Category Archives: Family

I refuse to give up on the American Dream

My American Dream, like many others who grew up in the “upper middle class,” was to continue living that lifestyle — maybe better — as I grew into adulthood and beyond. That meant a house with a lawn, a few bedrooms (with at least one extra for guests), in a neighborhood where you felt safe and could go for a walk down the street without worrying about being shot or mugged. And in that dream was a family — 2 or 3 kids — and the ability to have them take dance classes or piano lessons or attend baseball camp over the summers. And all of this was going to be my reality before I turned 30 (pre birth of the kids).

At the age of 27, I’ve revised that dream slightly, though likely not enough. At 27, I have ~$120k saved. $109k in investments, $27k in cash & cds – what I owe in taxes this year ($10k?)

And still, that savings feels like nothing compared to what I need to give my future family the lifestyle I had as a kid. That amount is pennies towards owning even a 1br condo here.
Around this area, 1brs are going for $599k or $335k or $459k.

Meanwhile, I’m paying $635 per month, or about $7650 a year to live in a small-ish room in a nice-ish condo. I have two roommates (one of them is leaving this summer so we’re going to have to find another roommate, but that’s a tale for a diff post.)

It just seems unreasonable to dream of owning property ever. At least not here.

The American Dream seems out of reach mostly because of my choice in significant other, and maybe in my choice of career. I’m not quite hitting six figures yet, but I’ve saved a reasonable amount of money each year.

My boyfriend still lives at home, so any money he makes he can save. But at 28, he still isn’t working a full time job, he’s making $20 an hour on contract because he doesn’t want to look for a different job and he’s planning on maybe going to grad school next year. I am very supportive of his plans for grad school but with that come loans that will hit when we’re in our early 30s, exactly when we’ll want to have kids. And he has very little savings and no IRA. And he doesn’t want to talk about it. After all, we’re just dating now. But as I’m approaching my 30s, the money has to come into play, a little bit.

I look at my friends who are dating men who are more stable in their careers. I look at my friends who are dating older men who already can afford houses. Some of these friends also work full time, others are working at jobs they love that would never afford them a house on their own.

In my life — I see myself as the breadwinner. The one who will bring home the soy bacon. And I don’t see myself as having the ability to be the same kind of breadwinner my dad was — the kind that could afford the house, the summer camp, the suburban lifestyle. So sometimes I wonder if I should have been more picky in choosing a life partner. I could have targeted men with full-time jobs, already established in their careers. Instead, I fell in love with a guy who isn’t going to push to make a lot of money in his life. And while I admire that about him, it also scares me enough that I’m coming to terms with the possibility that I will rent for the rest of my life and never have children. I just cannot afford them.

Still, I don’t want to give up on the American Dream. It feels about 10 years away right now, but by then it will be too late to have kids. My having children will basically eat up my entire savings — I’m figuring $40k a kid due to my PCOS and need for various fertility treatments, so 2 kids (with no guarantees it will work) and I’m back to square one.

How much of the American Dream should I give up on? Should I strategically place myself somewhere I can earn more than $100k a year? The odds of my stock options ever being worth enough to get me where I need to be at 31 (when they’d vest) are slim to null — even if my company does well. So I get depressed about this… I can’t comprehend how to get to financial stability in my life. Or, I can’t comprehend it where I’m the breadwinner of the story… where I can’t count on a reasonable dual income household. And that really freaks me out. Well, it makes me, again, accept that I’ll be renting a tiny room in a shared space with no kids my entire life. Maybe that’s not so bad. But that’s certainly not my American Dream.

Should I Have Children?

During my therapy session today, it occurred to me that this question alone is one that, of all the questions and confusions on life I have, is the one that freaks me out the most. I’m not going to have kids tomorrow or the next day, but at 26 I have to face reality that if I am going to have children (I’d like at least 2, at most 3) I should have kids within approximately the next 10 years. That’s a lot of time and not much time at all.

10 years ago, I was 16.5. I was a junior in high school, trying to figure out where to go to college, taking the PSATs, and really just starting on my journey of adulthood. It kind of feels like a long time ago. Will 30 or 35 feel that long from now? I hear time speeds up the older you get.
My therapist and I briefly discussed today whether or not I want kids. To be honest, I don’t know. She said that people don’t have to have children, and you have to really have a physical urge to have kids and a desire to appreciate the joy they’ll bring (along with all the sacrifice and stress.) Do I have that urge? Will I ever?
Surely, my life without children might feel a bit meaningless. It already feels meaningless. But it’s not good to put that much responsibility on my yet-to-be-conceived offspring — “bring my life meaning or else.” I can’t really see myself being a mother. Then again, there are plenty of other people in this world who should not be mothers who are, so why should I be so hard on myself? (Ie — see WhytheFuckDoYouHaveaKid.com) I’m not THAT bad, right?

I mean, I have my shit together. Sort of. I have $50k in savings/retirement, a job (that isn’t stable, but I at least have a career that can lead to more jobs), I’m probably doing a lot better than many people my age who already have children. Why do I feel like I need a million dollars in the bank before I can procreate?
Some days, I think reading all these personal finance blogs and listening to Ray Lucia and tracking my Net Worth hurts me a bit. It just makes me freak out about money. It’s important to be responsible with money, to save a certain percentage of your income, etc, etc, but I’m paralyzed by my fear of never having enough. This whole “should I have kids” question goes beyond just having the finances to afford them (heck, am I really the type of person who can be responsible for infants or deal when my teenagers talk back to me?) but the money is a big part of it.
The days I dream of grad school, I have to remind myself how much debt I’ll be in at 30, versus the non grad school route where I can possibly reach a networth of $100k or more by 30. If I end up having kids and wanting to stay home with them, why even bother with grad school?
Meanwhile, my boyfriend has barely any savings, no Roth IRA, no retirement accounts, and is planning to go to grad school — at least for his masters, probably for his PhD. So we’ll likely have his debts to deal with. Why bother adding mine? We can’t do that if we want to have children. I really need to have kids in my early 30s… I will have to go through in vitro and all that fun due to my PCOS, and having children will probably cost $20k+ a pop. I’m not just making these money concerns up.
What do you think? Do you have children? When did you have your kids? How much did you have in net worth when you had children? Do you think it’s silly for me to be this concerned about money before having kids?

Leaving (your money in) Las Vegas

I learn the most about personal finance when spending time with families. Single folks usually can hide their personal finance problems, but families tend to talk about them more openly — even if it’s just to argue about how to spend money for the day. It’s valuable to listen to people in their 30s and 40s to learn about PF issues before you encounter them.

This weekend, I got a schooling in how gambling — and more importantly, financial honesty — effects a marriage. My aunt and uncle are both fairly well off, yet own an expensive home and live in a very pricey area with two kids, so for them — even making approx $400k a year, every cent counts.

Both of them look at bills after meals and with a gasp exclaim that the meal was pricey. They offer to pay for my meals, on occasion, but you can tell in the way they offer they really want me to pick up my portion of the tab (which is fine, I just wish they’d come out and say it.)

However, the most uncomfortable part of my weekend with my aunt and uncle in Vegas was when my aunt inquired about my uncle’s gambling. Now, he wasn’t high rolling or anything… he just played a few hundred bucks in video poker. But he didn’t seem to want to tell my aunt. What made the situation worse was that he would gamble a twenty here and a ten there in front of his children, then get upset at them when they brought this up in front of their mother.

If you’re in Vegas there’s nothing wrong with gambling a little bit, but you have to set limits and more importantly, if you’re married, you have to be open with your partner about how much you’re going to spend. I don’t understand how the same couple constantly worried about every penny can function with gambling involved.

All in all, my trip to Las Vegas was depressing, especially from a personal finance point of view. Watching all of these people… rich, poor, tourists, locals, everyone – just giving away their money in hopes to win big, is almost too surreal to believe. My grandmother, for instance, plays video poker non stop. She puts in $100 and goes through it in about five minutes, only to go to the atm, pay another $5 fee, take out $100 more and go through that. She says she comes out ahead but I can’t really believe her. She does have a strategy which seems to help her “hit” on occasion, but I can’t imagine anyone who is a gambling addict could actually come out ahead always. Granted, she’s alone and her boyfriend of five years recently passed away, and she has nothing except the video poker machine to keep her company. She doesn’t travel, she doesn’t go out to fancy restaurants or shows, she just gambles. That’s her life. That’s a lot of people’s lives in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada. It’s a sad, sad place.

At least when you are visiting the state there is a beginning and end to your gambling, but when you live there, it easily turns into an addiction. I spent about $50 on video poker, more to bond with my Grandma (who constantly screamed in my ear that i’m doing it all wrong and that I shouldn’t gamble but instead play the game the way it wants to be played) than to get rich quick (though of course in the back of my mind I was still hoping…)

I don’t understand Vegas. It would make more sense in the old school sense with cheap buffets and entertainment, all to get people to come and spend their money on roulette. But these days everything there is just so expensive. The shows, the rides, the hotels, the spas, the food… who has money left over to gamble after paying for your vacation?

If anything good comes out of my grandmother’s gambling addiction, it’s her thousands of “comps” which basically provide free room and board for her visitors a few times a year. I didn’t feel so bad wasting $50 on video poker when my entire stay was otherwise free. I can’t imagine ever going to Vegas and actually paying just to be there. It might be fun to go with a group of friends and party the night away — if you’re super rich — but otherwise, how is what happens in Vegas ever worth the price?