Scared and Stuck.

I’m not in a particularly good life situation right now.  My job isn’t safe at all. I’m basically starting over and any wrong move will have we walked out the virtual door. They know I’m overpaid in my new role–which means they have even less reason to keep me. Or to ever increase my pay again. Only to possibly decrease it. Or leave it flat and let inflation do the dirty work.

Even if I manage to stay –do good enough work I’m a solid 3 out of 5 year after year–is my life just this? Because the longer I stay the longer I lose relevance in the job market. My role, in any other company, would both require more technical skills and pay about half of my base salary. I can’t actually survive on that. Nor do I have the right profile to land a job that pays the same or more.

I’m not being overly dramatic. This is the truth. And why I wake up every morning dreading my life. Wondering what is the point? Why am I such a failure? And, more importantly, how the fuck do I provide for my family?

Here’s where we are net worth wise as of April 1:

Cash $80,633
Taxable $829,501
Pre Tax $456,057
Post Tax (Roth) $238,265
529 Fund (2-3 kids) $232,879
Home Equity $207,288
TOTAL $2,044,623

Lost a bit with market dropping. Still, with $2M net worth I thought I’d feel better about life. I don’t. I feel like I’m suffocating. Will we starve? No. At least not for a while. But it can get ugly fast.

I want to make sure we can afford the next 5 years. Maybe after 5 years my job situation will make sense. And pay better. Right now I have 5 years to figure out.

We obviously could save less and spend a bit less, but if we can keep to this plan for next 5 years we’ll be ok.

Income Tax (40%) Expenses Saving Remaining
2021 $313,350 -$125,340 -$126,000 -$25,000 $62,010
2022 $273,000 -$109,200 -$168,000 -$57,500 -$4,200
2023 $276,090 -$110,436 -$168,000 -$57,500 -$2,346
2024 $279,273 -$111,709 -$168,000 -$57,500 -$436
2025 $282,551 -$113,020 -$168,000 -$57,500 $1,531

The above assumes the following:

  • Our total tax rate on taxable income is 40%
  • I earn a minimum of $170,000 a year for the next 5 years
  • My husband earns a minimum of $100k plus 3% raises for next 5 years
  • We both max out retirement accounts every year as pre-tax money (to keep our tax rate down)

We won’t be saving nearly as much as we have been — but at least we can get through the year without dipping into savings too much (and probably not at all if we’re careful — the remainder this year can cover any overage in next few years.

BUT that’s assuming also that…

  1. can get a job that pays $170k for next 5 years (especially if I lose this one)
  2. that my husband keeps his job and can get a 3% raise each year

Maybe I can find another job that pays $170k but there’s no guarantee. Especially not if I want to start over in a new career. Or try to find something a bit more junior that gives me time to figure out what I’m good at and move up in a normal sort of way.

It would be helpful if my husband could earn $150k and then I would earn $150k and we’d be ok — or at least in a much better situation. However that isn’t going to happen. So I just need to figure this out.

Yet again it feels remarkably hopeless.

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5 thoughts on “Scared and Stuck.”

  1. I’m sorry you’re feeling stressed and depressed. Do you think things could improve if you seek treatment for depression? Though perhaps you feel like your depression is completely caused by career-related stress.

    It’s impressive that you have so much saved in your 529 fund. Do you have an end goal in mind for how much you want it to grow to? I want to start one for my daughter, but my husband thinks there’s no way of predicting what higher education will look like when she’s grown up. He thinks there’s a chance she might not want to go to college at all, and doesn’t want us to have a pool of money set aside that might unintentionally sway her educational decisions. Then again, there are many people today six figures in debt from a single degree, and tuition costs only increase every year. I suppose there’s little harm in having too much money in a 529 fund, since any left over could be withdrawn with the penalty.

    You’ve also mentioned thinking you have ADHD recently, but a psychiatrist evaluation determined that you didn’t. Do you plan on pursuing that further? I feel the same way about myself. My memory is fine, but I can’t stay on task and lack motivation and organization. I recently spent a full day getting a one-on-one evaluation from a psychologist (which likely cost my insurance company thousands of dollars), only to be told that don’t have ADHD. I’m still having problems concentrating, however, so nothing has been resolved. A friend gave me the name of a pill-mill psychiatrist, and I’m wondering if I should try to get a prescription for ADHD meds from that route just so I can consistently do my job. I wish there were a magic pill that eliminated procrastination.

  2. Thanks for your comment!

    Re: depression — I’ve been in therapy for depression for a long time. I am not currently on meds as I’m breast-feeding and while some are deemed safe I hate to put anything in my baby that isn’t necessary. I also dislike the idea of being medicated “forever” as with depression it’s not something that one can really cure from pills — and they stop being as effective overtime so you’re constantly putting crap in your body. I’m open to trying it again after my breastfeeding and getting pregnant journey comes to an end, but that’s still years away. I do think that my issue with my job is that I don’t know what I am doing. It’s depressing that I don’t know what I’m doing but I would still be sad even if I wasn’t “depressed.” — I think I might actually be bipolar (II) but no one has diagnosed me of that because my therapists seem to not believe me when I tell them I have some pretty batshit moments. They think I’m just neurotic. I’m like yea I’m neurotic but also… sometimes I don’t know who I am in hindsight. It’s scary. And makes me more sad.

    The 529 fund is basically a gift to my kids. I don’t want them to have to worry about loans in school, or picking one school over another based on the cost. With the expected rise in tuition I don’t know if I’ll be able to give that to them completely — but my goal is at least 4 years at the top public school in my state at 6% growth. If it grows at a larger percent then they can use the additional money for grad school or private (or both.) My goal is $150k per kid before each turns 3. I don’t want to get to the point where they get into a school and then I don’t have money set aside for it and we start questioning if they should go somewhere cheaper. I want them to go to the right schools for them.

    I am a bit concerned that education will look different in 18 years… more affordable options and such… but hopeful if things really change there will be some exceptions created for 529 plans if college is suddenly free. Maybe the penalty will be waived or something for taking the money out.

    I figure worst case my kids can take the money out at their income rates with the 10% penalty in the future. It also is helpful as estate exceptions are being reduced likely and if I continue to save at the rate we’re saving now we may hit the estate limit one day. This helps move some of our assets to my children for their education. And worst case in retirement I sign up for creative classes at a local community college for fun and use the money that way! Lots of options. I really just want to set aside enough so I don’t have to worry about saving for college at all going forward. It’s a HUGE expense and I don’t want to feel like I can’t leave a job because I need to save for my kid’s college. Set it and forget it is my mindset. It doesn’t work for everyone but it feels right for me.

    I’m currently going through another evaluation for ADHD with another psych. I’m not sure what I’ll do with he results as I don’t really want to be medicated and ADHD medication is esp not good w/ breastfeeding and having kids. I am not certain I have ADHD either. I think I have a mix of anxiety with learning disabilities that were never diagnosed. I did try adderall before and it didn’t really help me think better… though it did help me stay up a long time and focus on doing things with my hands like cleaning. So I’m not sure if it was the wrong drug, wrong amount, or I just don’t have ADHD…

    I really don’t know. Something is clearly wrong with me. I am not “neurotypical” that’s for sure.
    Joy recently posted..Scared and Stuck.

    1. Thanks for the response! I hope you are able to find help! Yeah, medications for mental health issues seem to be really hit-or-miss. And once you start down that path, psychiatrists are happy to keep you on meds forever. I tried Zoloft before, and while it was calming, I didn’t like the side effects. When I refused to try another medication, there was nothing further the psychiatrist could do for me.

  3. I think you need to take a step back and reevaluate your position. You are constantly moving the goalposts and stressing out about them. It used to be, “I just have to have 500k before having kids.” and that was just 5 years ago. Now you have 2 kids and a net worth of 2M. You really could move a lot of other places in this country and retire today. I realize it’s not ideal and your husband doesn’t want to move and his family is there. But come on – knowing that has to be a big relief. You are FI without needing to move to Thailand or some other LCOL country to achieve it. Who cares if they shove you out the door next week. You are better off than 99% of the rest of the people in the world. If you can’t see that, then perhaps you ought to reconsider medication because I can guarantee you that hitting 3M, 4M, 5M is never going to change that. 5 years ago if you told yourself you’d be in this position today, I’m pretty sure you’d have felt a relief and imagined you’d be stress free. Even if you don’t save another dime, your nest egg will easily grow to allow an early retirement by 50 or 55 at the latest. You could realistically survive on just your husband’s salary – it may be a frugal living, but imagine reduction in work related stress for you. All I’m suggesting is that you should try to look at it from a different angle – and if medicine is necessary to help you achieve that, please consider it. Because it doesn’t appear that your mindset is improving, despite your financial position certainly improving tremendously.

    1. You are right that it was not long ago I was worried about having $500k before my first kid, and now I’m in a much better place. And, yes, we can move out of this HCOL area and reduce our spending significantly to early retire now. But I think you are wrong about the larger numbers of savings and what it will do to my overall well being. While we are in better shape than 99%+ of the world right now (and I am very grateful for that) actually having the numbers I currently have set as goals will really feel like “winning” the game. This means that I can change my job, fail multiple times, and it won’t matter. I don’t think the numbers keep going up and up. There is only so much I can spend. I’m not a HUGE spender. I’d like to be able to buy a plug-in mini van and stay at decent hotels for a few trips a year. In running my budget I feel very good about $14k-$16k per month including my mortgage, once I’ve finished superfunding my kid’s college savings. Of course I can reduce spending from that if needed — but, for instance, last month when I was focused on not spending much, we spent $2.7k on “life,” $2k on food, $300 on medical, $640 on car. This was a low-spend month. That is $5640 before my mortgage and savings. We could easily spend another $2k on top of that if we were actually out in the world living (classes for kids, trips, clothing for work, etc.) I know we don’t “have” to spend it, but I’m just saying this is my comfort level of spending. It’s not actually buying luxury items. The only luxury is really that we dine out too much (order in for now) and we’re trying to cut back on that. But in non-covid times I might join a gym, hire a personal trainer, sign my kids up for a few activities (or even hire a babysitter on occasion.) So… That was $6k for a very low-cost (for us) month, plus $8.4 or so of mortgage and some set aside for repairs. That gets us to $14.4k a month before savings. I’m considering $14k as a realistic ‘low cost’ month in normal times. Again, I know we can cut down quite a bit if needed. Nonetheless, I think $14k is a solid monthly spending amount to base what we need now and in retirement, without considering savings. So I’d like to be able to spend $168k a year (ideally $192k a year.) My FIRE goal is thus $200k a year after tax. Where I live now — I would not stop working until I hit a number that could afford this per year without savings. That’s $5M plus taxes (cap gains tax ~ 40%) so ~$8.3M would be my “FIRE” number. Even if I never get there, the closer to it I can get (family wise) the more I’ll feel generally ok in life. I will never get to a point where I will have $10M and think “oh, if only I had another $1M!” Nope. I am just searching to get to stability before I’m too old to enjoy it. I want to be able to fly my mother out to see my family and likely purchase her a place to live near us when she’s no longer able to take care of herself. I want to be able to help my sister who has nothing saved for retirement to make sure she’s ok. And while I don’t want to spoil my kids, I do want to help ensure they’re never going to starve or be on the street, and to pay for their college educations (at least 4 years public school 100%.) My numbers have changed, but that’s only because now that I have kids and own a house I have a better sense for what the life I want costs. It seems crazy to me as well — how much that life costs — as I don’t think it’s particularly fancy.

      I DO want to work, but I just want to not feel like I’m chasing money at some point. I want to not feel like I have to jump at the next job offer where some C-level exec convinces himself that I’m g-d’s gift to my field only to realize that I’m not all that and a bag of chips a few minutes-to-months later.

      Do I feel good about us getting to a family net worth of $2M? Of course I do. It is insane to me. Absolutely batshit insane. I don’t deserve any of this. I’m privileged and lucky and somehow good at convincing people they should hire me sometimes.

      Would medicine help me feel better? Maybe. I’m open to trying it again once I get past having children and breastfeeding. It may be a few years before that’s an option. But for now the closer I get to being able to afford the life I want to provide for my family, the better. I know to anyone who doesn’t live in this area these numbers seem ridiculous. Heck, to the women I know who live in this area who are married to husbands who work in high-paid jobs the numbers seem ridiculous — yet they are actually spending the same (or maybe a little less, but that’s only because in some cases they purchased their homes a while ago and aren’t looking at a 7k+ a month mortgage right now.)

      What I want is freedom to do a job where I actually can feel like I’m GOOD at my role and where I’m adding value to a company (without having to work 12 hour days and never seeing my family.) And I can only get to that once I feel like I’m ok covering the $14k-$16k a month. Once I can Coast FIRE (at at least $14k a month covered via my husband and my paychecks) then things will feel better. I can relax a bit. The sooner I get there, the better. It won’t keep inching up. Will I be happy when I get to that number? Well, who knows. But I’ll at least be less anxious.

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