Category Archives: Other

Moving Out… Sometime This Year

My roommate and I just had “the talk.” We’ve had a reasonably good run… I’ve lived here since 2009… but it’s about time to move on. We’re both in our 30s now, and both sharing the mindset that it’s time to have our own place. Gladly, we’ll part ways amicably and at a time convenient for both of us. That said, I’ll be the one who has to move, and she’ll stay in our rather nice, $2200 3br/2ba apartment with her girlfriend (who also lives here now) and I’ll have to deal with moving out.

That’s fine, though, because I am planning to move into a 1br with my boyfriend some time this year, maybe. As mentioned in my previous post, he finds out in May whether he got into graduate school. He applied to three programs, one that’s semi-local and two that are in other states. So a lot depends on how that goes. If he gets into the local program, we’ll probably find a small one bedroom up in the city to share. If he gets into the programs out of state and decides to go then I’ll look either for new roommates or, ideally, a studio of my own. If he happens to not get into any programs then we’ll probably look for a place around here or around wherever my job is at the time.

Continue reading

How to Be a Good Role Model?

My sister is depressed. She’s seven years younger than I am and working on her final internship prior to college graduation. I feel like it’s my duty to be a good role model for her, to somehow be able to say that it all gets better, that life is hunky dory, that our parents didn’t f us up so deeply that at 30 I still need weekly therapy and spend hours lost in introspection over how much I suck at just about everything. But I can’t, because I’m no good at lying, and I’m not sure that would help either.

In terms of how we got to our depression, our stories are quite different. Our parents were the same, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. But as much as they told me on and on that I was not working up to potential (and thought I was some genius who clearly was not performing to my own abilities to spite them), my sister had a learning disability and therefore was lauded for every tiny achievement while also overhearing many discussions regarding her inability to succeed. Both of us, needless to say, grew up with confidence issues and major anxiety problems.

Listening to her go on about her own insecurities is a frightening reflection of my own. We both struggle in relationships with other people. She’s good at memorizing data and organization while I’m good at writing and being somewhat creative. She’s an ISTJ and I’m an ENFP — polar opposites with similar problems. I’m worried for her. I’m worried for her because my parents will support her staying in the house should she not be able to obtain a final internship or job. While I don’t at all want her forced onto the street, having such backup is not at all motivating to just do something. But it’s having parents that don’t require you to work growing up that lead to this, where one graduates from college with only a few hours of work under their belts at best, and nothing to show for it.

She needs one long internship to graduate from college, as all of her coursework is complete. I’m trying to help her apply for programs but ultimately she will have to complete the interviews, should she be called for any upon her application, and she’ll have to be able to convince someone else that she’s the right person to hire for the internship role. But without any confidence (and a sincere disinterest in working with people or leading anyone) her opportunities are greatly limited. Especially due to her major which has to do with, well, people. (Long story that I shall leave out for reasons of anonymity.)

But the frustrating part is that she does have a lot of abilities, it’s just challenging to align these with a role – internship, job or otherwise – as many of the types of positions she’d be suited for (such as research) require masters-level credentials. She really doesn’t want to have to get on the phone and talk to people, though, as she suffers a severe case of social anxiety (I guess mine is only minor compared to hers — though my backlog of voicemail would say otherwise) and what makes it harder is she has problems speaking properly due to her jaw placement. She’s definitely a little strange in that she isn’t the typical enthusiastic young employee, but she’s super smart and I believe in the right role would excel. Again, she’s best suited to research, but even that requires some level of interactions with other people. What can I do to help her — esp when I’m dealing with my own level of feeling like I’m not good enough for any role, and I’m past 30?

Like me, she’s seeing a therapist. But I know therapy alone won’t get her out of the funk. She needs a lucky break, to find a job where she really feels like she’s doing something productive and is seen as an asset to an organization, versus someone who doesn’t belong. And she needs the opportunity to meet other people her age who are not complete alcoholics to become friends with (unfortunately her few high school friends decided to defriend her because they’re assholes, but that’s another story also.) I really want to be the good big sister I never was but I just feel helpless. She knows I’m there for her. But that can’t kick her ass out into the big bad world. She’s deeply depressed and I know what it’s like. I’ve never really escaped my depression but it goes in waves. There are some days I know EXACTLY what she feels like. How can I tell her that it gets better?

All I can think of to tell her is that making money is important. She can live at home for a while but eventually she has to pay for her own life. To be happy, or somewhat happy, she’ll need her independence, which requires moving out. I’m helping her apply for internships away from home. She lived away from home for college but spent the whole time focused on studying because she struggles academically due to her learning disability but is an amazingly good student. She didn’t have time for friends, but now she’s home from school, moping around, lonely, and, well, moping around some more. My parents who have constant shouting matches are no help. I don’t know what to do.








What Keeps Me Up at Night

While I may go on and on about my impostor syndrome at work, what I’m most afraid of is the cost of life. I’m still utterly confused how much money and savings I need to live a happy, simple life in Silicon Valley with a family of ideally 2-3 children and a sane retirement where neither I or my (future) husband do not end up in a government-owned facility.

I need some sort of calculator that can tell me how far off I am to this goal, and a way to understand what that magical number is. At the moment real estate calculators say I can afford a $500,000 home (which is not even possibly in The Bay Area.) And this is with a $110k salary, which I consider to be rather high and unsustainable.

The average cost to raise one kid is $240,000. And that doesn’t even include the cost of college. That is my entire life savings at 30. Just thinking about spending $500k-$600k on having a family of two makes me not want to have children. Even though I’ve finally decided that I do want to have kids. Is it fiscally wise?

I met with a colleague of mine recently who is a senior executive. She discussed a bit how, as the breadwinner of her family, many of her career choices were made based on making sure that she could afford her life with her husband and kids. I’m not sure exactly what the arrangement is (or exactly how much he contributes) but I know I am looking at a life where I will be the primary breadwinner in my family. My boyfriend is likely going to become a high school teacher, with a starting salary of $50k – $60k, if he can find a job. While that’s much better than nothing, and better than a single income, I will have to work – and obtain higher six-figure salaries going forward – to afford my life (or leave Silicon Valley.)

I’m concerned about potential conflicts later in life if/when I have children with my s/o. While I grew up going to art classes and dance lessons (and other school activities which cost additional fees.) I went to sleep-away camp once I entered middle school. My bf, on the other hand, didn’t grow up with any of these luxuries. He participated in some school activities, but nothing that cost additional money. And he didn’t go to summer camp. He didn’t even have his own room. I’m pretty sure when we have kids and I’m sad that we can’t afford to give them piano lessons, he’ll roll his eyes at me.

Obviously kids don’t have to have lives like this to be successful. But these are things that I’ve just always expected my potential one-day hypothetical children to have. And they are expensive. And they cut into other important budget items like retirement savings and healthcare.

I’m terrified of ending up broke and alone when I’m older. My grandmother gambled away her life savings and is barely affording one step above a government-sponsored home. I want to have options when I’m older. And how much do I really need to retire?

“As you begin thinking about how much you’ll need for a comfortable retirement, you may be startled to learn the impact of inflation. At an average annual inflation rate of 3%, your cost of living would double every 24 years.* Your annual income will need to increase each year, even during retirement, in order to keep up with the gradual rise in prices of everyday goods.” — AXA Equitable

Based on the retirement needs worksheet, to figure out how much I need in retirement I have to. This assumes 3% inflation and 5% ROI:

1. Estimate last year’s working salary. Multiply your current salary by the inflation factor from the retirement table below, based on the number of years until retirement.

Years to Retirement Inflation Factor Growth Factor Multiplier
5 1.16 1.28 5.80
10 1.34 1.63 13.21
15 1.56 2.08 22.66
20 1.81 2.65 34.72
25 2.10 3.39 50.11
30 2.43 4.32 69.76
35 2.81 5.52 94.84

So let’s say that I have 35 years until retirement…

My salary last year with bonus was $120,000. So it’s $120,000 * 2.81 = $337,200

2. Estimate 80% of your last working year’s salary… $96000  $269760

3. Estimate the amount that you’ll need from your savings and investments by multiplying line 2 by 12.591…. $1,208,736 $3,396,548.16

4. Enter the amount of your current savings and investments and multiply it by the growth factor from the table to see what the savings would be worth at retirement. So I’ll go with $240,000 * 5.52… $1,324,800

So… if I don’t touch the $240,000 then I have enough????

I’m confused as that $240,000 will need to be used for a house. Does that count as part of retirement savings, or does the total needed for retirement expect this to be outside of your living situation / home?

A commenter explained that I did the math wrong here – well, I misunderstood the directions… I used last year’s salary (2012) versus my expected last year salary, as in the year before I retire, oops. So I actually need to make up a gap of $2M. Which is frightening, but sounds more legit.

According to this calculator, if I want to retire at age 65, and assume $0 for SS income (because SS will be bankrupt by the time I am retired), and I want to live on $80,000 per year, if I put in $20,000 per year to retirement for the next 35 years my retirement savings will last until I am 88. Well, I plan to live to 110, so I’m screwed. Or, I need to put in $30k per year for the next 30 years for my retirement income to last until 101.

This all seems possible without kids. With kids, I really don’t know how I’m ever going to be able to afford retirement. I don’t mind the idea of working until old age if I physically can, but what if I can’t? Or I change my mind later?

And I’m considerably more fortunate that most people in the US with $240k+ in savings and a job paying $110k. Life just seems way too expensive to live.





This is Work, Not a Cult

When you work for a startup, despite it being work, it sure feels like a cult. You are all working together to create something new. You’ll all a bit delusional, working behind a fearless leader who can convince you of just about anything. Sure, there are disagreements among the tribe, but in the end, it’s clear who you work for, and everything kind of falls into place.

That is, until the leader moves on. It’s common in startups for this to happen by choice or by force. As the company grows and changes, it turns from a cult to something that resembles a slightly more normal corporation. The challenges are still there, you just don’t have that, uh, crazy glue to hold it all together. And, as per the case in many startups where this transition happens, one by one, the early members leave, go off to new adventures, and the few that stay are left in a little state of bewilderment and shock.

This is a good thing, in many ways, as you want your company to grow and change as long as it’s meeting business need. That’s the goal of any startup. But suddenly your working 48 hours straight to prep for a business pitch when you were a team of five doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter that when you went to a business event you hustled and felt bad every second you weren’t getting leads, at all hours of the day, or when you stayed up all night to do a sales pitch to inbound leads from Russia, China, India and Europe when all you had to pitch was a very bare bones deck, because no one from that group is left. People have joined because the company already is somewhat successful. Yes, you were a small part of helping build that, but who cares. Right now, your job has changed significantly. You helped build the car, now be part of a new engine, and don’t blink twice because you’re either on board or you’re off.

What complicates matters more is the jealousy that comes with watching others move on to new projects. Many team up to start new things. Some seem to have great potential. And while I really, really want to focus on being completely 100% dedicated to my role right now a part of my mind wanters into jealousy territory. Jealousy, envy, and the sheer sadness of feeling unwanted, like all the work I did to prove I could help build a company wasn’t even good enough for the people whose cult I was once part of. I’m the member that was kicked out, never asked back in. Which is fine, there are plenty of reasons for that, many of which I’m sure have little to do with me anyway, and there’s the reality that it probably wouldn’t be the ideal choice to go to even if asked, but it hurts not to be asked. I think that’s a natural human reaction to the situation. I just don’t want to dwell on it too much.

I wouldn’t dwell on it so much if I felt I was the right fit for my current role, and able to help with the challenges we’re facing today. I can help a little, but feel so overwhelmed on the grand scale of things, and am lost in questioning everything these days. Even though my previous leader was by no means perfect, he is gone. And as it really was such a cult that gave me superhuman powers to get stuff done in ways I never had before, all due to this group mentality, I have to figure out a way to get that back and motivate myself. I do a lot of work still, don’t get me wrong, but I only feel alive when I’m pushing myself like this. It’s probably healthier not to have a leader like this who tears you down a bit to motivate you, who has unrealistic expectations that somehow you still have to meet. And yet, I miss that. I just need to make that crazy leader voice something in my head so I can excel in a healthier, maybe even one day stable job environment and career. Hmm.




The Psychology of Making It

Spending time with my friends from high school is always a bit of a reality check. I write about this every time I go home. But the older I get, each trip back home I leave a world where I feel entirely behind in life, without a clear step-by-step process for getting from where I am today to where I want to go next, and, on the verge of 30, wondering both if I’ve waited too long to have children or get an MBA. And if I need either. Or want either.

Whether they’ve had children, have been married, or remain single, most of my high school friends have entered some respectable middle class job at best, or are falling deeper into debt working a few hours a week or, at worst, living off welfare due to their (in denial of) drug and alcohol addictions. Of course, the few that have made it moved somewhere. They got out of New Jersey. Then there are those who I consider stuck in NJ. And I’m sure some of them will have lovely lives. Middle class isn’t that hard to achieve where a nice starter home can be purchased for under $300k. That leaves little to strive for as well professionally. Yet when the cost of raising children, living a life and fixing a house become too much, many are unhappy, with no plans to get them to the next level of financial success. I look at many of my friends and worry about how they’ll be able to afford any sort of retirement. Continue reading

How Far You’ve Come

There’s nothing like the reality check of reading my first blog post on HerEveryCentCounts to remind me how far I’ve come in the past six years… increasing my networth from $27k to $222k. If I can make this much progress in the next six years I should do fine. I have to keep telling myself that.

WAYBACK MACHINE: 1st HECC Post / May 27, 2007

This isn’t my first blog, nor will it be my last likely, but after randomly falling into the online investment blogging community, I decided it’s a good idea to start tracking my finances and the like via the Internet… anonymously, of course.

So here’s a little bit of info about me to get started: I’m a young professional in her early 20?s. I’ve been out of undergrad for two years now. My income is $35k a year, benefits included, except sans a 401k. Chance of raise/promotion within next year: 15%. Chance of company going out of business: 55%.

I’m fortunate in the sense that I have a decent amount of savings and no college loans. Savings from both my dad putting aside some funds for me for the awkward post-college year, and then extra cash from a lawsuit over a broken arm when I was little. My networth right now is around $27k. So I realize I’m better off than many other people my age, despite the fact that they might be making $50k a year and I’m only at $35k. Or at least our actual income after bills and other expenses is usually about the same.

Since this is an anonymous blog, I feel ok talking about the details of my finances. I haven’t talked about it much on my main blog since it feels weird letting people know about how much I’m worth, or not worth. But finances are one of the things that I really need to talk somewhat publicly about, since I’m unsure of how to handle my money, with the exception of spending it. I’m very good at spending it.

So I recently opened a few random mutual fund/IRA/CD accounts, as I’m attempting to “diversify” my portfolio. I know I’m supposed to be living under my means, but I often fail to do that and spend more per month than I take in. Obviously that’s a bad idea. But i’m hoping that at the least, putting some of my funds in high-interest accounts will balance out my poor spending habits.

Ok, so here’s the breakdown of my accounts right now… (I’m going to try to keep tabs of this, as well as my budget, on here)

$2,143.54 – Checking
$7,421.99 – CD – 3.1 % Interest, matures 8/28/08
$5,510.58 – Maximizer Checking
$1000.63 – Savings
$5,000 – 8-month 5.01% Interest CD
$3,000 – Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth Index Mutual Fund
$3,000 – Roth IRA, in 2050 Retirement Plan fund

Well, the last three of these items haven’t officially been started yet. I signed up for them yesterday. I’m waiting for all of the electronic transfers to go through. I realize investing in a Mid-Cap Growth Index Mutual Fund. Afterall, the smart thing to do is to invest in large caps, right? But I figure if I put $3000 into a mid cap fund, I can also invest in a large cap fund if/when I ever get a raise. I’m $1000 to maxing out my Roth IRA fund.

I don’t understand the Roth versus regular IRA option, being as I know the Roth is all after-tax income and the regular IRA is pre-tax income then invested. But what should I be investing in now? I’m only making $35k a year, so it seems like I’ll most likely be in a higher tax bracket when I want to retire. Afterall, I plan on making more than $35k per year when I’m 55 or 65 or whatever age it is I can retire.

And if I sign up for a Roth IRA now, can I move to a regular IRA at any time? Or am I stuck in the Roth?

Finally, how about my mutual funds – how much will it cost to change them from mid-cap to large-cap if suddenly I realize I ought to be a bit less risky in my investing? Gosh, I’m so confused.


Finding $15k – $20k Liquid for a New Car

It’s (over) time to purchase an updated car. My current beater may be adequate for a gangbanger from the worst part of town, but it certain isn’t appropriate for a serious professional. In the next two months (after taxes are done and I confirm I don’t owe the government all of my money) I’d like to make a purchase of a new (used) vehicle. Based on my research I’ve determined that car will cost about $15k – $20k. I do not want to pay for this with a loan, so instead I’d like to figure out how I can make $15k – $20k liquid from my existing savings and upcoming income. This will be challenging because right now I have $400 in my checking account.

The biggest challenge is not in finding the cash to buy the car outright, but in making up for $20k of lost savings when my goal is to save $50k a year and I’m already behind! This means I’ll be relying a lot on bonuses this year (which I hate doing since they’re not a sure thing) and/or needing to look for second income opportunities. Regardless, I need to buy a car. I don’t need to buy a $20,000 car (and I probably shouldn’t with my sky-high SR-22 insurance costs), but I wanted to figure out how I could potentially access $20k by May 1 to make the purchase. I can work backwards and scale downwards in my car purchase price from there. Continue reading

I Can’t Get No… Dun Nuh Nuh… Satisfaction…

Yesterday evening I met up with a friend of mine from jobs past for an insightful chat over tea. He’s one of my few friends who is also a professional in the technology industry, so it’s always good to share stories and dual-crowdsource our own advice. One of the themes of the conversation this evening was defining success, and the reason behind what makes those definitions so different for each of us.

My friend, we’ll call him John, is very analytical in his approach to happiness. He buckets each area of his life – career, romance, friendship, hobbies, and keeps a mental tab on the progress he has made in each of these areas. He is completely satisfied working a 9-5 job, as long as it’s stable. Working for a large tech firm, he’s accepted that churning out materials is more important than perfection. He enjoys the work, but isn’t personally invested in the success of the company. Today, he is extremely satisfied in his career progress, and he wants to focus now on developing his romantic relationships, since that area has suffered in the past decade when he earned two graduate degrees, including, most recently, an executive MBA. Continue reading

Question for My Readers: What Should I Do With My Portfolio?

Of my 200k portfolio, 90% of it is in stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and a few REITs and precious metal ETFs. While I’m diversified across industries, having that much of my networth wrapped up in the stock market is potentially a bad idea. If you were me, would you reallocate, and if so, what would you invest in?

  • Should I keep all my money in stocks because I’m still young and the market will have time to recover even if it fails again?
  • Should I buy a condo for $500k and put $100k down, therefore having 50% of my networth in real estate and 50% in stocks?
  • Should I apply to graduate school and pay for it outright, in effect investing in myself?
  • What other options are there that I should consider?

Read below the fold to see how my current portfolio breaks down:
Continue reading

life after DUI: attempting to start over without really starting over.

Life happens. Mistakes are made. How the rest of your life turns out depends on how quickly you’re able to bounce back, as well as how you’re able to turn things around and not make the same mistakes again.

It’s been six months since pleading “no contest” to my DUI arrest at .08% BAC, and 10 months since the actual evening of the arrest. I’ve gone through many phases after the arrest, including depression, shame, guilt, anger, and now, coping and trying to move on.

I’ve been without a car for months now — thought I’m eligible to register for a restricted license to get to work, I’ve been avoiding that and driving because I’m scared to let myself get near a car. On Monday, I’ve finally made myself a DMV appointment to purchase a restricted license. This summer, once my classes are over, I should be able to get a full license and attempt to bring my life back to normal, or better yet, move forward to a place I’ve never been — in control, and in charge of my own happiness.

In my DUI class the other day, we had to do an exercise called “the 12 hours before your DUI.” It had a series of multiple choice questions, that because with — “was it on a usual or unusual day?” For me, it was an unusual day. I was having a huge bought of anxiety and hadn’t moved from my bed for the entire day, not even to eat. I don’t even remember why I was so stressed, but I was having a bad enough panic attack that I requested to work from home that day. Then, around 5pm I decided it would be best to force myself to get out of the house and go to a meetup event, where I could try to be social and get myself some food. Unfortunately, instead of food, there was only wine and a lot more anxiety. So I had four or so glasses to drink on a very empty stomach.

The questionnaire went on to ask what time you started drinking, where you were, and what time you were arrested. I started at 7pm, finished at 9:30pm, and was arrested around 12:30pm. Why were you arrested? My option was “other.” Most people in the class had been pulled over for driving poorly. I have the lowest BAC in the class at .08%. Most people had .14% or higher, with a few .20% and higher. Some stories are so crazy (like the guy who got arrested with three kids in the back seat and a .24% and, because he had a good lawyer, got less of a punishment than I did with my .08% and no traffic violation) or the woman who was drinking all day and ended up driving with a .22% to help her friend out who forgot her seizure medication at a party. Most people were celebrating, a few had been drinking all night, went to sleep and woke up the next morning to drive, only to get a DUI because the alcohol hadn’t left their system.

At the end, the questionnaire asked four final questions:

1. Do you feel responsible for the events leading up to your DUI?
2. Do you think it was fair that you were arrested?
3. How likely are you to get a DUI again?
4. How hard will it be for you to get a second DUI?

We’re told that 40% of first DUI offenders will get a second DUI. That seems ridiculously high, but in forcing myself to answer these questions honestly, I understood why.

1. Do you feel responsible for the events leading up to your DUI? Yes, entirely.

2. Do you think it was fair that you were arrested? Somewhat. I think it was unfair I was arrested that night because someone called 911 on me walking to my car — not even because I was driving poorly — and all of the videos they force us to watch show accidents with people who had .15% or higher — but I also am glad they did because it was much better to learn this lesson on a night I was just barely over the legal limit, then another night when I might have been more depressed, more intoxicated, and hurt someone. I still think it is unfair how people who have clearly had a lot more to drink end up with the same punishment or even lesser punishment if they have good lawyers.

3. How likely are you to get a DUI again? Very unlikely. I wanted, so desperately, to put that it definitely wouldn’t happen, but then I wanted to be honest.

4. How hard will it be for you not to get a second DUI?  The only real way for me to guarantee that I will never get a DUI again is to stop drinking. Of course when I’m sober I can say I wouldn’t drive after I drink, but the problem is that when you drink you think irrationally. I’m a lightweight, and after even one drink my logic goes to shit. I am glad that this experience after the DUI is so frustrating — because it’s easier to “forget” paying $10k over the years, but it’s not easy to forget the night in jail, the five days of SWAP program where I was a part time convict and freedoms were taken away from me, and now, this year of my life which has been really difficult due to not having a car, putting a great deal of stress on not only my life, but also my boyfriend’s life, as he has so kindly helped drive me over the year. Somehow I’m managed to maintain my job this last year, but I’ve been severely depressed, and have gained more than 20 pounds, now at my largest weight ever. I feel so out of control, and so I just eat and eat. This is another reason I must get my life back in order.

I won’t get a second DUI, I promise myself, and I promise the world, but I also said I wouldn’t get a first. I think that sort of messes with your mind also… which might lead to the likelihood of people getting a second or third, even. But I refuse to be a statistic.
Beyond the DUI, though, there is a question of whether I should drink in the first place. It’s challenging not to, with my work culture tied to our weekly happy hour. I like drinking too, because I’m so shy and awkward, at the time, it helps me be social, and feel like I belong. It isn’t like I’m going out to get shit faced, but even one drink of red wine makes me more comfortable with others. I wish I could figure out a way to feel like that without the alcohol. It also turns out that since the DUI, I’ve started drinking more than I used to, because of this depression and hatred over losing the last bit of control I felt like I had with life.
In any case, I’m really focused on moving on with my life. There’s a lot going on right now causing me to be depressed beyond this issue, things that the rational, not depressed person would be able to deal with, things that are really making getting through each day difficult. Luckily there is a lot of positive things in my life right now too, so it all balances out. There are days when I feel like giving up. I’ll write more about that in my next post.
I just want all of the DUI penalties to be done with, so I can really move on. I’ve finished seven of my 17 classes (which are taking a long time because they are weekly and I frequently travel for work), and I’ll be paying the fines and increase in insurance for years to come. I finally filled my SR-22 with my insurance, so I can get the restricted license, and will be getting that on Monday. My car apparently isn’t turning on because it hasn’t been driven in months, so I need to see if it can be fixed or if I need a new car. Soon this will be over. And I really, desperately, need to change my life so this — and other things like this — do not happen again. My next post will be on self sabotage and how this effects life and my financial stability.