Why I’m investing $400 a month in an ADHD Coach

Despite wanting to believe I’m capable of being a highly-functioning adult on my own, data has shown that this is not quite the case. While I manage to pick myself up after every fall and keep going, each time I fall the cut is a bit deeper and harder to recover from. This isn’t the first time I’ve sought help, but this is the first time that I felt that I desperately need it.

There are so many different kinds of “help” one can buy. Psychiatrists seek to uncover a chemical imbalance to explain your shortcomings and treat you with costly medications. Psychologists use talk therapy to help you approach situations differently, largely looking at your childhood and how that has affected the current scripts your replay over and over again in your mind. Acupuncturists poke and prod you to reduce stress. Hypnotists claim to be able to help you achieve your goals through mind control. And coaches, well, help you with practical advice and ongoing support so you can determine and then reach your goals.

ADHD coaches are unique in that they focus on helping people who are driven to distraction, as they say. The reality is that so many of the simple tasks that high-functioning individuals can do without batting an eye present a huge challenge to the ADHD mind. I dislike jumping to conclusions that my mind is somehow different than the norm, yet anyone who knows me at all and believes ADHD actually exists would say obviously I have it. I can check off every single requirement in the DSV.

That’s why I’m splurging this year on a coach. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy and what has it got me? Maybe I’m a little more aware of the scripts I play in my head that aren’t really rational, but that hasn’t helped me avoid losing my job (multiple times) or fix my relationship (which is great except for the fact that I’m a huge mess and my boyfriend can’t marry a girl who can’t keep her house remotely clean.)

If you don’t have ADHD or know anyone closely who does, it’s easy to say “just clean your damn house” or “stop losing your job.” It’s not that easy. Ultimately people with ADHD have issues with their temporal lobe functioning properly as well as a lack of dopamine to drive proper task-oriented motivation. Tie this with years upon years of beating myself up for my challenges focusing and staying organized and I end up wasting so much time lost in anxiety and failing to accomplish anything – until it’s late at night when I should be sleeping and only then can I start to hyperfocus and get my work done well.

This clearly isn’t a sustainable model. Now that I’m in my 30s I even feel my body starting to break down. I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. I’ve been sick three times in the last three months. I’m pretty much driving myself batshit and I need help.

In selecting an ADHD coach I wanted to find someone who has worked with ADHD individuals – especially adults – over the years. I want someone who can share tips and tools that have worked for others with similar minds. And I want someone grounded in reality, not someone who is going to try to flatter my ego (one woman kept saying that people with ADHD are brilliant so it’s clear I must be brilliant. While I briefly enjoyed the flattery I need more tough love than some ego boost.)

ADHD coaches are also often very expensive. This is largely because parents – many who have disposable incomes – are convinced their children have ADHD and are willing to send a ridiculous sum on coaches so maybe their kids can do well in school and make it to an Ivy League. And it happens – kids with ADHD, taught the right strategies and put in the right educational environments—can do very well academically. So maybe it’s worth it for parents who have the money.

However, these big-spending parents inflate the cost of help. I wrote to quite a number of ADHD coaches online (many of who do their coaching via Skype so location is not an issue) and one literally responded to me that “if cost was a concern” I would be better off talking to someone else because she charges more than others due to her “years of experience.” When I responded to ask exactly what that meant she didn’t respond. I assume she was in line with another organization I talked with where ADHD-specialist psychologists and psychiatrists charge anywhere from $300 to $500 per session.

The woman who I found is not cheap but she’s not ridiculous. I understand that coaches do this for a living and thus their expertise is worth a reasonable rate. The more standard fees I found were in the $150-$200 per hour range. Some coaches refused interactions between meetings while others – who clearly understand how ADHD works – note that they allow emails throughout the week as long as they don’t get excessive.

I’m meeting with my ADHD coach for my first 90-minute session. She already sent me an intake form and an anxiety/depression questionnaire which I had a strange kind of fun filling out (man, I am SO ADHD.) I am not sure exactly what to expect from this project but my primary goal is to learn how to be better at time management and organization… and ultimately not lose my job (or boyfriend.)

The plan is to invest in the $250 intro session and then three months of $390 worth of sessions (3 45 minute sessions.) We’ll work intensively on very tactical strategies while I’m sure discussing options (not included in cost) to resolve my problems further through the use of medication ($$$.) I’m going to try to solve them with coaching and willpower alone, but if shit starts to hit the fan I’m going to head back to a psychiatrist and see what they think would help this crazy little mind of mine.

That is, it seems to be I have Bipolar II co-morbidly sharing the space of dysfunction with a solid case of ADHD and a touch of anxiety to top it off. Mental illness is real even though I’m the first person to try to avoid labeling my issues as being anything more than just some personal crazy. Yet at 30 I have a pretty good view of my life thus far and these are the reasons for what is going on in my head and heart.

I’m not self-diagnosing either, I’ve been officially diagnosed with these issues (as well as others) but these three seem to make the most sense. I’m going to be entirely open with my coach about this too – and I already have been (bipolar/depression/anxiety are often found co-morbidly with ADHD, so this isn’t going to throw her for a loop at all.) I’d really like to make significant progress and fast. It is certainly worth $400 a month to remain gainfully employed and highly productive. At least for the short term until hopefully at some point I can sustain such “normal functioning adult” baseline on my own.


Financially Planning for Parenthood

Given that I’m going to be an older mother — turning 31 next month and not married yet let alone pregnant — I’ve done a bit of spreadsheeting around how I can afford to have a child. This puts me a little more at ease given that I can live frugally while earning a reasonably high income, save a lot, and put myself in a much better position to have children.

In my chart I noted how much I plan to save each month and have a column for lower average annual interest rates (5%) and higher ones (10%) from age 31 to 40. The chart otherwise includes the following expectations:

1) I will save $5000 per month between now and the time I have my first child (3/1/2017, give or take)

2) I will take 3 months of unpaid leave after having my first child and save $0 per month over those 3 months.

3) I will return to work full time and continue saving $5000 per month (buying less stuff for myself to offset stuff for baby) until baby #2

4) baby #2 will be born 1/1/2020. At this time I have reduced my monthly savings to $0 per month. I may want to work at this time but I want to plan to allow myself to not work and have enough money in our family to afford this. I want to be able to then afford to live off of my husband’s salary while my savings can grow for our retirement nest egg. We’ll probably have to move to a cheaper state at this point.

Based on these 4 constants and the compound interest variable, the range of my networth at age 40 would be $856,634 to 1,271,596 (*not counting my partner’s savings.) And baby #1 will just be turning age 7 or so, which is when babies become kids and start to get expensive… just in time for me to go back to work.

So this all seems rather do-able as long as I keep my head down and focus on the 58 months of saving $5k a month — so 4.8 years, give or take, or $280,000 of savings over that time period (which is a lot… but seems at least somewhat possible.) Given my potential annual bonus is anywhere from $0k to $40k after tax, I could actually get to that amount much quicker if I do my job well. Let’s just say I obtain a quarter of my annual bonus for those four years — $30k per year — that actually gets me to the $24.1k $280k goal much quicker.

That said – I’m not accounting for IVF costs which will likely be needed and will likely be very expensive (I should account for $100k for two kids and it might not even work…)

Thus in order for me to comfortably have children, I must focus on my job — really over the next two years — and attempt to obtain at least 50% of my annual bonus.

Inputting my networth growth with 50% bonus (~20k extra per year) by the time I have baby #1 (3/1/2017) I will have reached my goal of $500k network — with $507k networth with the 5% interest and $560k with 10%. Clearly I have my work cut out for me. But I can do this so the rest of my life can provide what I really want — not “no work” — but choice and flexibility.

Here is my Mint.com goals which I’ve adjusted for January 2016 target dates. I will focus on tracking to these numbers hitting the maximum possible bonus possible to achieve my desired results.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.32.19 AM

Focus, Time, and the Brevity of Life

There isn’t a day that goes by when I lack a sense of overwhelm and impending doom. That’s just my style. A lot of this is knotted up in a series of paranoid internal monologues that repeat ad nausem echoing off the corners of my mind.  Yet there’s some reality to the panic. Time isn’t a fake out. It’s this real, visceral, constantly moving stream of invisible life force which makes our bodies wither as the clock of the world ticks on with or without us. Time is the most real of all – because you can’t make more of it, once it’s gone it’s gone.

Today I visited two of my good friends who are both now parents and either my age or younger. A few friends back on the east coast have had their second children already. And I’m turning 31 in a smidgen over a month. The reality is that given my PCOS issues it’s going to be challenging to have kids of my own. Yet today I want them more than ever. The longer I wait the harder it will likely be. But when is the right time? My career is finally starting to take off. If I were to have a child now I don’t have the foggiest how I could also work my job. Well, it would surely be impossible to commute four hours a day and fly at a moment’s notice as a new mother. But would I even want that as my toddler grows from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and enters his or her own childhood without a mother around?

Clearly I’ll have to work if/when I have kids. I never though I wouldn’t have to and it’s fine to be a working mother and all. I’m fortunate that my boyfriend is more than willing to be a stay-at-home dad. Still… I just worry about waiting too long. I know, I know, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t have kids, or if I only have one child… but I just want two or three children. Probably two though I feel like three is a good large enough family without being too large. And while that’s a nice thought the likelihood of it happening is shrinking by the day.

So my boyfriend and I should be getting married in spring 2016 when I’ll be 32 and a half. I mean… that’s getting old. Let’s just say I have trouble getting pregnant because I probably will. IVF clinics won’t even seriously consider you for treatment until you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year with no luck. So that gets me to 33-and-a-half. And who knows if I can get pregnant or how fast – even with the best treatment out there. And that treatment is expensive and can quickly burn through the savings that I’m working so hard to build up so I can afford what happens after I have kids.

With this scenario I’ll be lucky if I’m pregnant by 34 and have my first kid at 35. I really would like at least two kids if I’m going to have one. But then that leaves me at being a new mother at 35 going on 36 and knowing that I need to try immediately to have my second kid… all while being the breadwinner of the household and attempting to not only keep my job but grow in my career and move into a serious management position. I just can’t make sense of it. It all makes me think that if I actually do want kids – the logical thing to do would be to say screw “marriage” (which I’m not sure makes sense anyway due to the tax penalties) and just start trying to have my first kid now. I mean, that would suck in terms of work, but it’s not like I’d get pregnant tomorrow. But if I start trying at 31… that leaves me eligible for IVF at 32… and that timeframe just looks a whole lot better. If I have my first kid at 33 I can have my second at 35 or 36 and if I decide I do want a third then I have time for it, or at least I can just have two without feeling incredibly rushed.

I just think it’s so crazy how fast time goes by… and how judgmental I’ve been of all the girls who got married young and had kids in their 20s. That’s what the uneducated people do, I thought, brushing off their happiness with a reminder to myself that I’m getting my shit together first, saving up a good amount of money, preparing myself to be ready for kids. Well, it might not be too late yet but time is definitely running out. My 20s disappeared in the blink of an eye and my 30s will surely be equally as fast paced. With the amount I plan to work and focus on my career it will be easier to forget to focus on the things that matter in life and just running ahead blinded to the truth.

The whole marriage and wedding thing is just for show, what really matters is family… a family that I maybe already have waited too long to have, or at least one that is going to take a whole lot of headache and heartache to make possible. And I’m terrified of that journey that is to come.

Offsetting Capital Gains with Tax Loss Harvesting

This year in order to afford a few items, such as my used car purchase, I sold a bit of stock. What I Wasn’t considering at the time was the amount of capital gains tax I’d have to pay come April. So now I’m trying to quickly offset my capital gains with losses (which for better or worse are starting to appear in my portfolio due to the stock market pullback as of late.)

At the moment I have $3792.71 in long term gains and $256.95 in capital losses. (This doesn’t include dividends which are starting to add up, and I really need some advice on dividend strategy since I’m might — if i’m lucky — hit Obamacare fines in 2015 (if I make $200k, which is possible due to my bonus structure, we’ll see… still a stretch goal but more possible then ever before.)

Therefore I need to offset 3535.05 in capital gains or I’ll have to pay approximately $883 in tax come April. That’s a bit of a pain because I know I have a pending loss of a whole chunk of money in my former employer that will likely go under in the next few years, but I can’t sell that stock as a loss yet. So I’m left with $3535 to deal with or else I have to pay an extra $900 in April.

I guess you can say that it is silly to *try* to find $3535 in losses to offset a $900 tax. However if the losses exist anyway it makes sense to take them (i.e. sell the stocks) and then immediately reinvest them in a potentially better performing alternative.

It’s also not so silly because I happen to live in the second highest place in the WORLD for capital gains taxes. That’s right, California has the highest U.S. capital gains rate and the second highest internationally, with a top rate of 37.1%

Since selling anything from my Sharebuilder account costs $8 per fund, I started clearing out in my Vanguard fund, which allows free trades between funds.

Thus, the other day I took a $419.08 capital loss on two funds that had shot down due to the stock market corrections…

That leaves me with $3116 (or $779 in tax) to deal with in the next two months.

I think I may have some rollover capital losses that I need to deal with from 2012 and 2013… but that would only be at max $1000… still need to find $2000 in losses to tax harvest these gains away.

While my IRA accounts are performing poorly that doesn’t help. My Sharebuilder individual taxed stocks and ETFs are actually doing fairly well. Boeing (BA) is down a bit so I might sell that, but waiting on it to either go down enough where it seems to make sense to just sell it for the loss (i.e. $200 loss or $50 savings doesn’t seem to make sense, though I would just have to sell it and wait a month to buy the same stock back so I could take the loss, not a big deal. The question is will the stock go up more than $50 in a month to make the point of selling it moot. Who knows, but $50 isn’t much in terms of the market so I’ll prob just continue to hold. In reality I should probably buy more now, not sell it.

Ok, so it looks like I’ll probably just have to deal with paying an extra $900 in taxes this year. At least I’m not dealing with AMT in 2014 and taxed an extra 5% on my capital gains. Next year I just need to remind myself not to sell any of my investments in case I happen to hit AMT and the Obamacare tax. I can sell my stocks when I’m retired. Only PITA side of the equation is that since all my money is tied up in stocks I won’t ever have a downpayment for a house. Kind of sucks but at least I should be ok in retirement.

Anyway, it’s been a rough money financially. Just due to stock market plus not having job I’m down about $20k. I still have high hopes for hitting my $300k goal this year but the stretch goal of $325k is probably not going to happen. If the stock market keeps kicking my ass I may be able to save $900 in capital gains tax but I won’t get to $300k, which would make me sad. That said, I’m fixated on breaking $400k by 2016 (and the big $500k by 2017) so… I’ve got a lot of work cut out for me. If the markets don’t cooperate then I guess… no matter how much work I cut I won’t actually hit my goals.

Why Women Shouldn’t Ask for a Raise

Microsoft CEO Satya Nedella this week took heat for making a very un-PC statement at a women’s tech conference (of all places) that women should not ask for raises and instead trust “Karma” to get them the money they deserve.


Microsoft’s workforce is 71% male, a figure that rises to 83% for both technical and leadership roles. Those figures are roughly in line with the gender breakdown at Google,FacebookYahoo and Apple.

In my own company I’m happy to report the gender balance is much more 50/50, yet on the leadership team until I joined there was only one woman. Now there are two. While we’re not a big company like Microsoft or Apple or Facebook, I’m proud that I work in one of the more diverse (at least gender-wise) companies in tech.

That said, you can bet I played hardball coming into the job in terms of comp because I knew exactly what I was worth and what I was going to give to the organization. Well, basically I rationalized my comp and pushing for it as whoever is in the role actually delivering what the role needs right now deserved that comp, therefore if I did the role justice I deserved the comp and if I didn’t then I’d be gone anyway – I rather negotiate with confidence in myself and what I can bring to the company vs just accept that I deserve whatever is offered below what the role is worth.

Every time I go into a negotiation in my career I get a little bolder, a little braver, a little less worried that I’ll lose the opportunity if I push for what is deserved… and what is deserved is really what the market will bear, within reason. Once you get to a point in your career where you’re a specialist you can ask for a little more if that specialty is relevant to your new role.

However asking for raises has never been a favorite thing of mine to do – that’s one of the reasons I’m getting so ballsy in the first negotiation before I sign a contract. I did well this time around but know what I negotiated is equal to what I’m worth if I can deliver (which I plan to do.)

I can’t believe the CEO of Microsoft made those dumb ass comments. Of course he recanted likely with the help of the PR team kindly asking him “what were you thinking?” But the damage is done.  He basically was trying to say that women have long careers if they just don’t ask for raises so eventually they’ll get rewarded. Maybe. That’s bs. Women need to ask for raises and ensure they are paid what they’re worth. I felt like a total asshole during my recent negotiation but still I got what I wanted and now I can focus on the important stuff – my job – vs worrying about whether or not I’m fairly compensated.

Yes I did it for myself – but every time I negotiate now – I also picture myself as just one woman in technology who will hopefully be a VP one day soon, who will help balance out the gender imbalance just a smidgen, inspiring more women to go into technology companies, making the future of tech a little less – manly.