Tag Archives: marriage

Here’s The Real Problem…

As I sit here at 4pm on post-Labor Day Tuesday trying  to get any work done while sitting in the office listening to my infant screaming down the hall while my 3 year old and grandpa are in the room next door loudly sounding out letters I feel defeated and then some. The house literally shakes with my son jumping up and down so even noise-cancelling headphones don’t block his enthusiasm for the alphabet song enough.

It’s clear I’m not good at the job I have, but it’s also clear that however not good I am at this job, I’m a thousand times more not good at it because I can’t think straight here. But can I think straight anywhere?

Am I just lazy? I don’t know. Something seems off with my mind. I can’t focus or do things consistently. Is it ADHD? Is it anxiety? Is it something else? I can’t calm my mind long enough to focus unless I have some big project due “tomorrow.”

The anxiety is at an all-time high. What was I thinking buying a house with a $7k a month mortgage? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Have grandpa live with us, I thought, and pay $2k so really we’re still spending about $3k on housing if you consider that we have $2k rent coming in and half of the mortgage goes to principal. It sounded good at the time.

Well, I hate living with grandpa. It could be a lot worse, and I’m so grateful/lucky/etc that grandpa watches my 3 year old all day while we work, but I can’t handle having him in my home always. Ok, so he goes to sleep at 4:30 each day. If I actually went to an office and came home at 6 it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I didn’t expect him to be so present on the weekends but I’m working to make the case that he stays in his apartment/room on the weekends so I can have a life with my family without my father in law. I haven’t successfully achieved that yet.

Meanwhile, grandpa is too present with my son. I want him to give my son some space but he’s constantly engaging with him. Even though I’ve asked him not to feed my son plain toast and instead to put something else on it like peanut butter he still is giving my son toast. My son is hard to feed so I understand but I feel like I’m failing my kids because they don’t have a qualified care person watching for them and I’m not doing enough to ensure they are being fed well or having time to explore on their own. I’m sure it’s not totally detrimental to his development (at least I’m buying whole wheat bread) but it’s still hard because as I sit trying to get my work done I feel like not only a failure of an employee but also a failure of a mother. And because I’m working from home I’m reminded of both every single second. I don’t get to be a mother – not the mother I want to be. I’m too busy trying to ensure I make enough to pay the mortgage for the next 29 years.

I don’t think I’d be happy if I stayed at home full time either. I don’t know what I want. But this is all not working and I feel like I’m going to explode. There’s no where to go for help either so I need to just accept it, hold my breath, and hope it all passes somehow. Like, hope 29 years passes and then I can be happy? That seems like a pretty shitty way to live life.

In the diagram of what’s “good” in one’s life, that circle one where you mark how solid your life is in different areas, from work to relationships to growth, I’m a about a 0 in all areas. Financially maybe a 1 or 2 of 5. The only really good thing in my life right now is my kids, as in, I love my kids, they’re great little crazy beings and it’s pretty dang cool that I made them and I love them so much I even want one more child. Because being a mom seems still like the right fit. Of all the titles I might call myself. However badly I feel I’m doing at it. I love being a mom.

But what else do I have? A marriage where my husband doesn’t even find me attractive anymore. A house that I can only afford if I manage to maintain employment in soul-sucking jobs for the remainder of my adult life? A body that feels like it’s falling apart, that I’m not spending enough/any time on nurturing outside of my semi-decent change in diet? A mind that is in pieces, that spends the day looking forward to 10pm when it can just turn off? Few friends and the friends I do have probably don’t like me very much for a variety of reasons. A bank account with some money in it but not enough to really have any sort of a stable life because living here is absolutely impossible? I mean, no wonder I’m a bit depressed, right?

I’d like to fix any of these areas but they all feel so overwhelming I don’t know where to start. It’s like — hey — maybe if I had a really solid marriage or if I had some great friendships or work was going well or I considered myself a good mom or I had religion (not that I want religion but still) or something — anything — in my life was going well I could point to that one thing and say ok, well, at least I have that thing going great. But what do I actually have? Is this the wrong question to be asking? Is the whole point of being an adult living for your kids, and no longer for yourself? I guess so?

I feel fucking lonely. And like there isn’t much to live for outside of being a mom, which is plenty enough, so I’m not going anywhere, but I’d like more than that. I’d like to feel passion for life again. It’s my own fault I’m stuck in this mess. Maybe if I just get the house in order and shut my mouth and wait for the good stuff to happen it will come. There’s too much that I’m buried under for anything good to happen. There’s only faking my way through and trying to survive another year until there are no more years left.

The Depth of this Sadness.

In all of the time and places of the world to live I’m certainly fortunate. I’m not a woman living in Afghanistan where my rights are suddenly taken away. I have freedom. I am grateful and guilty and all the things that come about living life as a modern white American woman.

Yet even with all of that good fortune, I’m still struggling. Life is passing by and I can’t keep up with it. I have two beautiful children. A house with a ridiculous mortgage. A husband who is, well, a great father and on occasion he laughs at my jokes. I have a job that pays well, even when my stock finishes vesting, I’m still likely to make at least $200k (*with bonus), which is a lot of money, even in a high cost of living area, as with my husband’s salary that gets us to $300k, which is very livable. About $12.5k a month after tax. Or $5.5k after mortgage. We won’t be living a luxury lifestyle on that but we’ll live just fine. If I keep this job. If I make $200k.

I’m tired. I feel disconnected from everything. My family is gathering on the east coast this weekend for a cousin’s wedding shower. I’m missing the wedding in two months as well. In life before kids and life before covid I would have been on a plane to anywhere to get me there somehow. I would never miss a family event like that. But times have changed. And I feel trapped. Like many other people. Yes we went on a road trip a few weeks ago and it seems we managed to not get covid so that was amazing (we went to Disneyland for a day!) But, I don’t know, this life doesn’t feel like my life anymore. And that’s ok, I guess, it’s my children’s life, which is acceptable, if I could give my children the life I want to give them, and the energy I want to give them, but I have no energy, I’m falling apart.

I dream of selling this house and moving to somewhere we can buy a house for $300k. I could pick up some remote consulting work and pay for healthcare and let my savings grow in investments over the years. I don’t know if I’d really be happy in that situation either…

I want to feel like I’m contributing to the world. Building something. Being useful. But I also don’t want to be so focused on my job that I’m not there for my family. And now because I don’t particularly care for my job I am ok trying to detach from it. But what if I loved my job? What if I wanted to give it all my energy? I have a hard time turning off. Being present. Existing in the now.

I remember my father working so hard his whole life. Was he happy? I don’t know. I can’t imagine so with how fat he was. But maybe he liked work, sometimes. He would fly to other business locations and pitch plans and I didn’t see him all that often during the week. My few memories of spending time with him are:

  • the time he tried to read me the first chapter of the first book of the Hardy Boys series, which wasn’t interesting to me at all besides my ADHD brain had no ability to focus on someone else reading me a story so he gave up
  • Playing War and Rummy with him, mostly War, when we did spend time together that was something we could do, when I was young
  • Building an erector set helicopter. I remember it hurt my fingers to build. It was cool when it was all hooked up and the propeller spun around
  • Occasional family picnics and family events. He’d talk to his family. Sometimes when I was very young he would be more active.
  • Long drives to holiday dinners. His fights with my mom in the front seat. Listening to his classical or 1950s music.
  • Him getting extremely angry at me when I couldn’t focus on math homework and understand the problems or what he taught me or remember any of it.
  • Him ripping his belt off and beating me because he’d come home and my mother would complain about how I didn’t pick up my room so then he would at some point call me into his bedroom and tell me to bend over the bed and he would hit me hard and I’d cry and refuse to apologize and then I’d go to my room and cry all night telling myself how horrible I am and how I don’t deserve to live and such.
  • He liked to grill, so sometimes he would do that, if family came over.

I don’t want to be my father. I’m clearly not my father. But who am I? I don’t know. I feel very much alone. More than ever. I don’t know what to do. My house is a disaster. I need to clean it. It always feels like 2 steps forward 3 steps behind. If only, if only, if only I could clean things up and get it all to a place where I can spend the little energy I have playing with my kids. But I want a new job. I want to leave this one. To what? I don’t know. What can I do? Even when I have energy I last 3-6 months and then fall apart. Now? I don’t know.

I want another child. Ok, ok, so after all that information it sounds like a horrible idea. But I’m trying to hold it together so my husband will let us try for another kid. He knows I don’t like my job and how depressed I am and he’s depressed too. I mean, he hasn’t changed jobs in over a decade and he still makes the same income with slight raises for his one freelance gig that he works part time. I wish he would see how miserable I am and at least work towards maybe earning a little more money so I could take a step back for a bit. I understand now why some women becomes stay at home mothers. I don’t know if I’d like that either. I like earning my own money. But I also… I feel like I’m saving for a time that is now and it’s too late and I just want the time right now.

I look up classes for my kids to do with them and most of the classes available for their age are during the week in the middle of the day when I have work. I signed up for a playgroup for my youngest son at 9:30 on Monday mornings because fuck it I’m working remote and I get my shit done and I’m just going to go. I need some social interaction with people outside my family. Not that I’ll make friends or anything but who knows. And my older son starts preschool next month and my husband is supposedly going to get involved with that since it’s a parent participation program and I don’t have any time to participate. Will see how that goes.

I know women who stay home often are sad about what their husbands expect from them as they’re expected to keep the house clean and take care of the kids and make amazing dinners and still be great in the bedroom and all but you know it’s even harder to be a breadwinning woman who doesn’t have a “wife” like that… it’s hard to be all these things and none of them all at the same time.

 

Adulting Hardcore is Challenging for this ADHD Adult

I’m TRYING to get my life together before I am paying someone to help me wipe my butt because I can no longer do it myself. I have no idea how to manage everything required of being an adult while also saving for (early) retirement while also trying to enjoy life. I get little glimmers of joy out of seeing my kids smile or learn something new every now and again, but for the most part I just feel like I’m stuck in this never-ending horror story at worst or a very bad book that’s too long with no actual plot line or conclusion at best.

What I want… is to feel like I can afford a fairly basic life (which I guess is a fairly fancy life–but to afford taking care of a house and a family and still have money left over to save) while I also am not locked into a career that has me on the verge of a mental breakdown pretty much every second of the day (though that may be the case in any career.)

I’ve put together a new family budget that’s still on the lower-end of what I’d like to be able to spend, and it’s not pretty. I’m tracking it in YNAB to try to actually start budgeting vs just hoping that I get my bonus and stock to pay my bills and save adequately. I feel sad that there seems to be no “winning” this game–the best I can do is try really hard to maintain a job that pays better than I expect to be paid for the next 30 years. Once the house is paid off then… I guess, at 67, we’ll be in better shape?

But as I see many get sick or pass away in their late 60s, I feel sick thinking of trying to make it until then to enjoy life. Even if I live to 100, this doesn’t mean my loved ones will. I keep thinking about how men die younger… how my husband turns 40 next year… (I’m not far behind)… how maybe he has 25 years left to live. I mean, my dad died at 67. It’s difficult to process how short life really is. These are the good years. As long as everyone in our family remains healthy. My kids are young, we’re in our prime, I guess — but it doesn’t feel good at all. It feels terrifying. It feels like I’m watching life slip away and the best I can do is try to plan for what job I’ll get next after whatever one I’m in currently falls apart.

This budget seems impossible, both in that it requires way too much spending AND does not really allow me to spend what I want to spend. Boo hoo, I know, I’m a spoiled brat. But I want to be able to take family photos and go on vacation and dine out and send my kids to summer camp. All “wants” for sure, but why does the next person deserve these things more (or less) than I do? Yea, maybe I should have married someone who cared about earning more income, but given that he doesn’t care he’s actually earning a lot and still able to take care of our kids part time. But I don’t see him earning more… ever… which means I’m just – stuck. And I think the weight of that has really hit me lately. That I have 30 years left of working and that’s a short time and a long time. 30 years of life is short and will go by fast, especially if all the living I’m doing is on exhausted weekends. I really want a job that is fulfilling–one where I don’t dread waking up every day. But can I get a job that is fulfilling and also pay the bills? In a HCOL area? I really feel pessimistic about this. I also feel like I have to make a change soon. I can’t keep doing this.

The budget: $15k

  • Home: $9000 (mortgage, taxes, insurance, renovation/maintenance)
  • Health & Insurance (Life/Disability): $1200 (*health insurance through work not included)
  • Car: $800 (*includes saving for a new car every 10 years)
  • Food: $1500
  • Life: $2500 (kids activities/preschool – with only one kid in preschool at a time, shopping, travel, tech, gifts, etc)

$180,000 / year of spending

Saving Goals $11.6k

  • 401k/Roth – $8.5k
  • 529 – $1k
  • ESPP – $2.1k

$139.2k / year of saving (57.5k pre tax)

Total:

  • $261.7k post tax
  • $57.5k pre tax

Income needed – $493.5k

That makes sense… in that, as I’ve always said, in order to live a middle class lifestyle (this doesn’t include what I’d consider upper middle class lifestyle such as home cleaner, personal trainer, a larger shopping budget, etc) you need a $500k income here. Granted, this is a high savings rate, so if we were to cut back not the savings we could splurge a bit more… but the reason I’m focused on saving so much is that most years we probably won’t be able to! Right now any high earning year must be a high savings year too.

The reality is that we’re not going to be a $500k a year income family. My husband, if he keeps his job, is going to contribute $100k to that. I cannot see how I can find a job that pays $400k a year. It seems much more realistic to imagine both of us earning $250k, give or take, than for me to have a job that actually pays $400k every year for the next 30 years.

My reality is in my current career path I can likely earn $150k with bonus in some sort of stable way. Sure, this year I’m on track to make $750k+, if I keep my job, but that’s just because my stock grant is worth a lot. I’ll never earn that again. I have to live and plan based on an $150k income. So $250k total. I tried to put together a plan based on $250k income and I run out of places to cut.

$250k income… should spend ~ $12.5k / month

The budget: $12.5k

  • Home: $8000 (mortgage, taxes, insurance, minimum fixes)
  • Health & Insurance (Life/Disability): $1200 (*health insurance through work not included)
  • Car: $500 (*we buy cheapest cars possible)
  • Food: $1000 (not really realistic but some people do it)
  • Life: $1500 (all spending goes to kids activities, no travel, no shopping or hair cuts or anything)
  • $1.5k/mo left for saving — plus anything else pre-tax, so maybe max 2 401k and that’s it

Doable? I guess so. But again that’s assuming my husband keeps his $100k/yr job AND I manage to maintain $150k a year employment for the next 30 years. Maybe in 20 years $150k won’t seem like a large salary due to inflation, but then all of our costs — except mortgage — will have increased as well.

I just don’t know how to do it. And we’re “high earners.”

I’m trying to get us closer to that $12.5k budget now, which allows us to save more in our higher earning year and maybe will free us up for more flexibility later. But when is later?

I want to change careers entirely. I have some ideas. I’m scared to start over. I feel like I won’t be able to compete with 20-somethings. I have these ideas but then I’ve been on maternity leave for 2 months now and I haven’t taken a class or anything, which I could have done. My mind is scrambled eggs at the moment. But I don’t have the drive or focus or something to work for anything. Which is my problem. I admit it. Am I lazy? Perhaps. But also something is wrong with my mind. I can’t focus. It’s the bad anxiety. The ADHD. The ruminating on everything I say and do that’s so wrong. I feel lonely alone and anxious with others. I don’t know. It’s all too much.

My dream is to be able to live a life that doesn’t feel like I HAVE to make so much money to do the things I want to do. But I don’t even know what I want to do anymore. I don’t really need more “things.” I’d like to buy some new photography equipment and that’s expensive. I’d like to travel when travel is possible again, and pay for experiences with a family of four plus probably pay for my in-laws to come so that adds up really fast. I always think what is it that I’d ever want to buy and then my spending just adds up. And the I freeze, like I can’t even enjoy what I spend on because I feel guilty for spending anything. I should just be saving.

But at 38, I don’t even own a kitchen table. I melted my cheap-o food processor years ago (oops I left it on the oven that was on somehow) — and I need a new one. We don’t have matching sheets or much for furniture. We don’t have kitchen dishes (we’re still using my remaining target single plates I got when I graduated college.) We need a new garage door and should get a water filter for the kitchen sink. None of my clothes fit… because I just gave birth to a baby… which doesn’t  matter now but when I have to reenter the world shouldn’t I buy some new things so I feel acceptable? Clothes seem like such a waste though. I hate buying cheap stuff but then I hate buying expensive stuff. So why buy anything? My car has a lot of dings on it. And I need new brakes. That’s a safety issue. So it should be a priority. But I just spent a ton on a checkup. We should get a van anyway. Should I sell the car for parts? Should I get a van? I like the idea of getting a new electric mini van but I wish my husband would take on some more clients to help pay for it. He wants the fanciest model with the leather seats and while I’d like that too maybe we should buy something a little cheaper?

My biggest challenge is not really understanding what we can afford. Because I don’t know what I’ll earn in the future. I’m so fortunate to be earning a lot right now, but I’ve already been demoted in title and I can’t maintain this income at my current company. So I need to find a new job to just maintain. And I’m so tired of jumping from job to job and never feeling like it’s right. Never knowing what the hell I’m doing. Always feeling like I’m on the verge of getting fired.

So it’s safer to cut our spending down. $11.5k a month plus anything on top of that saved would be really good. The more we can save, the more cushion we have for the future. And $11.5k should be a comfortable monthly budget. But… after $8k on the house, that leaves us with $3.5k for everything else. I don’t know how to get everything in that. It seems like I should be able to but then things just add up. It’s a fun challenge, sort of, but I’m not any good at it.

Why is Couples Therapy So Damn Expensive?

Based on the conversations I’ve had with many 30-something married friends lately, it’s safe to say that most would benefit from couples therapy or sex therapy. From minor communication issues that cause resentment over time to straight up dead bedrooms, most couples can use help, especially at the vulnerable stage of a marriage when kids are introduced.

It’s unfortunate, then, that this type of support is so out of reach for so many couples who need it. My insurance does not cover this kind of therapy, which means if we want help (and we need it) we are looking at $300-$400 PER SESSION for a therapist to tell us how to resolve issues that need solving.

When you husband doesn’t want to touch you, it’s an issue. It impacts your entire life. For someone like me, it becomes a personal mental health issue. It makes it impossible to focus. I take responsibility for some of the problem—-I work a lot. I’m tired a lot. I fail to keep my things organized and be on time to events and airports, which makes my husband sad. I’m trying to fix all those things. But all I want is for him (/anyone at this point/ok not anyone, I’m incredibly picky, but someone) to actually be attracted to me and want me. He says he is, but actions speak louder than words.

And, about words, there are none. He’s not much of a talker to begin with and I get that, but so many of the fights we’ve had over the years have stemmed from me being disappointed that—-even if I’m dressed up and looking my best—-I never get told I’m beautiful or sexy or whatever. It may be I’m asking too much, but I’m insecure to begin with and the I have a husband who would rather watch porn (or other people playing video games) than touch his own wife.

It’s unclear if couples therapy can improve any of these issues, but I’ve realized this is not just a small whatever problem in our relationship, it’s a major, major problem. We are basically roommates and best friends right now, and as wonderful of friends as we are, the intimacy is just not there. After two years of this, I have to cut myself a little slack when I see how I’m reacting and where my mind goes. (I have not cheated. I do not want to cheat. I do but I don’t. I want to fix things. But I’m going crazy and as a woman with a high libido (hate that word btw) it’s severely impacting my life. And, no, I can’t just handle it “myself.” I do that plenty. I crave passion and a warm body and desire and all of it. And instead, I have a cold couch and, if I play my cards just right, maybe I’ll be allowed to go down on my husband.

Well, this is the most TMI post I’ve written on this blog, and I haven’t written in a while—-welcome back readers! It really fits here, though, because getting the help we need will cost a lot. Can we afford it? Sure. We can afford $1200-$1600 a month to learn how to desire each other again, but maybe instead we should put that $ to moving to a 2 bedroom apartment so we have a bit more space. Having our toddler sleep in our bedroom isn’t exactly helping things…

But it’s not just that. It is that I should have probably paid more attention to chemistry and intimacy before committing to marriage. Because I thought, after growing up with parents who HATED each other, the most important thing was to find a partner who was my best friend. And I did that. And we’ve been together 14 years and when we were young and carefree we both would, if I remember correctly, have fairly equal sex drives and our frequency of touching each other was never an issue outside of my always wanting to feel more desired and wanting spontaneity.

When we moved in together, things went downhill. Then we got married, and had a kid. And I got more stressed as the breadwinner and mom —- because no matter if a guy is the SAHD (or part time SAHD) the emotional labor moms do is real (dude, our kid is not ok in size 5 shoes when he is a size 7. This isn’t an aesthetic thing, it can cause him foot issues in the long run.) Our son is living on bananas and bread —-maybe we should get his iron levels checked. Did he get his flu shot this year? If mom doesn’t think about these things, they just don’t happen. Husband is good at completing assigned tasks but project manager of the household he is not. And because I also play the traditional male role—-breadwinner, keeper of the household finances, planner, etc, I’m just so overwhelmed and irritable and THAT doesn’t help our sex life because who would be attracted to a woman who can’t keep up no matter what she does —- who feels like she can’t be a good mother or wife or employee, and isn’t even, well, fuckable.

I never used to understand but it’s pretty damn obvious why people end up having affairs. It’s just hard to lust after someone who is your business partner (because let’s get real, that’s what marriage is), especially when you disagree on how that business is being run. You may still even find the other person physically attractive (for the record I find my husband hot) and the amount of resentment that builds up over time makes it hard to want to be intimate with that other person. It’s easy to long for the simplicity of intimacy without that baggage, even if you realize that if you were with anyone else for 14 years with a young child you’d prob be back in the same exact spot of a similar spot to the left of this one.

So couples therapy supposedly helps with all of this—-getting you to communicate healthfully as married people so you can be intimate again. I think. And sex therapy helps if you have unmatched sex drives or levels of kink or other dynamics at play (in our case I think we are actually too similar as we both lean dominant and that is a challenge—-funny enough I’ll go rather submissive with the right style of intellectual, articulate domme —-but that’s a whole other persona that isn’t in the cards for our relationship.)

This is important stuff that doesn’t get talked about enough because we live in such a puritanical society filled with porn addicts and dead bedrooms and frustrations and the rare married couple that, for both parties, have healthy communication and have pretty good sex multiple nights a week, or more. For the rest of us, we get by. We try to fix things. We give up. We say—-maybe in a few years when the kids are older, it will get better. Sometimes it does. Often, it doesn’t. Often people get divorced and they say they’ve just grown apart. Nah. I don’t believe it. They’ve just stopped trying to be something they aren’t to make a relationship work that in their head made sense at the time when it felt like one ought to settle down and have kids.

I’ve heard so many stories from friends to. Husbands who were abused as children who have extremely high sex drives and some kinks that upset their wives (one found a male coworker who wanted to have a threesome with them and presented this idea complete with a video of the man taking his pants off.) Others are SAHM who are married to brilliant avoidant men (typical on-the-spectrum engineer types) who do little around the house and have wives who do too much and feel under appreciated as stay at home mothers or part time workers as the men think they bring home the bacon and do enough around the house so their wives should be grateful (funny enough my situation is likely closest to this except I’m in the male role!) Or the relationship where the woman married the alpha man because she wanted to be all “red pill” wife but then she realized she too was under appreciated and her husband fails to spend time with the kids as he can’t do emotions and he leaves that stuff to his wife.

ALL relationships take a fuck ton of work and selflessness and you have to be willing to remember why you fell in love in the first place, esp on the nights when your partner is being “unreasonable” and you can’t convince them otherwise. And, for it to work, they have to also give you that. I think. I mean, what do I know? I’m sleeping on a couch talking to strangers on the internet at 3am because I feel lonely when my husband is asleep in the next room. I am the one trying so hard not to fall into complete self destructive mode because I just want to feel alive again.

For $1200-$1600/month (on a talented sex therapist), maybe I can. In the meantime, someone tie me up right and don’t let me do anything I will most certainly regret.

Wedding Regrets Two Years Later

Weddings are strange capitalistic creatures, especially in America. There are frugal weddings – which can be very personal and lovely – and then there’s the big “wedding venue” wedding, where it’s easy to suddenly spend an extra $10,000 and not be sure how it happened.

My wedding was the later. One of the days I’ll get around to writing a post tallying up all the costs — but I estimate that after my and my family’s generous contributions, the wedding cost $70k-$80k (my budget was a very reasonable $50k – but clearly I failed at staying in budget.) Do I regret going over budget? Not exactly. I’m the all or nothing type, and even though our wedding wasn’t huge by east coast standards (we had about 130 guests, minus a few last-min no shows.) I regret things that I didn’t know then — I regret pouring money into things that I thought would solve for potential issues, when I missed many cost-free opportunities to prevent the magical and glorious nightmare that was my wedding day. Continue reading Wedding Regrets Two Years Later

Holy Sh… Estimated Taxes… WTF… as a Married Couple

Getting married is wonderful for so many reasons. Taxes is not one of them. Besides the horrific marriage fine levied by our tax lords if you happen to want to be an independent woman and continue working post tying the not, there’s also a whole host of tax intricacies which suddenly make TurboTax no longer a viable option and accountants your new BFF.

My husband is an independent contractor.  He usually makes anywhere between $80k and $110k per year, depending on how business is going. As a single person, he was able to take advantage of safe harbors designed to protect self-employed folks from overpaying taxes to avoid fines for coming short on estimated tax payments.

Safe harbors for estimated taxes for single, self-employed folks basically say that you can either pay 90% of your current year’s eventual tax bill OR 100% of your prior year’s tax bill. As a single person, this is pretty easy to figure out — even if it’s hard to guess what 90% of this year’s tax bill will be, you can pay 100% of your prior year’s tax bill and know you’re safe from fines, even if you end up owing more at the end of the year. If business isn’t going quite as well this year, you’ll get a refund, and you’ll give uncle sam a loan for a while, but it won’t be that bad.

Of course, getting married makes this all sorts of more complicated, requiring expensive accounting help to make sense of this mess.

Estimated tax safe harbor for higher income taxpayers. If your 2016 adjusted gross income was more than $150,000 ($75,000 if you are married filing a separate return), you must pay the smaller of 90% of your expected tax for 2017 or 110% of the tax shown on your 2016 return to avoid an estimated tax penalty.

Thank you IRS for an explanation that is not clear at all. It sounds like if your AGI is over $150k as a single OR married person you are considered a higher income taxpayer. This means Mr. HECC would not have been considered a high income taxpayer as a single person, but now that we’re married we’re well over $150k and he can no longer use the safe harbors for his estimated taxes.

Instead, we have to pay 110% of our 2016 taxes (including my taxes) in order to not get penalized this year. Suddenly, my W2 withholdings are no longer an annoyance of over or underpayment to the government, but they can result in substantial penalties.

So – we need an accountant, stat. I consider myself fairly financially literate and the IRS explanation of all of this is the most confusing thing I’ve ever read.

Are any of you married with one partner earning W2 income and the other self employed? How do you manage your estimated tax payments?

Our Marriage Tax Penalty: How It Played Out

There is a lot of misinformation about the marriage tax penalty. While it’s true if one spouse doesn’t work and the other makes any amount of income, the couple will get a “marriage bonus,” once both partners are working and making enough income to live, esp in a high-cost-of-living area, the tax penalty is going to kick in.

The worst marriage penalties are seen when you have kids and lose deductions based on income, but I’m going to share in simple terms why we received a marriage penalty this year – this beautiful first year of our marriage – due tour income.

Federal Taxes Only (State marriage penalty not included below)

Mrs. HECC
Income: $195,000
Single Filer Tax: $47,749.25

Mr. HECC
Income: $105,000
Single Filer Tax:  $22381.75

  • Total Couple “Single” Federal Tax: $70131
  • Married Filing Jointly Tax: $74,217

And, just in case you’re wondering, it is not better to “file separately” as a married couple — this is not the same as filing single (which you can’t do when you’re married.)

Married Filing Separately:

Mrs. HECC

Income: $195,000
Single Filer Tax: $51,958.50

Mr. HECC
Income: $105,000
Single Filer Tax:  $22981.25

Total Married Filing Separately:  $74939.75 

As you can see, if you have somewhat higher incomes, the marriage tax penalty will be quite notifiable.

If we never got married… $70,131 in taxes
Marriage Fine (Filing Jointly)  +$4086
or, Marriage Fine (Filing Separately) +$4808.75

This plays out similarly in state taxes.

Yes, we’re fortunate enough to be high-income earners – but we also cannot afford a house. So there’s that.

 

Thoughts on the Marriage Tax Penalty, Now that I’m Married

Unlike many unsuspecting newlyweds, I was well aware of the marriage tax penalty long before I got married. It seemed like a cruel joke that the tax brackets were different for married couples than singles, and that once married you no longer could file as a “single person.” There’s plenty of publicity around the “marriage bonus” but this only applies if you have one working person in the household. If both partners work and make about the same amount of money, you end up screwed.

I got married anyway.

The marriage penalty impacts different classes in different ways. The worst impact is on lower income couples who end up phasing out of tax credits and other benefits such as healthcare allowances if both partners work, even if together the couple is still together earning at poverty levels. For middle income couples in high-cost-of-living areas, the $1k-$10k+ that has to be paid to the government just for the privilege of being married is significant. Is love worth that much? Continue reading Thoughts on the Marriage Tax Penalty, Now that I’m Married

Post Wedding Depression: Yes, It’s Real

Weddings are beautiful and ridiculous and a waste of money and worth every penny spent. Over the last year I obsessed about the details of my nuptials, but like many girls who grew up on Barbies and Sweet Valley Twins, I had been planning my wedding day in the back of my mind since I was a flower girl at the age of four.

My friend, who also got married this year, made a great point to me about her non-planning wedding planning – if she cared about any one detail too much then she’d be looking for that to go right and noticing if it went wrong, and would be disappointed on her wedding day which is supposed to be the happiest day of her life… so she decided to just let it be.

I, on the other hand, spent what equated to pretty much a full-time job interviewing photographers, musicians, venues, florists, makeup artists, et al. I didn’t hire a planner because I knew I’d drive them crazy and still end up doing all the planning myself. Continue reading Post Wedding Depression: Yes, It’s Real