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:
Post Tax (Roth)
529 Fund (2-3 kids)
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.
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…
I can get a job that pays $170k for next 5 years (especially if I lose this one)
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.
Holy hell. Personal capital shows our family networth crossed the $2M threshold. This was my goal for 2020, yet it felt so far away earlier this year. A bump in my company stock was really all it took, but it was far from guaranteed. Even with deducting $100k from the cost to sell our home (which I have set up as a liability in personal capital) we’re across that $2M mark. Insane!
It feels especially weird given the state of the world, with so many people struggling. While living in a HCOL area with 2 kids and hopes for one more, I can’t start throwing heaps of money at charity as I’d like to yet, I’m looking into doing a donor-advised fund next year, as well as where we can help locally at food banks and such. I’m a little nervous about next year as the breadwinner of the family who happens to be about to go into labor any day now (and who has to hold down a $7k a month Bay Area mortgage), so want to be smart about giving strategies, but it’s time to think seriously about that. I just feel overwhelmed as so many people need help right now. I feel guilty for having “so much money” and yet, so many people have a lot more $ here too. And many are struggling to put food on the table. I feel weird being one of the people benefiting from the state of the world as I have a lot of stock, but at the same time proud of myself for being frugal and investing in my 20s, and also landing this job and seeing the potential in this company a few years ago.
Sure, the stock market could crash overnight or my company could go belly up — and at this point I’m holding way too much stock in my company despite selling along the way. It’s about 25% of our net worth, which is way too risky. But I also want to hold off on cap gains until AFTER next year, since I’ll likely go back to a normal income once I vest my final year of my initial grant. But that’s super risky. Yes, I can and should sell my new RSU vest now, and I probably will (it’s down a bit so holding until 2021 to either take a loss next year to offset potential short term gains later in the year or just take a gain if it goes up again.) I’ve held on to most of my ESPP against the wisdom of finance professionals everywhere, which has proven to be quite a lucrative bet. Those get taxed at a mix of income and cap gains, and my cap gains right now in CA is basically the same as my income tax rate, so it feels prudent to hold just a year longer even if they could end up being worth nothing. I’ve decided that in order to build wealth there is some truth to needing to do stupid things and take risks that aren’t wise. Men do this often. Many of my male colleagues haven’t sold one share of their stock even though they know it’s super risky and you know what, they’ve made a fortune in holding. Sure, they could lose it all as well, but so far I know some of my coworkers are set to retire tomorrow, all because they are men who take on too much risk.
Maybe risk is ok. The more money you have, the more risk you can take. It’s not quite putting it all on red. But I would not have $2M now if I hadn’t ignored my CFP’s advice and sold all of my ESPP up front. Instead, I have over 1000 shares I’m holding now, with the total value hovering around $500k. Is that stupid? Maybe. They say don’t hold your company shares as you have too much riding on the success of your company already just with your employment. That’s probably true. And RSU has no reason to hold since they’re taxed as income on vest and you should treat as a bonus (and you likely wouldn’t go and buy your company stock with a bonus – also true.) ESPP is a little more complicated. In typical slow-growth companies these give you the benefit when you make a purchase, a small 15% discount on shares, plus any growth within a lock back period. But holding you can pay cap gains tax on any growth, which can be substantial in a fast-growth company. So I’m holding. Maybe I’ll regret it. So far, doing this has catapulted us to our $2M net worth goal.
Looking ahead to next year, I see $3M as a possibility. It’s unlikely we can go from $2M to $3M, but it could happen. Right now I’m estimating about $2.5M-$2.75M by the end of next year if the market holds. If it goes up, we could get to 3. There is something about that $3M number… it’s equal to about $1M in 1981.. so hitting $3M, esp in a HCOL area, is when you actually feel like a “millionaire.” It seems like a shit ton of money (and it is) but when you have $3M in net worth, I think your world changes a bit. It definitely changed for me at $100k and $500k and $1M, but $3M is the beginning of a new chapter. It’s when you cross the threshold from upper middle class to entry-level wealthy. At least in the Bay Area — $1M, $2M, $3M, $5M, $10M are these levels of wealth. $5M is realistic for a family with 2 tech workers who are each making $250k a year. Since my family is 1 tech worker, it’s still possible if I can have a few home runs with RSUs (ie make 500k-1M per year a few times in my lifetime.) If you don’t work in tech, or settle for whatever a company decides your level is worth without convincing them you’re worth more, then it’s really hard to get there.
I still have my eyes on the prize ($5M net worth) but when we get to $3M, I’ll loosen up a bit. I’ll fly my mom out twice a year and put her up in an AirBnB for a few weeks so she can spend time with her grandkids. I’ll send my sister that TV and other random gifts she keeps asking for (actually maybe I will do that this year.) I’ll take my family on some nice vacations and pay for my kids to take enrichment classes that cost too much but it won’t actually hurt our retirement goals so why not? And I’ll seriously look at how to build the donor-advised fund I’m going to likely start next year so we can be quite generous with charity in the years ahead, which I haven’t made a priority in the past.
I’ll do a full recount of 2020 networth once the year is over as there are still a few paychecks coming in and expenses going out. I’ve spent way too much on fixing up my new house and it isn’t done yet. Next year I’ll prob spend too much buying furniture for the house (to be fair, we’ve moved from an 800 sq ft one bedroom where we were still using mostly craigslist furniture or IKEA stuff I bought when I was 22) to a nearly 2000 sq ft house… we don’t even have a kitchen table right now or any place to sit outside in our yard except our camping chairs. So I’m going to splurge because life is now and we are in a good place to buy things to increase our quality of life without going overboard. I’m not talking luxury items but thing that will make us happy because we spend most of our time in this house (well pretty much all of our time now) so…
My boss’s boss (my former boss) even liked a small project I did this week, which made me quite happy. I know I’ll never be able to be good enough for this company, but if I can keep turning in quality work I can survive through the end of next year, which means $3M net worth is no longer a pipe dream. And once you hit $3M, theoretically you can make 10% on that YoY and get to $5M in 6 years. Yea, 10% YoY gains six years in a row after a bull market is quite unlikely (might see 6% YoY losses) but being this close of striking range to the $5M net worth goal is… just… well, I don’t even know what to think about it. If I can get to $5M by age 40, that would be a whole other level of crazy. And if I’m going to do it, that’s on me. My husband brings in a stable $90k a year, and that certainly helps, but I’ve got to lean into the crazy that is RSU growth in Silicon Valley’s top-performing companies, negotiate well for my next gig, and just hold on for dear life. I have no interest in being a VP anymore — I just want to FAT FIRE (well FIOR – financial independence, optional retirement.) $3M gets us close. $5M gets us all the way. Can I get to $5M by 40? Even by my calculations that’s highly unlikely. But a few years ago $2M by 37 was also very unlikely. So anything is possible. And when I set my mind to something, well, either I ADHD space out and it never happens. Or I ADHD super focus on it and I get there.
To my readers out there, thanks for your support along the way. I hope it is as fun for you to watch my nutty progress as it is to live it on my end. Right now my biggest focus is on NOT getting coronavirus, surviving childbirth, having a healthy baby, and getting myself healthy in the year ahead. It’s ALL possible. The world SUCKS right now and it’s hard to stay positive, but at least for me, good things are happening. I don’t deserve these good things any more or less than the next person. I am grateful and in awe of how the world works in such mysterious ways.
And I like that my couch fits so nicely in my family room. And I want a kitchen table.