Tag Archives: family

Moving on Down, and Saving My Pennies

My rent has gone from $1050 a month to about $650 a month. This move, which is saving me a good $400+ a month, is probably the best decision I’ve made in my life. Even though my gas $ will be going up, I still think I’m going to end up saving at least $300 a month, and that doesn’t even include the additional $250 that I would have had to pay if I stayed at my apartment and accepted the ridiculous rent increase.

It’s kind of weird making these smart financial decisions now. I always relied on my dad to make those in the past. I didn’t go totally overboard on my living situation previously, but given how much I was making, I definitely should have gotten roommates. Now, I’m making enough to live alone, barely, but I’ve realized that just because you make enough money to spend it, doesn’t mean you actually should.

Instead, I’m going to really focus on saving money now. I’m pretty sure I want to go back to grad school at some point, prob for a degree in Human Computer Interaction (Berkeley has an awesome program) and I’m starting to take programming classes at the local community college (which happens to be a few minute walk from my new apartment) to make sure that’s the right path for me – but I’m pretty sure it is. I need to learn the programming side and the research side, and then I’m ready to become a key player in web 3.0…

In the meantime, I’m dealing with some other things. Speaking of my father and his wisdom, it won’t be around for much longer. He was recently diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer. I knew he probably had cancer, but wasn’t really prepared to hear this. Basically that means he has a few years to live, at best. Well, what this means, besides all the emotional havoc it’s having on me and my family, is that all that money I’m saving on not renting the more expensive place might be spent on plane tickets. It costs about $400 to fly across the country these days. Ugh.

And it really is going to be time for me to step in and help my parents with sorting out finances for the future. My mom is such a duntz when it comes to that sort of stuff – I get my bad spending habits from her. My dad’s mostly a saver, and I’d like to be more like him. It makes me nervous to think that I’m going to have to take over for him, at some point.

Meanwhile, just the thought of losing him is really hard to deal with. We’re not really that close, and for most of my life I hated the guy, but he’s done a lot for me and my family outside of the mental and physical abuse, including working hard for most of his life and making sure we had enough money to live very comfortably. It’s tough to know that he’s worked so hard for most of his years – he just retired like a year or two ago – even though he is only in his late 50s – and now he’s looking at the end. He won’t get to enjoy retirement or that huge 401k he’s accumulated. Or he likely won’t… besides facing the fact that the cancer treatment will stop working in 1-10 years, he also is dealing with so many other medical issues. He can’t even enjoy his last few years on this earth, because all he does is sleep all day. I can’t tell how much is because he’s weak and how much is just depression. Regardless, it makes me sad to think of the life he’s led, working so hard, married to a woman he doesn’t love, saving up for retirement… and then, he gets to retirement, and he’s sick, and he’s dying…

It makes you think twice about the value of saving so much for so long. Not that I won’t be putting money away for retirement or focusing on getting and staying healthy so I can live to enjoy it, but… some people don’t make it that far. And our entire society is set up to work and work and save and save… but then what? What if that’s all you get?

Living Under My Parents Roof

I’m now on the East Coast, in my parent’s house, where I’m quickly reminded of what life would be like had I decided to move back home three years ago after graduating college. I’m pulling my hair out in reaction to my mother’s screeching voice and father’s bad temper, even though it is nice to stay in a large air-conditioned house and spend some time in my old bedroom.

The big benefit of staying here is the free food. Of course, if I lived here for real, the food would not be free as I’d have to contribute. Or at least I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t contributing and I had a job. I went out to a big dinner with the family last night in NYC and I ordered a nice fish dinner and wine. It was nice to not think about the bill.

But sans the financial benefits, I could not deal with living here. Within the 24+ hours of being in this house, my parents have already had about three fights. The more time I spend away from my mother, the more I realize that she really is crazy and annoying instead of just being a typical “mother annoying.” She’s nuts. She is obsessed with controlling everyone else’s life, down to what people are going to talk about. She even sometimes has a conversation FOR two other people. Meanwhile, my dad has absolutely no patience for her, and his hot temper is the first thing that comes out the second she says something stupid. Which is often. It’s not even what she says so much as how she says it. She doesn’t get that she constantly talks down to people because she just assumes everyone is thinking what she’s thinking and if they’re not then they’re being dumb. Crazy, real crazy. My poor dad, who isn’t innocent in the least, has worked his whole life to make money for her (and us, the kids) to spend and he’s, well, he’s been miserable for a long time. Sure, he has the house, a nice house at that. And two kids… we’re ok, I guess. But what else? Her?

Maybe someone could appreciate her. She’d do well with a boyfriend who wants to be controlled. There are guys out there who like that. Not my dad. He just snaps.

My Father is Sick, My Mother Doesn’t Even Know How to Pay the Bills

Far across the country, my father is lying in bed, fighting off illness, and my mother is fretting that the lights are going to turn off because the electric bill hasn’t been paid.

My dad is in his late 50s and has been suffering from diabetes and obesity for years. He has refused to treat his condition properly, and has not taken the insulin prescribed to him because he said that it was impossible to lose weight on it. Of course, the way he eats with no exercise, it’s not possible to lose weight in a healthy way.

He’s supposed to go to the doctor to get checkups every few months but he hadn’t been to the doctor in over a year. That is, until this past week, when his health quickly deteriorated and has left him bed ridden.

But, being the stubborn guy that he is, he’s still telling my mom to bring him the bills to pay. He can’t even get out of the bed, yet he won’t let her pay the bills.

The saddest thing of all might be the fact that my mother doesn’t even know how to pay the bills to begin with. I mean, she could pay them, but she has no idea how much money my dad has in his accounts, or how much is saved for their future. If any credit card bills don’t get paid, it’s on her credit history as much as it is his.

My father finally went to the doctor. It sounds like there are more problems than just the discomforting illness that sent him into the doctor in the first place. They did some blood work and determined that there’s something wrong with his prostate. It’s either an infection or cancer, apparently. They’re giving him antibiotics to try to clear up the infection but if that doesn’t work it might be malignant.

Given that my dad hasn’t been to the doctor in forever, he’s probably waited too long to treat any sort of cancer if that indeed is his infliction.

My father and I don’t have a close relationship, but I’m still scared for him, and for my mom. I’ve accepted for a long time that he could just die and be gone any day, the way he takes care of himself. Still, I don’t want it to happen, obviously.

My mom said he hasn’t said he’s scared, but he at the very least admitted to her that she was right – that he should have gone to the doctor sooner. For anyone who knows my dad, him admitting to my mom that she was right says a lot about his view on his condition at this point.

He’s been in the hospital before, but it wasn’t enough to scare him to get healthy. He doesn’t seem to believe he can, or he doesn’t care to do it.

I want him to grow old and be around to be the grandparent of my children one day. He’s not the best guy in the world, he has his issues, he was abusive to me when I was a kid, and he’s emotional abusive and somewhat physically abusive to my mother at times. Still, deep down inside of him, there’s a good guy there. And I want that good guy to grow old and be around for a while.

And then, logistically, there’s the real concern of what would happen now if he did pass away. My mother wouldn’t know what to do with the money at all. I have a feeling my dad has a decent amount saved in 401ks, etc, but if my mom knew just how much they had she’d go and spend it all. Of course I wouldn’t let her do that – and she’d listen to me. She admits she knows nothing about managing the household money. I’d have to step in and take charge of all of that, probably – from figuring out my sister’s potential college education to the cost of my mom supporting herself, etc, etc.

I’ve always figured it would happen – some day – but I’m not ready for it to happen quite yet.

Maybe I’m thinking too far ahead of myself. My dad could just have an infection and he could get better soon. And if that’s the case things will just go on as they’ve been… he’ll continue to be stubborn and my mom will continue to be clueless.

Woman in Charge: family finance for one day down the road

My mom never calls me to see how I’m doing. The only time I’ll hear from her is to tell me that some show is on PBS that I should watch or that there’s something else of interest to her that isn’t really of interest to me at all, yet she thinks I should know about it anyway.

The last one of these conversations had to do with Suze Orman’s book “Women and Money ” that Oprah gave away for free (via PDF download) a few weeks ago. My mom e-mailed me about the book download and then followed up immediately when I called her later on that day “did you download the book yet?”

Ok, so Suze Orman’s books and blab have provided me with some useful finance advice in the past. But at this point I know all the basics about finance and that I should save money and invest it as opposed to spend all I make.

My mom is so clueless when it comes to money. Part of it is a generational thing and part of it is a chosen “ignorance is bliss” ideology. She’s always spent as if the bank account had no end. Now that I know how finances work, I don’t really understand just how she did it. Even though my father made a good salary, it was only in the low six figures… which is a lot, but not nearly enough to spend the way she did, or so it seems. My mom would order things from QVC without worrying about the cost. Jewelry, mostly, although sometimes she’d buy appliances and things. She wouldn’t go to the mall and spend like that, but because it was on TV she could. Well, that was her excuse.

Granted, she did work hard as a stay-at-home housewife for many years, and she deserved some of the finer things in life. She put up with my father who, despite being a good breadwinner, wasn’t the best husband.

Now, though, my mom is in her late 40s and my dad is out of money for a few years. He retired early and his pension plan doesn’t kick in quite yet. My mom doesn’t get what having “no money” means. Well, that’s mostly because my dad has kept her in the dark about our financial situation over the years. She doesn’t know how much money he has in savings, or what that means for their retirement.

Knowing my dad, he has a good amount of money available for retirement. After all, he made a career out of designing pension plans for other workers. I’m sure his pension is solid, when he will get it. Still, it’s completely astonishing to me that my mom has no idea how much money they’ll have in retirement, or how much money they have now, other than “no money,” which could mean just about anything coming from my father.

My situation is so much different. Sure, right now I’m at the very start of my financial journey and I’m just learning how to save and invest. Without being able to control the markets, even if I make all the “right” choices I might still end up back where I started or worse. But at least I feel that now I’m in control of my finances. I know that if I can save a certain amount per year and invest it, if the market goes along as expected over the long haul, I’ll be able to save a certain amount of money for my retirement.

This makes me feel powerful. It also makes me focus just a little too much on money. Making money has become a bit of an obsession. As a freelancer, it’s easy to sign up for one too many projects. Who needs sleep, right?

But the way I look at it, the more I can make today, the more I have to spend later on. That’s true, regardless of what I have to do to get there.

Now, my boyfriend, he finally got himself a job and he’s making money. He spends less than me because he doesn’t have to pay rent (he lives at home) and he doesn’t really buy many clothes. When he does, he doesn’t splurge on designer anything. He still dresses nicely, but he has a very limited wardrobe. Two pairs of jeans, and a bunch of button down dress shirts. That’s pretty much all he wears. Oh, and two sweatshirts from his college and some really old shirts and shorts that he’ll wear to the gym and such.

His spending right now pretty much revolves around me. If we go out to dinner, he often pays. I used to feel bad about this, but now that all this saving money thing is a game, and as I’m paying so much in rent and clothes and products to look pretty (for him, mostly) I feel less bad about having him pay for food more often than not. Even though I’m “making” more money at my job.

My boyfriend is not at all interested in investing or finance. The other day I excitedly told him all about mutual funds and index funds and such, and he was bored to death. His mother has saved up enough money to send him to grad school one day which is, as far as I know, sitting in a fairly low-interest savings account right now. He makes money and although he spends a lot on us eating out and gadgets for himself, I’m sure he’s still making more than he’s spending right now. But he puts it all into his savings account.

I tried to get him excited about opening a ROTH IRA and told him about how hard it is to afford retirement these days, but he wasn’t interested.

Now, if this is the guy I’m going to marry, which right now I think might be the case, I feel like I have a right to not only inform him of these options, but push him down the path of opening an IRA and starting to save for retirement.

I guess, in the long run, if only one person in my couple hood is going to understand finances and save for retirement, I want it to be me. I don’t want to be like my mother, clueless and hopeless as it is. If I’m going to spend a lot of money, at least I want to have a solid grasp on what that means for my monthly contribution to my ROTH.

I keep telling my mom she should get a job. If she wants to keep living her lifestyle, it isn’t so hard, even if dad says they’re out of money. Get a part-time job and viola, some extra income which she can spend as she pleases. But she refuses, saying she’s too busy. She’s dealing with this whole fight with the school system about my sister’s education (my sister has a learning disability and the school isn’t giving her the appropriate accommodations) and otherwise she’s too busy doing other things… like, oh I don’t know, cleaning the house… no one in our house helps out with laundry or dishes, so that’s all her. Still, I think she ought to get a job. My dad is retired now, he can start helping out with some of the chores around the house. If my mom was working, maybe he’d be inspired to do so.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to make sure that I know the nitty gritty of personal finance. Even if my significant other choses to remain somewhat oblivious to how he can save for retirement, I refuse to let life take me for an unfortunate ride.

For the past few years, my net worth has gone up and down between $25k and $30k. Right now I’m at about $27k. My goal is to stop going down, and to break that $30k by summer.

Cousin Gifting

The gift-giving went over well today. Being as I’m obsessed with finding the perfect gift, I should have left myself more time to wander around Target before I had to make the hour-long drive up to my aunt & uncle’s house in the North Bay. But, alas, I never leave myself enough time to do anything (and that’s why I’m up at 3:30am finishing up freelance projects and taking a break to blog and wake myself up a bit).

So I was late to dinner, but I think I made up for my tardiness with the gifts. I got my cousins (age 4 and 6) a kid’s acoustic guitar and a keyboard. They were not too expensive, about $35 each with tax, and they actually seemed to be of fairly decent quality for kid’s toy instruments.

I was really anxious about my aunt hating the gifts. She’s the one who told me that the kids “have everything” and that she doesn’t want any gifts that would be annoying to clean up (or, I assume, make a lot of noise.)

But being that she’s a musical-type, I figured I couldn’t go too wrong with musical instruments. And lucky for me, she loved the gifts. The kids seemed pretty excited about them too, though I forgot to get batteries for the keyboard (doh).

A few minutes after I gave the kids the gifts, my aunt handed me my “belated birthday gift” — a check for $50. I really didn’t want to take it. I mean, I can use the cash, of course, but it almost felt like I was being reimbursed for buying her kids gifts.

I wish I came from a family that gave actual gifts. The check is fine, money is good, but… it’d be nice to get a gift certificate for a spa or something… so I’d be forced to spend the money and not put it away into savings.

Wait… that’s bad logic.

Gift Giving and Buying

Growing up, I had a really unhealthy perception of the meaning of gifts. First off, I felt like I ‘deserved’ some amazing gift just because my parents got me everything I wanted that wasn’t completely amazing, and they’d never get me what I really wanted – a keyboard, an expensive designer barbie doll, voice lessons, etc. Rarely did I get these things as gifts (from family, friends), but every other gift seemed like a bore.

When it came to gift giving, I needed to give the biggest (or at the least the best.) Let me back-phrase this by noting I was a huge loner up until high school… more because I was a bit hyperactive and curious and no one my age knew what to do with me (except for my somewhat abusive “friend,” but that’s another story). In Middle School, for some reason I decided that I had to buy gifts for dozens upon dozens of people who were more or less acquaintances. I had a lot of acquaintances due to being involved with chorus and the school play. So I went to Claires (the accessories shop) and spent about $7 a gift (of my parent’s money). $7 a gift for 60 people… adds up fast.

Back then, a part of me felt like I might be able to buy the chance at a friendship. Not only did I just buy these people gifts, but I thought long and hard about what they’d like and picked out the perfect size and shape of jewelery for them. That was one of the most fulfilling moments of all my childhood – buying gifts, with my parents money, for people who either didn’t care about me or found me to be annoying.

Years later, my whole perception on gift giving has changed. I’ve realized that gifts are definitely more about the ‘thought,’ and that people understand you can’t buy every single person you’ve ever met a holiday gift.

It’s hard to figure out how much to spend on gifts, though. I have a few good friends… and they deserve zillion dollar gifts, with airfare, but alas, I’m no richie. I also am a bit of a miser, as I hate spending money. My money. Part of that is reasonable (I have $25k in savings thanks to a broken arm lawsuit from 6th grade, which is a lot, and yet not that much… because I’m freelancing and health care is expensive and I really want to go back to grad school to study design which will cost me something like $100k and I want to save up for that BEFORE I go if at all possible)… and part of that is me not really understanding money.

My boyfriend and I often exchange expensive gifts. I didn’t expect for that to be the case, but in our relationship my birthday came up first and he got me an iPod… and dinner. He likes spending money on other people… and one day when he has a substantial amount I’m sure his gifts would be even more impressive. He’s a total 180 from my last boyfriend, who… with a salary of 135k a year (he’s an attorney… and he finished law school with $0 in loans, thanks to a little bit of savings and mostly his parents), wouldn’t think to buy me a gift any more expensive than what I might be able to afford for him.

I wonder how much religion and culture plays into all of this. Jews are stereotyped as “stingy,” and I think that might be true. I’m Jewish, culturally, and my ex was also Jewish. My current boyfriend is pretty much agnostic, although he was raised somewhat Christian.

In any case, gift giving is so different these days. I can handle exchanging gifts with my boyfriend but even that causes such anxiety. After he bought me the ipod, I knew I had to top it. (See, why did I HAVE to “TOP” it?) So I bought him a Nintendo Wii (which I had every intention of playing.) This year, he’s revamped the expensive gift tradition, buying me a Wacom tablet. Now, I wouldn’t have bought this graphic design tool for myself, although it’s really wonderful to have for my job and hobby. His birthday is coming up in march, wtf do I get him?

Meanwhile, today I have to buy gifts for my two cousins that live locally. My mom is supposedly reimbursing me for these gifts, since they’re from her. But I’d like to get the kidlets gifts as well. They have just about everything, according to their mother, so I don’t know what to get them. Right now they’re young enough that they just enjoy opening gifts and quickly forget what it is they’ve received. But being me… I want to get them a brilliant gift, something that will encourage creativity and/or help grow their young minds.

Therefore, today will be spent freaking out about finding the perfect gift for my cousins. I also have to buy a $50 gift for one of my cousins in New Jersey, as I’m part of this giant Hannukah gift exchange that will take place at a party on Dec 15 that I won’t be able to attend. I have no clue what to get him.

I really think that when it comes to gifts, it is the thought that counts. I sometimes wish my boyfriend was a bit more creative in his gift-ing (although I do love my iPod and tablet) because I end up telling him I really want these things for weeks before my birthday and then he gets them for me. It’s kind of weird. I’m not used to that. I guess a lot of guys do that for their girlfriends? I’m too much of an unlabeled feminist to let that be one way, though.

Well, it’s time to go gift shopping.

Labor Day Wrap Up

Investments: I’ve been avoiding checking my Vanguard accounts for a few days. My losses, however temporary, were too painful to look at on a daily basis. After checking a few minutes ago, I’m happy to report Wall Street’s latest recovery has brought my losses to an amount I can deal with.

Career: Has its ups and downs. My job is, quite frankly, amazing. I’m still not sure I’m right for it. Then again, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be “right” for anything that could be described as a “career” or a “job,” even. Figured out my biggest problem with my current job is not my inability to fact check properly (although that’s a huge problem that I’m going to fix, hopefully with the help of ADD meds that I might be getting this week), it’s my massive issue with social anxiety. It’s not ideal to be a journalist with social anxiety. Can I overcome my fear of talking to strangers? Can I find confidence in my intellect so I can stop spending my life apologizing for my errors and worrying about future ones, and focus on just doing a good job? Tune in next time…

Love: I’m lucky in love. I think. I’m just stressed out about life, overall, and that’s affecting my relationship. It isn’t fair to my boyfriend. He’s a great guy. I used to think that happiness meant being successful, ie, figuring out some way to lead a life that would make my parents go “wow.” Now that I realize this is impossible and/or unimportant, I’ve almost given up at that dream. Instead, I now understand that happiness in life is about the people who we meet along the way, especially the person (or people) who we love. I need to figure out how to live love. I’ve spent so much of my life finding security in the dramatic, and I’m tired of it. My parents’ relationship is a joke, despite that they’ve been married for more than 25 years. I’ve grown up to believe marriage is a joke as well. I’m not sure I still believe that. It’s odd that I can see myself one day having a husband and a family. It sounds really, really weird to hear myself think that. I’m not sure if my current boyfriend will be the guy I end up with forever, but I wouldn’t want to be able to foresee that clearly now anyway. On my Labor Day vacation, a bunch of strangers kept asking if we were married, or calling us husband and wife. It was weird. I still feel like I’m 16 years old, even though I’m really pushing 24. Geez, 24. You know, I hadn’t even thought about the significance of turning 24 until just now. That’s old. I mean, not old, old. But old enough that I’m no longer a young adult. I’m, well, an adult. Plain and simple. And I need to start living like one.

Sleep: Lacking. I need more sleep. Insomnia is destroying my already limited ability to focus and function properly.

Budget: Spent $125 on six pairs of shoes while on vacation. Yes, six. That includes California tax. Did I need six pairs of shoes? Probably not. But outlet stores plus a need for new shoes and finding shoes that actually fit me (a rarity) equals buying a lot of shoes. I find shoes are a worthwhile investment, especially if they’re good quality footwear sold at a relatively cheap price. At the Nine West outlet store, I actually bought a pair of shoes I already own. They are pretty gross right now and my gut instinct has told me throw them out for months. Finally, I found their replacement. The same exact pair, for $15 on a sale rack on extra sale. There is something orgasmic about walking into a shoe store that has a sale rack where prices are already marked down about 50 percent, and then there’s a giant sign that says “take 50 percent off already reduced prices.” Sometimes I think I could live on the thrill of buying $70-$100 shoes for $20.

Travel: Labor Day weekend in Tahoe was great. I felt bad that I ended up spending so little on the trip. My boyfriend’s father footed the bill for our motel and my bf covered most of the gas, so I ended up spending about $200 on the trip for food and a show. (And then I spent $125 on shoes (see above)). I’ve got a few upcoming trips that will pinch my wallet a bit… a roadtrip to LA coming up in a few weeks, and then I’m off to Miami for my childhood friend’s wedding. Overall I expect travel to cost me another $400-$500 over the next two months. My mother still wants me to take a trip to Vegas to visit my grandmother, but I’m not sure it makes sense to spend even more money on that. And then there’s the possibility of taking a trip home to the east coast for the holidays, though I might just not go home this year. There’s not much left for me there. Being around my parents, in my childhood home, just depresses me. It reminds me of all the things I’ve been trying so hard to get away from (and failing, but trying nonetheless).