Tag Archives: house

The Things that Matter: American Workaholism and Being a Mom

It’s 5am and I am exhausted but can’t get back to sleep after my son woke up screaming for milk a few hours ago. He didn’t actually drink that much. My breasts are still engorged and I’m too tired/lazy to pump. I’m supposed to “wake up” for work in an hour, to make myself presentable for an 8am meeting. I’m not doing the best job of being presentable given I’m so exhausted and no amount of coffee will help.

But my exhaustion isn’t just due to being woken up in the middle of the night. It’s the hopeless exhaustion of now being in the midst of the roller coaster of life, with time both going too fast and too slow, and memories of long gone childhood reminding me that life wasn’t always like this–always so formulaic in its requirements for supporting basic sustainability of existence.

My fear to pay more in rent a month isn’t helping. My fear of running out of money, or, more so, of getting to the point where I have a nervous breakdown and do not go into work one day because I can no longer stand the majority of my waking hours being dedicated to trying to get people to buy a product that–very successfully–helps companies reduce their workforce (though that’s not its primary purpose, but like most tech for business these days, it’s one of its benefits.) Oh, it’s a great product and it’s exciting to be part of a company that’s growing and a team that is not in it to change the world despite also building products that reduce headcount (the idealism of startups was nice for a while, but it also feels good to be part of a team that doesn’t entirely live and breathe work 24/7.) But, at the end of the day, always the very long yet never long enough day, I sit in traffic on the freeway for 45 minutes with all the other commuters headed home and talk to my 6 month old son on the phone who is crying and anxious for mom (well, for mom’s chest anyway) and who doesn’t care that I’m sitting in traffic or that I have to go to work to make enough money to try to save so maybe one day we can buy a house and go on vacations and such.

The reality is that my situation is so much better than 99% of the world, maybe even 99.9% of the world, and I’m still, well, not happy. I don’t know if I have the capacity for sustained happiness, given it’s me we’re talking about, but I’d like to not constantly live in fear. I acknowledge that buying a house with monthly mortgage payments will heighten my anxiety immensely. If we can make it work to buy a property with my MIL and FIL, and keep our monthly payments closer to what we’re paying now (or at least what we’d pay in rent for a decent 3br/2ba apartment), then maybe that’s ok. But then there’s all the other issues that come up with home ownership. It’s terrifying.

But then I’m also sitting here, 35 going on 40, realizing that there is no “when” at this point in life. I’m past the stage of saving and waiting. It’s now or never. I have a kid. I have a job that is as stable as my work will probably ever be. I have a husband who may return to school to make even less than he does now, but at least he’ll get benefits in case I should lose said job. Why not just take the leap? Have some stability for once? I’d like to give that to my kid. He won’t remember his first year of life, but I’d prefer not to jump around from rental to rental throughout his life. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I grew up in one home from 0-17 and although moving once or twice in that timeframe is ok, moving every year or every other year is best to be avoided. I want to meet my neighbors, I want to feel like we’ve “made it” by having our own backyard, however small it is. Our own kitchen and bathroom and walls and tiny storage area so my bike doesn’t have to live in our living room.

I’m tired. I’m tired and unhealthy and I know my body is upset for it. I feel myself aging too fast. I’m not finding time to work out and my diet has gone to complete shit. There’s so much I want to improve, but for now, I’m barely getting by.

Home (Bitter) Sweet, $2M Bay Area Home

I haven’t written in a while, because as a new mom working full time, there isn’t time in the day to do much other than work, feed (a baby), eat and sleep. And even that last one rarely happens these days.

A lot is going on with our finances these days, so I have plenty to write about, but I’ll focus here on our recent quest to purchase a house in the Bay Area. In short, it’s not going well. I just can’t accept that we have to spend $8k a month on a mortgage for the next 30 years in order to afford anything remotely decent in the likes of a 3br/2ba house. And the market isn’t even at its hottest these days.

The big question right now is whether or not we go in with my husband’s parents to purchase a home. In theory, this is a good idea, since his mother has $1M for a downpayment and his father can contribute $2k a month to the mortgage and bills. That would help a lot if we get a loan for, say, $750k on a $1.7M home. And, you’d think you could find a house with enough room for $1,7000,000. But – we’re in crazy land here real estate wise, and while $1.7M gets you more than a closet, it’s not that much more (and the closets, well, they aren’t big enough to fit much of anything.)

Anyone learning of our situation wold say — why don’t you live further from your work, or, heck, move to another state? Yes, all possible, but not what we want. I already feel like I live too far from work with a 45 minute commute one way and I barely see my kid. If we HAVE to, yes, I can do a 1.5 hr commute one way / 3 hrs RT but — then I get into the philosophical question of WHY. I don’t like my career to begin with, the reason I am working in it is because it pays well (at the moment, really well.) But that won’t last forever. And if there’s anything that gives me a panic attack, it’s committing to staying in this career (and somehow remaining gainfully employed in it) for the next 30 years.

I’m really not sure what to do here. My general thought is this:

  • Try my best to keep my current job for 34 more months, which is netting about $300k/yr pre tax for next 3 years
  • Stay in our $2500/month 1 bedroom apartment until my son is 1
  • Move into a rental 3br/2ba house closer to work that my father in law can also live in (requires a lot of looking for the right place, since he would need a private entrance to his room and ideally his own bath) — about $6000/mo ($4000 / mo for us, $2000 for his father)
  • Live there for the foreseeable future and save as much as possible
  • Either get promoted at work into a role that pays even more and that I can see myself in for next 30 years (unlikely) OR just keep saving until we have enough for a sizable downpayment to keep monthly payments low OR move far far away and never look back

The only reason why it makes some sense to buy a house now is that my mother in law has that $1M in cash earning basically no interest at the moment, so putting that into a house would at least allow that money to keep up with inflation, probably. It would even make sense for her to loan us the money and for us to pay her interest on it. Either she spends it then on something she needs in her life, or one day it comes back to us as my husband is an other child. Either way, it feels better than taking the full $1M and putting her in a tiny in law unit on the property without its own kitchen. She might not care, but it just feels wrong.

We did meet with a real estate agent and I’m running out numbers with a broker to get pre approval. I’m shocked that without my MIL’s $ for a downpayment, it still looks like we can qualify for a $1.8M variable loan, give or take. That’s insane to me. I know you don’t have to take as much as the bank offers you, but that’s basically a $9k a month payment. Since they aren’t counting my bonus or stock – that’s somehow assuming we can pay $9k a month on about $10k after tax. It makes no sense. And we wonder why we have housing bubbles that go bust.

I’m trying to avoid the emotional side of me that wants to BUY A HOUSE NOW. It’s being amplified by knowing that my mom has to sell my childhood home, and even though I’ve lived in apartments now for many years I always had a place to go back to that was my home. With that house being sold, I don’t have a home any more, and that makes me feel icky. Not icky enough to make a stupid financial decision, but icky nonetheless.

I hired a CFP to help us figure this all out but I am pretty sure I made the wrong decision in who I hired as we’re way too confusing for him – he’d be good with a straightforward couple who both earn tech salaries and will likely earn those salaries for their entire careers. That’s not us. So I’m pissed at myself for picking this guy. He’s not bad, but he’s not flexible and he doesn’t think outside the box. We need some flexibility here. And he’s supportive of buying the home now, but I’m not so sure he should be.

In any case, we’re working on pre approval then will decide what to do. I’m kind of hoping we find a 3br/2ba home for $1.2M that we can buy and live in with my father in law, with his $2k / month going toward mortgage/taxes, and then his mother can find her own similar property when she has to move in the next few years (when her mother passes away, the property will be sold and income split amongst the 3 siblings.) At that point, she should have about $1.5M in cash or more and she can go out and buy a small house with a nice backyard and we can have our $1.2M tiny house that we work to fix up and make our own. That’s really the best plan, I think, though finding anything half-way decent for $1.2M is pretty impossible here. We could get a 2br/2ba condo, but that doesn’t make sense since we want to have more kids and that wouldn’t allow us to grow our family or have guests over. So I’m hoping we go for a $1.2M house close to my work, we can make that work with his father so that covers taxes, at least for a few years, and we do our best to make this home our own. I really think that’s the best way to go about things, if we don’t just stick to renting.

On Being A Mom, Financially Speaking

My son is a good kid, so far. He doesn’t sleep much at night, but we’re working on that. Despite telling myself I will not buy frivolous things for my child I have bough frivolous things for my child… mostly clothes, some toys, and a few overpriced items like a swing that he uses on occasion that last a few months. If my spending patterns in the last two months tell us anything about how much this kid is going to cost me, my whole “I will NOT spend $250,000 on my kid before he goes to college” motto might as well be thrown out the window.

At the moment, living in this one bedroom apartment makes me feel OK about spending some amount of frivolous money on my son (I mean, gosh, those 3 month old clothes on sale at Gymboree are just TOO CUTE.) And, I feel rather hopeless around being able to afford big ticket items at this point, so the $10 shirts are fun to buy. I have hand-me downs from a number of friends (benefit of being one of the last to have kids) but the styles are so, bleh. It doesn’t matter AT ALL but I want my son to look not just nice, but appropriately styled to be my (/our) son. And, $5-$10 for an outfit just seems so cheap, even it it only lasts 3 months. Hey, I’m breastfeeding so at least he’s food is free, right?

What’s most challenging is this massive fear that I will never have a stable job. No job is really stable, but I’ve been in this industry/role type for over 10 years now and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and that I don’t deserve my paycheck. in fact, I’m half convinced when I go back to work from maternity leave my boss will see how horrible I am in the role, wait until she’s safe from firing a “new mom” and then poof, I’m gone. I’ve gotten to the point where I think I can probably get another job, but it could take months, and who knows what it would pay. This job happens to pay a lot, especially with my bonus (if I get my bonus), but that’s temporary. How could I ever commit to a monthly mortgage payment for 30 years (!!!) when I can’t imagine holding and keeping a job for longer than 6 months at any given time?

It would be nice if my husband’s income was enough to support our family just in case  I can’t get a job… but that’s not how it is either. He makes $85k a year in consulting income, which is pennies for an area where a basic mortgage with PITI will cost us $5k-$7k a month, and that’s with a hefty downpayment. I know people do it here on “low” incomes, but certainly not as home owners. I’m somewhat ok with renting, especially in a good school district once my son is old enough to go to public school, but my husband really wants to buy. I’d rather buy–for the stability and to feel like I’ve “made it” but I don’t know, I don’t know if I have it in me to make that kind of terrifying commitment.

My networth right now is about $620k and should be closer to $700k by the end of the year, depending on stock market performance (and if I can stop myself from buying more cute things for my son.) For most people, that should be more than enough to provide comfort in financial security, at least enough to buy a house. But it feels like pocket change to me. I’m pretty sure once I get to $1M I’ll start to feel like I an afford to buy a house. That’s still what I think about my home purchase plan… but I’m worried I’ll wait to long as housing prices have already doubled in the last 10 years here and interest rates are going up. Or have I really already missed my opportunity to buy here and the smart thing to do would be to leave?

Besides buying a home, there are lots of things I want to purchase for my son over the years, including a sibling or two. 🙂 Even if I have only one kid, there’s enrichment activities (especially since the school systems do not offer arts education here), summer camps, traveling, etc. We don’t have to spend a fortune but I’d like to give him some semblance of a middle class childhood–one that I had when I grew up. And–if I can keep my current income of $170,000 a year, give or take, and we rent or find a home that is somehow cheap enough to go in on with my husband’s parents (and live with them) that our monthly payments aren’t, like $9000 a month (which I guess we could qualify for but WTF how could we spend $9000 a month on a mortgage when we take home about $10k a month after taxes. Something doesn’t add up.

Well, I feel all sorts of shitty… knowing I’ll probably never make enough money (*consistently, for the next 30 years*) to give my son the life I want to give him. We’re saving now on daycare since my husband is working PT from home and his parents are helping out (which is great) but I still want him to experience preschool at some point in the next few years. If I can keep this job I may be able to make over $300k for this year and the next 3 years. That’s amazing. I don’t want to count on it, but it will be nice. After tax, it’s still not a lot… it would be great if I make $300k a year for the next 30 years of my life, but let’s be real… that’s not happening.

…A big chunk of that income is in options which happen to have increased in value a lot–but they can also decrease in value before I get them and after my options are all acquired, I won’t have any worth that much. I’ll be back to my $170 salary… or less, if I need to find another job (although I made $200k at my last job, when I was interviewing this time around offers were more in the $150k range at startups–where I’m more likely to get hired.) If my husband made $150k and I made $150k, we’d be doing ok… I feel like one can live on $300k joint here, and even on $150k should one partner lose their job for a while. But… $250k, and, $80k (should I lose my job) is not doable. Better yet, we’d both be making $250k consistently… but he hasn’t asked for a raise in years and refuses to take on any other clients (now at least it makes sense since he’s taking care of our son during the day)… and I, well, I’m not moving up at work ever. My title and likely pay is already inflated. I’m just trying to stay where I am and not rock the boat.

I’m scared. Scared, but not too scared, as long as we are renting a one bedroom for $2450 a month. No matter what happens, I feel like we can afford that. We can afford that on his $85,000 self employment income. We can afford that on a job I can find for $100k if I lose other jobs. But any more than that? Even renting a two bedroom for $3200+… I just, don’t feel ready for that. I don’t think I ever will.

Should we buy a house with my husband’s parents?

It has become increasingly clear that owning a house in the Bay Area (unless I want a 1.5+ hour each way commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the rest of my life) is pretty much an impossible feat on our own.   Theoretically I can become a VP and make $200k a year for the next 30 years of my life, but with my husband’s expected $50k income, we just can’t buy a house on $250k. And that’s IF we both are gainfully employed in such roles for the next 30 years straight.

His parents, not married but quite friendly with each other, are both seemingly interested in purchasing a home with us and living together. My husband, thankfully, realizes it’s not a good idea to live in the actual same house without an in-law unit (attached or dettached), and I’ve recommended if we’re going to go this route we look at duplexes which would be more expensive up front, but would give us more options long term as rental properties should they no longer want to live there for any reason (and we spend more than we would just us since there needs to be space for them.)

Duplexes around here seem to go for anywhere from $1.6M to, well, much higher. A really nice duplex could be $2M. The duplexes don’t come with much of a backyard usually (not that any property here does) but what’s nice about them is that together we might actually be able to afford ownership and the stability that affords.

His father is open to paying $2,000 a month towards a mortgage. I don’t know yet about his mother as she could likely help with the downpayment and then have to pay less monthly for a while (she apparently has most of her savings in cash, for better or worse.) Then, between all of us, maybe we could afford an $8k monthly mortgage. And, although I’m not quite sure how it would work, I think we could split the mortgage interest deduction three ways (since they’re not married) and thus actually be able to take the full deduction (though it would be worth much less to retired people, and I’m not sure it would be worth much of anything at all to them.)

I’m torn on whether living with his parents makes sense. His father is already offering to help out with the kiddo and I wouldn’t mind living with his dad if his father had an in-law type unit, or we had a duplex. He is very quiet and a nice, introverted guy that isn’t bothered by much. He’s a bit older too, in his 70s, and I think he just wants to spend time with his grandkid, which I appreciate. And it would be nice for my child to have a grandma it is close with (since my dad is across the country and due to his cancer may not be around that much longer unfortunately.) He currently lives in a very small one bedroom apartment in a 55+ apartment complex and I think his quality of life would increase substantially should he live in a house. He’s been sending my husband links to houses for rent with makeshift in-law units so clearly he’s very big on this idea of living together.  It certainly makes sense to offer him decreased rent/mortgage payments in trade for helping out with the baby.

His mother is a bit of a different story. She’s also quiet and independent, but she’s a mess. Like, more of a mess than I am. I’m a mess, but she’s like a “I have a bunch of cats I gathered from the outside and a billion purchases from thrift stores I’m hoarding” a mess. My husband knows this, and doesn’t want to live with her if she will continue this behavior. But he seems pretty confident she will change if she moves into a new space (she lives in her own parents house now, and her parents also collected  lot of junk so that place is just chaotic.) She isn’t ready to move yet, but her mother is in her 90s and eventually she will have to leave the house and find somewhere else to live. At that point, we could all put our savings together and find a home that works.

I wish the duplexes weren’t so expensive. While I’m still a little concerned that she would let the house become disgusting, if she lived with my husband’s father I don’t think it would happen. I mean, maybe her room (if we had a duplex with a 2br for them) would be messy, but the rest of the place and the outside areas wouldn’t be. If they were detached units on the same property, that wouldn’t be so bad.

The other option is to rent a house that happens to have a room with a private entrance. This wouldn’t work with his mother, but she’s not ready to move right now anyway. My husband’s father would move in a heartbeat. I think we’re still pretty set on staying in this apartment for the first year of our kid’s life, but it really might make the most sense to move now since the first year is when grandpa will be helping out the most (and taking 30 minute train rides to get here, since grandpa doesn’t drive.)

I’m pretty certain if I pushed for it and found the perfect place, we could move in together next month. I’m not sure that makes any sense though — our rent is now about $2500 a month. So we’d have to find a house that is $4500 a month max. The houses around here that are $4500 are not that nice, and I haven’t seen any with in-law type units. We could maybe get a regular 2br/1ba for $4500 a month… but I think we all agree that living in the same house–especially with one bathroom–is a bad idea.

So we’ll probably just stay in this apartment at least for a year, but be opportunistic in purchasing should the right property come along. His mother may change things if she needs to move sooner than later. But we’ll see. I do think her savings would make it possible for us all to purchase something a bit nicer. If we could split taxes on the property 3 ways, that would help as well, since there is the $10k per person/couple limit on that deduction now, including income tax.

What do you think? Should I consider a duplex or house with in-law purchase? Should we rent a house? Should we wait?

 

Who can afford to own a house?

I’ve committed to remaining in our $2500/month one bedroom apartment for as long as we can stand it with our soon-to-be child. I’ve even gotten to appreciate the forced closeness we’ll have living in a small space with kiddo, especially in the first year when it’s recommended baby sleeps in the same room with parents…

However, I’m very concerned about what happens “next.” Yes, we can leave this overpriced corner of the country and live somewhere that a much lower salary would enable home ownership. I don’t even care about “owning” so much as I care about being able to afford some sort of residence that feels less like an apartment and more like a home. A townhouse would be perfectly fine, especially if it has a little grassy area in the back, and a community park nearby… Continue reading

A Loose 5 Year Plan

The whole “being pregnant” and going into “nesting” mode is real. I’ve been spending way too many hours scouring Redfin and Zillow despite knowing that I can’t afford a home here, other than maybe a 1 bed, 1 bath in a really bad part of the bad part of town.

So. I’m trying to focus my energy on longer-term, more realistic goals, while also ensuring that I keep my job in order to hit them.

2018

  • Age: I turn 35(!)
  • Networth: Close out the year at $645k-$650k
  • Housing: Live in 1 bedroom / 1 bath apartment (50% = $14.1k yr)
  • 401k: invest $22.5k
  • Stocks: invest $30k 
  • Baby #1: born, 0 – 5 mo
  • Baby #2: not born yet

Continue reading

moving-boxes-things-forget

To Move or Not To Move… That is the Question

7 months, 3 weeks in counting until the arrival of baby “E” (we have two names picked out for girl or boy child, both start with E, so calling it baby E .) 7 months, 3 weeks is not that much time before our lives change forever.

Outside of finally figuring out how to keep my apartment clean, focusing on obtaining stability at my job, and trying to eat healthy and exercise and such, I’m perturbed  by our housing situation and whether or not we should move or stay put. The general consensus until my anxiety attack of this last week was stay put until kid is 1, then figure it out / move to a two bedroom / etc. Continue reading

Lessons in Adulting: How Much Should Living Room Furniture Cost?

When we moved in together two years ago, my Craigslist-purchased couch with ripped cushions and protruding feathers, along with my once-glued together, now peeling-apart IKEA coffee table and self-desctructive Tar-gey bookshelves which are not safe to be around a small child, seemed perfectly fine for a trancient space. With barren white walls and a few half-filled and altogether empty frames scattered about the floor, this now-married couple is trying to figure out how to create a place that feels like “home” without overdoing it (you know, like we (…ahem… I) overdid our wedding.)

Right now, we really can’t have guests over because the place is embarrassing, even on its good days when I’ve cleaned up the piles of mess. Our lease is up in May, but it is doubtful we will move next year or anytime soon (the only real reasons for us to move is 1 – rents going up an unreasonable amount, 2 – we have a child and said child turns 2, or 3, one of us gets a job super far away, like, in another state, and we need to move.) Otherwise, it looks like we’re hunkered down for a few more years in our 800-square foot, overpriced-due-to-Silicon-Valley-rental-costs abode.

This furniture has got to go. Continue reading

No Cable TV for Now, Fast Internet Instead

Since I’m determined to read more, get out of the house more to see friends and exercise, and generally not be a lazy couch potato, I decided to avoid getting cable for the time being. Instead, we’re getting 50MB internet and skipping cable altogether.

The cable bill for the first year wouldn’t be that bad, but then I’d get used to it and have to pay the ridiculous fees charged after the first 12 month rates expire. It really is ridiculous to pay $100+ per month for cable television when most of the shows are available through other means. I even already have Amazon prime which offers many shows and movies as part of the membership. There’s also the option to buy Hulu Plus or Netflix if this isn’t enough.

Instead of the cable membership, I splurged on a waterproof case for my Kindle ($70) so I can come home after work, fill up the tub, and read myself silly. Better that then starting mindlessly at the screen. I figure if I’m desperate for television I can sign up for the local gym, which offers tv screens in every cardio machine… at least then I’ll be able to get healthy while watching television instead of the opposite.

My Parents Spent $300k to Add On to a $400k House

After I left home 10 years ago, my parents decided to build a add-on to our house, and redo the entire kitchen. The add on was not decided on to add to the value of the house — it was purely because my parents wanted more space. They wanted a family room which would be open to the kitchen, making the entire area more open and inviting.

Today my dad told me that during the years he was making the most money, was also the years he lost the most wealth. Why? The $150k add on for the house ended up costing somewhere around $300k (he isn’t really sure how much it cost) and then spending elsewhere also added up. He was making $200k + per year, but losing even more than that.

He constantly talks about how he wants to re-do the other rooms in the house. He has grand plans for remaking the master bedroom to have a walk-in closet that would reduce the space in the room, and breaking down the walls of two bathrooms to make one master bath. I asked him if he thinks that would add to the value of the house and he doesn’t care. He just wants to make it look the way he wants. Even though, with only about a million left in the bank, the value of the house should play into some consideration when making changes.

Not that he cares, or should care — as I’ve mentioned before, he’s sick with terminal cancer, and all he wants to do is spend money on the house — on expensive constructive changes, and less expensive decorative costs that still add up. Meanwhile, my mother, who has no concept of the value of money, is likely going to run out of money some point down the line.

I asked my dad — why didn’t you just move to a larger house, if you were going to spend $300k on the addition? You could have sold this house and moved to a $700k house, which in this area gets you a fairly large house. And it would have been probably worth more later because it would have been a newer construction. Not that I’d want them to sell my childhood home, but still, financially that might have made more sense.

That sort of logic doesn’t matter to them, though. It’s not really any of my business, except for worrying about my mother running out of money later in life, and given that my sister is going into a lower-paying field than I am, I’ll likely be footing that bill. I would, of course, help her out if she needs it — but I’d rather help her make smart financial decisions NOW so it doesn’t have to come to that. It’s too bad neither her or my father would ever take any of my advice on these matters.