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Working Moms: When is the best time to have kids?

The answer I get re: when is the best time to have kids is “there is never a best time to have kids.” I’m sure that is true, but there is definitely “a time when it becomes harder / impossible to have kids” (at least naturally), so I’m trying to make that deadline without pushing it too much.

When I was younger, I thought 30 was old. I’m now turning 33 in 3 months. Thirty-three is fine age to have kids, but I always thought I’d have my second by 33. Now I’m looking at not yet even having my first.

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Can We Afford Life on a dual-income, one Teacher’s Salary?

My husband is adamant that until I get my ADHD mess in order, we should not discuss the future. He has a point. I am good at planning for years down the line, but in terms of “today,” my life is a mess. I still cannot get myself to work on time and despite some progress in the cleaning up department – my laundry never manages to make it from the drier to my closet. It’s completely fair for him to state that until I can stick to a basic routine, we should not discuss the future.

I know if I can just keep the house clean (well get it clean and then keep it clean) and leave the house in the morning to get to work on time, he will, eventually, be willing to plan life with me. I am trying to get rid of things and simplify as much as possible so that there is just less stuff to create messes. It definitely helps. Continue reading

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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

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When It All Adds Up: Am I Autistic?

In the course of my mental health history, I’ve been diagnosed with, in no particular order, major depression, bipolar II, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD and, as I aged out of hyperactivity, Adult ADD. Yet my current therapist first to allude to the suspicion that I may be “on the spectrum,” so to speak. At first, I thought she was nuts. Well, I generally think she’s nuts because unlike my other therapists who have been more traditional talk therapists who don’t give direct advice, she’s more of a crossover psychologist and coach. And, maybe she actually sees something that others have missed. Or maybe she’s just crazy. Continue reading

Budgeting to Achieve $500k Goal Before Kids

As my long-time readers know, my “impossible” goal of hitting $500,000 in individual net worth before I have my first child is somehow within sight. It’s still seemingly impossible, but I always aim high and see how far I can get. I’m not pregnant yet, so that gives me at least nine months to get there. Below, I’m going to detail my budget plan to take me from where I am today to where I want to be before my first child is born.

On 7/15/16, my networth calculations = $379,412.

This leaves $120,588 to save prior to having children.

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Marriage Is the Worst Financial Decision of My Life – And I Don’t Regret It

The marriage tax penalty is real and it is painful if you live and work in a region of the country that tops the “highest cost of living” lists. While you can make the argument that this is a “choice” and that incomes tend to be higher in that region versus the rest of the country (if you work in a high-paying field), it still doesn’t balance out. I’m glad that I knew going into marriage it was the worst financial decision of my life (my husband says the wedding was, but actually the cost of the wedding was pennies versus what I’ll personally lose over my lifetime, financially speaking.)

There are numerous benefits to marriage, and above all else I’m a sap who believes in love and cares more about stability and security than wealth. I’m happy to be married. Happier than I thought I’d be (at least a month in) as it shockingly feels very different from being single. I didn’t expect it to feel different at all, especially after dating over a decade and co-habiting for the last two years. The only difference, I thought, would be that I can’t just walk out the door without repercussions, and neither could he.

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Black Lives Matter and The Concept of “Woke”

I always get myself into trouble talking about this subject (because it’s rather controversial no matter what you say about it), but as a privledged white woman living in the US today, both due to my skin-tone and childhood socio-economic status, I often wonder what I can do to help minimize the inequality within our own borders.

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation (ok, maybe more like heated debate) with a few people on Facebook who said that racism (in the US anyway) was purely a “white people problem.” While I disagree (everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes, according to the musical Avenue Q) – I do know that being white and being black (or a person of color, for that matter) is an entirely different life experience in this country no matter how much money you make or where you end up living. Continue reading

Who can afford to have kids?

Now that I’m getting around to this whole phase of my life where I will be trying to get pregnant (soon), the actual cost of kids is rolling towards me like a giant boulder chasing after Indiana Jones. Kids. Are. Damn. Expletive. Expensive.

Mr. HECC and myself are in a very good financial state compared to most people our age. We have $0 in college loans thanks to our parents covering our undergraduate tuition in full (I don’t know how we’ll be able to give the same gift to our future children) and we don’t have any other debt. We own our cars (which we bought used) outright and while our rent is not super cheap, we can afford to pay it on one income should one of us lose a job at some point – at least for a little while. And, together, we have about $450k saved up. For newlyweds in our early 30s, we’re doing ok.

Still, the cost of having children almost seems prohibitively expensive. I’ve been reading a lot of forums where they detail the cost of the basics – childcare, food, some activities, et al, and it adds up fast. Apparently pre-school around here costs about $2k a month or more ($24k a year.) Ouch. No wonder many of my friends ended up choosing to leave work, at least temporarily, to raise their kids as stay-at-home moms or part-time workers.

Since my income is much higher than Mr. HECC (and currently I’m the only one with work-provided insurance) it looks like if anyone ends up staying home to take care of our hypothetical future children, it will be him. I think I’m ok with that, but I also know he isn’t the “take care of the house” type so I’ll still have to at least be the main cleaner (which isn’t my forte.) He’ll cook so at least we have that covered. I’d be the full time worker, house cleaner and financial lead of our household. I’m pretty sure that my stress levels – which aren’t that low right now – will be through the roof should I have kids. The numbers just don’t make sense.

Clearly, lots of people have kids. Lots of people with a lot more debt than we do have kids. Lots of people who will never be able to take a vacation or enjoy a night out have kids. People have kids. Or they don’t. But it’s rare that a couple really analyzes the cost of children and then decides to have them because it’s a smart financial decision. It costs about $250k to raise a kid BEFORE college costs are involved. So it’s about $500k just to raise a kid if you’re going to pay for their undergraduate education, give or take $100k. Mr. HECC rolls his eyes at those figures – he grew up in a pretty modest household and their family trips were going camping in national parks and he never owned new clothes, so he doesn’t have the same kind of expectations that I do for our children. That said, I also now acknowledge that the amount of new toys I had as a child was ridiculous and I didn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on trendy clothes each year at the mall. There’s definitely somewhere in between our childhoods that we can settle on. No matter what, it’s going to be very expensive.

I feel that I’m now on the edge of this cliff looking at the abyss of a very frugal life, and back at my life so far where, despite ups and downs in my career, I’ve had quite a few luxuries and still have been able to save a substantial amount. I think about the “DINK” lifestyle – dual income, no kids – and wonder if maybe that’s the way to go. I don’t have that long to decide… if I want kids, I have to have them soon. It may come to having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments to have a kid, which adds to the cost of actually having them.

I’m not complaining about the costs, just trying to be realistic with if this makes any sense, or if I should stop and think a lot harder on whether or not it makes sense to have kids given my inability to keep a stable job and my husband’s lack of motivation to increase his earning potential. We’re both doing quite fine without children, but with kids – even one kid – things will change. And it’s not something you can take back once you have them, so you better be damn sure you want them before you do.

I AM sure I want kids, however. I want two children and Mr. HECC and I have already named them. I don’t know if I can have them, and I’m not quite sure yet if I’d be devastated if I’m unable to have kids, but I know that if I can have them I want them. It makes absolutely no sense yet that’s pretty much all I can think about these days. I don’t have any fairytales about having kids being easy either. I see my friend’s kids and they are all pains in the asses, even the ones that are relatively calm and charming. But – I have so much love in me it’s bursting at the seams, and I’m tired of living life for work. I want to live life for family and build a strong and stable and hopefully happy family and lots of memories before I kick the bucket.

So then the question becomes WHEN to have kids. I’ll be 33 this fall, which is old in baby-making years, especially for a first child when your goal is to have two – it’s very unlikely at this point I’ll have my first kid before I’m 34. I’ve always wanted to have my second by 36. I like the idea of having two kids close in age but at the same time having kids that close together is really, really, really hard – especially if the woman is the primary breadwinner of the household. I just don’t know how it all works. No matter how I picture it, everything breaks down. Either I quit my job, we move somewhere more cheaper, or both, and, still, that doesn’t help matters much. My savings that I’ve worked so hard to acquire slowly gets depleted until we’re in debt and can’t dig ourselves out. We have one medical emergency after another and we can’t afford good medical care and we end up on food stamps and we can’t help our children with their own issues so they end up in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Ok, so this is an exaggeration of what could happen, but I don’t see how anyone affords kids!?!

Babies on the Brain – Preparing for My (“Our”) Future

The majority of my friends are popping out their first children or well on their way to their second child by now. My Facebook feed, filled with folks I went to school with, mostly lesser educated yet clearly happy people, showcases families now of three or four kids. At nearly 33, I remain childless. I don’t FEEL old, yet it terms of childbearing years I’m getting up there. If I can get pregnant easily (which is unlikely) then I would have my first child before 35 – which is fine. However, I don’t want my second child to feel rushed as I know how much work having one child is, and I want time to enjoy being a mother of one before rushing on to try for my second.

Although I’ve thought a lot about the logistics of getting pregnant and childbirth before, the reality of the situation has never felt quite so pressing. Now that I’ve checked the marriage box there really is nothing holding me back from getting pregnant – except maybe an overdue international honeymoon which I was unable to take after the wedding for a variety of reasons (call me silly to put off getting pregnant until a honeymoon but I’d like to be able to enjoy this trip as much as possible and not feel sick on it, and I’d like to try regional cuisine including wine/sake depending on where we end up going.) But – I’m also at the point where I’m sincerely concerned about my ability to get pregnant and although I keep telling myself life will go on should I not be able to actually procreate, I feel like everyday we don’t try is another day I might eventually regret.

Before you say I’m being ridiculous, let me remind you at the ripe young age of 15 my gynecologist told me that my irregular periods were not to be of concern (and did not mention PCOS) but that as long as I have my kids before 30 I’ll be fine. That comments haunts me to this day. I am terrified that because I didn’t heed her advice, I’ll blame myself when we are stuck in cycles of IVF, I’m taking dozens of unpaid leave days from work and ultimately losing my job because I’m massively depressed over all of the emotional drama that goes along with infertility treatments and getting used to failures and picking back up and trying again and watching our bank accounts drain at what amounts to playing fertility roulette.

Mr. HECC is the type that doesn’t worry about the future. Generally, this is a good thing. He lives in the moment and I admire that. He doesn’t really have plans and while he wants kids he isn’t getting himself into a tizzy over how hard it might be for us to make them. He figures we’ll deal with it when it’s time to deal with it and if we can’t have any then we might adopt. I’m not sure about adoption (I have very mixed feelings about it and that’s something I won’t think about until I really have to) – but in the mean time I feel like this is pretty important and there are so many things that effect my ability to get pregnant and be pregnant and have children that require proper planning for a what may amount to a non-occurance and in this case I think I’m in the right to be a bit concerned about what this future of ours looks like which may or may not include offspring.

Work isn’t exactly stable right now. My company has no written maternity leave policy and because they have under 50 people they have no legal requirements to provide time off. Basically, how they treat maternity leave would depend on how much they want to keep me around. They can’t fire me if I get pregnant, but they certainly can make it not the easiest to stay. And, honestly, with the amount of responsibility I have I can’t say I’d be the best employee with such distractions. I’d never admit that to my employer, as that might set all of women back hundreds of years, but it’s kind of an unspoken truth – especially in the case for someone like myself with very clear mental illness who has already proven herself incapable of handling personal stressors and maintaining quality, consistent work at all times. The thing is – I WANT to have a few good years of focusing on work with no distractions. Even if I am uncertain of my career, I do like doing good work. I have been so distracted with the wedding (which was just a frivolous, inconsequential life event beyond actually getting married) that I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when I’m rushing off to IVF treatments (should they be needed) and waiting to see if one of them happen to take. Even just trying to get pregnant the good old fashioned way can be extremely stressful – as can be the potential of miscarriage, which is, according to some reports, 30% to 50% more likely in women with PCOS.

The amount of emotional stress that will go into getting and staying pregnant with my condition is above and beyond the normal challenges faced by pregnant women who work. Two of my good friends had horrible first trimesters where they were constantly nauseous and sick, and if such illness struck me I honestly don’t know what I’d do with having to work and not having time off to take. I’m already in a not-so-great situation in my current company where my company isn’t sold on my value, but if I leave and go to another company it would be even harder to ask for time off should I need it to deal with infertility treatments or standard morning sickness. Larger companies are probably better overall in handling the challenges that come with getting pregnant (in most startups I’ve worked for the majority of employees are men and the women in the company are typically younger / not of childbearing age. Executives are rarely female and if they are they are often childfree by choice. My last company was the exception with one highly-valued exec who was pregnant and had a child – and she barely took any time off to do so.) I dislike that at this point in my career not only am I trying to sort out my career but I also really do need to think about how this will effect my ability to have a child and remain gainfully employed. As I’ve noted many times before, I make more than double what my husband makes, so I really can’t stop working. I don’t want to stop working either – but I am worried about the sheer biological and emotional challenges which I cannot avoid once I start trying to get pregnant.

As is, I have about 15 PTO days per year (no “sick” days) – which is actually really good for a US company – and I’ve used nearly all of the ones I’ve accumulated so far on getting married. If I do take the extended honeymoon I’ve dreamed of since forever (Mr. HECC and I have never traveled internationally together in our 10+ years of dating), then I’ll wipe out the remainder of my PTO once I have enough to actually leave for two weeks. It will take seven months with absolutely no days off (no sick days, no vacation) to collect enough time off to actually take a two week vacation. Unfortunately I’m taking a day this July for a funeral so that means my accrual of days starts in August. That means it won’t be until March that I can take the time off to travel for a real honeymoon (well I can maybe negotiate some unpaid days earlier but I’d prefer not to lose income – the amount it costs me to miss a day of work isn’t worth it.) Meanwhile, I have friend’s weddings which require travel and I’d like to take some PTO for them this fall, but I can’t because I want to save up for the trip…

The bigger problem is that once I do take a honeymoon I’ll be left with zero PTO days just when it’s important for me to start immediately trying to have a child. It’s an easy conversation to tell your (male) boss you are pregnant, but highly uncomfortable to discuss how you are trying and have PCOS and need to go see multiple doctors and you don’t know exactly what the process is going to look like or how long it will take or if you can get pregnant but you are going to try really hard and you need some time to go to the doctor and you don’t know how much and you just used up all your PTO on your vacation but besides the fact you want to stay at your job and keep your job you also need your health benefits so you HAVE to stay at your job…

And as this is all so soon, I feel like I should be thinking about it and planning. It’s not just typical HECC anxiety/neuroticism, it is my life, my career, my income, my stability, and my future. I can just wait and deal with it as it comes, but I see exactly how this plays out and it isn’t pretty.

My current plan is to stay at my job at least until December and then maybe take a few weeks unpaid between starting a new job, ideally at a larger company that has a maternity leave policy and that supports pregnant mothers. I don’t know if I can get a job at one of these companies, but at this point in my life that is probably the most important benefit I can seek out (other than good health insurance.) If I was thriving in the startup world I’d fight harder to stay, but my successes are few and far between, and I think life is point me towards some kind of change. Mr. HECC may go back to school for teaching in a year, and with that I hope he’ll have a stable (albeit low-paid) job which enables him to maintain a level of happiness and take care of our “who knows if they will ever happen” children while I continue to do whatever it is I end up doing professionally. While I don’t see how we can afford to stay living in this area, his plan is to have his mother live on the same property we do and help with the down payment (my thoughts on that are for another post at another time.) In any case, life is complicated as always. I am happy to be married, but thought I’d be a bit more stable in other aspects of life by now. It will certainly be an interesting ride over the next few years of adulthood. I think the only thing I know is that I want kids, so I somehow need to manage a life around making that happen… even if financially it isn’t the smartest and logistically it isn’t the easiest.

 

Keeping Married Finances Separate – Is it Possible?

We’re married, now what?

Against the wiser half of my brain, Mr. HECC and I did not go through a formal financial planner before we got married. We didn’t get a prenup (he’s opposed to them and even though I think it would protect me I find them terribly unromantic and I wasn’t going into a marriage with any easy out of divorce, since I think the point of marriage is that you shouldn’t get divorced.) I hope I won’t link back to this article later filled with regret, but I’m feeling good about that decision at the moment.

When it comes to finances, many married couples merge their finances by default. In the case of a divorce (at least in California) the money gets split anyway, so why keep it separate while married?

We’re both very fortunate that we bring no debt to the table. While he has been less proactive in his career and has saved significantly less than I have, we both are financially stable compared to most newlyweds. I believe together we have about $450k in savings – not bad for “just starting out.” However, I’m still unsure on how to handle finances going forward. Right now we’re both working and fairly independent so it’s easy – we split major household costs — food and rent — and then everything else we pay for out of our own budgets and earnings/savings. What I don’t want to happen for either of us is that we don’t strive to earn more income because the other is making up for it. Neither of us LOVE working so it would be unfair to the other person. If I end up taking a job that makes less money, I should just focus on spending less on myself. If we cannot afford to live in this area, then we need to move.

In this WSJ article from 2014 financial planners/writers argue for and against merging accounts as a married couple. One says keeping accounts separate is the secret to a peaceful, happy marriage – and the other says merging accounts builds trust. The commenters tend to think having separate accounts is bad, one of them writing “it’s nothing more than an exit strategy.” I disagree.

I don’t think we have to merge accounts to talk about finances and plan together as a team. I also feel very passionate about having my own money. If my husband were to get sick and need help, or even if he were to want to go to school and not be able to afford it, I’d put the money down then he’d “pay me back” over the years. I’ve borrowed money from him as well because he keeps his savings more liquid and mine is tied up in investments. In the end during retirement we’ll split what we have.

He knows I’m much better about financial planning than he is, sans my shopping addictions, so he generally trusts me to manage our money within reason. I like him keeping his own separate because then he never feels a lack of independence or ability to buy his own shit (i.e. he can back as many Kickstarters as he likes even if I think it’s a waste of money, and I can go splurge at Nordstrom Rack even though that’s probably a bad idea too.)

When we have kids I think things will change. Kids are expensive and to be fair to them we’re going to have to marge a chunk of our finances to cover their lives which will be a lot of our income. If we buy a house, things might change as most of our savings will go into that together. But I really don’t see what’s so wrong with keeping our accounts separate. Yes, it makes it easier to split our finances should we ever get divorced (not that I’m planning on it) – but it also is good for us to know who is really pulling the financial weight in the marriage and who has to contribute more to the household if their earnings aren’t as high. Luckily Mr. HECC is awesome with kids and will be a great part-time stay-at-home dad should we decide that makes sense one day.

In any case, a part of me thinks it would be nice to have totally merged finances, but I don’t see the point. Half the internet has me thinking I’m a horrible person here, but wiser financial savvy people (esp women) don’t want to merge their bank accounts.

We are probably going to keep doing what we’ve been doing… separate accounts but he pays the rent check and I pay him back (eventually) for what I owe — I pay for all food on our 2% cash back card and then I deduct half of that from what I owe him. I’m thinking now that we’re married we might want to merge our travel and healthcare costs – but even that seems unnecessary at this point. Ie for healthcare he currently pays $400 a month as he doesn’t get it through his work. My work will cover him at 50% with better insurance, so if he goes on my health plan (which he might) I think he should pay the full amount he is responsible for, and I’ll pay my piece which is less because my work covers more of my amount. It is his choice to not get a job with health insurance therefore I don’t think I should have to subsidize that. I believe people need a little kick in the ass (husband’s included) to improve their careers and nothing sabotages that more than just paying for their inability to seek better employment.

Now, if we have a kid, and one of us decides to stay at home to take care of them, or if someone goes to school for their master’s, that’s different – but I don’t consider opting to not look for a better job a reason for me to pay more for him, and he agrees.

It might not be romantic, but marriage is a business as much as it is about love. To us it’s more about love and less about business. I hope I can inspire him to save more towards retirement over the years, and also to either take on a job that pays more or become a teacher which will pay about the same but provide more flexibility for taking care of children and also likely more happiness in his life. I just don’t think merging finances is really something we need to do. I know he doesn’t want to do it.

According to a 2010 report, keeping money separate is a leading factor in couples breaking up. But it’s hard to really claim that to be true because it would consider couples keeping money separate and not sharing any information about how they spend the money with each other and couples that just keep separate accounts but who are transparent about their spending.

The argument that sharing forces you to commit is a silly one. We wouldn’t have gotten married if we weren’t ready to commit. Yes it’s harder to disentangle yourself if your merge your finances, but I find that an immature reason to merge your money.

Another argument is that separate money undermines the financial stability of marriage. I guess that could be true, but as long as you remain responsible for your own money and having enough to cover your own emergencies, why create shared accounts? I still want my own financial security, and my focus is on helping Mr. HECC achieve his. He wants to, and I think he can – he’s much more frugal than I am, so it is easier for him.

Instead of feeling like you have to lie if you want to splurge a bit, keeping money separate allows you to know what you have and keep living like an independent adult. I’m glad we agree on keeping finances separate, and I hope we continue to be able to do this successfully and still be happily married.

 

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