Fighting With All I’ve Got: The Next 2 Years

I’m acknowledging my job isn’t right. My new position, which is a demotion or lateral move, depending on how you see it, is a better fit. The great news is that my pay hasn’t changed.  The bad(?) news is that I have a new role that is vague that I have to figure out from scratch… just when I was starting to get the hang of the old one. Alas.

I am in an incredibly good position right now if I can just hang on for the next 18 months, give or take. I am going to give it my all. And 6 of those 18 months will be maternity leave, so I’ve got a year to make magic. I’m gonna make magic. And hold my breath and hope I can do really great work, make everyone happy, get my shit done on time, and–in the sleepless blur that is the first year of having a child–get through my final vesting periods and hold on long enough to get my bonus before I find something that is actually a good fit for me (if such a thing exists.)

Now, the stock market could crash. I could get laid off. I could still get fired. Anything could happen. I can’t plan to have the money until I have it. But right now the next 18 months have the chance to set me up for financial success in my forties and FIRE in my early fifties. The next 18 months are everything.

But, really, how do I do this with a newborn? My new boss–a man–has young kids. This might be a good thing, because he understands what goes into having children (old boss, female, does not have kids.) On the other hand, new boss has worked his ass off through the birth of his second kid. I think his wife works but I’m not sure what his childcare situation is. I think at least one of the kids is still going to daycare. We aren’t doing that due to COVID. Anyway, I’m hoping that he will be at least somewhat empathic understanding what goes biologically goes into being the mom of an infant. Or he may think I should be able to work as much as he does because he has done it.

I’m scared. I’m not in a good place going into my maternity leave and coming back I am running a new program that will be kicked off before I get back. Who knows what it will look like at that point. There will be high expectations and I probably won’t know up from down at that point.

My maternity leave should end around June, maybe a bit sooner. I’ll be in a good place as long as I don’t overcommit and get everything done on time for 6 months. Once 2022 hits, I can either decide to double down on my current role and stick it out for the long term (maybe it will be great) or start looking for a new job. On paper, timing overall looks good. It looks like survival is possible.

What is leaving a sour taste is how my colleague is taking my (former) role, and it’s not being communicated to me. I understand they are being cautious since it’s probably a liability to demote a pregnant woman a few months before she goes on leave and put a younger, single male in her place. It also may just seem like a natural transition since I’m going out and he is in the same role already, he just needs to be promoted to my level, which can and will likely happen when I’m out. When I come back–I have a new role–and he’s running the show. Everyone’s happy, right?

If I actually thought this could be a long term thing, if I actually thought I could benefit from the success of the company and my contributions were going to be appreciated ever, I would feel worse about how everything went down. But I’m happy for my friend and it’s a great opportunity for him. And this is a great opportunity for me also. I was so close to being fired last year and this year–maybe due to being pregnant and semi protected (but also due to actually doing a good job for some of this year when I was sleeping ok and could think straight before I got far into my pregnancy) I still have a job. And I’ll likely still have a job through to my maternity leave at the end of this year. And I’ll likely still have a job until the end of next year as I can see how to do enough good stuff that they won’t get rid of me that fast (esp after just coming back from mat leave.)

I am trying so hard to be grateful. Because when I get caught up in feeling sad about everything… about failing and about how I am really not good at the other role I had… it makes it hard to do anything. And I have to do a lot. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it has to be acceptable and done (and without error, which is what acceptable means.) Nothing else matters. It’s 18 months. At the end of 18 months, my family networth should go from 2M to 2.5M, give or take. The next 18 months are everything. Then — maybe then — I can take a lower paid job that is a better fit. I can work my way up somewhere. I can stop taking these senior-level roles I’m not ready for because I never had a chance to actually learn how to do anything right. I don’t know if that type of job exists… but maybe if I can step back I can work my way up again. I hope.

Rent vs Own — What Was the Better Choice in the Last 5 Years?

I ran an interesting analysis yesterday to help me feel better about how much I’m spending on a house! I wanted to see if I came out ahead or behind renting a 1 bedroom apartment vs purchasing a 1 br condo over the last ~5 years.

We moved into this 1 bedroom in April 2014. It was hard to find a comparable condo and exact data on its sale value at the time. I used Zillow estimates so the analysis isn’t perfect, but I think it’s close enough (if I’m doing it correctly) to be a fair comparison.

*I include “lost gains” because I am looking at total cost of ownership. At the end of ownership, this is how much one “lost” in value after owning or renting that property. While one “has to live somewhere” per a commenter, one doesn’t have to live in a rental that is any set price. The total cost of ownership should include lost gains. I also don’t include “home equity” for this same reason. “Home equity” is a misnomer because when you sell it is just cash. If you rented for less, that cash would also be in your pocket (and available to invest.)

Cost of Renting the 1br Apt (800 Sq ft)

-$183,333 – Rental Costs
-$112,871 – Lost Gains (S&P 500 w/ dividends reinvested)
====================
TCOO = -$296, 204

Cost of Owning 1br Condo (750 Sq ft nearby)

-$28,740 – HOA
-$55,424 – Tax & Insurance
-$54,556 – Interest
-$387,691 – Lost Gains (S&P 500 w/ dividends reinvested)
-$20,578 – Maint estimate
-$43,200 – Cost to Sell (realtor fees)
$178,000 – Tax Free Gain
$35,000 – Est Tax Savings
====================
TCOO = -$376,918

Renting was cheaper!

Does anyone see anything wrong with my calculations above?

I’ll Never Be the Leader Corporate America Wants Me to Be

Let’s just say I’ve accepted that I am not like the people who thrive in corporate America — or business, for that matter. I rub people the wrong way, I guess. I don’t make enemies, but I certainly don’t make friends. As others move up like they’re floating on political air, I fall down. Hard. On my face. And I look up and wonder where I went wrong. I know the answer. I went wrong everywhere.

Today, I was notified that I have a new boss via an all team email. I’m still not clear if my soon-to-be ex boss thinks she communicated this to me previously, or she just doesn’t give at shit that this list the way I found out. What hurts more is that I literally asked her last week, when she informed me my role was changing, if that means I’d be reporting to this other person. She told me (clearly lying) that she hadn’t even though about that yet. No, the truth is she had thought about that. She just wasn’t ready to discuss it. And then it got announced and she hadn’t told me officially or unofficially about the change.

Clearly, they don’t care if I stay or leave. There is a minimal amount of respect you provide employees that you want to keep. Because I’m pregnant, and I’ve done enough good work, they know it’s probably not work the liability to let me go 3 months before maternity leave. But that doesn’t mean they have to treat me like a human being. They know I can’t go anywhere between needing my maternity leave coverage and the remainder of my stock. They know that I’m a slave to them — and they can treat me like crap and I can’t do anything about it.

I’m trying so hard to be grateful because I know in any other situation I’d probably be done for. Instead, I have a chance to prove myself in a subset of what I’ve been doing all along. I can maybe do an ok job. They seem to like my work in this area. There is no potential for career growth there. I find it hard to be motivated when I’m bumping into a ceiling. I’m overpaid for the role (I guess a good problem to have) and that leaves me more stuck than ever.

My new boss and I also didn’t get off to a good start last year. I think we’ve made amends since, but he certainly isn’t a fan of mine. My “get off the train by July 2022” is still the game plan — the questions are–can I make it that long, and where the hell do I go next?

There are things I’d like to do. Things I think I might be better at. But how? I’m going to be 37. I’m a mom of 2 kids. I want another before I turn 39. I know people make career changes at forty, but those people do not have a 7000 a month mortgage and a husband who works part time. The reality is that I can keep doing what I’m doing… in another company… start over… get a job that pays 150k-200k and with my father-in-law and husband’s contributions we can afford the mortgage. And that’s the next 30 years of my life, I guess. That’s 15 more jobs if I last 2 years at each of them on average. If I’m lucky enough to keep getting the same level job as I get older. People don’t like to hire older people for these jobs. I may find eventually I can’t get a job. Then what?

I don’t think I was that horrible at the job I’ve been demoted from. I was horrible at pieces of it. I was horrible at figuring out exactly what to do. I was horrible about being able to take everyone’s ideas and make that into something that made sense. I was horrible at executing on anything because I couldn’t make senes of what I was doing. I missed deadlines because I have too much anxiety and want to make things that are perfect and know that I’m not actually smart enough to do the work so I get stuck and have no one to run my work by to get their feedback because my boss wasn’t interested I helping me in that way. She wanted someone who could run with things and lead. Get shit done. I wasn’t that person. I faked it decently for a bit this year. I thought it was going well. I was recognized by the head of our department as “MVP” of the quarter, which made me feel ill when it was announced because I knew everyone on the team, including my boss, was rolling their eyes. Two months later this MVP is being demoted–so, clearly that title wasn’t deserved. It all makes me feel sick.

I just have to get through the next 15 months at a minimum. The amount of stock on the table is life changing / pay for my kid’s college and build a better safety net so if I can’t get a job for a while ever in the next 30 years I might be ok. I’ve got a hard road ahead–maybe not in the next 3 months before maternity leave where I’m wrapping up projects and doing my best to be my best and hit all committed deadlines and communicate the best I can–but in those 6-18 months when I come back from leave and need to do incredible work while also not sleeping well due to having a baby. I did not fare well in my first year back after having my son, so I have no reason to think this will be any better.

The good news is my new boss–who certainly would fire me to protect himself–also has kids around the same age, and maybe has a smidgen of empathy for me as a new mom (vs my soon-to-be ex boss who is in her forties and does not have children.) I think between a small safety net of HR not wanting to fire a woman who just came back from maternity leave immediately and the fact that I can actually do a decent job was what my new job is (though I know I’ll never be great at it) I think I can hold on tooth and nail to at least make it until the end of the year, and then start looking for a new job. I have no idea what I’ll be looking for. I wish I had the ability to figure out what career I would be happy in and then actually make that happen.

But I’m super stuck. Stuck in the best place possible, and grateful for it, but also extremely sad. Sad because I’m turning 37 and I’m no better off than I was in my 20s when I didn’t know what I was doing in my life. It doesn’t look pretty on a woman in her late 30s. I’m sure my boss thinks I’m pathetic. I mean, my ex-boss. She is probably counting the days until they can get rid of me. That motivates me to do better. To try to change their narrative about me. But I’ve realized I can’t live a lie. I’m not polished. I’m awkward. I ramble and have a poor short term memory so it’s difficult to converse with others in a proper way. I’m known for putting out good work sometimes, but not for inspiring others to do great work. I’ll never be a leader. So what then can I aspire to be?

I Want My Life to Stop Being About Surviving the Next Week

I know work isn’t supposed to be easy or fun. It’s called “work” for good reason. But I also don’t think it’s supposed to be this hard. It’s not even hard. It’s just my job and my abilities do not compute. I can’t get a team aligned around something—esp when I don’t even believe in it. So instead I’m failing because I can’t drive alignment as a leader nor do good work as an individual contributor.

The mortgage debt does freak me out – but despite being high, it’s not horrible. I figure if I use 25% of pre-tax income per month, I can do $3000 a month if I can keep a $150k salary. My husband can do $2000 a month safely on his salary, and my FIL will be contributing $2000 a month for the foreseeable future as he lives in the master bedroom suite. While the setup isn’t perfect, it makes me feel good knowing as long as I can find a job at $150k then I am financially ok.

Now my goal is to far exceeded $150k so I can continue to invest and grow my family’s networth. I prefer not to be house poor—especially if I am in a career that gives me at least one heart attack a day. I am in this career for the money. It’s not a passion project. I am doing this so by the time I’m 50 (45 if I’m lucky) I can maybe slow down a bit. Or speed up, but on the things that matter to me. 50 is 13 years away. That’s crazy. That’s life. It’s fast. I started this blog in 2007. That’s 13 years ago. So little time. But in the next 13 years I’ll have 2 teenagers (and maybe a pre teen, we’ll see) and I’ll either be in a really good place financially — or perhaps in a mental institution.

I just have to get through and stay strong until 2021. I can do this.  It’s basically 3 months of playing the game as best as I can (mostly just meeting deadlines at this point — I’m not putting out anything revolutionary) — then coming back early next summer (exhausted as I’ll be with a toddler and newborn) and more game playing in my new role for 6 months. Then I see how things are going and likely start applying to other opportunities. That 6 months will likely be painful, but it will be worth it. Getting the rest of my stock is definitely worth it. Next year is really a life changer in terms of my savings. It shouldn’t be impossible. I’m fortunate to be out on maternity leave for some of it. The timing worked out. I really wanted to stay even longer but it’s pretty obvious I am not safe here and after 4.5 years on the job I am safe to go to a new role.

But what is the new role? I want a job where I can feel really good about my work. Where I have a boss who is supportive and helps me get better in my field. I don’t expect hand holding, but I want to work for someone who at least understands what I do and can provide some guidance.

This time — for the first time in my career — I think I am in the position to shop around a bit. Not to say I’ll find a job easily, but now I have a decent brand name on my resume. I think in the least I’ll get more calls when I apply—esp if the job market is in a better place in 2022.

Right now I HAVE to keep my head down, play the game, smile, be friendly and likable, get shit done, be forgettable except in terms of just always following through on everything I say I will follow through on — even if that means pulling all nighters here and there. I am 80 days away from a major milestone and barring any unexpected layoffs I’m going to get there. I need some time to figure out my future as well — I don’t want to settle for a $150k job just because I am afraid. I don’t want to end up working for a boss who will make my life miserable because I can’t live up to their expectations. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do. One thing is for sure – it’s not this .

So I Was Fired. Or Promoted. Or Something.

When I joined my company, my role was ill defined. Someone with more leadership ability–or perhaps someone who is a normal career-minded person–would have nipped that in the bud up front. But like the rest of my non-career career, I’ve managed to become employable for the exact reason I always lose my damn job–I’m a Jill of all trades, master of none. And so it goes.

This time around, things have gone a tinge better. Despite some hiccups as of next year I will have been employed at this company for three years (well, three years minus maternity leave, but you don’t see that on a resume.) Three years at a respectable “real” company (vs a startup that doesn’t exist anymore) is a pretty big deal for me. It’s a huge deal. I need to celebrate that.

With the three years I also need to celebrate that I’ve been extremely fortunate. Through a mixture of luck and having some sense of what makes a good company, I have seen my stock grow to a ridiculous dollar figure, and have largely sold through that growth and turned it into real money and a real down payment. While I could have bought a house without the networth growth this company has provided me, it’s unlikely I would have. Or, at least, I would have spent many more years saving before that was a reality.

But here I am, a day after listening to my boss tell me, in so many words (actually in these exact words)–it’s not working. I’ve heard this story before. Over and over again. I guess it isn’t. I’m only upset because this time I thought I did better. This time, I thought I was starting to figure it out. Due to a hiring freeze (where I was supposed to be getting a new boss) I was put, temporarily, in charge of a new team and given the reigns to lead–not because my boss particularly wanted me to–but because she had little choice otherwise.

Where I got lost is in trying to make everyone happy while also caring about real results for the business, and putting myself last. I was put in a situation with two other strong personalities who didn’t like me from the beginning–and especially didn’t like my collaborative, back-and-forth type of leadership. The #1 trait of winners here is decisiveness, and decisive I am not. It’s not that I can’t make decisions — I don’t trust myself to make decisions with that kind of sweeping authority where people forget what you’re telling them is built on opinion and intuition, not fact. But in a role like mine, fact tends to get in the way (though people use “fact” to support their positions when it suits them.) I guess it’s the politics that I’m bad at. (Not that our presidential nominees are much better. Is it odd the cluster of a debate last night made me strongly hopeful about my leadership skills?)

Still – it stung to get called out on all the things I’m not. I wish I disagreed with my boss’s assessment, because it was quite harsh, but I know she’s right. I’m not a leader, she said, in so many words. I’m not able to influence people or get buy in or delegate work. I don’t come across friendly enough and build bridges (i.e. people don’t like me as a person enough to protect me or stand by me through disagreements.) And I just am not suited to be a functional leader. Pretty much ever. (Ever, ever? I asked. She said, well, maybe one day. One day in the far off distant future.

The saddest part of all is that this project I’m leading isn’t a failure. She even admitted to that. And less than two months ago I was called out as a leader in the company by the head of the department. Two months! But then shit hit the fan. I wasn’t able to run a fairly large project across teams. I made it bigger than it had to be, because given the way our company works you have to go big or go home, and you get one chance to prove out success. I went too big. And then I got anxious. As I do. I second, and third, and 90th guessed everything. I missed a deadline that I arbitrarily committed to. That was a big deal. That was the knife in the coffin. Game over.

In a startup, it would be over. This is the typical job arc from success to failure of my life. I’ve been here before. Except this isn’t in startup time, so through various wins and flexibility and being luckily hired by the head of the department before any of this happened, I have a little wiggle room. But I get it. I can’t run the show.

Who can? Oh, my friend can. My friend, who is basically the other me in my department, who joined to fill in for me when I was on my last maternity leave (I was the first one to interview him) is being promoted into my job. My emotions are all over the place. He deserves it (well, sort of) and I think it’s needed for his career and he needs a shot to prove himself. He’s put up with managing projects that make little sense or that melt his brain for too long. He’s earned the promotion (it’s not official yet, but he’s taking over my role, and it’s clear when I’m on maternity leave he will get the title –I’ll explain more on how that’s working in a minute.) He’s done a lot of great work, and more importantly, he’s been consistent. He doesn’t overcommit. I like to build mansions and he builds tiny houses and no one notices the difference–except that my mansions tend to be missing a wing at launch. I get why they’re putting him in charge. I think way too much and run through a thousand “what if” scenarios and he–isn’t like that. He comes up with something he wants to do, and he just gets it done. And because he’s smart–and talks smart–he can get people to rally behind him. People trust him.

So, I’m 3 months from going on maternity leave and I’ve lost my job. Sort of. That’s the bad news. But there’s good news. You probably understand why I find it hard to see this as good news right now, given how this all went down, but it is good news…

Instead of being fired or, well, demoted, I’ve been given a new function to run. It’s funny that I’m being given a new function to run after being told I can’t run a functional area. What she really meant is I can’t run a functional area where I have to shove ideas down a lot of people’s throats and make them rally behind these ideas enough to spend their time contributing to the outcome. My shit will be off to the side–and off to the side is where I’ve done my best work. It’s not clear at all how any of this will work yet–and in typical fashion my boss has asked me to come up with a plan. I don’t know what my title will be, but it sounds like my level isn’t changing. My comp isn’t changing. I’m just, you know, fired from the job that actually had leadership/career potential, and now in a semi-IC role where I can maybe do good work–or at least get work done on time and people will think it’s good.

What’s happening now is I’m transitioning out of my role (which isn’t hard since it was going to happen organically anyway when I go on maternity leave) and when I come back I’ll launch this new official function. If I didn’t know the situation better, I’d say something is awfully fishy here that I’m going on maternity leave in 3 month and losing my job–but they’ve got me cornered. I had a negative performance review last year (coming off of my first year as a mom with little sleep), and here I am again. This isn’t a legal situation. This is a me failing to execute and being me situation. And I realize that I’m lucky to still have a job. Maybe the pregnancy saved me there. I don’t know. It’s funny because I tend to do really fucking amazing work when I’m not leading shit. And they recognize that. They want more of that. So I guess I should be honored. Or something.

They like me, they really like me.

Or, they like the work I produce, but will never see me as a true leader. I get it. I think the fact that my friend is stepping into my role hurts more than I want to admit. It hurts because he doesn’t care as much as I do about much of anything. But he’s good. I don’t always agree with his ideas or choices, but man, can he get people to rally behind him. And, unlike most guys, he’s actually not, well, the typical know-it-all guy. He’s a good person. He’s worked hard and deserves this–at least a shot at it. I’ve joked before that I should report to him. Well, I guess they decided that would be weird (plus it would clearly be a demotion on my side.) So off to new function land I go.

New function land is in the same group that old function land was in, working with the same people. But I’ll be creating stuff for a piece of the puzzle (or piece of lots of puzzles) versus running the show. I have to reenergize and figure out how to build something despite it making no sense in the grande scheme of my career. But maybe that’s ok. I’ll be in new-mom stage for a while again, and running something a bit simpler where I feel a bit more in control of things could be good–especially without a pay cut. At the end of the day all that matters is I keep vesting. The bulk of my grant runs through the end of next year.

This role should–barring any major layoffs–get me there. After I make it to that finish line, I can start thinking about what’s next. And all signs point to looking for a new role closer to my new home anyway. I’ve informally agreed with myself, even before all this went down, that I’ll transition out in 2022 at some point.

That’s a solid 5 years with a respectable company, and the first really respectable thing on my resume after working for over 15 years. That alone will land me interviews. I’m in a great position. I need to focus on being grateful vs hurt. I know where I failed and I can do better next time. it will be better starting on a fresh slate anyway if I’m going to try out the leadership team again. Maybe find a company that’s a better cultural fit, if one exists. We’re filled with type As where execution matters more than building foundations and strategic vision. It works for this company, but what’s clear is I don’t belong here. I could have faked it better–a lot better–but I don’t have the energy for that. I don’t have the ability to speak coherently when I get flustered. When I don’t trust myself or my ideas. So, this just isn’t the right fit. If I wasn’t 3 months from maternity leave and 15 months from vesting a lot of stock, in any other world, I’d probably start looking elsewhere.

But, instead, I’m doubling down here and committing. I want to close out the year strong (the project that I got my “fired” is still in progress and still going to be a huge success if I have anything to say about it) and I have a few more projects I’m working on before I go out. When I go out, it will be a clean break, because I’ll be done with this job. I’ll hopefully have a plan built up for when I get back–my boss wants me to start things when I’m back, not before–so I can take my maternity leave and truly disconnect. My friend will kick ass in his new role–my old role–and show everyone how it’s done. My ego will be bruised and I’ll be embarrassed and ashamed and not so excited to show my face around the office (thanks to covid, maybe I won’t have to.)

The only way to win here, though, is to make this all come off like it was my idea. Like I wanted to go off and start this thing and I’m excited about it and really just make the best of it. I can still show how I can build something and lead, in my own way. In my own little corner. In my own little chair. Or something like that. Maybe this is actually something I can do, sustainably, and be good at it. It’s really the only thing I’ve done that people actually appreciate here. Now I’ll just be doing it full time.

My biggest challenge is this specific role and function is never paid this well. I need to figure out how to position myself to move into a real leadership role in my next gig. I think I’m actually ready for it. But I can’t let myself get stuck in this function. Six months to a year is ok. It really doesn’t even have to be on my resume as a new role — it’s kind of a sub part of what I’ve been doing all along. I can finagle the story enough where it’s true enough to get me a new role, when I’m ready and have the energy to start something new. Until then, this is not a bad place to do good work and hide.

I wonder what this will look like to everyone else. Those who know much of anything will not be surprised. To everyone else, this will look like they’re demoting someone who is going on maternity leave and putting a man who was her junior in her place. That’s not a good look people. But if you know anything you’ll get it. And I’m not going to fight it. I’m not sure I could. I’m not actually losing money. I’m not actually being demoted. So far, I’m still reporting into my boss. She trusts me on this one area so that’s good. Maybe this is all good. Maybe this is all a blessing in disguise as a punch to the gut. I still have a job. And, unless I do something terribly idiotic, I’ll have one when I get back from maternity leave too. My company still allows vesting over maternity leave (though I lose a few thousand dollars due to my ESPP plan pausing when I’m out) and you can look at all this like I’m the luckiest gal in the world. Everyone wins, right? That’s how things should be.

My career doesn’t win. But maybe it doesn’t lose either. Maybe this is a neutral step–a temporary window of time where I can build up confidence again and get my bearings. If I were to stay in my role for another year or two, I’d have more of the same to show and talk about. I’m sure I might have something a little better to show for it, but not exponentially better. I already ran things enough to say I ran things. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished and the story I can tell. When I’m ready, I’ll be ready to present well to my next potential employer. All good.

And my plans and timeline still seem to make sense. Maybe more sense now…

  • 2020 (36) – pregnant
  • 2021 (37) – baby #2 / vest final year of stock
  • 2022 (38) – new job ~Mar-May, try for baby #3 Jul-?
  • 2023 (39) – baby #3
  • 2024 (40) – super mom of 3

The timing of the transition between this job and my next job is key because I want a third child and I’m running out of time. I need to be in my new job for 12 months before I give birth. That means, for those of you bad at math, 3 months before I get pregnant. It will likely be had for me to get pregnant (due to age and medical issues) so I suspect I’ll need to go the IVF route. It may take a while or it may never happen. But I can’t even start trying until 3 months into a new role. And I want to be pregnant by 39 at the latest. I can start trying for #3 in July 2022. So, I should have a new job by ~April 2022. Which is actually exactly aligned to when I want to leave this job. That also means when I come back from maternity leave and into this new role, I should be able to wholeheartedly commit to it for 10-12 months of solid light-up-the-room horsepower to remain gainfully employed while getting my ducks in a row for what’s next. It’s really an ideal timeline. I think making this a 1 year contract to knock of the park makes a lot of sense. Then I’ll feel really good about my contributions and be able to leave on a positive note.

So — I should be celebrating. Maybe, deep down, I am. That doesn’t take away the fact that it still hurts a lot to be told basically that I’m a loser who doesn’t have the skillset to lead. It wasn’t like — you can grow in these areas. It was more — you tried to grow in these areas and failed. We still like the work you do and want you do to more of it, we just don’t want you to ever be a leader here.

At the end of the day, I’m not an asshole enough to lead. So maybe I don’t want to be a leader anyway.

I am Unwell and I am Scared

I am going to be 37. I have an, on paper, great job where I’m earning a lot of money on my base plus bonus and stock. I just bought a house. And I’m a complete and utter disaster. I’m scared. I’m really fucking scared.

I’m scared because I’m not actually good at my job. Things were briefly going well, but again I’ve been reminded how not good at my job I am. I have improved, but not to the point where I actually have any idea what I’m doing or can be consistent in my work. I don’t think I’ll get fired before I have a kid unless I totally mess up–but I have 30 years of a giant mortgage weighing on me now. I have 1 and soon to be 2 kids. I am the breadwinner. I have to make this work.

My mother is spending down her assets too fast. She refuses to change her spending behavior. I am trying to help her. I don’t know if I’m helping. I found her a fee only CFP who is advising 60/40 split but even that won’t get her to hit her goals. Her “friend” is going hard at her saying she should get an annuity. She already has a sizable pension from my dad and a decent amount of social security. She needs to sell the family home–yesterday–and I can’t bring myself to push her to do that immediately. I was going to go back for a while this summer to help move things out, to say my goodbyes, but then COVID happened. — Even if I tell her she has to sell now, she won’t anyway. She wants to go back and spend too much time going through the hoarder house and moving things into a storage unit in a state she will probably never visit. I can’t emotionally handle advising on any of this. I just look at the analysis and see how she is going to run out of money if she lives as long as I hope she does. But she’s not exactly the healthiest person on earth. Should we be modeling to 85 instead of 100? Does she only have 20 years left, or less?

I can’t get fired from my job. I’m trying to catch up. Trying to dig myself out of the mess I’ve fallen into again. Too many people at work dislike me and throw me under the bus. It’s because I care too much, though. I’m not actually in it for myself or anything. I’m not chasing a promotion. I just want to do good work. And I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m at too high of a level to get any help. My boss liked me for a bit this year because I stopped asking for help and I pretended everything was ok. But then that all fell hard on my head like a pile of bricks. Why did I miss deadlines again? Oh, because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Still. Please don’t fire me. Please give me another chance. I’ll figure it out. I’ll make it work.

Some things are going well, but that’s all negated by everything that isn’t. This house purchase is exciting and feels good like I finally have made something meaningful of my life but it also feels like I just shackled myself and I’m not going to survive the next 30 years. I really don’t think I can do it. I am trying to take it one day at a time. Because maybe I can keep making enough income to pay a $5k or $7k mortgage. I have to. I don’t have a choice. I mean, I have some savings that I can use for a while if I can’t hold a job. But the longer I don’t hold a job, the harder it will be to get a job that pays enough to pay the mortgage. So I have to keep this job, and eventually get another job, and so on, until I’m 66, and have the mortgage paid off.

I don’t want to complain about any of this. Because I’m so fortunate to be where I am and to have this job and to have stock to sell off and I’ll probably be fine because somehow it all works out in the end. But I’ve also kept my living expenses so low and that’s granted me some breathing room even when things start looking really bad. Now I don’t have that breathing room. Not now, and not in the next 30 years. 30 years is a long time. I mean, I’m 36, so it’s not like, my whole life… but 30 years ago I was 6. So.

I wish I could talk to my husband about this stuff, but I can’t because he will just get frustrated with me and upset that I’m being so fickle again. It’s like with my job — things go well when I hide everything I’m scared of. When I try to hide the mess that I am and just pretend like everything is great. That’s how it works in my relationship as well. I mean, my husband can read my blog if he wanted to — but he doesn’t. Which is fine. I just need to write here because sometimes I need a  place to get things off my chest. My therapist doesn’t really help… I mean, she can help me figure out how to calm down in the moment. But that’s not going to help me get better at my job. Or be able to pay this mortgage for 30 years.

This is where I hit a wall over and over again. Why I end up so fucking depressed even if from the outside work I guess I “have it all” — a house, a husband, kids, a good job, etc. I mean, I made a plan and here I am hitting it. Second kid at 37. House. $X in my bank account before I buy a house. It’s like, it’s all going so great then why am I this sad and terrified? I try not to think about it. I’m not going to be happy but I try to just focus on the here and now and get through the day. Keep my job as long as possible. Keep pretending I got this.

But I don’t. I don’t got this at all.

DUI Depression 10 Years Later

The day I got my DUI seems like a million years ago. In fact, it was about 9 years and a month ago. While I don’t remember much of my 20s, I do remember that night all too clearly. All the bad decisions I made. The reckoning of my entire self identify as a “good girl” all lost in one evening of drinking too much wine at a networking event and, in the days before uber, driving home after waiting what I thought was long enough to sober up — when it clearly wasn’t.

What followed my DUI was deserved, but that doesn’t negate how horrible it was. A night at the jail handcuffed to a chair. Six weekends of “community service,” the classes, the  $10k+ in costs… or more, I stopped counting. Years later, I just want to forget about it. I made a commitment to myself that night that if I was ever to drink again, I would take public transport or uber to get home. And since then I haven’t received a DUI, nor have I had any reason to get one — because I don’t drive after drinking. Ever.

This doesn’t stop my past from haunting me. In applying for home insurance, it has come up that purchasing car insurance alongside it as a bundle could save on our total rate. Well–guess what? These companies immediately ask me if I had a DUI in the last 10 years. Sadly, my conviction was in November 2011, which is still under 10 years ago. Many companies said they won’t insure me at all. One said they might be able to get an override, but I wouldn’t qualify for a good driver discount.

Luckily I have car insurance now and it’s a fair rate so it’s not the end of the world, but it really feels like a sharp gutting of my heart in being reminded of the horrible mistake in my past. I don’t want to forget about it, but I also don’t want to be reminded of it anymore. I was 25 then. I’m 36 now. I’m just in a different place in my life.

The only good news is that this reminded me that in one year I won’t have the DUI on my motor vehicles report anymore. It will still show up when employers search my records — and will still make it hard to get into Canada — but at least, soon, I can kind of move on. I though I had moved on. But clearly I haven’t. So I’m a bit depressed this evening. Embarrassed of my former self. Acknowledging I am the same hot mess I was then, only a little better when it comes to decision making.

This comes on top of an incredible amount of stress (probably too much) in trying to figure out home insurance. I don’t get what we are supposed to be covered for and I don’t know how much we should be covered for. The replacement costs all the agencies are providing seem way too low given I’m told in the Bay Area it costs $500-$600+ per square foot to build. I thought the home insurance part of home buying would be straight forward (bank wants you to be covered for the cost of the loan, you get covered for the cost of the loan, and you’re good.)

I’m stressed out because I’m in the middle of this closing process and we’re still awaiting the appraisal and we’re still waiting to find out if we can get the property insured (or maybe we already have a policy we haven’t paid for — I’m confused) — and one company that was high rated said they may not insure us because there are galvanized pipes and every company is asking me how old the roof is and I don’t have any idea as the seller’s report does not say and our landlord doesn’t know. And this insurance agent I spoke with kind of freaked me out about the galvanized pipe issue. So there’s another thing we’ll have to fix when we move in, possibly. So many things.

I just want to be happy right now. I want to feel like this is an accomplishment and I want this opportunity to feel good just for a few minutes, you know? But at the moment I feel like absolute shit. Scared. Ashamed of my past. And just trying to get through this process to buy the house and figure out what really needs to be fixed and how much it will cost to make it safe and reduce risk as much as possible.

New pipes, huh?

6 Year Plan for 20% of Networth in Home Equity

Even though it seems impossible, my goal is to keep my family networth with 20% of total AFTER TAX networth in home equity. This means I need to carefully stick to contributions and growth in my other funds (after tax values) to hit my savings goals (my goal is $5M of after tax networth by 50.) This assumes an increase of 5% in home value per year for next 6 years. This does not make any assumptions for stock gains, it just notes how much I would need to have in each bucket to keep the target asset allocation.

The first chart before is of my after tax goals for the next 6 years. Below this chart are my current actuals (and gaps that need to be fixed by end of 2020.)

The below notes that in order to be on track for 2021, I need the following adjustments/additions:

  • $35k more saved (allocated based on goals)
  • US bond fund and developed market fund need more investment

*note, this does not include emergency fund cash or expenses

1 2 3 4 5 6
37 38 39 40 41 42
2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
Target Post Tax
Home Equity 20% $254,160 $303,036 $355,356 $411,292 $471,024 $534,743
Company Stock 10% $127,080 $151,518 $177,678 $205,646 $235,512 $267,372
Large Cap US 29% $368,532 $439,402 $515,266 $596,373 $682,985 $775,378
Small Cap US 4% $50,832 $60,607 $71,071 $82,258 $94,205 $106,949
Developed 24% $304,992 $363,643 $426,427 $493,550 $565,229 $641,692
Emerging 4% $50,832 $60,607 $71,071 $82,258 $94,205 $106,949
Bond US 6% $76,248 $90,911 $106,607 $123,387 $141,307 $160,423
Bond Int 3% $38,124 $45,455 $53,303 $61,694 $70,654 $80,212
$1,270,800 $1,515,180 $1,776,779 $2,056,458 $2,355,121 $2,673,717
Actual Post Tax
TARGET GAP TARGET V DIFF
Home Equity 20.00% $254,160 20% 0% $254,160 $0
Company Stock 12.35% $156,887 10% -2% $127,080 $29,807
Large Cap US 29.02% $368,845 29% 0% $368,532 $313
Small Cap US 4.30% $54,601 4% 0% $50,832 $3,769
Developed 21.48% $272,924 24% 3% $304,992 -$32,068
Emerging 4.96% $63,003 4% -1% $50,832 $12,171
Bond US 0.87% $11,074 6% 5% $76,248 -$65,174
Bond Int 4.22% $53,665 3% -1% $38,124 $15,541
Missing 2.80% $35,641 0 -2.80% $35,641
$1,270,800

Cash Needed for Buying a Million Dollar Home

We just purchased a $1.6M home. That isn’t a huge home here in the Bay Area, but it’s also not the cheapest home we could buy–especially of the 3 bedroom / 2 bath variety. But it was large in terms of square footage and with an oversized lot in a neighborhood we wanted to buy in (or, well, a block away) I ran all the variables in my head and decided while this isn’t the one now it definitely can be with some work. It’s also in an up-and-coming area and I think the value will hold in 5-10 years time, if we do decide to sell.

Rules for Buying a Million Dollar Home

I have a few home buying rules that are a little nutty but they work for my oddly conservative financial brain.

  • 20% down + 3% closing costs
  • 6 Months of home and rent expenses (we will have 1-2 months overlap on rent and house to make the move smooth)
  • 6 months of basic living expenses outside of housing
  • Any taxes due within the next 6 months
  • $50k-$100k “first year fixes” fund (try not to spend all of this, but have available if needed esp when buying an older house)
  • 6 months additional in emergency fund (all monthly costs)

My one additional rule that I am going to stick to (but will be harder) is:

  • No more than 20% of networth in equity at any one time.

Home Equity =

+ Downpayment
+ Principal Paid
+ Any Realistic Gain on Home Value (if sold today)
– Any Realistic Loss on Home Value (if sold today)
– 10% current value of home (cost to sell)
– .30% of any gain over $500k+home maintenance fees

This means that right now, my home equity is worth:

+ $322k
+ $0
+ $0
– $0
– $161k
– $0k
=======
$161k

This means that my remaining AFTER TAX cash & investments should be $805k to have 20% of my networth in my home.

Buying a Million Dollar Home Doesn’t Have to be That Scary

This is what makes buying a $1.6M home less scary, but it also means that before buying a $1.6M home you not only should save a large downpayment, but also an additional $1.1M. Not everyone can do this, or wants to do this before buying a house. It’s possible I should have purchased a house 10 years ago for $800k, where now my mortgage would be $3500 a month, vs $7000 a month (give or take) and I’d have 20 years left to pay it off. But then I wouldn’t have the $1.1M, and I would have definitely gone into home ownership with way too much of my networth in home equity.

I prefer to build up that larger cushion and know that a chunk of my money still has access to the markets, which will likely outperform my house after you factor in lost opportunity cost with the downpayment, etc.

How much of your networth is in home equity?

24 Days Close, 52 Days Until Move In: Buying a House While Pregnant During COVID is… uh… something else.

My emotions in the last 24 hours have ranged from extreme self satisfaction (I did it — I saved my ass off and bought a mudda f*cking house) to literally crying from the sheer stress of trying to do all the normal crazy things one has to do during closing on a new house–while 5 months pregnant — in the middle of a global pandemic — and wildfire air — and… and… and…

This is really hard folks. I know I can be a bit of a drama queen, but I think this would be hard for anyone.

My husband is my rock. My logic sounding board. Many great things. But I’m the CFO of the household. I’m the one who has saved enough to buy this home. He’s the one who has been there for me long enough to keep me semi sane and make it possible. We’ve both earned this.

That doesn’t make this any easier.

For starters, I want to ensure the home is SAFE when we move in.

Being that we bought in the Bay Area, we went in no contingencies and we (uh) gleefully dropped off a $50k escrow payment and said buh buh $50,000. We can still drop out of the deal for the next 24 days until close, but that $50k… we’re not getting it back.

The seller’s inspection report was rather light. There was a separate pest and roof report which noted repairs needed. I understand nothing of how serious things are and what is really required to fix them.

Seller wanted a 30 day rent back (in Bay Area a “rent back” basically means they get to stay for 30 days for free while we pay their mortgage) so I tried to negotiate credits for the major repairs. That somehow ended up being them giving us $5k towards the closing costs and us basically agreeing to $5k more over the life of the loan. I guess that’s a better deal than paying the $5k up front. But then we’re losing $7k on not being able to actually move in. Numbers, numbers.

So the sellers will fix the roof (out of the credit) before they move out, and supposedly will schedule tenting the week after they move out, or something. I don’t know.

We have other work we want to do. The most important is any safety stuff. There’s some electrical things that need to be fixed. That’s my #1 concern. We need a new electrical panel and some wiring.

My next concern is that the report mentioned that the chimney is separating from the house. Or maybe my next concern is the standing water in the crawl space. Hmm. Both seem concerning. But what to do about them? How urgent are they? Will a chimney fall on my son? We aren’t going to use the chimney… but the bricks are scary.

Other than that, the house seems… maybe ok to live in for a while?

We want to put in AC by next summer. It probably makes to do this before we move in. So we are looking into this option. I have a not-going-to-happen dream about getting a bathtub in the hall bath so I have a tub (which is important to me I’m a big bath person and my son also takes baths.)

But it’s a nightmare trying to get access to the house to get contractors in to quote…

Our initial plan was/is to bring contractors into the house over the next month (they are supposed give us access within 24 hours) and get quotes… but the sellers still live there so that’s proving rather difficult. They’re giving us one Saturday and my realtor has to be there and she’s only available for 3 hours or so. Initially we were trying to do this on a Sunday but I discovered all the contractors are off on Sundays. So now we’re aiming for next Saturday. And scheduling all these folks is a nightmare… plus they need to sign COVID forms to get in the house and we have limitations how many people can be inside at once and anyway it’s not fun.

We SHOULD probably just wait until we move in. But…

All construction work we do before moving in, ideally. Between normal construction dust and COVID and everything else, it seemed reasonable to say we’re going to select contractors now and then start work as soon as we have access to the house in November. We might pay 1-2 more months of rent in our apartment (about $3k per month) PLUS the $7k per month mortgage (yes, that’s $10k per month – forking A) just to get things done without us being in the house.

Outside of the whole $10k a month issue… let me remind all of you (because I certainly have not forgotten) that I’m super preggo and I shall be popping out one new baby sometime in January. Hopefully in January. God willing, January. I am not in the mood to be either living in a house with tons of construction going on in the last month of my pregnancy. But it’s extra complicated because…

We now live about 45 minutes from my in-laws and 30 minutes from my hospital.  That’s not a huge deal except when I go into labor, we need at least one of them to watch our son. Neither live in places where he can stay. Ah, but we have a house! And — isn’t grandpa supposed to be living with you?

Well, yes–this is all true.

If grandpa moves in Jan 1 (and I deliver close to my due date) then we can leave my son at home with him. We still would like to get my mother-in-law there, somehow… but I’m not quite sure how that will happen as my husband will need to drive me to the hospital then drive her back to the house then drive back to the hospital (that’s like 2 and a half hours total — he very well may miss the entire show.) Or… grandpa lives with us, my son stays there, I give birth, after that husband drives grandma to our house and then comes back. Or… I don’t know. I’m still not seeing how this works. And I’d like grandpa not to move in with us until Feb 1. so I can have access to the bathroom tub which is actually an amazingly nice tub (assuming it works) that has jacuzzi jets and everything. I’m not a fancy tub person (I just like deep soaking tubs) but I’m sure being super preggo it will feel good to be in the jacuzzi. Unfortunately the master bedroom doesn’t have a door separating its bathroom from the rest of the house. Bummer. So if he’s living with us, I can’t use that bathroom. I can’t use a bath at all. $7k a month, and I don’t even get a bath. Woe me and my first world problems.

So it probably makes the most sense for us to move in Dec 1 and grandpa to move in Jan 1 and all work to be done to be done between Nov 4 and Nov 30. Which is not a lot of time given thanksgiving is in there and from my understanding contractors can be booked up months out in advance. I’m not sure WHAT we’ll be able to get done by Nov 30. Sounds like prob roof and pest stuff. I’m hoping electrical. Everything else might have to wait.

Waiting– is also complicated. When grandpa moves in, and infant moves in, I don’t think any of us are going to feel good about having contractors in and out of the house for a while. This means that remodeling the bathroom will prob have to wait. AC work… if not done up front… may not happen in time for next summer (my husband is making it a priority to get that done now, and I do think electrical and AC are the 2 things that we should try to get done up front if we can.)

I’m trying to go into this house open minded. My husband gets so mad at me when I change my mind all the time. It’s not that I really have changed my mind, it’s just I have two ways of looking at this…

  1. Our mortgage is $7k a month, which is insane, and having his father live with us to pay $2k a month for a while really helps. This makes our cost more like $6k (mortgage minus deductions plus fixes) which is comparable to what it costs to rent a house, or maybe more by like $12k a year, which I can stomach. My frugal side says woohoo, I’ve bought a $1.6M 3 bedroom, 2 bath home for 2.625% 30 year fixed with 20% down and outside of semi minor repair work, it seems totally livable for a while. The master bedroom, which has a ridiculously large master bathroom (designed not to my taste but that can be fixed eventually and whatever, it’s still nice) will be all ours in prob 2-5 years when my FIL moves out. It is OUR house and I like the neighborhood overall (I think) and I like the schools and I think my kids will enjoy growing up there and maybe I can make friends and I got such a large lot and this will be good. This house isn’t near perfect but it has a lot of things I wanted and I will feel good pulling up to it and knowing it’s my house!
  2. I put $320,000 down and we’re paying $5k-$6k+ a month for this house. As the breadwinner, this is a lot of pressure on me to keep my job. While I feel better about my job stability at the moment than I have in the past, I know I could lose my job at any time. I also now am going to have to deal with a long commute if/when I go back to the office. I do LIKE this house… we looked at a ton of houses and this one checked most of the boxes. It’s missing a 4th bedroom, AC, and a bathroom I can use when FIL is living there, but otherwise, it’s good. It’s like… it’s fine. It’s nice. I knew to get something I really liked I would have to spend at least $2M. So I know this is $400k less than that. It feels like about $400k less than what I would really like. — BUT — man, I worked so hard to save up for this house and for the next 2-5 years of my life, including through the rest of this pregnancy, my healing, and probably one more pregnancy (though we may remodel some by then) I will be basically living in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with an in-law unit. It’s a nice house, don’t get me wrong, but the bedrooms (other than the master) are tiny. My husband and I will both be WFH for a while. The house is big but feels small because so much square footage is in the master bedroom. One day I’ll be able to enjoy that. You know, if the stress of home ownership doesn’t kill me before then.

That’s why I’m conflicted. And stressed. And freaking out. All the things. I’m grateful I’m off work this week. I couldn’t handle this stress while working FT. My realtor is SO ready to be done with me. She is always nice and responsive–at this point I know she’s just thinking how she has to grin and bear it for a few more weeks and hopefully we will write her some really nice reviews and she will feel like the last 6 months of putting up with us was worth it.

In the future, though, I’m going with a more experienced realtor. I mean, I’m sure there’s pros and cons to a noob vs someone who prob would have gotten tired of us a while back… but I realize how hard the final negotiations and contract part is, and I wish I had someone who just had more experience with all the ways it could go, and where we could really push back, etc. I’m sure no matter what there is some blindness that comes with the situation (you don’t know what the other offers are) so maybe this all went as well as it could have. We ended up buying for just a little over list, which is pretty much unheard of here, unless the house sucks, and I don’t think it sucks. It has issues, but the location is good, and nothing is unfixable.

Anyway. I’m going nutso. I think I just have to start packing to get my mind off of this insanity. And we’ll do one day at the house with contractors and see what we learn and then just wait until we can get in on Nov 4. Day of reckoning. We’ll be emotionally hungover from election night and certainly the drama that will come with Trump claiming Biden cheated even if Trump wins — seems like as good of day as any to move into a $1.6M house. Right? A democrat with a $1.6M house and no SALT deductions. Yea, that’s me.

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