Regarding My Relationship

A few of you responded to my last post that I sound like I’m unhappy with my current relationship. After all, I’m jealous of my friend who has an engineer for a fiancee, who is paying for her house.

Yes, I am jealous. But I also have come to a point in my life where I know money isn’t everything. It isn’t even necessary for happiness.

I dated an attorney for 2 years. He was in law school when we first started going out. He claimed he wasn’t in it for the money, but he had a certain standard of living that it was clear he didn’t want to give up. He wanted to build on that. He now owns a nice 1.5 bedroom condo in a decent area of San Francisco. I broke up with him because he was too ambitious. He cared much more about his career than his relationship. There was a coldness about him too. Robotic, almost. He was in it, even more so, for the challenge of his job, the intellectual splendor of it.

A lot of people are like this. And I respect them. And some days I want to be dating them. But really, I know that’s not the life I can lead.

My current guy… despite lacking ambition… or being afraid of having ambition… is the sweetest man I have ever known. He’s truly a “good” guy. I love that we could spend an entire evening cuddling and watching old episodes of some series we’re trying to catch up on. Of course, the relationship isn’t perfect. I’d love if he would so much as ask for a raise at work, but he won’t. He lives at home, his mom has saved up enough to send him to grad school if he ever wants to go, so he doesn’t need to earn much. I’m his biggest cost… he buys me food every once in a while. Without me, he practically wouldn’t even have to work. He didn’t… for a year after he graduated college, he didn’t work. It took me nagging and him being annoyed at me nagging and me stopping nagging for him to get an internship and then finally a job.

So yea, that bugs me a bit. But it’s not like I’m Ms. Ambitious either. I’ve gotten “let go” more times than I can count because depression or anxiety got in the way. I happen to be doing… well, pretty good right now, but that can change at any moment. My lawyer boyfriend really looked down on me when I was going through a dark time in my life, when I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life. My current bf, I know he doesn’t care whether I’m out there bringing in the bucks or just making ends meet. He loves me regardless. And I really do love him whether or not he makes $100k a year… or $25k.

I also am rational and know that one day, if I want to own a house or have a family, money matters. It feels like romance and a relationship should be different than the business partnership that is marriage. Yea, you’re super lucky if you get both, but I don’t like to mix my love life with business. It always ends badly.

My Friend’s Giant Brick House

When I went back home over the Thanksgiving Holiday, I spent a little bit of time with my childhood friend, Sara*, who always had a bit of competition going with me. We were frienemies for much of our adolescent years, but as we got older we started to get along again.

This trip home I got to see her brand new house. While she’s still in school, she’s engaged to an engineer who seems to be footing most of the bill for the residence. To give Sara credit, she’s also working full time while studying full time. She’s also terribly judgmental and seems to think that if one is renting it’s silly because you should just buy a house. She also thinks her house isn’t big enough, despite that only two people will be living there and it has four bedrooms (two will be used for offices, one for a guest room.)

The other thing is, back on the east coast, you can get a lot more for your money. Her house, which cost about $475k, costs as much as a studio does out here in The Bay Area. Nuts. So she’s living an hour from NYC and can get a damn house for that. A nice house. With a pool in the backyard.

She is doing tons of renovations to the house (well, her fiance is… he’s redoing the entire inside.) She’s in charge of the design. He does the work. They both seem fairly happy about it. They own a home. Sara owns a home. She’s 25. Like me.

I got back to California a few days ago. The bright winter sun warmed my skin as I stepped out the door in the morning. I took my daily drive down 280, a highway which has a beauty that never grows old despite how often I drive it. I smiled because here I feel so happy, and what makes me happy here is entirely free. The nature, my boyfriend, the sun. Even my job – for the most part – makes me happy here. So I figure back east people need huge houses to decorate because everything else is so fugly. Or at least in Jersey, where I grew up.

Still, I’d like to own a house. At least, I think I would. But I’m not dating an engineer. I’m dating a guy who makes $17 an hour and refuses to ask for a raise. It makes me nervous that who I’m with defines partly what my life will be. When, or if I’ll ever be able to afford a house. And I’m jealous of my friend who is marrying a very charming engineer. And I wonder if I ought to be strategic when it comes to love over the long term. Or if I should just deal with the fact that I’ll be part of the disappearing middle class, able to rent but probably not to own. These sorts of things have me rather attracted to any men I meet who have that breadwinner sort of vibe. That’s a dangerous thing to feel… especially when there are so many men out there who take pride in making money. My boyfriend, on the other hand, would be more than content living in a cardboard box… as long as he had access to a daily shower.

So with him, it’s up to me to make my fortune. To earn it. And I don’t trust that I’m the type who can make that kind of money. I mean, enough to buy a house. A house in the bay area. With a view of something other than another house. And a little bit of land. And such.

What is my American Dream? Do I need to date someone different to achieve it? Should I be envious of my friend… or just determined to prove I can make enough money to support myself and live a life of relative luxury?

Economy Woes

Some people, some people who have a family to support, have lost their jobs. By those standards, I’m doing fine. I’m doing great! But it still sucks to see business opportunities, especially fairly stable ones, in the middle of the fiscal crossfire.

For the last two years or so, I’ve been providing copy to my uncle’s one-man marketing firm. It started out as a gig writing some article summaries, and I made $50 a month. Over time, we upped it to more writing assignments and a $400 retainer. That was when times were good. Now, some companies are cutting back on their e-marketing budgets, which means they’re cutting back on him. And he has to cut back on me.

The good news is that I still have my day job. Well, it’s a day job on a contract that expires Jan 22. And my company is also, howdoyousay, skimming the fat from the company. Contractors are the first to go. We still have a good runway of VC bucks behind us, but they’re now concerned that even with that, we won’t make the revenue we need through advertising and other means because the economy is vacationing in the gutter. I’ve only been working there a year and a month, but in that year the world has changed. I may not have a job come Jan 22, and that’s freaking me out.

Chances are, if I do my job well – and i need to do my job well – they’ll keep me on as a contractor. I’ve been pushing for a full-time gig (which basically means I’ll get some employee-pays-a-little health benefits and won’t have to pay self-employement tax) but they’re pushing back, saying that they need to be really careful about new hires. Of course, I’m supposed to work from the office 4 days a week and 40 hours a week, which seems legally to be an “employee.” But what do I know?

I recently took advantage of my contractor status by traveling and working remotely for about 2.5 weeks. It’s a double-edged sword, because they could very easily use that against me when deciding whether or not to hire me full time. I probably should be in 5 days a week if I really want to get hired on. I guess when it comes down to it, I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the idea of trading in my one-day-a-week work-from-home gig for health benefits. Sounds stupid, but with my anxiety disorder I need a day to just be away from people and focus on my work.

So… my uncle hasn’t gotten back to me on how much I’ll be making a month now that one company cut their monthly newsletter to quarterly. But it won’t be $400. That $400 really put me in a comfortable salary point given my cost of living. Plus, if I ever want to actually save up for year one of grad school before I go, then I need the money. That doesn’t seem possible either, though.

My Parents Make Me Sad

[edited to add: a lot of you have left comments offended by my question if it’s wrong to hope for some inheritance from one’s parents one day down the road. I responded to the comments, but also wanted to note higher up in the post for future readers — I agree my parents owe me nothing. They have already given me so much, and for that I’m grateful. My father raised me and my sister always mentioning how one day we’d get the house a long time in the future, so in the back of my mind I just thought that would happen. My dad worked his whole life spending 8 hours a day plus a long hour-and-a-half commute, and he made a sizable income. My mother, who took care of the kids and house, always spent frivolously and taught me very bad spending habits. She is very narcissistic and only thinks about others when it benefits her. Thus, my hurt more than anything is the difference between the way my father thinks in terms of leaving something behind to his children versus the selfish nature of my mother. My father is dying of cancer and my mother will likely survive much longer than him, with all the money he saved hard all his life to have and spend in retirement. Ultimately, while an inheritance would be nice, I’m not expecting it or depending on it. It’s more of the principle of the matter, if that makes any sense. One day when I have children and get older, I want to be able to leave them something, to have something to pass on after my life. I don’t want them to expect that of me, but as a mother that’s something I’d like to do if I have the financial means. In much of history and even today, a person’s wealth is determined by two things – family and ability. Maybe with a little luck thrown in. If you want to judge me for thinking about these things, go ahead. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think them and I won’t be the last.]

My dad, now retired and receiving a pension of over $4k a month, is watching his money flush down the train, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Well, perhaps there is, but any reasonable way of maintaining financial sanity within my family is overwhelmed by his inability to be rational and my mother’s complete lack of ability to comprehend reality.

I tried to help my family out. When I went home, I found out a bit more about the financial situation. My dad is retired, he has a little under $1 Mil in the 401k, which is less than it was, of course, since the market is in the shitter. That’s a decent sum for retirement, I guess, though they do say you should save $1 mil per adult, and that’s $1 Mil for 2. Regardless, that should be enough, if spending is wise. It doesn’t even have to be frugal. But my mom refuses to accept that money, even that much money, is finite.

So they took out a $190k home equity loan to build on a new room to the house recently, and while my dad is keeping up on paying the interest, he isn’t paying off more than a few hundred dollars of the principal every other month or so. He can’t. My mom is spending something like $7000 a month. Or more. It’s really sad. That’s on top of what my dad spends on living… mostly food and medical bills (oh, yea, he has cancer, and has tons of co-pays for his doctor’s appointments and drugs).

They don’t need to be spending that much. It’s mostly my mom’s fault when it comes to this. My dad doesn’t buy a lot. He has to spend the money on his medical bills. But my mom is just ridiculous. She spent $1000 on 5 pairs of shoes recently. When I ask her why she needed 5 pairs of shoes, she explains that when she finds something that fits she has to buy it, and a lot of it, because what if she never finds something that fits again?

Beyond the clothes, there’s jewelery, makeup, a cleaning service that costs $800 a month (to clean the house once a week), overspending on groceries ($800 a month), etc, etc. And of course the few hundred on QVC each month. Which she watches picture-in-picture on her big-screen TV at all times to make sure she doesn’t miss out on deals.

So… is it wrong to be upset that she will spend away any inheritance I might have otherwise one day seen? My dad is more of a saver than a spender, and he always said that he saved up enough money that one day he’d pass it on to us, his two daughters. But he’s not going to live as long as my mother is and she’ll be left with all of his savings to spend into debt. And that’s what she’ll do. At this rate, I don’t think 1 mil minus the $190 in home equity minus my sister’s college education will last her.

Even without considering a potential inheritance, this situation is whack. I keep trying to tell my mom to get a job but she says she doesn’t have time. Yea, because she’s spending her whole life glued to the TV and QVC. She says she spends all day cleaning, and the house is never clean enough, yada yada. It’s one excuse after another. My mom is absolutely crazy.

My dad has given up at trying to get her to budget. She doesn’t listen. He used to scream about it. Now he just screams about other things. It’s so messed up. And I can’t do anything about it… except just be wise about my own financial life. It’s hard to change my psychology of spending based on how my parents taught me about money, but I’m trying… really, really hard. Ok, sort of hard.

Making Money Online Through Affiliate Programs

Have any of you made money online through blog affiliate programs? If so, which ones did you use?

I’m testing out sugar’s new affiliate program called “ShopStyle.” I really doubt I’ll make any money off of it, but it’s worth a shot.

Basically, I post pics to cute things to buy.

For this blog, only affordable things are allowed. 🙂

This wallet is cute. It’s just $24.

Fred Flare at ShopStyle

How much will my taxes really be this year?

It’s my first year as a 1099 worker. I’m still unclear on what my tax rate is, and how much I will owe in taxes this year. I just hope that I’ve saved enough.

It looks like my overall earnings this year will be $60k.

That puts me in the 25% federal tax bracket.
So I owe the feds $15,000.

Then state taxes are 9.3%
I owe the state $5580.

Self employment tax is 15.3%
I owe an additional $9180

Totaling $29,760 in taxes for 2008.

Then I have minimal “income” from dividends, interest and such, which I will owe tax on.

I assume that means I will owe $30,000 in taxes, or 50% of my income.

That seems rather high, am I doing my math wrong?

Managing Outsourcing

I was recently assigned the task of managing a team of outsourced workers for a small project at my company. As part of this assignment, I must interview and hire candidates through an online tool that allows me to find a low-cost workforce.

This is my first experience truly managing a project, and also working with offshore help. From a purely financial standpoint, the staff is very cost effective if they follow the instructions and produce quality work. However, I am feeling queasy regarding paying someone $2 an hour. I know in the Philippines and such $2 is worth more than it is here, but I can’t imagine it’s a livable wage.

However, this is the world we live in and in order to keep up in business, I think I must accept that offshore labor is an evil necessity. And my current goal is to keep costs down as much as possible. I feel like a slave driver. I do not like this feeling. But I do like the numbers.

Security Deposit Bounced – IRX on Bank Statement

My last apartment sent my security deposit to my permanent mailing address… in NJ. So it took a few months for me to get that check. I cashed it a few weeks ago, but apparently it was too old, and it bounced. I saw “IRX” on my bank statement for $585 and didn’t know what that meant, but thanks to Google I figured it out.

So now, on top of voting against Prop 8 and for Obama, tomorrow I have to figure out how to get my security deposit. It will be a busy day.

Speaking of apartments and housing, my current living arrangement is great. Moving here was the best decision I’ve made in a long, long time. I’m saving so, so much money. Instead of living in my last apartment, which would have cost me $1200 a month this year (!!!) + cable and internet, I’m paying just $612.50 a month + about $50 – $60 for bills. So $700 compared to $1300 a month. Sure, I have less space, but I don’t really need that much space. And living with roommates is pretty fun, as long as the roommates are fun and laid back.

Stocks are slowly going up. I’m worried for Obama. That’s all for today.

Election’s ’08, Holding My Breath

Tuesday is a very important day. It will decide a great deal about our nation’s future, especially in terms of the years of my life when this sort of stuff matters.

That is, as a child I was relatively oblivious to politics, financial market upsets, and while I understood what war was, it didn’t effect me personally. Now, as a soon-to-be 25-year-old adult, all of this is very relevant in my life. If Obama wins, I may have health insurance again. If McCain wins, well it’s 4 more years of Bush. I don’t mind McCain, it’s Palin I’m afraid of.

I believe in the constitution, and strongly believe in social and economic freedom that, for the most part, goes unregulated by government. Because government is usually wrong. But when it comes down to things that make the people of our country better – healthier, smarter, and prepared for the competition in the international marketplace, the government needs to help out. Look at China – its people may not be doing all that well, but economically they’re thriving. America is no longer the big shot nation. We’re one of many. And before we fight for democracy, we need to prove why it is so great. We take care of our people. That means providing quality education, health coverage, and mental healthcare. The school system should have a class in finance, explaining why sub prime mortgages don’t work. We can’t bail out banks, because that defeats the purpose of capitalism. This isn’t Mario. You can’t just be like, oops, do over. (Though, apparently, you can.)

It never ceases to amuse and confuse me that those who believe strongest in liberty and freedom from centralized government are the same exact people who speak out against gay marriage. In California, there’s Prop 8, which will add an amendement to the state constitution saying that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Now, regardless on your opinion on gay people, isn’t that kind of ridiculous? After all, if we’re fighting for our freedom – freedom to spend as we please, teach our children what we believe, do what we think is right, then shouldn’t everyone have those freedoms? The biggest hypocrisy is fighting for freedom, as long as people agree with your beliefs.

Sorry to go a little off topic here, but this issue really irks me. All the people who are so set on defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage, in itself, is a religious concept. I personally believe that the government should remove itself from the marriage process, and that everyone who wishes to be married can sign up, legally, for a civil partnership, and then let people define marriage as they please. I went to a wedding this last weekend, and while it was lovely, all the traditions and everything were a religious ceremony – that’s what marriage is. Two people can love each other and be together forever without being “married,” the only difference then is the lack of rights. The lack of freedom to have these rights.

The last thing I have to say about this is how if every marriage between a man and woman were perfect, then maybe it would make sense to say that marriage is this special thing that must be preserved. But look at the marriages in our country. Many end in divorce. Many that don’t remain abusive. My good friend just eloped so she could have her fiance’s health benefits. This is reality. And letting two people who love each other get married, whether they have different genitals or not, well, that really shouldn’t matter. Marriage is about a commitment to someone you love, to share your life together, to be there for each other in sickness and in health. It’s not restricted to a man-woman relationship. That’s all I’ll say about that for today.

I’m feeling good about Obama’s standing in the polls, but still worried that McCain will pull ahead. I remember election day 2004, when the results were coming in and it was clear that Bush was going to win. Well, it was never really clear, except I knew it because he did a great job of scaring people into thinking if anyone else won the terrorists would infiltrate our country. Fear is a great campaign to run on. McCain is trying it too, but people are maybe a little smarter now that they’ve seen what Bush has done.

Obama isn’t perfect. But he understands this country. He understands what we need. He may be liberal, he may believe in equality for all, and that may scare a lot of people in this country who, on the extreme, think that America needs to be white in order to still be America. I’m worried FOR Obama, it’s obvious that him being African American makes him the target of tons of assassination attempts. He is the next JFK, he inspires hope, and scares the shit out of people who don’t want things to change.

But that’s really it, why Obama still may not win. The fear, the fear of a president who isn’t white, and even more so, the fear of a president who’s middle name is Hussein. My mom is voting for McCain because she thinks Obama will not side with Israel. People think he’s too soft. He’ll let the terrorists walk all over him.

You know what Obama is? He’s human. He’s a real person. He’s smart. He’s really smart. And that’s what we need as our president. Not someone like this…

Stumble It!

so close to actually getting paid on adsense

I started testing out adsense on my blog a long time ago. Since this blog doesn’t get that much traffic, I assumed I’d never hit the $100 that’s required in order for them to even send a check to me. But I’m… almost there. I’ve made $98 and some cents, and that’s a pretty incredible feat, given that this is just a side project / hobby of mine.

How much have you made via adsense on your blog or website? Do you use a different ad network that offers better results?

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