Category Archives: Aging

So Long 37.

37. You’ve been… a year. Saying goodbye to 37 seems like closing the doors on an era. An era of grasping on to the last remnants of my fleeting youth that in actuality was gone long ago. I don’t know what it is about “38” because it’s still squarely in one’s 30s, but it feels so close to 40 it might as well be. And my husband is turning 40 early next year, so I feel whoever gets there first ages both partners in a marriage to the next official decade of life.

The last few years of my 30s may or may not include one more child, but I’m really torn on that for so many reasons. More on that in a bit. It likely will include changing jobs, because this one is getting worse and worse by the day and the compensation next year no longer makes it worth while to stay. I just feel like no matter what I do I am not capable of doing a good job in this role. I’m not sure where I am capable of doing a good job but it’s certainly not here. I’m not getting fired so I’m clearly not doing the worst job possible. I try my best and it seems that my work ethic and positive attitude keeps me gainfully employed. But I’m fucking tired. Tired of the craziness that is my job where I can’t focus on any projects because I’m constantly thrown new things that take a lot of time and won’t actually help the business improve but are just pet projects from leadership. Did I mention I’m tired? Like, emotionally, mentally, physically drained.

And it’s not just because I have an almost-one-year-old and a 3 year old going on 13.

… So. I was gung ho about the 3rd kid thing with wanting a girl and then lately I’m just feeling like maybe that’s asking for things to go really bad. What if I die in childbirth? What if IVF gives me cancer? What if I have a girl and she hates me from the moment she slips out of my womb?

Possible.

But also, logistically, I’m not sure I can handle 3 kids. Now that my youngest is becoming a little human with his own needs and my oldest is his own growing mind person monster I want time to spend with both of them, together, and alone, as well as time to spend alone and alone and alone with my husband and so far I haven’t been good at any of these variables. I’m not thriving at work. I’m not thriving at home. I’m not thriving at anything. Except maybe gaining weight from binging on carbs to fill this pit of fear and confusion I feel at any given time.

Well at least I’m not fucking manic at the moment. So there’s that.

I sink deep into the sheets of the bed below me and wonder all sorts of things and don’t know the answer to any of them. I worry about my son who can’t handle noise and puts his hands over his ears when anything hums or buzzes and I wonder will he outgrow that or if not how does he handle living in a world that is made for people who are able to tune it all out? I worry about my younger child who is growing up with less attention than my first, who is being shoved by my 3 year old at times, and all the conflicting parenting advice on how to handle sibling conflict (while also being committed to ensuring he doesn’t get seriously hurt.)

I don’t know anymore. I feel old and like I’ve managed to do a lot in my life leading up to 38 and yet not enough at all. Like at 38 one should be VP or at least have some serious skills they are confident about and able to go into a job interview and be like “I’m the shit and if you don’t want to hire me I don’t care.” But what would I even say in a job interview? I babble. What do I know? I know how to serve the needs of sociopathic executives who are convinced they have the most brilliant ideas. I feel like this is not a worthwhile skill and even if it is, it’s not one I particularly want to be known for. I can’t. Do. This. For. Much. Longer.

I did one project the head of my department liked but he asked for some changes then the head of my team gave me feedback and I made changes and she really liked what I had written (even though I knew it wasn’t actually good so no hard feelings there) and then the head of the department was like WTF is this and clearly was not happy with the changes and so now I’m scrambling to put something together they both like at the last minute when I’m supposed to be on vacation. Luckily this vacation = sitting at my mom’s house and trying to pack up my childhood home so I have some flexibility but still — I really needed the mental break. My plan was to take 2 weeks off but I thought if I got 1 then that would be something. But here I am still working and I don’t know when it will stop. I’ll get Thurs and Friday off because everyone does but then I’m back.

Hey, at least when I’m back it’s December. I’m 38, ok, that sucks, but better than not making it to 38, and it’s also the final countdown to my final vest and final significant employe stock purchase plan purchase and bonus and 401k match and then I can leave whenever I have the energy to do so and find something better. It’s all finally here. It’s not a life-changing amount but it’s the end of what I committed in my brain to stay for and here I am and there… I have 117 days until I really have no significant reason to stay. They will go by fairly quickly I think. I have a lot to do. Even if I fail at the things I’m doing I don’t think anyone will realize it until well into those 117 days as long as I’m trying. Which I will be. I never stop trying. Trying isn’t exactly getting me anywhere though.

Curious what my performance review will say. In past years I wrote these long self reviews trying to highlight everything half decent I did over the year. This year I just threw together a few bullets. I have a different boss this year so maybe he won’t notice but I realize what I write doesn’t actually matter and I don’t deserve a great review. I’m either a 3/5 because I’m good enough to keep but not good enough to try to keep, or a 2/5 because I pissed a few people off over the year by missing deadlines or not communicating well or both (been there, done that, don’t think I did it this year but who knows.) I’m pretty sure a 4/5 is impossible for my role and abilities and a 1/5 I’d be fired already and a 5/5 isn’t real so… yea… I’ll be surprised if I don’t get the 3/5 but maybe I sucked more than I know over the year and I’ll hear all about it in January when reviews come out. I got a pretty sizable bonus when I got a 2/5 last year somehow so I’m thinking I’ll probably get a bonus again this year… and then… I don’t know. I really don’t know.

I wish my husband would be the type of guy who said “wow you’re clearly miserable and I want to do something that will make you happy — do you want to take some time off work? Maybe we should consider moving out of a HCOL area for a while and see how that goes so you don’t have to work so much? Or maybe we stay here but I apply to jobs that pay enough where you can work part time?”

He’d never say any of that. And I don’t know how I would react if he did. But wouldn’t it be lovely to have a husband who would be willing to put himself out there, do something that makes him a bit uncomfortable, to try to help his wife out a bit? Am I asking for too much? I mean, yea, I know who I married. And I don’t expect him to be CEO or anything but there are a few reasonable options at this point that would allow me to be maybe slightly less miserable and I don’t think he’d be willing to entertain any of them. So it’s up to me as always. I think a new job could help, but I don’t know how I can be successful in any job since I’m not actually good at anything. I just want to sleep and exercise and try to eat healthy and take some time to recover from the last four years of being beaten down so much (not to mention having two babies.)

Anyway, I guess this is what it’s like to be almost 38. And then to be 38 en route to 39 and then 40. And maybe one more baby. Or maybe no more babies. And hopefully enough money to pay the mortgage and the bills. At least. And watching my investments crash and being sad about how as a normal human the only way to get ahead and beat inflation is to invest yet that’s so risky even though it’s supposedly not that risky as long as you’re diversified and don’t need the money for years but who knows what the future holds so yea it’s all a gamble and it feels pretty shitty to have to gamble what you’ve earned in order to have a shot at a half decent future.

And that’s for someone who is privileged enough to even have that option… I’m aware so few are.

So here I am. Well. Hello 38. Nice to meet you, I guess.

Two Roads To Nowhere and Everywhere: Stay at Home Mom vs Working Mom

I’m sure people reading my blog think I’m crazy with now over $2M in net worth not feeling comfortable leaving work for a while… a few months… a year or two… to spend with my young children. Maybe I am crazy. I’ll tell you what I feel. I feel no different than I did five years ago when my net worth was $500k or 10 years ago when it was $150k.

I am struggling with the concept of time and the time of time. 10 years passes in a blink and yet was it all that fast? I don’t know. 10 years ago with $150k net worth I was just starting my first job in this series of jobs after another series of jobs. I was making $100k. At the time that was such a huge salary I thought I would never earn more. Who would pay me more than $100k for anything?

10 years ago I was 27 going on 28. Approaching my 30s. A far different mindset than approaching one’s 40s. Pre children. Pre marriage. Living with roommates and dating my now husband and struggling with enough depression and self-hatred to push myself to keep going to prove that I could survive. Don’t believe me? It’s all here in this blog. All the years that have sprinted by. The failures. The successes. Three firings later. Day after day of waking up feeling not good enough. Not knowing what I’m doing. Trying to make it work. Trying to fit in. Having good moments. And many bad ones. Ten years later.

What will my life be 10 years from now? I’ll be 47 going on 48. What then? Will this decade feel over in a blink as well? How can I slow it down and make sure it lasts as long as possible – savor every second of it? I don’t know if one can at this age. Time just speeds up. And so there’s time and there’s money. It’s the race of both. You can spend less money. You can’t actually stop time. But to afford to leave the workforce you need a lot of money– and even then the system is rigged against you. That money in the stock market. Sure it will likely keep going up over time. That’s what they tell you. It has in the past. But the past is no indication of what will happen in the future. Though the only way to actually afford the future is to take what you’ve earned and bet on something that likely will go up but really who knows.

I’m too heavy in equities. Too heavy in individual stocks, although mostly in index funds. If the whole market crashes, how much does it matter? Does this mystical, mythical $2M disappear overnight? It doesn’t feel real if it’s not spent and if it’s spent then it isn’t real anymore at all. So it sits there, notated in an overly complex google spreadsheet that I look at each morning to see what it all looks like on that day. I open my computer and start trying to do work for my job that is fulfilling only in when I can help other people do their jobs that I’m uncertain if they find fulfilling or just acceptable in order to earn their own mystical, mythical money. I don’t know. I sit in meetings with senior executives who go off on some rant about something that at best doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the betterment of the world and at worst are stained with sociopathy and that sly smile in passive aggressive attack that only someone with way more money in the bank can slide across their face so damn effortlessly. Everyone is trying to prove to everyone else that they are needed for those ahead of them to win and so even with the best of intentions it becomes this sick game that I’m not cut out to play.

10 years. My father was still alive. Still diagnosed with cancer. Still dying. But alive. Still yelling at my mother. An artist of arrogance. We were all so much younger then. I try to tell myself. 10 years is a long time. 10 years from now my oldest will be 13. Thirteen. My youngest, either 11 or 9 depending if I have another. I’ll hopefully be alive, but 10 years is also a long time for one’s body to attack itself, for health to slowly… or rapidly fail. For my husband to be here or to be ill or not here at all. For my mother to make it to 78 or pass away in her 70s, at an age that no longer inspires those who hear of passing to gasp noting “she was so young” in their condolences. It seems at 70 or maybe 75 it becomes acceptable to die. In ones 80s no one would feel pity over an early death. And 90 is when one feels pity that the person is still living. How fast the years go. Especially if you don’t make the greatest effort to slow them down.

And how can you slow them down? How can I? Well, I feel like there is a choice here. A fork in the road. Like in Squid Game — everyone chooses to play, even after they see what is at stake. Here I am and I see ahead of me 10 years of my children aging from babies to teens and I wonder how much of those 10 years is worth trading for days of panic attacks and feeling horrible at my job and to tired to be much of a mother.

Quit now and move somewhere affordable seems both like an impossible movie plot and an actual life story that could be mine. If only I wanted it enough. And then my husband agreed to it as well. Which would be quite difficult, but if I really knew in my heart it was the right decision — I don’t know — maybe I could convince him we need to leave this place. In a year sell our house. Get away from the rat race. The rat jungle. The rat infestation and bro culture and imposter syndrome and open office spaces and egos and people do don’t have time to connect or build community or they want you to pay a lot to buy in to a community you’ll never be a part of anyway.

If I quit here and stayed here I’d surely eat into my savings quickly. I’d want to do things during the day and going for walks to local parks would get boring after a while, wouldn’t it? There is much to sign up for if you’re a stay at home mom but then you need the money to fund it. Writing is free, at least. But what about my kid’s activities? How do I make sure I have enough to support their lives? I feel that I owe them the upper middle class life I was raised into. I didn’t know how to provide that but somehow through luck and determination here I am. Upper middle class. I guess. It doesn’t feel it. Not like my parent’s generation. One working parent and a nice house with decently nice everything. I’m certainly well off now in most of the world. I certainly don’t feel it.

But I do feel I owe my kids a life at least as good as the one I had growing up. My sister, who makes $14 an hour, refuses to have children because she says she can’t afford them. Yet many people have kids with low incomes — it’s just we were raised into a certain style of childhood and life and we feel our kids deserve at least that. I don’t want my kids to be spoiled. I don’t think I was either. Not horribly so. A little. But not enough to sit on my ass and do nothing. My sister has an incredible work ethic but no belief in herself or her ability to do better. I have random spurts of energy and a character flaw that is my need above all else to prove that I can survive and fit in and thrive in a world that may not be worth surviving.

What if — one year from now — I’m sitting somewhere, some nondescript down maybe — watching waves of a lake-ocean-river-sea crash to shore. Maybe it’s thundering. Or drizzling. Or pouring.  And I’m soaked and running in puddles with my children who are still children. And they don’t remember mom everyday at her laptop working or avoiding working and looking at social media only to be working later when she shouldn’t be because she can’t focus or get anything done. They wouldn’t remember the mess of a house or limited meals but instead clean floors and nutritious fresh food. We’d go on playdates and maybe get to know some people. Really get to know them as friends and build a community, though that’s wishful thinking as being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t suddenly turn me into Miss Popular. But still. What kind of life would that be? One where I am watching my account balances shrink each month instead of grow. I’d be terrified.

That fear is what drives me. But I don’t want to get to 2031 and look back on the last 10 years and say I traded moments for money. I let myself fall into the trap of worrying every single fucking day and waking up each morning feeling sick to my stomach because I know I’ll never do a consistently good enough job at work. Because I’m always on the verge of losing my job and having to admit failure yet again. To pick myself up again. And spend months trying to prove myself. A few victories here and there but nothing enough to stick. And so on. 10 years of that. I don’t know if I can take 10 more years of that.

See, 10 years ago seems like a long time ago. But 4 years ago seems like practically no time at all. Sure, in that time I’ve had two kids and both have grown quite a bit, but that time is all a blur and it doesn’t feel like 4 years it feels like 3 months. Though there is so much of it that I don’t remember. That skips time. And I’m afraid the next 10 years will be that but even faster. So I desperately want to slow the time down. To be present with my family. To take time to be a mom, not a mom who is thinking about the 10 meetings she has the next week while assisting her sons onto an amusement park ride.

I should be grateful that I have the money I do have. It does provide some options. It’s enough to tease me with those options but not enough for the options to be all that real. It’s enough, earned fast enough, to throw in my face that if I leave the workforce I’m not only going to be digging into my savings, but I’m also giving up the opportunity to really get to a place of financial independence for a lifestyle I want to have for my family. Why not a few more months? A few more years? Why not just keep holding my breath until my bank account ticks up to the next hundred thousand? I’m thinking $2.5M before leaving this job, but why not stick around until $3? Why not find another job to take me to $4 or $5M? $5M is the ultimate goal, $200k a year of income from the growth. Maybe then. Maybe then I’ll feel like I can slow down. But when will then be? Will my mind be complete mush by then? It’s hard to say. I just know I’m tired. I’m so tired. I’m tired mentally and physically and I need to sleep. So I’ll sleep now and wonder more about how people make decisions and how I can make decisions and if I’m even allowed to since now I’m a mom and a breadwinner and a home owner and I don’t get to just pick up and change things if they get too hard. This is real adulting. And it better be because I’m fucking old now.

My Three Year Plan: $2.5M Net Worth, IVF, and Baby #3.

The only reason I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved thus far in life is, quite frankly, this blog. Well, the fact that this blog has, since I was 22, force me to plan my life in tiny increments and seemingly impossible goals that I’ve managed to reach time and again. Despite a ridiculous amount of setbacks caused by my mental health issues, here I am, just short of the goal of hitting $2M in networth (including husband’s savings) by 37, and before having baby #2.

But as my 30s come to a close, I have a few major goals to accomplish that are definitely not givens. While my husband and I lightly talked about having a third child should we have two sons first, this week my doctor completely ruined my “sex surprise” by blurting out the sex at my appointment. So it’s a boy. And I’m happy, I really am, and I just want my son to be healthy and yada yada. I know after my first childbirth with my first son ending up in the NICU, just having a smooth birth where baby comes out breathing is a big win. I’ll take that for sure.

Yet like many woman, I long for a daughter. I know it’s a silly thing–people aren’t defined by their genitals. I could have a daughter who decides she is more manly than my boys. Still… I know I’m not the only woman who wants to have a girl. I also know if I don’t at least try (as in use medical intervention to skew the odds in my favor) I’ll regret it. I also will feel that after two kids if it doesn’t work out, I will be sad but accept it. And if I can, in my ripe old birthing age of then 39, make magic happen–I’ll be quite happy.

So, without further ado, here are my goal for the next three years. Keep checking back here as I update with posts on if I’ve achieved any of these goals…

(All goals based on December EOM of the following years)

2020 (Age 37)

  • $2M in total family net worth
  • Own a home and live in it
  • Pregnant with baby #2
  • Keep job through maternity leave start (start in Jan 2021)
  • Don’t get COVID.

2021 (Age 38)

  • $2.5M in total family net worth (including home equity after potential commissions)
  • Live in home and enjoy it (meet the neighbors)
  • Pregnant with baby #2 (give birth in Jan)
  • Keep job through maternity leave (start maternity leave in January)
  • Remodel bathroom, fix electric, add HVAC/AC, epoxy garage floors, don’t let all plants and grass die around house)
  • Use 1 month of mat leave later in year to go back to my childhood home and visit family, help mother clean out house and prepare for sale 🙁
  • Go back to work in May/June, remain gainfully employed (and do a good job) through end of year. Complete vesting of first stock grant.

2022 (Age 39)

  • $2.75M in total family net worth (including home equity after potential commissions)
  • Begin IVF for baby #3 in March 2022 (or sooner, if weaning prior to 2 years of age); g-d willing, pregnant by September (expect to spend 100k on IVF with PGS but hoping to find a job that covers some of this cost)
  • New job by July 1, 2022 (ideally April 1, 2022) closer to my home

2023 (Age 40!!!!?!!!)

  • Survive and not freak out about being 40.
  • $3M!!!?! in total family net worth (including home equity after potential commissions)
  • Give birth to baby #3?!?!
  • Employed at a job I like, that I’m actually good at.

Hmm. I wonder if any of the above goals are possible. The 2M by end of this year is reasonable as the long as the stock market doesn’t totally tank. And I should defiantly be having a baby this January (and hopefully a healthy baby.) Everything else is very TBD.

But these are my goals. I think if I can reach 3M by 40 that would be pretty insane. That’s definitely a stretch goal, even with my husband’s savings added in. But go big or go home, right?

And… I am so scared about doing IVF to try to have my third child, a girl, at 39. I just can’t not try. And I’ve always wanted three kids. I just Never pictured myself pregnant at 40! Gosh, how did I get this old?

It’s the End of My Second First Trimester

Kid #2. There is less joy in this pregnancy. More practicality. I don’t think it’s the COVID situation but I’m sure that has something to do with it. My pregnancy is not one for celebration. It is one for survival to build the family I want. I haven’t post to social media to announce the news — nor to I plan to. No need for jokes about a making a “Covidia” or outpouring of concern. Yes, this baby was planned. You can’t really plan when you have a baby. But we planned to start trying in March and, well, bam, preggo.

I am excited. Excited when I watch my nearly 2 year old develop his own hilarious personality and wonder what this new kiddo will be like. Excited that one day, even if we live in a pandemic-ridden society forever, my son will have another kid to play with vs having to spend all his time with boring adults. It will take a while for that to really be a thing, given baby isn’t due until January and then it’s, well, a baby for at least 8 months or so, but eventually… he will have a live-in friend. Or enemy.  At least some age-appropriate entertainment outside of Sesame Place and turning his Little Tykes slide upside down and jumping on it.

I’m trying to embrace that things are going WELL for a change, but my anxiety is THROUGH THE ROOF. Well in that I’m actually doing a good job at work. I don’t think I’m doing a GREAT job, but I’m doing a REALLY GOOD job. It’s rare for me to say that. I can focus on what matters at home and because I get tired so often I can take breaks and no one cares. As long as I get my work done. It’s wonderful.

But I’m also extremely unhealthy. I’m not moving enough. I live in this 800 square foot 1br apartment and spend most of my day working from my bed. I know that’s horrible especially being pregnant. I need to force myself to move more. But then the days just disappear and I’m like well I guess I’ll get out tomorrow.

January will be rough. I don’t know how to imagine it. My husband and I with a toddler and an infant and probably no childcare and no sleep. If we’re lucky we buy a house where his dad can live and his dad watches our toddler while we go through the delirium that is the first few months child rearing.

I’m sad I won’t get to go to the prenatal fitness classes I loved so much in my first pregnancy, or go to the mom meetups after I give birth and heal enough to go outside. With my first born I took a child development class. I didn’t really stay friends with the moms because I suck at socialization but it was nice to be around other people going through the same thing. I took part in a PPD group at my therapy office and that was nice also, though I’m not sure I want to do that again anyway as I think I have heard the gamut of sad mom stories and at this point I need the strength to do this on my own.

I am nervous about telling my boss I’m pregnant. I’ll be in my second trimester in 2 weeks or so. I could tell her then. I kind of want to wait. She would be happier, I’m sure, if I give her plenty of warning. But things are going so well and I just want to show I can kick ass without her suddenly having to think on how to replace me next year when I’m gone for 5-6 months. It also is awkward to bring up on our zoom 1x1s that are usually so tactical and productive. We don’t small talk much. I will probably just email here before a 1×1 in a few weeks. Very matter of fact. I’m pregnant and I am due on X date and I plan to be out these dates and that’s that. Then if she wants to discuss beyond a quick “congrats” she can. Or we can just bookmark it and she can start shopping for my replacement even though I’m coming back but we all know when you go on maternity leave you lose your step in the career ladder.

Do I care? Not sure. Kind of? I’m not a lifer but I certainly plan to stay a while. And things are finally going well and it is just a shame that I have to pause everything and start over again. But maybe that’s ok. I can use a “break” even though having a kid is NOT a break but it at least is a mental break from my job with another job that is not sleeping and changing poop and having my nipples ripped off by an itty bitty cute baby mouth.

it feels like I’m about to take this massive step to adulthood–home ownership. Second child. Yadayada. I don’t feel like an adult. I just feel tired. I guess that is what being an adult is supposed to feel like, huh?

Slow FI / FIRE / FIOR / FATfire / YOLO: What’s your strategy?

Coming off of many years in startups, where you must drink the company kool-aid and believe you are simultaneously changing the world and building something that will one day make you rich (spoiler alert: it won’t), I have to say I’ve enjoyed the move into a public company where people still work hard, but also have lives. Well, at least some of them do.

I’ve been reading a lot on the FIRE concept (financial independence retire early) movement, which has unofficially been my own movement since I earned my first paycheck. Well, I more took the route that catastrophe can hit at any second, so you better have a lot of money saved up just in case. With that mindset, I just started spending less than I earned, and as I earned more, I kept my spending proportionately low, for the most part.

There are some people out there who are happy making $200k+ a year and living in RVs in their work parking lots, but that’s not my style. I’m not on the full-on FIRE bandwagon. I also don’t want to live a life in “retirement” where I can only take 4% of our my savings per year. And, heck, I like contributing to society and earning a living–I’d like just a bit more flexibility.

Hiring a CFP this year was definitely a wake up call. I thought having $1M+ saved now we’d be in a good place–but with our current spending and plans to purchase a house in a HCOL area (and my husband who will only commit to making $60k-$90k a year), there is no “early retirement” in my life. Either we leave this area–which isn’t happening, I win the stock market lotto, or I have to work for the next 30 years making $150,000 a year.

Can you blame me for still hoping to win the stock market lotto?

I don’t think it’s worth it to go back to a private company, unless I found my own–and who has the time/confidence/social skills for that? So, public companies it is. I’m thinking I can increase my happiness at work by switching from my current department to one that works together more as a team and where success is based on how happy you make someone else (ie customer service) — though I’m sure there’s plenty bad in other fields and plenty good in my current career I’m not seeing because I’m just burnt out.

I hired a career counselor I’m seeing next month to help me sort it out. I’m paying her $300 and then $400 a month subsequently to try to understand if there’s a place I can make money and not be miserable all the time, or if being miserable is so ingrained in my DNA that I might as well just stick with this career that enables me to save and maybe retire “early”–like at 64.

A Widowed Mother Who Lost Her Wealth (And a Grieving Daughter Trying to Help)

My family was never wealthy, but for my entire life we’ve been more than comfortable–comfortable enough to not pay close attention to our spending. While we never took lavish vacations (unless paid for by points acquired through my father’s work), we didn’t budget. We should have.

As an adult with my own job and an understanding of the value of a dollar (and my motto – no matter how much you make, every cent counts), I’ve managed to build up a networth of over $650k, give or take, at age 35. I want to be proud of that. I want to enjoy this as some sort of accomplishment. But I can’t. I can’t because I feel incredibly guilty and lost when it comes to helping my mother out of the financial mess she is in right now.

Some may look at her situation and say it’s not that bad. I guess it isn’t, but it will be soon if she doesn’t plug up the holes in her sinking ship. Not all of the holes are her fault–but she’s just so delusional and has no ability to stop spending. It is impossible for me to advise her beyond subtle suggestion that she cease spending when my parents paid for my college education, a nice wedding, and an overall nice life. Part of me feels like I ought to help her out and provide the funds to plug up some of those holes. And–most of me knows that even if I were to give her my entire $650k, she’d still find a way to burn through it.

This is a long story… a very long story… and one that is keeping me up at 2am with a newborn who is sleeping so I really ought to be sleeping. I can’t sleep. I can’t do anything but let my mind spin on this giant dilemma, trying to find some sort of solution to the puzzle. There isn’t one that’s pretty or that my mother will agree to. But, after sitting back and letting my recently-deceased father make a mess of the finances in his last years of life (not that I had much say in that, but I could have maybe done something… more on that in a minute)… I feel like NOW I have the opportunity to stop this sinking ship before it reaches the bottom of the ocean.

The picture was looking rather unfortunate on the first go-round of budget vs income that I quickly ran after my father passed away this summer and my mother had to make some decisions about her social security survivor’s benefits (which are confusing as hell, yet to be fully understood, and the subject of another post I’ll write one day.)

As we did more digging, we uncovered that in 2014 there was $1M in an IRA. By 2017, only $400k remained. During that time, there was the purchase of a second home which cost, including renovations, about $100k (or maybe more because my parents seemed to always underestimate the cost of their renovations and not keep tab.) There was my wedding, which, at $50k, was a lovely affair and something that made my dying father beam with joy, but was an event that never should have happened given the financial situation my father either somehow didn’t understand or hid from me and the family. He said, over and over again, he had $50k set aside for my wedding and $50k for my sister’s. He said many things. I’ll never know if he was delusional due to the cancer drugs, unrelated mental illness, old age, or maybe just a serial liar–to not only us but himself.

When he was working he was bringing in good money, at least for a middle class household. Ironically the man who left his family without a stable retirement spent his life’s work as an actuary–planning pensions for companies and accessing risk of running out of money to fund those pensions. I try to find humor in this.

But then, and I guess I didn’t realize this since I was already away at college, he stopped working around age 55 due to his obesity and mobility issues, and then shortly after that began collecting disability. His work paid out nicely for a few years, and also offered a good pension, but the reality was (and where I was blind sighted is) that the amount coming in did not cover the amount spent. I don’t know the exact gap, but it was substantial, and ignored.

Although the wedding was a big expense and the second home purchase wasn’t for pennies,  what really did them in, based on my research into the last 10 years of spending, was their crazy high expenses. My mother, ever in denial, would say she doesn’t spend like rich people do, then come home with piles of clothes “on sale” from Chicos or some “non luxury” store, not to mention a pile of face creams on auto-purchase from QVC and who knows what else. Then, there was the dining out bills, and the $600-a-month house cleaning services (I’ve convinced her to drop that to 2x at $300 a month.)

I’m not one to judge how they spent their money — they had a right to spend it any way they wanted. And I understand my father, facing certain death, wanted to enjoy his limited wealth in his final years. It was just the perfect storm of financial chaos. Even his long term care policy, dutifully paid into for many years, likely costing over $20,000, ended up going unused because he refused to admit he was dying–or, perhaps because he realized that the policy didn’t actually cover enough to not require dipping further into the shrinking retirement savings left.

With this, I’m left to wonder if my father, as ill as he was, didn’t go to doctors outside of his cancer doctor because he hated going to the doctor–or, if part of this was because he couldn’t afford the treatment. In the end it wasn’t the cancer that killed him, but issues with his heart and blood pressure–perhaps related to his cancer treatments, but undoubtedly something he could have had treated better over his life and especially those final years… but he chose to only focus on his cancer. If his goal was to die of something other than cancer, then he succeeded. I’m pretty sure his goal was to live forever and he couldn’t think of the world any other way. I get that, no one wants to admit they’re dying–but when you are facing a terminal illness and are told you have 2 years to live (and then you manage to live more than 10) at the very least you can pick out a funeral plot and prepay for a burial, not leaving your wife to run around to cemeteries the day after you die to pay the highest possible amount for both of your graves (yes, this happened. Yes, I was out-of-my-mind with a one-week-old at this time, trying to provide advice.)

But now–now the biggest issue, and the one I find saddest–is that we’ve uncovered a horrible situation regarding taxes. Taxes unfiled and unpaid. All of the numbers I’ve been running to try to save her primary home in the northeast–which, while worth $500k, has a $200k home equity loan out on it, by the way–were thrown out the window. And I threw my hands in the air. I give up. This is looking bleak. Sure, she can cut all of her spending. She can stop the house cleaning services and limit work on the house to only vital fixes for a while… nothing cosmetic. But even then, she starts dipping into that small $400k IRA immediately–which shrinks to almost nothing after the taxes are paid, and she has nothing left to pay the home equity that comes due in 2020 and flips to principle and interest at 3x what she’s currently paying.

In short, the only real answer is to sell one of the properties, and sooner than either of us would like. I’ve told her clearly that the northeast home, while a place that holds all of my memories as a child, and one I’d love to keep, is a complete money suck and sadly I think it needs to go. She agrees, but wants years to clean it out (she’s a hoarder and my attempts to help her get rid of things on my last visit, outside of taking care of a 3 month old, did not make a lot of progress.) I selfishly want the house to stick around for a while too–although it won’t be the home for my “dream” visits with my family… holiday visits to grandma and grandma — long summer nights with my kid(s) playing in the backyard through the sprinklers, running after fireflies like I did as a child–I thought maybe a smidgen of this could exist.

I know a house is just home and a home is just a house. I’ve lived enough places since leaving that house now… gasp… 18 years ago. I mean, I knew, deep down, we couldn’t hold on to it forever. Mom would move out when dad died at some point. But either time went by too fast or I didn’t think it would be this soon. She clearly wants to stay there… but it’s not possible, especially not with the vacation home as well.

She could potentially sell the vacation home, which would pay off some of the home equity. But she doesn’t want to do that, and I think it wouldn’t be wise anyway–they invested quite a bit in renovating that property and, while it’s small, it is a good place for her to live in her “young” old age. Even though some of her friends still live in our development in the northeast, many are moving away, and few still go to the social gatherings she goes to–whereas the 55+ community with the vacation home is filled with active seniors, at least in the winter months. I’m worried about how she’ll like it there in the summer when it gets extremely hot with violent storms and most of the residents leave to the north–but maybe she’ll be ok. She seems to find people to talk to wherever she goes (or talk “at”, but to her there’s no difference and she’s pleased either way.) So, the financial planner in me says — get her out of the northeast home as fast as possible. Like, yesterday fast.

But she’s committed to not moving until at least 2020, and she still thinks she can make it there much longer. She keeps asking me how long she can stay and I try to explain to her that there’s no exact number because the question becomes how much she needs left in her IRA to grow to afford her lifestyle–AND what is going to happen to her later in life if she needs long term care (since my father cancelled her long term care policy years ago saying it was too expensive.)

Now, she does have an after-tax income of $60k+ per year once she gets full social security benefits. That’s pretty darned good. If she had one home, especially one home that doesn’t cost as much as one with a lot of property and an aging architecture, then maybe she’ll be fine. She can sell the house, pay off the home equity, take the remaining $250k or so to pay off the taxes (est $80k) and family loan ($30k), and then take the remaining $150k and, ideally, invest that somewhere safe, while slowly drawing down the IRA and minimizing tax damage in the future.

She could, alternately, sell the vacation condo and put that money into the northeast home, but the costs are just too high there and she’ll still run out of money. I think with the vacation home she can actually live on her income, even if she wants to travel to visit her grandson or spend some time in NY.

The problem is, the longer she stays in the NJ home, the harder it is to ensure her life when she moves is financially ok. What I don’t want to happen is that she burns through her IRA in a few years because of credit card bills and loans and having to pay this ridiculous amount of taxes that sadly are just so high because of penalties due to my father not filing (yes, getting to that in a minute)…

So the taxes… I really don’t know what happened. My father always, ALWAYS paid the right amount each year. He didn’t always file on time–but if you pay the right amount and don’t file the IRS doesn’t actually care. Somehow, whether on purpose or by massive mistake, he was short about $23k one year and $18k the next. The $42k in taxes owed is crappy, but the penalties on that because it was never fixed are what is extraordinarily sad. For that money, not only did he take too much out of the IRA in two years to cause such high taxes owed, but he ALSO then didn’t pay those taxes or file or anything. I want to ask him WHY? But I can’t. Because, you know, he died. And I’m still dealing with processing that and all these feelings I have around wanting to empathize with him for being such a sad, sick man but also then being angry and grateful and who knows what else–is why I can’t sleep.

I’m now looking at any tax relief available to my mother, but it seems unlikely she will get any help from the IRS. Innocent Spouse theoretically applies to her–my father was abusive to her for years and refused to let her partake in household finances, even when she offered, and later, begged–especially regarding the taxes. He would yell at her and occasionally become violent. There are even police records of this (though not in the years the taxes are owed.) But “innocent spouse,” as far as I can tell, is for partners who lied on their returns. Well, he didn’t file a return, so there’s not much innocent spouse we can claim…

Now there is an abatement of penalty clause where, if you were in good standing the 3 years before the year you failed to file, you can get the penalties waived for that one year. But you only get to do this once. Not only was my father failing to file year after year (always having paid the full amount on time except apparently in 2011 when he had a small payment plan), it’s impossible to know if he already requested this one time penalty abatement. There are no records. He did all of his own taxes. My mother is perplexed–after going through all the of the papers… she says to me, it doesn’t make sense–where are all the taxes? The papers from the IRS?

My theory is he, either strategically or in a rage or in a fit of paranoia, threw them all out one day. Maybe he just straight up lost his mind and got rid of a box of important things by accident. Maybe he realized he did that and was so ashamed he just gave up on ever doing the taxes. Who knows.

One thing is for sure – he refused help–even from his few close friends and his family. And, for a man who said he wanted to leave his family with wealth and ensure his wife was financially ok for the rest of her life (which never made sense to me given how emotionally abusive to her on a daily basis) he sure made quite the mess. He just couldn’t admit he was struggling. He had way too much pride. And, in his final years, he didn’t want to accept his mortality. He told my mother she was overspending, but then he’d overspend himself. He once asked my mother how much my aunt and uncle gave me for my wedding — $500. He immediately wrote out a check to their daughter for $600! It wasn’t about generosity with him, though he’d like you to think it was. It was always about showing off how generous he was.

Even during the year of my wedding–I offered to pay for more of the wedding up front, even if he wanted to pay, so he wouldn’t have to withdraw so much out of his IRA that year. I knew the taxes would be high. No, he said. He was offended by the suggestion. He had the money and he wanted to spend it. Yes, I have guilt for spending it, but I didn’t know how bad things looked. Last I heard there was still $1M in the bank and a home that was paid off. I failed to dig in too much–but as blind as I was with eyes shut to the downfall of the great American dream, my mother seemed to have clawed her eyes out in order to be incapable of looking.

So now what? I have my own life to sort out here. I’m doing well, but have a long way to go. My first batch of RSUs vest in a few weeks… and with that I should have a $50k bonus after tax (should the stock market not completely disintegrate before Christmas) and I could say, you know what, mom, you guys paid for my college and wedding, and now I’m gifting you $50k (or, $15k in 2018 and $15k in 2019 and so on.) But what good would that really do? She needs to understand the value of money. I think I’m starting to get through to her a little bit. I paid for dinner the other night and she actually said thank you. It’s not that I want her to have to thank me – it’s that I want her to realize the value of a dollar. It may be too late to fix this mess… but maybe it isn’t. Maybe I can gift her a happy next however many years she has… for as narcissistic and childish as my mother is, I still think she’s been beaten down by an emotionally abusive mother then an emotionally and physically abusive husband, and she deserves the right to happiness in her old age. She has to throw out the clutter and really be wiling to simplify… and that would be good for all of us.

I just don’t know if I can convince her of this in time, and also let go from my crazy ideas to “save” my childhood home by either purchasing it or providing enough money in gift form to pay off the home equity or… plenty of bad ideas that not only wouldn’t help stop the bleeding, but also could financially ruin me as well. So I hope we can all make the right decisions and fast enough to stabilize and move on from this challenging period of our lives.

On Turning 34 and What This Year May Bring

I’ve been dreading this moment… but I guess it’s not that bad. Today, I’m 34 years old. As I’ve noted before — 34 is an age that’s no longer a smidgen of “still 21.” 33, somehow, as close as it is to one’s late 20s, can still have moments of play back to ripe out of college “it’s ok I’m too young to know better.” 34 – I’ve finally given in and admitted I’m a real adult.

So, what have I accomplished in these 34 years? And what did I hope to accomplish in them?

As a child, I definitely never pictured myself beyond 30, so it’s hard to say what I thought I would be like. I definitely assumed after 30 I’d have a husband and children, although I had no clear vision of exactly what that would look like. I couldn’t even imagine finding a husband, so I successfully accomplished that without understanding how or what it would look like!

In my 34 years of life, I’ve accomplished (in no particular order:)

  • Got married / found a guy who will put up with me and loves me, who I love equally back.
  • Invested/saved over $500,000
  • Been through 3 careers and… 10 jobs (which may or may not be an “accomplishment” but for the sake of my birthday I’m calling t one.)
  • Successfully moved across the country from my family and set up a life in an area where I knew very few people, and built a life for myself here.
  • Learned that living in a one bedroom apartment with two people can be an acceptable and enjoyable way of living.
  • Became closer with my sister (even though she lives on the east coast) and hope to continue making that relationship stronger.
  • Mostly gave up on trying to be a normal person and instead started accepting myself for the weirdo I am.

Now, what’s next? What does 34 hold? If my hopes and dreams and potentially accurate test are right, 34 might hold the birth of my first child. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much — but after $4000 spent on infertility treatments, it would be an absolutely lovely birthday gift to actually be pregnant this cycle. And, as of 8:30am on Friday, November 24th, this is quite possible…

I took a “trigger” shot on Nov 10 at 9pm (which is HCG – the same hormone that turns pregnancy tests positive) but it should be out of my system by now. Although I wasn’t supposed to, I’ve taken cheap-o stick pregnancy tests (not the digital ones) for the past three days, to start “testing out” my trigger — and the first test was very very light, you had to squint to see the line. By yesterday the line was definitely there. Today, it’s still light but also definitely there.

As I’ve read (too much about), there are still so many things that can go wrong at this point in a pregnancy (if it is a pregnancy.) It could be a chemical pregnancy. You could (likely) miscarry within the first few weeks. Or later (that would be awful.) There are SO MANY THINGS that can go wrong.

That said, I’m convinced I’m having twins* (haha) that will be born in August. I’m aiming for 8/8/18 since the due date, if I’m currently pregnant, would be 8/4/18 and what’s a few more days? Time to start doing those Kegels, amirite?

(*note – twins are possible since I had two mature follicles at my last ultrasound before the trigger, and given how much nausea I felt last week around supposed implementation time, it could be more than one. OR, it could be none. But, anything is possible right now.

Even though I’m still a bit of a mess, I really do feel ready to be a mother. As ready as I’ll ever be. I’m 90% done with cleaning my apartment (not just cleaning, but organizing all my crap and getting rid of things I don’t need) and I just feel like I’m at a place where I can go into mommyhood in a 1 bedroom apartment and be ok with it, especially with one kid, at least until they’re two or so. Then we’ll have to figure things out.

The extra good news is that my current job/company is fairly flexible with some employees working remote. That means if I can knock it out of the park for two years or so, perhaps we could move somewhere more cost effective and I can maintain the same role/salary/benefits, which would be amazing. I am, quite frankly, terrified of being able to keep my job through what will likely be the birth of my 2 children (If I can have kids) as I already struggle with my mental health challenges and I’m sure lack of sleep will make it difficult to be a high-value employee. But I’m going to do it – somehow.

I really hope this pregnancy test is accurate and not still showing my trigger shot. I got those horrible headaches and that nausea last weekend, which would have been around the time of implantation.  No implementation bleeding, but apparently that only happens in about 30% of pregnancies.

Here’s to a great “34th” year on this earth. My goals for this year are pretty simple… have one child (and keep that child alive and healthy until I’m 35), buy a couch, keep a clean home, keep my job, and hit $600k networth by (or shortly after) turning 35. I’m feeling good about my prospects, except maybe the having a kid part — but I could be pregnant right now so that could be the easiest goal to hit of them all.

Exhausted and Fully Into That Next Phase of Life

Looking at the thinning skin on my hands, the creping around my knuckles and veins starting to show through my translucent skin not only in color but texture, I know I’m well into adulthood. My wedding earlier this year was a bit of a shock as it was the end of a prolonged young adulthood, years of being stuck in that obligatory urban millennial purgatory of minimal responsibility outside of paying one’s bills and getting a modicum of sleep every night.

Then, poof, I’m a married, working women with no more childhood romantic notions to play to, no more weddings to plan, no more wonderlands to chase. Not yet a mother, but the same age of many peers who have children approaching puberty, I am still childfree and tired nonetheless from stressing out epically over job after job where I can’t quite perform at the level required for success, only relentlessly tread to try to stay above water. Continue reading Exhausted and Fully Into That Next Phase of Life

We All End Up There in the End

I’ve always been afraid of dying, but after visiting my now deceased grandmother’s “home” in Las Vegas, I gained a new fear of living. Aging is not a fun process by any means as we lose control of our minds and our bodies towards our inevitable fate.

Why am I thinking about this on Christmas? My husband’s grandmother, who is in her 90s, is in one of those homes and the situation, from what I gather, is not a good one. When you’re in your 90’s – even if you are mentally intact – you often lose your autonomy. If you are lucky, you have a family member who genially cares for your well being who is given power of attorney  over you and everything in your life. Where you live, when you go to the doctor, when you can go for a walk, and practically how often you’re allowed to breathe per day. Continue reading We All End Up There in the End

And So Life Begins… Thoughts on Turning 33

In five days, I will be turning 33 years old. I was just reminiscing the time of my life when I thought 33 was quite old, and I realized I still think it’s substantially ancient. Sure, I have a lot of years ahead of me, but 33 is no longer my “early 30s” which could pass off as an accidental overage of my 20s. Thirty-three is serious adult business.

I honestly never pictured myself at 33 because I couldn’t imagine it. I’m not sure how many people see themselves as working professionals or mothers or whatever else it is 33 is supposed to be when they’re younger, but I didn’t have any sort of vision of who I’d be at this age. If a six-figure salary and wedding ring on my finger = success then I guess I’ve made it. But I feel ridiculously behind and lost, which is much scarier at this age than it was my 20s. Continue reading And So Life Begins… Thoughts on Turning 33