Tag Archives: money

Combating Perfectionism to Survive

My childhood was spent painting. I learned early on that mussing around too much with color on top of color eventually turned a beautiful painting brown, and the only way to fix this horror was to let it dry and paint over it again. If only I just stopped while I was a head – when it was “good enough” – and moved on. But I couldn’t, because stopping before it’s perfect in my mind was a relative impossibility.

Perfectionism is ironically the worst enemy of success. I oft forget how much of a perfectionist I am until someone else points it out. For example, the other day, a family member saw me working on details of a poster with a designer and said she would never spend that much time on such an item. The most successful people, I’ve learned, are not necessarily the ones who dot their i’s and cross their t’s, but the ones who quickly move from one thing to the next, covering the most ground.

Of course, that’s not the case for some fields – like medicine or physics – where anything less than perfection can result in failure. But in most aspects of life, perfection doesn’t actually matter. Let’s just ignore the fact that in most aspects of life it doesn’t even actually exist, for a moment. As a whole, most people aren’t going to notice if your colors or spacing is slightly off. Most people don’t notice quite as many details as I do on a daily basis to begin with.

Yet with my distracted, ADHD mind, I’ve yet to find a way to ensure that the important details do not slip without obsessing over the many that no one should care about. Even then, I find I somehow miss the big things that others will notice, while all the details that probably won’t get any mindshare in a person’s busy day are flawless. Clearly, I’m doing this all wrong. You know, existing.

The thing about perfectionism is that over the long term to accomplish anything near perfect you need repeatable processes to maintain such perfection, and then you need to, as in the words of the immortal Disney song, Let it the fuck Go. (Ok, I added two non-Disney words in there.)

But the reality is, I’m not saving lives with my job, I’m not saving the world. In the grande scheme of things what I’m doing doesn’t matter. As an INFP, I’m an idealist, and I pour 100% of myself into everything I do. It’s just my nature. And I have a lot of trouble detaching work from the rest of my life. The truth is, I’m as passionate about my work as I am any other aspect of my life, if not more so. Which is probably the problem to begin with.

That said, I’m the type of person who fades if the passion isn’t there, so I’d much rather be wholly passionate in each project, at least at the broader scale picture, than just getting through the day. How do I trick my mind into not caring so I can just get shit done? How do I make myself acknowledge that it doesn’t matter if the poster’s alignment is slightly off, but still catch that the word in the bottom left is misspelled?

This is my little dilemma. It sounds silly, but it’s the reason why I’m yet again struggling with my job. Deep down, I realize that my calling may have been a more creative field — cinematography, for instance — where such perfectionism, at least in terms of visuals and story flow, is actually a benefit to your success, vs business, where you’re expected to churn out results at an impossible speed, where “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) is what you always want to be aiming for. You’re never creating something you’re proud of then, you’re just constantly rushing to create whatever works to achieve your goal with the very least amount of effort. That, on it’s own, over time, is soul crushing.

But it’s just work, right? And it’s the big wins that should fuel you. At least in business, al the little things are done to accomplish a very measurable, tangible goal. What is your annual revenue? That is the result of a lot of people’s hard work and little, non-perfectionistic successes.

I haven’t had a good New Years resolution yet, but I think this year mine will be to Let it (the fuck) Go. Because, let’s face it, if I don’t I will be unemployed again soon, and more deeper in the rut of unemployment than I was before. On the other hand, I have a very real opportunity to do extremely well in my current role. I have maybe three months or less to make it or break it, which may feel like a marathon, but in the grande scheme of things is actually a sprint.

Gone Girl: The Modern Marriage Commentary

The stories within a story of my life are endless. Take, for instance, my mother’s decision for us — my father, her, and myself — to go see the movie “Gone Girl” at the movie theatre for our family night activity together. I haven’t been paying much attention to pop culture lately so I didn’t know what the movie was about other than a wife’s disappearance. My mother had read the book so she had “a clue.”

If you plan to see the movie and/or read the book, spoilers ahead, fair warning. So the plot pretty much starts out with a woman and a man who supposedly fall in love at a time in their life when they’re young, self-entitled, horny, and everything is going right for them. But then the shit of life hits the fan – parents get sick, recessions crumble the economy, people lose their jobs, trust funds are tapped into – and the two lovebirds realize that they aren’t in a relationship with the person they wanted to be in the first place. The prenup just adds to the jealousy and drama once the perfect relationship falls apart. Because, as I took it, all of us are faking who we are when we’re dating and all of us say we’re not going to end up like those horrible married couples that nag and bicker at each other and have sex like route routine vs with passion and many of us do. Then one cheats with something newer and younger and more like the fantasy that they originally married, the other feels hurt, angry, and wants vengeance. For a moment they may even want the other partner to greatly suffer for the rest of their lives.. And there you have the plot behind Gone Girl, or at least the rational for it.

Well, going to see this movie with my parents, for those of you who follow my blog and understand my relationship with my parents and their relationship with each other, is a bit of a farcical plot line to begin with. Add to that attending the movie in one of those  newer “luxury” cinemas with the comfort seating and recalling chairs, and both my mother and father for large chunks of the movie falling asleep and beginning to snore quite loudly, and their golden commentary on the film afterwards, I couldn’t help but find myself cackling inside.

After the film was over my dad could in no way shape or form hide his disgust at the film. With my father there are no opinions that matter but his own. This time around I mostly agreed with him (it was a dumb plot line in terms of what actually happened and the constant elevator music to, I think, add a state of creepy and coldness to the film, was annoying as fuck, though I appreciated the social commentary.) Yet when my father has an opinion, he takes it personally. He even gets a bit angry or at the least annoyed – like, how dare anyone create a movie that’s so stupid that other people like that he has to see.

I must admit my favorite review from him of the evening was his frustration with the detective being female, as, and I quote, “that’s just not realistic.” He apparently has been annoyed for years with all the leading female detective characters souring the reality of his favorite shows like Law and Order. This conversation, of course, led into my mother noting that it is like how there are too many gay people on television these days – not that she has a problem with gay people – but there “just aren’t that many gay people” and that too isn’t realistic. I asked her to note a specific show where a gay person was written into it where it didn’t make sense (I’m waiting for her to tell me about some show in Rural Georgia where there’s a flamboyantly gay person who never gets threatened or shot, and perhaps that I could believe as unrealistic) but then she goes on to tell me she doesn’t watch a lot of TV these days so she can’t name a specific case, this is just in general.

Oh, my parents. At some point you just have to accept the crazy that is. My favorite part of last night was after the movie when we went to a cafe for dinner. Following our crepes my father ordered a pecan tarte. I asked if I could have a bite and he said ok. I noticed that there weren’t actually many pecans on top and tried unsuccessfully to secure one with the tiny piece I took off the site of the tarte. My mother then asked my father if she could have a taste. “Sure,” he said, as if it was rude of her to assume he might say no (but heaven forbid she just take it without asking, that would start a shit show.) My mother, knowing that any cut she takes will be horrible in the eyes of my father, asks him to cut her a piece. He, again in some sort of offended manner says “you cut your own piece.” She noted out loud that if she did he would say “she took too much.” He continued that she can cut her own piece and he wouldn’t get upset.

Ha.

She then initially takes a tiny bit of the tarte only to cut further into it about half way to get a piece with one of the few pecans on it. It does look like she took half the tart but I could see clearly that she just wanted to get the pecan. My father, of course, throws his hourly temper tantrum by saying something along the lines of “what the hell” and grabbing back the piece she cut with the pecan on it and leaving her with the original tiny piece she had cut. He then, as a peace offering, and to retain his belief that he’s a rational person, took a tiny pecan and put it on top of her tiny piece of the tart.

In reference to the film, I can’t imagine how my parents ever were the type of people who were young and in love. Was my mother just so beautiful and youthful when they met (she was 17 so maybe) that my father looked past her lack of ability to empathize with others? Was my father so stable and successful that by the time they got married my mother just looked past the fact that he smacked her glasses off her face on their honeymoon and broke them? I don’t know how these two were ever in love. Like the characters in the film they’re extremely self-absorbed people who instead of working together on communicating just make up their own stories, live their own lives. My dad was always opposed to a divorce — because it “hurts the kids” — while my mother was to scared to leave as she didn’t want to have to “work” another day in her life.

So here we are. Neither of them tried to frame the other for murder, though I wouldn’t be absolutely surprised if one day the result of my father’s explosive anger seriously injures my nagging mother. I’m surprised it hasn’t so far. Oh, there have been bruises and other pains, but nothing deadly. They seem to work together some how in their home of narcissism. One fight after the other after the other. It really is not pleasant to be here. I come back to spend time with family because logically I think that is what I should do. With my father dying and my mother getting older I don’t want to regret not spending the time with them – and I enjoy to some extent being in my childhood home for the few years left when it’s still in our family name. The rest of the visits are usually painful if not viewed as a sitcom and watched with an internal monologue of canned laughter.

I do worry about my own relationship and marriage – if I am to get married – and how that will play out in life. It’s easy to say that you won’t be like that, not a spiteful, angry couple, but as Gone Girl points out maybe we all turn into that a little bit. We’re so caught up in ourselves that we forget to care for the other. When times are good and there’s money and there’s security we can get through it, but then when the hard parts of life strike things start to crumble. I don’t want to be that way with my partner. I already hear the nagging going on in my head, we have our arguments, our moments of tension. I try to remind myself the value of the relationship is in the love itself, in the comfort, the partnership, the security. I can’t imagine a person in the world who could be a better fit for me and I’m pretty sure he feels the same way about me. As long as I focus on building the financial life that I want, and to save the money now versus later, to get to a point where with the exception of a major financial meltdown in the markets, I don’t have to worry about his career.

That’s why I’m so neurotic and crazy about my saving. I don’t want to ever rely on anyone else to support my happiness or security. It’s the moment we rely on someone else to do this when love cannot be the center of a relationship, it’s money – and when money is the center of the relationship that relationship will undoubtedly fall apart.

 

 

 

 

 

Is my networth really $300k?

My networth calculations are a bit of a hot mess right now. I’m not sure exactly what to count and what not to count. Actual networth figures don’t matter that much (they change so dramatically each day due to fluctuations in the stock market once you have a couple of hundred thousand dollars in savings) but given my goal this year was to hit $300k with a $325k stretch goal, I was surprised this morning to find my spreadsheets telling me that I have actually already hit $300,000 in networth.

Of course with my unemployment period that isn’t going to last for long, but I’m going through and checking my calculations on this bold number which seems off. I must have made a numerical error somewhere, right? Well, let’s see…

 

Account Amount
Cash (Liquid)
Checking $10775
Savings $370
TOTAL CASH $11,145
Debts
Credit Card Debt -$333
Paying Soon -$4,000
TOTAL DEBTS -$4,333
Property
Car $10,000
TOTAL PROPERTY $10,000
Investments
Sharebuilder $93,083
Vanguard Stocks $24,299.37
Prosper $856.04
Lending Club $387.53
Startup Co Stock * (this is likely worth $0 and a $16.4k loss) $16,400
TOTAL INVESTMENTS $135,026
Education
529 Plan $4399
TOTAL EDUCATION $4399
Retirement Accounts
Vanguard IRA $26,674.61
Sharebuilder IRA $13,805.69
401k $63,044
TOTAL PRE-TAX RETIREMENT $103,524.30
Vanguard Roth IRA $28,263.81
Sharebuilder Roth IRA $12,228.92
TOTAL POST-TAX RETIREMENT $40,492.73
TOTAL NETWORTH $300,254

So. It does appear that my total networth reached $300k this month. Hurrah. It’s not “real” because it includes $16.4k in startup stock in one company that will likely go under and thus that will be a $16.4k loss — plus I don’t like including my car in my networth because that is going to go down in value in the coming years, however the Kelly Blue Book value for my car in good condition for a dealer trade in is $10,728, so I’m pricing it at $10,000 assuming I could sell to a private party for about this amount in a few years if I desperately needed the cash. I’m not counting what I estimate to be $1665 in frequent flier miles which, valued at a half cent each, I’m saving up for my big honeymoon trip. If I can get 2 cents per mile then they’re worth $6600. But, again, I’m not including those in my networth as they’re extras and will never be something I can get to spend if I ever run out of money.

As noted in my earlier post, while on unemployment I want to try to maintain my networth. A lot will depend how quickly I can get a new job, since my unemployment paycheck doesn’t even cover my full rent ($1800 unemployment taxed at 35% = $1170 and my rent is $1350, as I’ve noted previously.) If I can get a new job by Oct 1 I think I can recover and exit the year, based on these calculations, with $300k networth at a minimum, unless the stock market tanks. If I can’t get a job for months though my networth will start to drop. It’s not the end of the world assuming I can get another good job by end of the year, but I’d prefer to have one by Oct 1. I don’t think I can get to $325,000 networth which was my actual goal for this year, but I’ll be content exiting the year over $300k.

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I try to save / earn interest on investments to increase my networth by a minimum of $50k per year. In my 30s I wanted to bump this to $75k per year until I have kids, at which point who knows what I’ll be able to save on an annual basis (ahh.) I really want to get to $500k before I have my first kid. Saving $75k per year would be a huge help because that means I just need 2.5 more years to hit this goal. However with $50k a year I need 4 years more. Given I’m going on 31 and want to have my first kid by the time I’m 33, I have to take this $75k annual savings goal very seriously. What this requires is landing a job that I love (enough) and a solid paycheck ($130k minimum, ideally $150k – $180k) and a semi-frugal lifestyle for the next 2-4 years.

Once $500k is obtained if I earn 5% on average that in one year that’s $25,000 in interest alone without compounding. Of course I will still want to work and make money (I won’t feel comfortable with my networth until it is $2,000,000) but the $500k sets me up for a quality life as a mother where I can opt to work full time or take some time off to spend with my kids. So I feel ok about where things stand right now — I just would really like to find a great new job, stat.

The Unemployed Budget: Part 1

While I was getting used to the luxury of taking home $6k after tax per month – and saving a significant amount of it while not cutting my spending too much – now I need to really get frugal. On the other hand, now I have TIME which when I’m working I don’t have much of, so I want to use it and actually do the things I would do if I had time… but those cost money. It’s a tricky situation.

My networth goal this year was (and still is) $300k minimum exiting 2014. That seemed very doable prior to losing my job but now, yikes, it doesn’t seem that doable at all, save for a major boost in the stock market or accepting another gig that pays well enough to make up for lost time in a month or two. Continue reading

Divorce is Expensive (Especially with Kids in the Picture)

This past weekend I was helping my aunt figure out her budget and set up a Mint.com account. She was recently laid of from her long-time job, which wouldn’t have been a big issue years ago when she was still married with a household income of over $300,000. But going through her budget, suddenly even $10,000 a month of after-tax income looked very tight.

It certainly doesn’t help matters that my aunt lives in a very expensive part of the country. She now rents a lovely (yet small) 3br/2ba house for about $3400 a month (which isn’t that bad considering I currently pay $2350 for a one bedroom (my town is just even more expensive than hers.) She has a sizable amount saved up thanks to her marriage (and no prenup, worked out in her favor) but without a job she still could burn through that well before retirement age (she’s in her early 50s now.)

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Fantasizing About Graduate School

It’s time. For almost nine years I’ve been in the workforce, far away from academia, exploring a multitude of careers and learning more about myself while saving nearly $300k. What I’ve learned is that in order to be happy, I must have a day job that satisfies much of my fundamental needs:

  1. Enables me to be a SOCIAL, collaborative creature, interacting with the same people on a regular basis, over the course of multiple projects.
  2. Enables me to work on PROJECTS as opposed to ongoing, never-ending, headache-inducing programs. I need a sense of completion. My brain requires the structured chunking of time in order to be most productive and content.
  3. Enables me to APPLY CREATIVITY. I do not want to live a life where creativity is the end goal. The creativity should be a means to accomplish a very clear problem that has been identified via patterns or an examination of problems that are likely to arise in the near-term future. Continue reading

The Valley Between Wealth and Regular

For many people I know, wealth isn’t something they ever experience. Growing up in a suburban, middle-class town on the east coast, no one just had millions of dollars in the bank. If they did, they wouldn’t have chosen to live here.

But life on the other coast is far more steeped in the upper echelons of society. However, the millionaires and billionaires are mixed in with the rest of us. My former managers, likely already millionaires, have gone on to obtain even higher paying positions. Yes, they’re good at what they do. But there remains this great divide between the ridge I’m on and the ridge they’re on. Even colleagues who were my equals at one point have gone on to surely earn way more than I’ll ever be able to make. I’m torn on whether or not I actually care.

The idea of being on a career path where I could earn $200k+ a year is tantalizing, in a way, as that kind of income would provide an awful lot of cash to stock away into savings and investments. I just am not a leader in the same way they are. Yes, all of these people that come to mind are male, but they are just good at seemingly like they have their shit together and managing teams of people. What am I good at? Being creative. Editing. Anything other than managing.

It is just so crazy to me how close I am to all this wealth. I’m also close to people who probably have $1M – $2M in the bank, who want to be multi-millionaires. I’m pretty sure if I ever hit $2M I’d quit my day job and do something completely unrelated. I wish I could move up the ladder more quickly, but I also can’t figure out how to. In the opportunities I have to really lead I seem to do poorly because I always get stuck on the details. For example, directing a corporate video voiceover track down to the intention in each line because, god, it was just sounding like Siri on cocaine. I just need to learn to stop caring so much about the details and focus on “more is more.” And promoting all of the work even if I know it’s not perfect. That certainly doesn’t come natural to me.

 

What is it that we’re living for? Applause, applause?

What motivates you? Is it still the same today as it was when you were a child? I’m fascinated by what motivates people to achieve their own levels of greatness, and what keeps others from achieving their potential.

As humans, we crave recognition.

“…many younger women had an irrepressible desire to be renowned. They had been told as a child that they could grow up to accomplish great things,” writes psychologist and author of the book Wander Woman Marcia Reynolds. This is not the case in every culture, but in Americans, many of us crave to feel special and be recognized for being more than the pack. Continue reading

2014 Budget: Getting Serious

Based on my aggressive financial goals documented here ($500k by 1/1/18), and my 105% increase in monthly rent starting this month (le sigh), I need to stop my shopping trips to the mall and get serious about my budget. The time for fun comes when I obtain a larger percentage of my bonus or if the stock markets start to track faster to goal then planned. Right now, it’s time to be relatively frugal in the first-world-I-still-think-I-get-paid-too-much sense.

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 12.10.59 PM This chart documents my budget plan for May going forward. I don’t actually think it’s reasonable but in order to hit my goals I have to focus on sticking to plan. If I force myself I know I can, and my bf is on board with figuring out how to save each month and help me achieve my goals as well. We’re going to start cooking together so it will be interesting to see what sharing household costs 50/50 does for my budget.

This budget plan keeps me above water monthly while also enabling $3k to be invested into the stock market and $1.4k to go to – also stocks – in my 401k. It’s a little off balance because I’ve actually already maxed out my 401k this year, so in reality I’ll be putting $4.4kish into the stock market (Vanguard funds mostly, maybe 80% ($3500) Vanguard (split between dividend growth fund and international fund) and 20% not-too-risky individual stocks for the fun of it. I’d like to get to $10k in my Vanguard funds ASAP to get their lower cost ratios (just turned my mid-cap fund into admiral going from .26% expenses to .1%, woohoo.) Continue reading

My New American Dream: A Backyard, Family, and Freedom from Chasing the Chase (Iowa?)

My hair stylist is my backup therapist. She is this perfect blonde who always seems to be in a good mood despite it being way too early on Saturday morning. She is consistently perky, routinely, as I go in to the salon on random infrequent intervals to get my frayed locks trimmed, to maintain some air of exterior professionalism and polish while my mind remains frayed and in desperate need of its own snip.

While I think of my hair stylist as old(er) and myself as young(er) she’s actually 31 and I’m 30, but she’s married with older kid(s?) and I’m single and finally moving in with my long-time boyfriend. Her life is very different from mine, and who knows if she’s actually happy, but she seems to appear calm and content. Still, we both share a longing for a house with a backyard, for her, a place for her kids to roam free, for me, a place for my future children to cut themselves on sharp blades of grass and dig up worms under the slip-and-slide on long, hot summer days.

Continue reading