Tag Archives: parents

A Brief Call with my Dad

Five years ago, my father, now 61, was told he had less than two years to live. Diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer, the doctor’s said that the rapid growth of his type of cancer would wreck havoc on his body and treatments could only help postpone the inevitable. Five years later, and dad is – not exactly healthy – but still alive and looking forward to the future.

I’m not very close with my father. He’s extremely narcissistic and judgmental  Every conversation I have with him tends to be the same. Today, I called home expecting my mother to pick up, but instead my dad did.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

He recognized my voice and said my name in a sort of overly-dramatic surprised tone.

“How are things with Derek,” he asks, pausing – “I don’t know how to say this but, the biological clock is ticking, and I’d like to be a grandparent…”

He continues later in the conversation “My PSA is at 0 – but I won’t live forever, and your sister isn’t getting married anytime soon. What is Derek doing?”

“He’s looking for a job,” I mumble, because telling the truth about my boyfriend of seven years being extremely depressed and not having sent out one resume yet just would lead to more judgement. Continue reading

When Parents are Dying: Coping & Planning

Death is never a pleasant experience. As I watch my father slip slowly away, I try to come to terms with reality, but since no one in my family has ever learned how to cope with the cruel nature of life, so goes our lack of outward empathy in death. I’ve never had anyone close to me die, and all that’s going to change — whether in a year or five years, I don’t know, but my father’s cancer is back with a vengeance, and regardless of how much I avoid acknowledging reality, the day will come when I won’t see him alive again.

In the meantime, there are arrangements to be made. Uncomfortable arrangements. Who wants to discuss plans for after they part with the world? My mother and I had a brief conversation today about what her plans are in retirement — selfish as she is, with everything always about her, her sadness only formed in confusion over next steps in her life without the normal next steps for a husband and wife approaching retirement.

The question of what happens to her after he’s gone is one I’ve avoided getting deeply involved in. I told her that I don’t want to be the person to help her decide what to do with her finances because I would not feel comfortable telling her to spend or save money that may have some effect on a one-day inheritance for myself or my sister. I’d rather she discuss this with my father, and make her own decisions, or at least with the help of a trustworthy financial adviser.

Meanwhile, at lunch today, she managed to make me feel terrible, though not on purpose, about previously asking whether she’d be willing to contribute some future financial support for the various fertility treatments I’ll likely have to go through one day in order to have children. As my mother has made numerous comments about wanting grandchildren, I don’t expect her to help me financially with treatments, but if she could help when the time comes, it would be appreciated. But today, in front of company, she made some comment about how I said that she “has to help me” with affording having children, which was a very uncomfortable moment, that took its time to set in before later making me extremely upset. She claims she didn’t mean it that way at all, but it was her friend that responded that she really didn’t seem like she wanted to help me in this situation.

But anyway, I digress. The point here is that these things that will come up in the future are my own costs; but it is up to my mother if she wants to help out ever. I don’t want to be the person to ask her or tell her what to do. I apparently shouldn’t even mention these things, as just vaguely mentioning that I’d appreciate her help if it turns out I’ll need costly fertility treatments turns into a huge deal where she clearly doesn’t want to help, she just feels like she has to. I don’t want her help unless she wants to give it. And she never will.

And, at the same time, I deep down do want to “help” my father at this point — even though he’s often cruel to me — and I can’t. It’s always walking on eggshells around him. His reactions are never something you can guess, and with his illness he’s become, justifiably, even more moody. But I question my own motives for wanting to help — perhaps my motives are inherently flawed and narcissistic, after all I’m still just a little girl seeking her father’s approval. Wanting him to feel comfortable confiding in her about his feelings, without actually being emotionally prepared or strong enough to survive what that actually means. For better or worse, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants to mope and be depressed on his own, then get angry over little things that don’t matter, to criticize his family, to avoid his own complete lack of control, his life slowly slipping from his hands as his health manages to fail for all his many medical problems unrelated to the cancer, leaving his last years of life filled with discomfort up to pain. I’m a sick person for at some level wanting him to suffer — but not to die, not to suffer and then learn a lesson in taking your depression and issues out on everyone else — and then to go on with life a new person, a nicer person, one who has learned how to care about other people in a way that doesn’t involve control and manipulation. That’s a story that will never play out. The reality is his suffering only going to get worse. I may be here to see it, I may be home on the other coast, hearing detailed stories from a woman who will complain about having to waste her days helping him, feeling guilty for not being here, feeling guilty for not feeling guilty for not being here, and so on.

The practical questions of what will happen to my mother after my father passes away are ones I haven’t been able to ask, for I can’t bring myself to talking to my father about death. I’m even angry at him because had he gone to the doctor regularly they could have probably caught his cancer early, and with prostate cancer it’s usually curable if caught early. But he didn’t want to go to the doctor because of his weight, which also likely increased his risk of getting the cancer.

Here I am at 27, having finally almost come to accept my own future death, but I am not prepared to watch either of my parents go. Not even my father, who was destined to die early with his morbid obesity, diabetes, and other health issues, even before the cancer.

Life is so short, and it’s passing by so quickly. I was miserable throughout my childhood, yet I’m nostalgic for the few moments of happiness, or even boredom, wasting away lazy summer days, with all the time in the world, all the life in the world. And now, it slips, with ends looming behind every corner.




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.

Living in the Shadow of my Narcissistic Parents – Part 2

I’m not sure how many people actually read my blog these days, but if you’ve been following along you likely read my long rant yesterday about the dinner I had with my father, and how his narcissistic personality disorder tendencies gnaw at me every time I see him, or talk to him.

One commenter posed the question “are you sure he is the one who is a narcissist?” and I wanted to respond to that. Clearly, my post yesterday — and many of my posts — sound self absorbed and ungrateful. Shouldn’t I just be so thankful that my father (and mother) gave me lots of “stuff” in my life — clothes, nice furniture, a college education — beyond stuff, what does a girl really need?

How about love? I’d never argue that I had or have a hard life. I’m way more fortunate than a large percentage of people who live in this world. But I grew up in a love-less house. No one knew how to love themselves let alone anyone else. And, yes, I became a narcissist because it’s the only way to survive when both of your parents are narcissists. It’s a never-ending cycle. The only value I had to my parents was how my existence benefited them. And, as any kid, a big part of me wanted to make my parents happy. It was pretty clear that I couldn’t – that I’d never be the perfect kid they wanted – and I hated myself for it more and more as the years went by.

Continue reading

Should I Have Children?

During my therapy session today, it occurred to me that this question alone is one that, of all the questions and confusions on life I have, is the one that freaks me out the most. I’m not going to have kids tomorrow or the next day, but at 26 I have to face reality that if I am going to have children (I’d like at least 2, at most 3) I should have kids within approximately the next 10 years. That’s a lot of time and not much time at all.

10 years ago, I was 16.5. I was a junior in high school, trying to figure out where to go to college, taking the PSATs, and really just starting on my journey of adulthood. It kind of feels like a long time ago. Will 30 or 35 feel that long from now? I hear time speeds up the older you get.
My therapist and I briefly discussed today whether or not I want kids. To be honest, I don’t know. She said that people don’t have to have children, and you have to really have a physical urge to have kids and a desire to appreciate the joy they’ll bring (along with all the sacrifice and stress.) Do I have that urge? Will I ever?
Surely, my life without children might feel a bit meaningless. It already feels meaningless. But it’s not good to put that much responsibility on my yet-to-be-conceived offspring — “bring my life meaning or else.” I can’t really see myself being a mother. Then again, there are plenty of other people in this world who should not be mothers who are, so why should I be so hard on myself? (Ie — see WhytheFuckDoYouHaveaKid.com) I’m not THAT bad, right?

I mean, I have my shit together. Sort of. I have $50k in savings/retirement, a job (that isn’t stable, but I at least have a career that can lead to more jobs), I’m probably doing a lot better than many people my age who already have children. Why do I feel like I need a million dollars in the bank before I can procreate?
Some days, I think reading all these personal finance blogs and listening to Ray Lucia and tracking my Net Worth hurts me a bit. It just makes me freak out about money. It’s important to be responsible with money, to save a certain percentage of your income, etc, etc, but I’m paralyzed by my fear of never having enough. This whole “should I have kids” question goes beyond just having the finances to afford them (heck, am I really the type of person who can be responsible for infants or deal when my teenagers talk back to me?) but the money is a big part of it.
The days I dream of grad school, I have to remind myself how much debt I’ll be in at 30, versus the non grad school route where I can possibly reach a networth of $100k or more by 30. If I end up having kids and wanting to stay home with them, why even bother with grad school?
Meanwhile, my boyfriend has barely any savings, no Roth IRA, no retirement accounts, and is planning to go to grad school — at least for his masters, probably for his PhD. So we’ll likely have his debts to deal with. Why bother adding mine? We can’t do that if we want to have children. I really need to have kids in my early 30s… I will have to go through in vitro and all that fun due to my PCOS, and having children will probably cost $20k+ a pop. I’m not just making these money concerns up.
What do you think? Do you have children? When did you have your kids? How much did you have in net worth when you had children? Do you think it’s silly for me to be this concerned about money before having kids?

Trying to Get My Parents to Budget is Like…

What would be the correct metaphor here? I don’t even know. My parents are way worse than I am when it comes to finances and both of them are in massive denial over their spending problems. It doesn’t help that my dad likes to blame my mom for everything and sees no fault in his own actions. Ever. Trying to get them to agree on a serious budget is like… impossible.

Towards the end of 2008, I made my mom sign up for a Mint.com account so I could see exactly what they were both spending all the money on. My father would never let me spend time on his Quickbooks, where he says he carefully tracks all the finances. When I visited home recently, I sat down with my mom to review their 2009 spending. What I saw didn’t shock me, but it scared me a little.

They spend $13k a month, on average, not counting my sister’s tuition, which they pay in full as well. Neither of them are working. My dad receives a sizable pension and disability right now, but not enough to support that kind of spending. This year, he told my mother that they should be spending $6-$7k per month at most. The 401k will be available next year, so he keeps saying “once we get the 401k we will be fine. We just cannot spend a lot this year.” I’ll talk about the 401k issues later. But for now, simply, my parents need to spend no more than $7k per month on just the two of them and their house. That sounds like it should be do-able, right?
My dad told my mom that she can spend $2.5k on all her stuff per month, he’ll spend $1.5k, and the remaining $3k will go towards the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and other necessary costs. So I sat down and worked out a $2.5k monthly budget with my mom. I think this helped her start to understand how much things actually cost. She spends so much money on clothes and other random things. Not really nice things usually. My dad spends most of his money on medical (he has terminal cancer and is being treated in the city so pays a lot for transportation and his co-pays, pills, etc.) Both of them spend way too much on food per month (about $1,000 total for two people!) though I let my dad’s food spending slide to an extent because he earned the entire household income for his entire life, is dying within the next few years, and loves food more than he could ever love anything or anybody else. He won’t get to enjoy his 401k/retirement years, so I’ll let him spend a little too much on food without being picky. He deserves at least that.
My mom, however, looks at the budget and says “ok, that helps a bit. I don’t think I can stick to that. But it helps me understand how much $2,500 a month is worth.” Ugh. She doesn’t understand that she has no choice other than to stick to the budget. Granted, my dad has about $1M in the 401k, and even with the $300k left they owe on the house, they still are doing ok spending too much, for now. It’s hard to put everything into perspective, because the nitty gritty of the situation is that my dad is going to die within the next 10 years and my mom could live a very long time… so she’s the one who should be worried about having enough to live on for the rest of her life. And given her spending habits, I’m not so sure she will.
The unfortunate thing is — the $1M in retirement plus pension may be a good retirement amount for this day in age, but my father’s health costs may continue to rise before he passes. With terminal cancer, you just don’t know how much the treatment will all cost, but it’s going to be expensive no matter how you look at it. My mom will surely be left with a decent amount of retirement savings, but not the $2M my dad had hoped for them both to retire on before he became ill and before the stock market crashed. So she’s going to HAVE to budget eventually. She can’t just be in denial about her spending forever. Or can she?
It’s not just her, though. I went through their entire budget and figured out that, not counting things like food, clothes shopping, medical, and other purchases that should fall in my mom and dad’s personal budgets, last year they spend about $9,000 per month (!!!) on everything else. Between the mortgage, home taxes, insurance, utility bills, cell phone bills, they spent about $3k per month (which is how much more they should be spending beyond their personal budgets.) But then it gets messy. Where does that extra $6k per month go? Well, it goes to a lot of things… house cleaning (every week, last year it cost about $10k for the whole year!), home improvement (painting rooms, new furniture, fixing the air conditioner, etc), and then other random things that we couldn’t categorize, even after all of the checks were in order and labeled.
Right now, I’m mostly concerned that my mom will not have enough money to live for the rest of her life. I’m hoping that once my dad is out of the financial picture she will let me sit down with her and plan a serious budget. Because currently my dad won’t openly discuss all the finances with her (he calls her stupid, etc, and doesn’t have patience to explain to her the reality of the situation. He just says “spend $2,500 a month and no more”) so once all that’s left is my mom and all the banking accounts, I can help her seriously budget. It’s really not a place I’m comfortable being in. My father has always been set on leaving behind money for his kids, when I talk about my own retirement savings he would say “why are you saving for retirement? You’ll be fine with what we will give you and your sister after we’re gone.” Or something along those lines. I didn’t listen to him, I’ve been saving, but it just is unfortunate that in the end, I’ll be the one to budget that dream of my fathers out of the picture. I know if my dad was budgeting, he’d factor in what he’d like to leave behind for his heirs. My mother won’t do that. Or even if she does, she’d somehow manage to spend it anyway and use it as her yearly cushion. I don’t want to have to convince her whether she should save money for my sister and I, that is just an awkward place to be in. That’s the least of my concerns, but it all factors into my parents extremely poor financial habits and ability to think about anyone else by themselves when it comes to money or anything else.

If You’re a Parent, Don’t be Like My Parents

My father always brought home a good salary from his white-collar job, so when I still lived at home my family lived a comfortable life. Then my dad got sick and his income went from barely enough to support the family’s lifestyle to the little he got for disability.

Even though he has saved up a sizable amount in retirement accounts through the years, between himself and my mother there’s $1 million in an IRA available to support them for the rest of their lives. That sounds like a lot of money, but at the rate they spend, it isn’t.

I made my mom sign up for Mint about a year ago, just so I can start to get a picture of their finances. It doesn’t include all the income they’re getting through disability and other monthly funds, so I’m not clear exactly how much money they have, or how much they will make in the coming years. Maybe they have tons of money and I just don’t know where it all is or where it will come from.

On Mint, I looked at their spending for 2009. Right now it’s at $160,000. They paid off their house (though I think might have a home equity line of credit they’re repaying now) so that’s $160,000 for two adults and one semester of my sister’s college tuition, room and board. Yikes. I’m sure with my dad’s health condition there are some costs in there that are necessary, but health insurance pays for a lot of those fees. My mom has no idea how to budget (my dad doesn’t either, but he’s generally better at not buying lots of things at once that he doesn’t need) and I’m worried about her having enough money for her “retirement.”

What’s really making me boil is how my dad paid for my sister’s tuition with his credit card because he is about 3 years behind on taxes… and can’t get the home equity line of credit at 5% interest until he finishes all of this. So he put the money on the credit card, which has a $7000 balance on it right now. They’ve already paid two months of interest on that, and it looks like there will be more. At the very least, I know my dad used to always pay off the credit card bills every month, so it really makes me sad and frustrated to see that they are paying the credit card company when they don’t have to be.

In one year at least they’ll have access to the IRA money… but even that $1 million won’t be enough for them. I showed my mom that if they spend $200k per year that $1m will last 5 years (maybe a bit more with interest, but not much more.) As I said above, they do have some extra income… disability, a pension, etc. I think for now they’re taking in $6k a month, but I’m not sure what that will be after my dad dies of his cancer. That’s when the shit is going to really hit the fan. And I’m going to have to try to help sort it all out and wipe it all up.

Now, I’ve written before about how my dad worked his whole life wanting to build wealth for the family and pass some on to his children. It frustrates me that my mother sees no reason to save any of the money he earned for her kids. It’s hard not to be biased in this because I’m his kid and I’d benefit from this, but it’s a bit sad that he saved so much money just to have my mom spend it all on QVC. I’m not counting on her leaving anything to me later in life, and I shouldn’t, but I just grew up being told by my dad that one day there’d be money left for me and my sister. I didn’t know how much, but my dad always has laughed at my current preoccupation with investing in my retirement, as he says there’s enough money coming from him to fund that. Yea, right. That is all going to be spent. Which is fine, I just wish my parents would spend it a little wiser… not thousands of dollars on a cleaning person who overcharges them and on credit card interest, etc.

At least I am making my own money and have my own accounts now. I don’t know what help I can be to my mother until my dad passes away. That’s an awful thing to say, but it’s true. My dad is so controlling about the finances and doesn’t like to talk about them. He refuses to pay any bills online and won’t let my mom pay the bills so they’re often late and he just pays the late fee. It’s all so ridiculous.

I can’t wait to be a parent, and to have the ability to teach my kids about personal finance from a young age and practice what I preach.

For a man who spent his life planning pension plans for companies, my father sure needs to learn a lot about money.

Passing Down Wealth From Generation to Generation

My father is dying of cancer and has a short time left to live. While his health is ok now, his medicines will stop working at some point over the next few years and from then on the cancer will take over and he will get sicker until he passes.

This post is not about my father’s health, but it’s important to note to put this into context.

Previously, many of my readers have left comments offended by a post I wrote about expecting an inheritance. A conversation I had with my dad this weekend over the phone continues this topic.

He told me how “I” need to get my mother to understand that she needs to live off the interest on the 401k. They get $7000 a month and there is no reason that they can’t live on that. (My mom is a spendaholic.)

My dad went on to tell me how he spent his whole life building wealth for the family so it could be passed down to his kids (me and my sister) and that we could pass it down to our children. Both him and my mother grew up in the lower middle class and did not have wealth. Their parents will not be passing down a great deal to them. So he wanted to build wealth up for our family, for the future. He wasn’t trying to make my sister or I rich, but he did want to make sure we didn’t have to worry about not having enough funds to get us through life. Once you have wealth, living off the interest becomes feasible. It’s not about luxury, but it is about having a lofty security blanket for your family – as in – your children and their children and so on.

But it makes me sick to my stomach to think about how in the future, I will be in such an odd spot — when my father passes, it will be up to me to try to make sure his dream lives on. Yet that dream is for my sister and I to obtain an inheritance. My sister has a learning disability and while she can comprehend some of this she is also younger and I don’t think she will understand a great deal of the financial situation (other than wanting the money.) My mother will want to spend it all. I understand finances, saving, living off interest – I could probably teach my mother to do this, but ultimately it would be so that I could get money after she dies.

My mom didn’t work once I was born, so all of the money in savings is from my dad’s years of working many hours to build this wealth. On one hand I feel the responsibility to make sure that the reason my dad worked so hard his whole life (probably causing unnecessary stress and part of the reason he gained so much weight and got sick) lives on, and part of me feels like this isn’t really my business at all besides making sure my mom doesn’t spend everything too quickly – she does need enough money to survive for many years. She’s in her mid 50s so hopefully she’ll be around for a long time.

I do want to make sure my mom doesn’t go crazy with spending, but she could very easily live a luxurious life and spend every penny if she wanted to in the future. And who am I to stop her?

How Much Would I Have Without My Wealthy Family? — Inspired by MEG @ The World of Wealth

Being a personal finance blogger, I’m often embarrassed of the financial background I come from. I’ve been reading a lot of MEG’s blog Wealth is Good lately, and she seems to have the same problem, if it is a problem.

MEG recently “came out of the finance closet” and wrote how she’s getting a financial gift each year from her grandparents, as part of their estate planning process. It’s causing quite a stir in the PF blogosphere. In a recent post, she is trying to figure out how much her net worth would be without any help from her family. It’s one of those things that’s pretty impossible to figure out. But for both of us, our net work would be much less (likely negative) at this point in our lives if our parents hadn’t helped along the way.

Looking back on my life, I really have no idea where my net worth would be without my parents. Maybe I’d be poor and depressed. Maybe I’d be in law school after working my ass off in undergrad. I probably wouldn’t be living on my own and making $60k at a job I love.

My parents paid for so much of my life. My spending on things I didn’t need (clothes, other junk) was high, but I never really bought anything material I really wanted with their money. Just a lot of crap. I went to public school, so that was free, but my parents paid a lot for outside classes and camp. In high school, every summer I went to a different college for courses. All of that helped me get into college, which ultimately helped me get the job I have now.

While not from the bank accounts of my mom and dad, my $15k that I started with out of college was directly a result of their work. That is, when I broke my arm in 6th grade and they sued the gym, the lawyer and my parents won me $15,000. I wasn’t able to touch it until I was 18, and when I was able to touch it I was afraid to invest it. I just put it in a CD and let it sit. (Probably a good idea given the current state of the stock market.)

If I didn’t come from money, I may have worked harder in school, gotten myself a scholarship to a better school than the one I went to, majored in something that would have gotten myselef a stable job right when I graduated, lived frugally, stayed at home to pay off debt, etc. Or, as MEG puts it, I could have been so overwhelmed by everything and just dug myself further into a hole with credit card debt. It’s hard to say.

The one thing we can’t control is where we come from. It’s easy to spend any amount of money if you aren’t careful. I didn’t start thinking about saving money until I found An English Major’s Money blog two years ago. I always thought saving was something I could figure out later. Then, the personal finance blog community let me know that’s the worst idea ever. So I started saving.

And the rest is her(everycentcounts)story.

The Weirdest Conversation With My Dad about Saving Money

Maybe my dad’s perspective on saving for retirement has changed since he has cancer and may never make it to see the 401k fruits of his many years of labor, but the phone conversation I had with him earlier today about investing was bizarre.

My dad has never been the frugal type, but he made enough money where his spending was reasonable. He enjoyed eating out, living in a nice-yet-modest home in the burbs, and taking a good vacation with the family once a year. Being as he worked as an actuary, his company provided a sizable pension.

Since my dad is the math and finance expert in the family, I’ve asked him for advice on where to put my savings and how much I should be saving for retirement. His immediate reaction to the question was “why are you saving for retirement now you’re only, what, 25?” I’ll let my dad off the hook for not being sure how old I am for the time being (I’m not sure if he’s 57 or 58, so that’s ok), but it kind of irks me that he almost thinks it laughable that I’m attempting to save for the long run.

His response about long-term saving is that I shouldn’t worry, that the “inheritance” will “cover” my retirement. (A lot of you were upset at me in an earlier entry when I wrote about expecting a sizable inheritance in the future, but this is where I get the idea from!) Still, I’ve realized that I’m not going to expect that or rely on it, because who knows what will happen over the coming years. If I end up retiring with a butt load of money that I didn’t expect, all the better, I can donate it or give it to my hypothetical kids. In the meanwhile, I want to save $5M for my retirement.

So I go on to ask my dad where I should save the money, if not in a long-term account. He seemed perplexed why I didn’t want to spend it. “Enjoy life” were his exact words. Again, the fact that he now has a terminal illness might influence his advice a bit. He wouldn’t advise wasting the money on clothes or such (which is a bad habit of my mother), but other things like travel, sure.

That’s not to say I haven’t or won’t spend my money. I spent a lot in the past year on travel. Going home ($300 flights twice a year), my trip to Israel… all of that added up. And to be honest, I’m still not clear on where my net worth ended up for 2008. I feel like I spent a lot. And I did… if my taxes actually were 50% of my total income for 2008 I’d be at a loss for the year (though that’s also due to losing “thousands” in the market like everyone else). But I save a lot for my taxes and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up getting some money “back” (which really just means I’ll move the money from my “taxes” account that I ignore to a savings account that is included in my networth).

2009 is going to be a totally different story. With my promotion at work, as long as I can keep the job (and I plan to) I’ll be making quite a bit of money. Of course, it’s all relative, and it’s super easy to spend it all on things I don’t need. My cost of living is really low for someone my age in my location.

But I foresee a lot of major expenses in the next 10 years including, but not limited to, grad school, a house, a “new” likely used car, infertility treatments if I want kids ($20k a kid is not out of the question, and who knows if it will even work), etc, etc, etc.

All of those things cost a lot of money, which makes me so confused about saving. I only have about $1500 a month after taxes and rent/bills, even with my pay increase. Which is a lot, but not a lot, a lot. As I said earlier in this post, it’s so easy for me to spend that in a few days at the mall. Or at least a huge chunk of it.

I’m not planning on doing that this year. I want to spend this year, well, not spending. To see just how much I can save. I’m not going to live “frugally” but I am going to live well within my means. I just don’t know where to save the money.

I’m so tempted to put a lot of it into the stock market. Worst case scenerio it gets stuck in there long term because the stock market takes a while to recover and at some point it pulls out. That doesn’t seem wise. I’m planning on maxing out my Roth by putting $400 a month into the account. So that leaves me with $1000, give or take. $1000 a month isn’t that much, if that’s going to everything from vacation to clothes and other savings.

And I’m so so so fortunate to have the luxury to ask my dad about what to do with my extra savings. And to ask the finance guy at my company if we’ll get a 401k and be embarrassed to admit that I’m maxing out my Roth IRA at 25 and would like another tax advantaged account to put more money away for retirement.

Or maybe all of this retirement savings talk is teaching me the right things and wrong things at the same time. Maybe I should be saving my $5k a year for retirement, but beyond that it might be wise to invest elsewhere, for the short term. I’m pretty sure I want to do grad school within the next 3 years, and that ain’t cheap.

My dad has mentioned that when he can get into his 401k he’d “help” me out with grad school costs, but a part of me doesn’t want the favor. It’s tough to say “no” to that kind of offer, but I’m at a point in my life where I take pride in paying for my pursuits. I didn’t do that all through undergrad, and everything seemed worthless. I mean, I knew it was expensive, but it wasn’t something I paid for, something I earned or would have to earn in the future. Now my life – it’s really mine. Because I pay the bills. Because I have the choice to go to grad school and take out a loan, and pay it back. I guess I just want to feel normal, when it comes to finances. I grew up so spoiled in relation to the rest of the world and I’m tired of it.

But I’m also terrible at spending on big purchases, even if it’s things I really want but don’t need… like laser hair removal on my face (I have a hormonal disorder called PCOS that causes hair to grow where it shouldn’t which really sucks) and maybe Lasik for my eyes. I did pay $300 for Brite Smile this past year (I’ll post a review about the treatment tomorrow) which was huge for me, but I wanted to treat myself. Instead of wasting the money on clothes. I’d waste the money on brightening my teeth a few shades. Waste of money? Maybe. But it felt better than wasting money at the supermarket on things that went bad before I got around to eating them.