The Broken White Picket Fence: Realigning Dreams with Reality

Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful comments on my last post: Getting to Where I want to Be. Your commentary made me feel a bit better about my current situation. I’ve responded to your comments inline, but a few of them merited a longer write-up:

Mrs. Pop @ PlantingOurPennies writes:  “I’m impressed with your certainty at having kids. And I think that’s a big plus in your favor that you’re not seeing. Right now, I’m 30 and totally up in the air on kids. So that means I’m feeling like I need to plan for scenarios with them or without them at the same time, and those are two very different paths in my eyes. As for big fancy-pants weddings, FWIW – we eloped and couldn’t have been happier with how it went.”

It’s pretty hilarious that I come across as certain on having kids. I just can’t imagine my life without them, even though I’m not ready to be a mom today. As far as eloping goes my parents would kill me, and I’d be sad to miss out on the big fancy-pants wedding, but my logical PF blogger self really thinks that’s the way to go.

Ashley left a series of great points in her comments, noting “From the amount that you write about having concerns re: your partner’s earning potential, it seems like it is a bigger problem for you than you are allowing yourself to realize.”

True. It does bother me. But, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I know that he is in a better financial state than many other men out there. Sure, he’s not a millionaire, but I don’t need that. I’d like him to have more motivation and drive to have saved previously, but this doesn’t mean that our future together can’t be more stable. He’s the type of guy who will work hard and keep a good job because he’s an excellent employee – once he gets a position he’ll be much more stable in that job than I ever could be given my bipolar issues etc etc. I’m drawn to that stability, and I think it’s more important than marrying someone who is more entrepreneurial with opportunities to achieve great wealth.

Ashley continues asking, “I think the real question you need to ask yourself (and be brutally honest) is if you’re truly comfortable being the sole breadwinner for the rest of your relationship, including when you have children. Are you ok with needing to work and being unable to be a stay at home mom?”

This is a hard one. Do I want to be the sole breadwinner for the rest of my relationship? No. Do I mind making more than my partner? No. I just want him to have a job and make some money. I don’t really want to be a stay at home mom (I’d likely go crazy) but I’d like the opportunity to work part time or own my own business with flexible hours. I might be better off, in that sense, marrying a guy who works a 60+ hour work week and is always on the road with his job, but I really value time more than money in the long run, and I’d rather someone who is able to share that time with me than pay down the mortgage faster. I think this is going to become even more important later in life. I could see myself being very happy marrying a guy who worked as a teacher – someone with a stable job, maybe not the best income but something, and the time outside of work to enjoy life well before “retirement.”

She goes on to note, “My mother (RIP) told me never to marry a man if you’d be unhappy if your children turned out just like him. Can you honestly say you’d be very proud if your kids grew up just like him? If so, he’s probably the right person.”

Yes.  I’d be happy if my kids turned out like him. He is a kind, generous, loving person, with a good heart. How could I not want my children to turn out like him? If our kids can get his brains with my ambition, they’ll do quite well for themselves.

Ashley concludes that – despite having a $650k condo paid off outright and $50k in emergency savings, she still has fears that she doesn’t have enough money to support a family. It seems the more you have, the more those fears seem real and scary. Yet we both know plenty of couples with kids who are surviving on much less. So we both have some work to do on confronting fear of not having enough to actually live our lives.

Ivy mentions that her situation with the guy being the “stay at home dad” worked well for her family. “This allowed me to continue focusing on my career even with 2 kids,” she writes. “However, as others commented, this doesn’t seem to be something you are comfortable with.”

Maybe I’m more comfortable with this than I think. I’m pretty convinced that Derek will be a much better full-time parent than I ever would be, and while I’m not the world’s greatest employee, I seem to have a bit more talent in the professional department of life success than he does. So maybe that’s the answer – he’ll stay at home with the kids, I’ll work, and life will turn out just fine. I just don’t think that we can survive on one income in The Bay Area. If we’re going to do that, we’d probably have to move somewhere else…

Wang wants me to stop worrying so much about money. In a very rational comment, s/he writes that many couples in the Bay Area live on less than I’m earning today and they’re doing fine. “You’ll be much happier if you just start living your life and starting a family.”

That’s solid advice that I need to let resonate a bit as I prepare for the next five years.

Meanwhile, Yakezie notes that I probably should think before writing about my significant other so frankly here, as this probably would hurt his feelings. He continues to mention that I shouldn’t read the SFGate article today which discusses the impossibility of affording a house in the Bay Area on any normal middle class income.

Oops, I read it. And it made me again realize that my dream of staying in The Bay Area is one that I probably need to reconsider. It’s not bad to live here now, renting for relatively cheap and building up my credentials in the tech industry. It couldn’t hurt to have a number of years working for Silicon Valley tech firms if I ever need to move to a tier-two tech city – and there’s plenty out there that are more affordable – Boston, Austin, Boulder, etc. Maybe I do need to seriously consider moving before starting a family…

Well Heeled with a Mission calls this point out, writing that $150k in SF is very different from $150k in Austin or Raleigh. “How much do you love living in SF,” she asks, adding “you can buy a really nice house in many parts of the country for $300k – $500k.”

 How much do I like living in SF? A lot. My mood is very strongly effected by my environment – from the color of the sky and amount of sunlight to the architecture. I honestly haven’t been happy in my life until I moved out here. Surprisingly, I found myself not liking the city itself, but actually the ‘burbs. I love it here. I love that I can drive a few minutes in any direction and have a new beautiful place to go hiking. I love that every town is unique with its own collection of tiny shops and restaurants, and if you get bored of one you can easily spend time in the next. I love how different the East Bay is from the North Bay and how different they are from the Peninsula and the South Bay, and how the city itself has so many different neighborhoods and cultural attractions to explore. I love that I can leave town and go on a road trip just a few hours away and be in so many new towns with unique cultures and experiences. The entire west is my playground. I do seriously love it here. But could I learn to love another location? Maybe. Could I leave my playground for a smaller town where life is slower and cost of living is much cheaper? Perhaps. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. I’ve lived in many different cities across the country. I’ve never been happy until I moved here. I’m not sure I’m willing to give that up. I’d probably be faster to give up the stability of a house before I give up being able to walk out my front door and experience perfection.

Simply Rich Life writes “$1m+ is a lot for a house. Considering that a lot of people talk about 3x annual income as a reasonable guideline for a house price, you’ll either have a huge debt or need a huge income. If rents are cheap enough that could be a good option for a few years until you’re in a better position to move somewhere you can afford to live.”

It is, and it isn’t. My good friend bought a small 3br house with 2ba for $899k recently, in one of the not-as-nice areas of the Peninsula. Housing prices are supposedly just going to continue going up, so renting and waiting until I can afford a house here might not make any more sense than buying now. So I can just rent for the rest of my life – I can figure out how to greatly increase my income – or I can suck it up and move somewhere more affordable before having a family. I don’t want to do that, but I just might have to. Maybe it won’t be that bad in… wherever it is I end up. I talked to Derek about this today and he smiled and said it would be an adventure – figuring out where to move. It could be. I’ve always liked moving around, but I’ve just started to feel like I found my home here. I also really like how good the economy is and prospects for my career growth versus other locations. If the right opportunity came up elsewhere, I could of course move, but finding something once I moved would be much harder. Or maybe I leave tech altogether, start something new, lead a much simpler life. Anything is possible. I’m pretty sure whatever it is I plan today won’t be what happens tomorrow, but without any planning I worry I’ll get to 40 and feel no further ahead than I did 10 months before 30.

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