have been helpful. A planner for a full wedding (i.e. someone to do what I did in sourcing vendors and venue et al) would cost $5k or more. But month-of planners are around $1.5k-$2.5k. Most are $2k. They help you the month of the wedding make sure you’re not forgetting anything and most importantly manage the crazy that happens the day of the wedding to ensure nothing goes wrong. I desperately needed a month-of planner and almost splurged at the end for one, but at that point I was thinking I already had everything planned and my venue was known for its awesome on-site ceremony coordinators, so why should I spent another entire laptop computer to get someone to help manage the day. Ugh. Wrong decision.

If I had a day-of coordinator…

  1. I wouldn’t have been late in the morning so we would have had an hour more for pictures, and I would have gotten the bridal portraits that I wanted from my $7500 photographer that now I’m worried will have captured no decent pictures because they were all super rushed.
  2. My dress wouldn’t have been all disheveled in all the pictures and my necklace would have been straight because I’d have someone with me at all times to help me fix my outfit and look my best – which, when you’re spending $7500 on pictures, you want to have someone there to help you out. My photographer did not do that really. (*probably picked the wrong photographer and spent too much on that too – we’ll see.)
  3. My mother who freaked out the whole day, showed up super late to the venue, ended up screaming at my flower boy and causing his entire family to storm out of the wedding, would have maybe been a little more managed and manageable with the help of someone else – not sure this would have helped, but I really needed a partner in helping manage my mother who, at numerous points throughout the day, threw a temper tantrum and made a few people really upset/cry (including myself.)
  4. The venue wouldn’t have lost our important ceremony glass (that we poured in the ceremony and were to send off to an artist to make into a sculpture.) I have no idea how they lost this, but somehow it got misplaced. They still haven’t owned up to losing it yet, but where else did it go? It was in a vase that was also ours and that is gone, along with six glasses that had held the glass before we poured it. All gone. And they threw out extra copies of our ceremony programs that are worth $3.50 each (I splurged on those but they were amazing and I figured I’d have extra to frame/keep/send to the bridal party etc but nope, they threw them all out and claim they were all used/taken which is a lie.) If I had a coordinator they would have made a list of all the items to collect back at the end of the night and made sure things weren’t lost. I COULD have done that or assigned someone else to this job, but I forgot as I was focused so much on the wedding itself I didn’t think about after it. The venue did let us keep things there overnight and packed up all our stuff for us, which is nice, but then they lost these important items… I’m still really bummed about it. The sculpture place can get new glass and remake it but it kind of defeats the sentimental purpose of the glass pouring ceremony. The venue doesn’t seem to give a shit about it. I am going to write them a review today and see if it inspires any more compassion.
  5. I failed at feeding my bridal party properly the morning of the wedding, which was a mess. My friend helped source wraps for us but there weren’t enough and a lot of the bridal party didn’t notice they existed. I didn’t realize that most of the bridesmaids hadn’t eaten the free breakfast at the hotel or the wraps (that weren’t that great but nonetheless they were there) which left me frantically trying to find local delivery services in the limo. Well, taking a step back I made the decision to get ready at the hotel because the venue charged $600 to get ready there plus $50 a person for every person over 7,  which was just silly in my mind since we also couldn’t start until 11 then and my makeup artist had to leave at 2:30. The logistics of the day were wonk and as we were an hour behind schedule everything ended up worse. The girls did finally order Panera Bread at the venue and someone went to pick it up for them, so that worked out ok, but it was probably 2pm or later before they ate – which was horrible. The did have a cheese plate at the venue at 1 so people noshed on that but it wasn’t enough. One of my biggest pet peeves as a bridesmaid is not having decent food options in the morning  (because it’s a super long day) and I managed to fail at planning this appropriately. If I had a coordinator they would have made sure this was done without me even thinking about it.
  6. A coordinator would have helped with other little things throughout the night… so many little things that I could have asked them to fix and it would have been done, or, if they were really good, they would have thought about this in advance and I wouldn’t have noticed them in the first place.

Now, granted, there are so many different coordinators out there, and not all of them are both talented at wrangling neurotic Jewish mothers while aesthetically altering venue decorations and making the call to remove cheapo fabric from the arch or recommending in advance not to put it on there in the first place and being able to run around and make sure my damn overpriced Swarovski necklace wasn’t off center in all the pictures — I didn’t believe I could find someone who was capable of all these things, so I decided not to hire anyone. I should have spend much less on the flowers at put the saving into a coordinator. That was my biggest mistake.

The dress itself was a headache from the get go and I spent too much on it and I think I looked horrible. My groom loved it and thought I looked great, and others said the same, but I can barely look at pictures of myself in this dress… it’s that bad. Now, I don’t have the world’s greatest body image but I frequently like myself in nice dresses. Not so in this dress. First off – it was strapless, which was one of the things I didn’t want in a wedding dress because only girls with rail-thin anorexic bodies look ok in strapless dresses… and I’m not one of those girls. Strapless dresses also have to fit just right to not fall down but then also not make you budge in all the wrong places. The tailor at my dress shop didn’t seem to understand this and she first made it too loose and then tightened it to the point where all you can see is my back fat. The dress itself is worthy of its own post at some point because the dress shop was a nightmare to deal with and I spent $7000 on my wedding dress which is crazy and I expected that after spending so much I’d have a good experience in alterations and finally be happy on my wedding day but not so much. I do have expensive taste (surprise) and really it’s a fucking scam the wedding dress industry as $2000 dresses are pieces of shit and to get a dress that is made nicely with good fabric you have to pay $5k plus OR find a used dress/sample. I wanted to get a used dress but then I worried that it would cause unnecessary issues so I splurged and spent $7k and – had the dress been perfect or close to it, I’d say, yea, it was worth it – but… I just look silly in it. And my chest/back/arms aren’t flattered by the shape, nor is the rest of my body. I lost 30 pounds for my wedding and I look at the pics (*not the professional pics yet – hopefully those will be better) and just see fat arms and a fat back and fat chest. Yes, they’d be there in another dress – but had it fit better / had I ordered a dress with straps and a more flattering neckline / had the tailor figured out how to fit it to me properly – maybe it would have looked less awful. I’m bummed about the dress. I hope there are a handful of pictures from the professional photographer where the angles make me look better. I worry I booked the wrong photographer because he didn’t seem to be working angles so much and I should have just booked one of the female photographers who understand how to pose women to make them look good. This photographer I hired is very talented but he typically works with thin NY brides who would look good from any angle. I’m worried I won’t have one picture that I feel good about. The pictures come back in about two weeks now… I’m a little scared at this point, because that’s the only thing we keep with us from the wedding other than our memories (and the video, which we get in six months, and that will undoubtedly feature the starring character of my fat rolls and double chin) — but it is what it is. I don’t HAVE to look at our wedding pictures or video ever. I’m just bummed because I wanted to look beautiful on our wedding day and I hate how I looked. My hair was weird and falling down and my veil was put in the wrong place and slightly off center and it all went so fast I didn’t have time to stop and adjust myself or stand better or anything.

I almost want to have another wedding to fix all these things – except, thank fucking g-d I’m never getting married again. That’s the one good thing to come of all this… it’s done, and we’re quite committed to never getting divorced, and I don’t have to ever do this again (except when my hypothetical future children get married and I hope I can use this knowledge to help ensure they actually can enjoy their weddings.)

Anyway, I’m married. I was surprised how different it felt… it really does feel like things have changed. I don’t know. They have and they haven’t. We still live together in the same apartment. We still say the same things to each other. I still have to go to work in the morning and he still works from home and wakes up late and stays up all night. So what really has changed? We’re keeping our finances separate for now (at least on paper) so nothing is majorly different. But it feels like I’m, well, married. I guess the biggest change is that we want to have kids and we always had said we’d wait until we were married and now there’s nothing really between us and the having kids phase of our lives other than actually getting pregnant (which will be challenging with my PCOS and maybe impossible – but nonetheless there’s nothing stopping us from trying now.) So maybe that is what feels different… because I’m old-ish (I’ll be 33 in November – fuck.) And, you know, baby-making years are limited. And although I am so immature I also feel ready to have a kid. And, moreso, I want two or three kids (at least two) and while I have time to have the first one, it’s going to get tough when I want to spread out having a second a little bit. I see my friend with her crazy three year old who is now pregnant with her second and I think god how hard it is to have two so close together – and that’s not even that close together, that’s really four years apart. If I manage to get pregnant when I’m 33 then I’ll have my first at 34… which means trying for my second pretty soon thereafter. I probably won’t end up having three – which is fine – I’d be happy with two (or one for that matter, but I really want two) — and… I still don’t know logically how this all works (can’t afford house here / job situation not going well / I can’t imagine working this type of job and being a mother / I think we have to leave this area to a place that’s more affordable / we’ll figure it out when we have kids I guess?) — but, anyway, what really changed is now there’s nothing between not being pregnant and being pregnant (other than getting pregnant) now that we’re married. We could have achieved that for a lot less than $70,000… and it would have come with a lot less stress and headaches and regrets… but then again, there were so many magical, unforgettable, priceless moments at my wedding that I think, in the end, it was worth it.

My Parents Are Actually Not That Great with Money

When I grew up I knew two things to be fact – my dad was talented at earning money and my mom was equally talented at spending it. My mother constantly complained about us not having a lot of nice things – and we indeed were upper middle class and not a millimeter over the upper class line – but we had it rather great. As my father worked a professional job requiring his math brain, the money kept rolling in. And my mom (and I) would keep spending it.

But despite the “every time we come back from the mall” fights on spending it never was  a “real” issue. We weren’t in danger of losing the house. My private college tuition was paid for outright. So was my sister’s private school for a learning disability and then college. Apparently at some point my father’s company was sold and he did fairly well for himself in his stock and income appreciation. My parents should be comfortably set for life and then some.

However my father (who was told he had two years to live about nine years ago, mind you) and my mother have spent and spent and spent post “earning” years and with the stock market underperforming all his estimates about his finances didn’t quite pan out. Shocking for a man who made a career out of calculating risk. Yet, here we are today, with my father looking at all the numbers involved in the family finances and he can’t make heads or tails of it. There’s a massive home equity loan out that has to be paid back fairly soon, and there’s little left on it to borrow at this point anyway. He wanted to spend a lot on my wedding but, now that I better understand their financial situation – I realize it was not a good idea. It’s not that they are broke – they have social security and pension money coming in… about $100k a year. But in order to afford not only my wedding but also a winter condo they bought in the southeast and renovations to that condo and fixing a bunch of things breaking around their main house there is the reality that my dad had to pull out a bunch of money from the IRA bumping him up into a higher tax bracket so most of the income they’re making goes to taxes.

So they have to in the next few years pay back about $200k in home equity. How? The idea seems to be either from a reverse mortgage (which as I learn more about I really don’t like) or taking more money out of the IRA and paying a lot of taxes on it or, well, there aren’t many other options. The money is there, but it isn’t. They’re so much more fortunate than most people their age (due to smart saving at least and the possibility of a one-working-parent household being able to afford a nice life and a decent retirement) but their spending is just out of control. It’s not just my wedding – which theoretically my father had budgeted “forever” for – it’s the lack of acceptance of 1 – what life really costs and 2 – what their life really costs.

My father keeps talking about how they’re going to have to “get frugal” and I can’t help but laugh. They aren’t exactly going on luxury vacations but my parents do spend. My mother has no concept of money and I worry she’s going to eventually spend every last cent of her retirement money leaving her with “just” the monthly income – which at some point may not be enough to pay for her care. I’ll help, of course, as much as I can – but I’m stuck in the reality of my world which = I cannot ever afford a house, I cannot figure out how to save enough for my own/my family’s retirement, even on my current substantial income (which will not last because I’m about to completely crack in my current career and my next step is something less profitable but more personally fulfilling, I hope) – in any case, I’ll need to help out of guilt knowing how much my own life has cost them, but it’s still frustrating that this didn’t have to happen… they were doing so well and then they had to put an addition on the house and had to buy too-nice further for the vacation property and had to get a new dress for every wedding-related event coming up (I’m glad I talked my mother out of purchasing a $2000 dress for my wedding when the $300 dress she got looked WAY better than the one the fancy store was trying to sell her.)

I just worry too because I know that in so many years my father’s cancer will eventually end his life (I hope this is a long time out but who knows) and my mother will – god willing – life a very long time. But as bad with money and gullible as she is she’s suceptable to all sorts of scams and con arts and just about any potential way for her money to disappear. My dad likes to talk to me (so awkwardly) about how he wants my sister and I to get an inheritance – and I can’t comment on that because on and hand I think inheritances are just plain awful and unfair and should not be allowed and on the other hand the world we live in is one where people can or can not afford to, say, buy a house or send their kids to college due to such mini dynasties. It’s not a topic I’m comfortable talking about and I certainly don’t want to be the person held responsible for convincing my mom not to, you know, spend that money that one day would possibly end up trickling down to me and my sister – even though I honestly don’t want it if she needs to spend it, I just don’t want to see her getting conned. I worry I’ll have to be the responsible one because my sister knows nothing about money and clearly I’m the best educated on the topic (I don’t know how that happened but anyway, it happened.)

My father was even asking my advice on how to repay the home equity. I have no idea. $200 is a lot of money. It took me a very long time to save $200. Now I have almost double that. But it’s all locked up in retirement funds and such. It’s about half of the cost of their actual house. I don’t understand home ownership and the whole taking loans out against your property. It seems like he has a really great rate (2 percent?) so maybe that’s a smart/good thing. But it’s only smart insofar as the needed to spend the money. It’s my wedding but it’s more than that for sure. It’s just this nature of spending and spending and spending and being delusional slash not wanting to deal with the time to come when they really do need to be “frugal” in their own middle class sort of way… not something my mother has known how to do for years. I worry they’ll lose their home – though my father said that will never happen – but I’m starting to doubt his ability to predict these things. He seems rather surprised about how much taxes he owes in general and how things add up and money keeps disappearing. He seems perplexed that the stock market didn’t perform strongly so his networth shrunk more than expected and he didn’t have a backup plan to deal with this. And this all has led me to the conclusion that my father – the math guy – the financial industry risk expert – is actually really bad with personal finances. I worry for them, and I also hope somehow I can do better with my own family and wealth. I’m beginning to think that all starts with NOT owning property – EVER. Rent is expensive but at least it’s not handcuffs.

November Networth Check-In and Retirement Update

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

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

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

november net worth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Not Get Divorced and Have a Happy Marriage

Sorry, folks. I don’t know the silver bullet to a long, happy marriage. I do know that while 50% of Americans end up in a divorce, a large chunk of those who remain married do so unhappily. While marriage isn’t a requirement of a fulfilled, happy life – for many of us, having a lifelong partner is a key factor in our emotional and even financial stability. I used to be opposed to marriage as an old-fashioned idea steeped in religion and generally designed to make women a property of a man. Today, engaged to be married, I’m looking forward to that next stage of commitment. After nearly 10 years of dating, it’s time to lock this in forever.

Unfortunately, for MANY people, marriage isn’t forever. I spent last week “hanging out” with my 50-years young aunt and her either unhappily married or divorced besties. These women, all in their late 40s/early 50s, were all uniquely depressed, and the conversation reminded me why, if I have anything to do about it, I won’t be alone at that age (knock on wood.) It intrigues me how everyone is selfish by nature, and that happy marriages are largely the result of two people willing to be aware of their selfish tendencies and to compromise around many things that, in single life, would not be acceptable. Furthermore, the stress on a marriage that having kids brings is immense, and if the parents do not see eye-to-eye about this, they may be doomed to crumble – as no one wants to think about an intimate evening post fighting about their child’s behavior and what to do about it.

I grew up in a very unhappy, abusive household. My parents, now in their 60s, are still married – but rarely go a day without my father telling my mother, in a not-so-nice tone, that she’s a, and I quote, “fucking idiot.” They are not the spitting image of a good marriage or even a decent one. And both of my mother’s sisters are divorced and not remarried. This tells me a lot about the mentality in that side of the family – one which lacks empathy for others. It makes sense since the three sisters grew up with a very narcissistic mother and each of them have pretty much ended up with narcissists because it’s the only relationship dynamic which feels comfortable to them – the youngest, dating a man who is infinity self-absorbed and incapable of commitment; the middle sister, committed, not married to a man who is not exactly the warm and fuzzy type in terms of being open to people who do not fit his limited view on an acceptable human being (but maybe that’s just because he’s French); and my mother, of course, with my “can do no wrong” father who blames the world for all the problems but never can blame himself for anything.

Without self awareness, I don’t know if it’s possible for people like this to have a sustainable happy marriage. What we’re attracted to is not always best for such arduous happiness. Marriage is work, they say, and it’s true. I see some young couples I worry are headed in the wrong direction. I look at friends who do not seem to be able to talk about serious matters to each other. Friends who are married to men who are mama’s boys and who are worried that when their child is born they will be left alone to do all the housework along with childcare and returning to work. I worry about my friends who don’t talk about their finances, where one partner is stressed about work and the other is firmly committed to not worry about money or how it is spent. I worry about a couple who fight all the time with two young children present, who no longer find time to love each other, who maybe will never be fully happy, at least due to the presence of each other.

And then I look at my own relationship — nine-and-a-half  years is almost like marriage in its own right. We live together and split some of our bills, so it definitely feels like more than just dating despite nothing legally tying us together just yet. And I love him more than anything and we get into little tiffs every now and again but generally we can have open conversations about important things and we get along pretty well as long as I don’t focus too much on the serious all the time and we can enjoy musing on absurdities of the world together. I know that for my own marriage to work, it will be a lot of work. I have to change my ways – the many things I don’t like about myself to begin with, so I’m ok with that. First, I need to keep my household clean, and uncluttered. Second, I need to find a job where I can not constantly worry about getting fired and be super depressed all the time (he isn’t so much worried about the loss of the income as he is my constant bad mood about 5-6 months into any new job.) And I need to focus on trying to feel like a woman who can be desirable instead of sabotaging myself with my very low self esteem and body image. If I could do all three of these things and not chew so loudly (he is very sensitive to food noises) and be ready on time when we’re going out instead of always 10-15 minutes late, I think he’ll be very happy with me in our marriage. That’s really ALL I have to focus on doing. The rest comes naturally. Being aware of these things doesn’t mean they  are easy to do, but I know they are flaws in my character and things I need to work on anyway.

But marriages can fall apart when one person is aware of the things that upset the other person and feels they are putting an effort in to resolving these things, when the other person doesn’t make an effort or a strong enough effort to show the other person they are doing the same. This pain point in marriages can be exacerbated by the fact that so married couples just don’t talk about things. Sure, it’s easy to ask someone to clean the house, but it’s less easy for a working parent to share with a stay-at-home parent that they are too stressed out in their job and want to move into a position with less pay and less expectations. Or – things as silly as I miss when we used to get dressed up and go on dates, and now I only see you in your crappy clothes that don’t fit well at home because you’re tired all the time and quite frankly so am I. This is why marriages fall apart. People stop putting in the effort. They start becoming passive aggressive to each other on purpose or accident. That once-novel romance story has turned into a nightmare. And so many men and women get past the point of no return. They can no longer look at each other and understand how they were attracted to the other person in the first place. They long to move on to something new, something where the weight of all the years of passive aggression, poof, disappears, and they can start fresh. They can look at another person and see them not as the man who forgot to take the garbage out or the woman who was too tired from her job to be the exciting, passionate woman she once was. Starting fresh is easier than mending a wounded relationship, in theory, at least.

Divorcees are usually not happy either. Few people can manage being happy and being alone, especially after being in a committed relationship for many years. In spending time with these 40-year-old and 50-year-old divorced or unhappily married women, I wonder if there is any piece of the failings of their marriage that they see as their own faults, or if all the blame is on their former partners, or both. The common thread of conversation is that “he’s awful,” “he’s lazy,” “he’s unhelpful around the house,” et al. Or maybe there were just huge fights about how to raise the children that were unexpected which led to two people who couldn’t manage to love each other let alone spend time together. There’s a musical with a song that asks “When was Dividing Day” that is about divorce. No one goes into marriage wanting to or expecting to get a divorce, or to fall out of love. I wonder if it’s possible for two people to be so aware of their own flaws and especially the ones that rub the other person the wrong way, and to just hyperfocus on changing these behaviors as to always show the other person that you care to be the best person you can be for them. And, the second part of that is for the other person to do the same, all while being verbally appreciative of those changes in behavior, not just accepting them as part of the status quo, when the other person is still working very hard to be a better man/woman for the other person. If two people can do that, I think that a happy marriage is possible. But it requires us to go from our selfish, childish ways to becoming real adults — giving up our wants for the better of someone else, as long as that someone else is doing the very same for us. It won’t always be perfect, but as long as expectations are reasonable and two people really love each other, I want to believe it’s possible, and I want to try. I want to be the old couple that celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary with the same sparkle in our eyes that we have now when we look at each other, and see the man who I fell in love with, and who I’ll always love.

Going to the Chapel and We’re Gonna Spend M-O-N-E-Y

Jewsus Crust, weddings are expensive. While my father has offered to pay for the entire thing up to $45k, that offer hasn’t been sitting well with me as I’ve shopped around for everything from venues to gowns. I’m a grown-ass woman and I should pay for my own g’damn wedding… or at least a reasonable, sizable chunk of it. And so, tonight I had a bit of a epiphany — I’m going to pay for my own wedding (catering/venue) for the guest list I feel comfortable with (100-120 attendees.) Any additional attendees my parents want to invite (their friends, distant family) they can invite but they would cover.

The whole bride’s family pays for the entire thing and the groom’s family pays nothing is completely outdated and actually offensive. Sure, most brides want a wedding that’s a bit bigger and grander than what a groom would select, but that doesn’t mean that the entire wedding is a bride-only affair.

My father is very traditional – to a fault. He expected to pay for his daughter’s weddings and has theoretically saved for the big day. However, that money should be kept for my father’s medical bills over his hopefully long life to come and my mother’s wellbeing throughout her retirement. Spending their money on five hours of my life at this age is a concept that makes me physically ill.

I feel really good about my latest idea — that I’ll pay at least for the venue and catering. It seems a little more stomachable to accept a gift of a dress or band for the event, vs having parents pay the whole thing. Really the gifts from people attending should partially repay for the actual cost of the reception, so if I pay for the reception then some of that cost would be recovered in gifts. It doesn’t make my sense for my parents to pay for the reception and then the gifts to go to us. I know that’s the traditional way of doing things but it’s all sorts of wrong.

Paying for my own wedding does mean that I won’t reach my networth goal of $500k before I have kids — but at this point I’m pretty much retracting that goal and just focused on having a happy, healthy life. I’ll probably move somewhere with a lower cost of living in the next few years and hopefully be able to start a family. My priorities have definitely changed since I went from being sad and single to part A of a happily home-bodied couplehood. Paying for my own wedding also makes it feel more real and meaningful, vs just a big fancy party.

I’m just not sure how I’m going to tell my parents yet that I plan to pay. I figure I can just put down a deposit somewhere and then let them know that the venue and food are taken care of. Will my dad be offended? Probably – but that’s because he’s always offended over anything that goes against anything he thinks or offers. But then he’ll probably be happy to see I’m no longer relying on him to pay for any part of my life. And if he wants to provide a gift towards the total cost of the remaining items in the wedding, I’ll gladly accept. That just feels way more right, and brings my stress levels back to moderate.