Tag Archives: money

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.

 

End of the Month Check In: Progress and Stagnation

Well, it’s somehow (basically) June and closing in on the half-way point of 2021. Insanity, right? As the world slowly chugs back to normal-ish, I’m spending most of my time moving projects along and figuring out how on earth I will unpack my entire garage when I don’t have a closet (my family renter has the largest room with the walk-in-closet, which he uses as a library since he owns very little other than books.) So. I have to figure that out.

Despite my whining about work stuffs, I’m feeling pretty good about making it through the year as long I can keep chugging along. No hopes and dreams of getting a knockout performance review and being promoted or anything like that. I could stay at this company 10 years more and would probably never see a raise or title increase. Which is why I’m still, albeit less obsessively these days, thinking about what’s next.

But I also have realized that IF I can negotiate a WFH situation (not sure I can into next year) then it might make sense to stay for a bit longer. It’s definitely worth applying (and hopefully interviewing) starting around Feb next year, but I don’t have to jump to the next thing. This job, as stressful and frustrating as it can be at times, seems somewhat manageable for me. I have a sense for how to do it well, even with some of the newer things my new boss wants me to do, and I think I can sort those out too. Again, I’m kind of limited in going above and beyond since I seem to get penalized every time I offer any creative ideas to make things better or do more than is expected of me (which seems to be the requirement for a high performance review and promotion?!) BUT it’s kind of nice to, for once, have some sort of feeling that I can just stick it out, get the work done, try to fly by invisible, make people happy, and have time to maybe get healthy and maybe see my kids a bit before they’re off to school and such.

So I’ve got these 7 months left to get through with the best work I can do. I think it’s achievable as long as I tell my ego to shut the fruck up. I’m being treated horribly but no one cares when I’m making as much as I’m making this year and I get it, that’s fair, I don’t deserve to be treated with respect or anything. At least no one is yelling at my face. I also feel good(?) knowing some of my colleagues are leaving soon because the environment has gotten toxic, so I know it’s not all me. I think their leaving is a huge loss to the organization but doubt it will be enough for things to change. People don’t stay in jobs that long here anyway, you do your 4 years of vesting and then you move on or you can’t keep the same income. It’s sad that’s how it’s structured as companies don’t really care if they lose that knowledge and talent, but I guess it saves them money over time. Anyway. I can leave anytime between Jan 1, 2022 and April 1, 2023. I’ll be in no rush and just try to find the right next fit. The only rush I’m in is trying to get into a new company before I attempt to have my last baby. I don’t want to go through this company as the woman who took 3 maternity leaves, and I’d also like to find a company that covers IVF since I’ll be 39 (!,!,!,!??) when hopefully getting pregnant with my last kid.

Anyway, this month has been pretty flat for net worth growth because it went down then came back up. It’s kind of sad that I didn’t sell out of more of my company stock as it hasn’t come back up and my dreams of hitting $3M this year are no longer viable. That’s ok, though. I’ve got a solid plan to get to $3M in about 5 years. And I’ve decided one I get to $3M, which includes having $150k per 529 plan locked, loaded, and forgotten about, I can relax a bit when it comes to spending.

My plan is basically pay the mortgage a year in advance so I always have that safety net (won’t lose my house for a year) and just let it all roll. By 43 or so we should have $3M unless the stock market tanks. A lot of that increase will be gains on the current investments but it also includes still putting a lot of income to savings. Once we get to $3M, I don’t think I’ll need to save as much. We’ll still max out our retirement accounts, but I’ll feel good about where we are so we can spend more on home furnishings, maybe save for and add on to our house or even move to the town where I really want to live. I figure my in-law will probably live with us for 5 more years, and him putting money to us instead of rent helps too. So instead of our mortgage being $7k, it’s $5k a month, which includes about $2k going to principle, so we’re basically paying $3k a month to live here, which makes my brain feel better knowing we were paying $2.5k for a 1 bedroom apartment and now we have a house with a yard. I try to ignore the lost gains on the downpayment and principal.

Anyway…

Here is where we are start of June and updated stitch goals for the year. It’s unlikely we can be up another $450k this year (my estimated additional savings for us as of June 1 is about $200k after expenses (due to the remainder of my stock vesting and living fairly frugally for the rest of the year), so that would mean our total investments (1.78)  would have to increase by $250k or about 15% in 7 months — unlikely.)

GOAL Apr May Jun
Retirement $775.0 $521.5 $715.0 $715.7
Taxable $1,100.0 $804.5 $856.0 $822.1
Cash $0.1 $0.1 $0.1 $0.3
529 A $150.0 $91.6 $105.0 $106.2
529 B $150.0 $41.3 $73.0 $74.7
529 C $65.0 $63.7 $65.0 $65.5
Home Equity $260.0 $250.0 $257.0 $257.6
TOTAL $2,500 $1,773 $2,071 $2,042

I’d say more realistically we’re looking at closing the year out with $2.2M, maybe flat, but if flat then hopefully there will be a run up at some point where we’ll see increase in the stock market. Or it could all crash and we could close the year out at $1M. Who knows. That would suck. I want to get to the point where we have $3M in investments then I can just live life and not worry about saving a ton more and let those investments ride for years so they can go up and down and not bother me much. Then with $3M invested it will get to $5M eventually, especially if we continue to max out our retirement accounts but not add more to our savings otherwise. I’ll probably start a small UTMA for my kids once eligible for gifting them again (since we’re superfunding 529 this we can’t give them any gifts again for 5 years) – I figure I’ll start doing small contributions to UTMA in year 6 and then whenever they get their first jobs I’ll start matching their income so they can all start Roths. That should fall in line nicely with when I’ll have enough saved up to feel like I can do that without impacting our future. It also will be around the time when my mom will need money probably so I want to make sure I have enough saved where I can help her if needed and pay to fly out to visit her frequently when she can no longer travel (that hopefully will be in a bit longer, but good to know I have the money to do it so I don’t have to worry about spending a lot on flights to see her.)

What I feel best about is where the 529s are right now. My parents gave me the gift of my education and while I can never pay that back to them, I can pass that gift down to my kids. And I will. With $225k already saved in 529s, I’m well on my way to making sure my kid’s undergrad is covered in full — and if the market works for me it’s possible they can have grad school covered and/or their kid’s college education covered (and if I’m still alive by  the time my kids have kids — the I should be in a place financially where I can help put them through college too.)

I’m hoping I am alive that long as my health has been not the best lately, but I’m starting to feel a bit better with random “flares” of who knows what. I know everyone thinks my health issues are related to my having given birth earlier this year and maybe they are but the headaches seem possibly vaccine related (they got really bad after second shot then went away about 3 weeks after the shot) but the fatigue is concerning and my eye blurring issues (two episodes of my right eye vision going blurry for 15-30 minutes) still have me worried even though the eye doctor said she found a benign thing in there and that could explain it…

My neurologist offered and MRI and I’m so fucking claustrophobic that she said I really don’t need to do one now since it’s super unlikely based on my symptoms and her office testing that they’d find anything. She also seemed comfortable with the idea that the headaches were caused by the vaccine as she has heard that some people do get headaches for a few weeks after the vaccine (yet everything I read online about it says side effects should go away in 36 hours.) My allergy tests all came back negative so I don’t know what’s up. I think I’m going to make another appointment with my doctor once I finish my at-home 72 hour EKG as we’re seeing if anything is going on with my heart (though the weird chest spasms seem to have stopped — I doubt they’ll find anything.) Maybe that’s a good thing and I can just put this all behind me, which I’d like to do, except every once in a while I’ll feel incredibly fatigued, like my lungs are just weak, and no matter how much I breathe in I can’t get enough air. Maybe it’s just anxiety and panic attacks but I don’t know… even my initial EKG saw that my PR interval was slightly depressed but not enough to diagnose a heart block since my heart rate was low at the time. I’m really curious what this EKG will find, if anything. I just want to feel better. It’s taking too long to lose weight after baby and I’m still considered obese which I’m sure isn’t helping. I know it’s hard to lose weight while breastfeeding but still I have to get the weight down.

So outside of keeping my job and saving as much as possible this year towards my $2.5M goal, my other main goal is getting back to the “overweight” and not obese BMI category. I’m not going to get to a healthy BMI this year but I can inch closer. If I want to even consider having a third kid… and getting pregnant in 1.5 years (!) especially with IVF I need to drop the weight. And I don’t want to feel like this for the rest of my life. At least doctors will treat me better if I’m a healthy weight.

I’m also wondering about if I want to stay sober for good. I never considered myself an alcoholic but at this point in my life I can look back and see that of all the moments in my life I regret about 90% of them occurred when I was drinking. I was a binge drinker and it was hard for me to stop at one drink when socializing. I had a lot of fun being a drunk idiot too, don’t get me wrong, but I just am not the right kind of person when I’m drinking. I think I can manage a glass of wine with dinner when I go out on a date, but I don’t want to to do the social drinking that has led to me being an idiot and saying shit I can never take back. I’d say the other 10% of things I regret are due to my likely undiagnosed bipolar disorder as I can definitely see periods of my life where I was manic and I’m scared of who I was then and just hate myself for it, but I’ve decided I have to just close the book on that and move on and try really hard to focus on knowing when I’m in a phase like that so I can just stop myself from saying whatever it is I’m thinking at the time because it’s not real and it’s not me. My therapists never believe me that I’m bipolar but I know I am. Drinking while manic is the worst for me. Though it’s not exactly good while depressed either. :/ So, yea, I’m going to try to reduce my drinking. Really cut myself off at 1-2 drinks if I do decide to drink. I haven’t had a drink in over a year (due to being pregnant and breastfeeding) and I don’t see why I can’t continue on this way. It’s rough as I’m so socially anxious and I really do find it easier to engage with other humans after a drink… or two. But I’m old now and a mom and I don’t really want to be social like that anymore. I’m worried I’ve fucked my liver with my occasional binge drinking through the years. It was not frequent, but it was still pretty bad when it happened. Plus, not drinking saves $$… though I’ve been putting that to overpriced tea at Starbucks and Peets. At least that’s a bit healthier for me. Oh, and I’m trying to cut out caffeine as well outside of green tea and matcha. That mostly means not having the occasional latte and especially not having Coke Zero an Diet Pepsi which is horrible for me anyway.

So if I can get to the end of this year mentally stable, with my kids thriving, with $2.5M (or $2.3M) in the bank, with my job intact, etc etc, and alive, I’ll call it a win. Really I’m considering this job my $2.5M job so I’d like to stay in it until I get to $2.5M, but we’ll see about that. This job is my $2.5M job and the next job needs to be my $3M job so I have to find the right fit and right salary to make it worth a move. The only thing I can do is just try to go the best I can at this job and stop going to get overpriced tea so much. But it’s my one self care pleasure in life so I allow myself that.

 

How I Grew My Networth from $15k to $1M in 15 Years

In 2005, I had about $5k to my name. By 2010, I had increased that amount to $88k while living in high cost of living (HCOL) area and earning an average salary of $56k for those first years out of college. Five years later, my networth hit a respectable $342.4k. I kept working at startups with decent-but-not-great pay (stock options are worthless) and lived relatively frugally over the years.

By 2017, I achieved my first goal of $500k — a bit milestone, as I wanted to have $500k in the bank before having my first child–and I made it! Thanks to finally switching to work in a public company (and that company performing stronger than the market), I’ve been able to dramatically increase my networth in a short amount of time… doubling it in under 2 years. I haven’t really spent time to appreciate that I actually doubled my networth in two years.

Do I think anyone can do this? No. I got lucky. Some of this lucky has to do with my working at a lot of different startups and building up a reputation for being good at one thing that ultimately got me the job I have now. Will I continue to make such a high salary? No — probably not. My income is largely dependent on my RSUs and after I vest the remaining two years of stock, I’ll be back to a lower (but still good) salary. I’ll need to leave my company and find a new job for a chance at making close to the same income. Hopefully by then my experience at this company will get me the ticket in the door at another company that pays well and will offer me a good compensation package.

I know a lot of people look at my income now and think–well, I’ll never make that much. And that’s probably true if you work in a different industry that doesn’t offer RSUs as part of your compensation package and you aren’t a highly skilled employee. But you can see you can still save quite a bit on a lower salary in your 20s if you are single and don’t have kids. Now, I admit I did not have college loans to pay pack (thanks to mom & dad) so you can fairly say that my total networth should be about $200k less than is now, or even less than that since I would have lost out on compound interest repaying a loan. So comparably to others who have loans, my networth today is about $800k and by the end of this year will be $1M or more.

I still have a long way to go to achieve my goals. I want to get to $2M before having my third child (whether or not I have a third child is dependent on achieving this milestone by the time I’m 38 or 39) and I want to buy a $1.7M house. Below, you can see my income, networth, and YoY growth for the last 15 years. I plan to continue tracking this for the rest of my career — subscribe to my blog to get updates and learn more about my path towards wealth. If it inspires you to save a little more each month — awesome! Remember, I live in a 800 square foot apartment with my 22 month old and husband and drive a used car built in 2011.

Year Income Networth $ Growth % Growth
2005 $15k n/a n/a n/a
2006 $35k n/a n/a n/a
2007 $50k $24.9k n/a n/a
2008 $60k $15.8k -$9.1k -37%
2009 $60k $32.7k  $16.9k 206%
2010 $120k $88.6k $55.9k 270%
2011 $90k $145k $56.4k 64%
2012 $100k $200k $55k 38%
2013 $110k $253k $53k 26%
2014 $125k $299.5k $46.5k 18%
2015 $160k $342.4k $42.9k 14%
2016 $190k $416k $73.6k 22%
2017 $130k $551.3k $135.3k 32%
 2018  $300k  $625k  $73.7k  13.3%
 2019  $400k  $1.05M  $425k  99.83%
 2020  $500k $1.3M Goal  $250k goal  23% goal

Saving for a Two Million Dollar Networth by March 2022

Life has been busy these days. I’ve been busy saving 2 million dollars. Well, not yet. But I’m shockingly well on the way to a family networth of $2M before I turn 40. This number seems ridiciously large AND small at the same time. It’s obviously large. If $1M seemed large, $2M seems much larger. It is an amount many people would consider “rich” — although not in the Bay Area.

I also don’t really consider my networth close to $2M, since I actually track everything on a post-tax basis. I map my investments to an allocation plan that my former CFP provided. I also have a chunk in cash (not seen below) because that’s for the downpayment of the house I will be buying soon (hopefully, house TBD.)

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 7.48.24 AM

The orange are areas where I’m underinvested. I’m quite over in large cap but that’s because of my probably too high concentration in company stock. My company has performed quite well (so well that I do kick myself for selling my RSUs at a fraction of the price it is today.) I’m glad I held on to a good chunk of my ESPPs (for now) as it is unwise to do this financially speaking (you get a discount up front you’re supposed to sell immediately and not take a risk on that money) but I decided to hold a little under 1000 shares and it definitely is helping get me closer to achieving my goal. I still have a significant chunk of RSUs and ESPP coming in the next two years… so that’s where I’m estimating my family will achieve $2M PRE TAX by the time I’m 38. Maybe we’ll get there post tax by the time I’m 40.

Do I feel rich? NO. But I do feel INCREDIBLY LUCKY to have a job that pays well, let alone a job at all right now. It feels weird and I’m looking for ways to give back. I donated $100 to a local food bank but that’s not enough, so I’m considering how to give more while also still staying on track to our goals. My donation plan was always to save as much during life, invest well, and then in your will put a % of your savings towards charity. That way if times get tough later in life you have the money if you need it, but you still have a plan to give back to the world. But right now the world clearly needs it, and I’m overwhelmed by trying to figure out where to give and how much. It is definitely on my mind — but so is buying a house and having a 12 month emergency fund and hopefully being able to work part time in a few years because…

I’m apparently pregnant.

Shh, don’t tell anyone. It is top secret. It’s super early and only my husband knows. We started trying this month and thought it would take a while because last time I needed infertility treatment to get pregnant. Low and behold, boom, happened right away. I’m excited and scared and will write more about this later but clearly it shifts our financial picture. Before I was considering moving further from my office to have more space in case I had another kid, now I definitely am thinking about this option. We’re still talking about $1.5M homes, but they are much bigger and right now we want space and with another kid we will def want that space. We could still rent for a few years but I want to settle down in a neighborhood where my son can make friends  and we can meet other parents and just feel at home. I’ve been living semi frugally my whole life (we’re still in a 1 bedroom apartment even though we can clearly afford more) and I guess I’m ready to take the plunge.

I did run some numbers based on a more conservative house buying formula and found that we need the following amount in savings/cash before we buy a home for the following prices:

House Cost Cash Savings
$1.5M $436,542
$1.7M $494,000

I also determined that to have 30% of our networth be in home equity (and emergency fund) that we’d need approximately $1.95M in networth to buy a $1.6M home. (My gap analysis below) but clearly we’re not going to get there before we buy a home now, so I’m going to do my best to try to reduce the home cost while also buying something we can grow into. More on that later.

30.0% 43.0% 5.0% 27.0% 5.0% 12.0% 8.0%
23.1% 33.1% 3.8% 20.8% 3.8% 9.2% 6.2%
43.00% 5.00% 27.00% 5.00% 12.00% 8.00%
goal $450,000 $645,000 $75,000 $405,000 $75,000 $180,000 $120,000
gap $450,000 $284,705 $47,142 $252,465 $47,525 $160,066 $89,103

 

Right now my estimates have us at about $1.96M pre tax in March 2022. That’s so soon! If I can do this, it will be pretty incredible. I just have to keep my job. Through a pandemic. And a pregnancy. How hard can it be?

But the reality is I’m scared. Yes I have a lot in stocks I could sell to cover the mortgage for a while… and right now I have a job. But will I have a job in a year? Who knows. My company may need to have layoffs at some point. I really don’t understand how they would decide that and who would be laid off, but I definitely am not “safe.” So I have to assume that at any time I could lose my job, and at that point it would be hard to find a new one. I will just hold my breath through my vesting periods and pray (even though I don’t pray) that I can get through the next 19 months until I get most of my stock. That’s 8 months of pregnancy, 3 months of maternity leave, and 8 months of being exhausted and holding on for dear life.

Please, wish me luck. I’ll need it!

Financial Planning in the Age of Coronavirus

Like many of you, I’ve been trying to stay afloat–mentally–under stressors that appeared practically overnight. With the economy humming along somewhere through a very long bull market, it was clear the upward tick to the markets wouldn’t last forever. However, I don’t think anyone thought it would end so jarringly.

I sit here from my “shelter in place” apartment in one of the worst hit counties in California. My company went a little early in moving to WFH and I’ve been adjusting, but the last weeks have been a bit of a blur. On the Saturday before my company decided to move to a WFH policy, I felt I was coming down with something. I don’t think I had a fever, I just had mild aches, and my chest immediately felt impacted. I went to work on Monday (if I had a fever I definitely wouldn’t have) and waited for my company to make the call. It wasn’t far into the day Monday when whispers of the company going fully remote made their way around the office, then an email formalizing that we would no longer be coming into the office for the next few weeks.

My lungs tight and heavy managed to breathe a sigh of relief. All I wanted was to get home and keep my family safe. At the time my 76-year-old father-in-law who provides childcare was still coming to our house via the train. It made no sense. I feared for his health and safety. In those 24 hours our worlds changed. Grandpa no longer would take the train to provide childcare. But my husband and I would still continue working, albeit with both of us WFH, with no childcare.

Over the next days my lungs felt like they had a cool liquid pouring into them, a slight burning sensation, and I felt winded after walking or picking up around the house. With no fever, I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac, but I emailed my doctor and she said normally she’d have me come in to check out my symptoms (as they were concerning) but with coronavirus going around she couldn’t, so she’d just treat me for pneumonia–just in case that’s what I have. Coronavirus testing was out of the question since I hadn’t been to another country recently and had no known contact with another person who tested positive. I was put on a course of powerful antibiotics and provided an inhaler to help me breathe.

The next day, our entire region went on full lockdown.

Two weeks later, my lungs still hurt. I’m not sure if the antibiotics did anything. I’m not convinced I have coronavirus, but I’m also not convinced that I don’t. My husband had what appeared to be a bad stomach bug with a low fever the same week I first felt ill, and now coronavirus reports say that sometimes it starts with gasterontestinal issues. He too felt some tightening in his chest. Neither of us were coughing, though–so what we have could be pretty much anything. If it’s coronavirus, we’ll never know outside of suspicion. I know whatever is happening to my lungs, this cold fluid sensation and the tightness in the center of my chest, is new to me. Could it be crippling anxiety? Sure. But the cold fluid sensation is strange and I continue to have mild respiratory symptoms.

I think I’m ok. Physically I’m just trying to take it easy. Mentally, I’m a mess. I know way more than I ever wanted to know about pandemics and how they exponentially spread. I’ve spent countless hours trying to convince my boomer mother, stuck in her snowbird condo in Florida, to take this seriously–especially given she’s in an area with a lot of older people mixed with young tourists where things will likely get bad.

Then, there’s my portfolio. Down something like $200k, give or take, prob give quite a bit more in the coming weeks. I’m a buy-and-holder, and got my start in investing right before the 2008 downturn, so I believe in the power of investing when everything is going haywire and how the recovery is when wealth is made. Downturns are good for the market and give us a time to buy on sale. But this whole situation is unprecedented and things can get a lot worse than they are. It’s unlikely–given its fatality rate–that the economy will fail to recover once a vaccine is tested and brought to market. But I don’t know how the economy can handle everything shutting down for a while, especially if this goes on (or on and off and on again) for 18+ months.

I’m using this opportunity to rebalance my accounts, but not to sell for no reason. I’ve been doing some unrelated research regarding asset allocation including real estate, as well as what one should really have in cash for a home purchase. I’ll write another post about that eventually, but I’ve basically determined that 30% of my net worth should be held in real estate. I’m looking at 30% of my net worth including a downpayment, closing costs, and a conservative 12 month emergency fund. In order to afford a $1.7M house, we need $500k cash in the bank.

My CFP who I hired for a year (who is no longer my CFP) recommended putting my downpayment into municipal bond funds for the tax advantages over the low interest-paying savings accounts. Well, that plan went to shit in the last two weeks. Apparently muni bonds funds are usually super stable. But after I put $200k into them, they decided to become volatile in a way they haven’t been since 1987. So far I pulled out the $200k (down to $192k) and put it into a short term bond fund, to take the loss in the intermediate state muni. That hurt a bit. Will probably just move everything to cash soon. It seems like this will be the year to buy–that is, if I can keep my job!

On top of all of this I’m not questioning the timing of trying for my next child. Due to infertility issues (at least with my first kid) plus now my “advanced maternal age” of 36, I really don’t want to wait. I also really don’t want to be pregnant–with the weakened immune system that comes with that–in the middle of a global pandemic. If I do get pregnant, we also have to move, which isn’t horrible since I do think this will be the year to buy. But if we’re on a year-long shelter-in-place, I don’t know how we’d move. We couldn’t even look at houses–or rentals for that matter. I think we could manage a year with two kids in a one bedroom (we’d save a ton that way) but legally you’re not allowed more than 2 adults and one kid per one bedroom, so we’d be in a bad situation… if it gets to the point where I’m pregnant and we aren’t allowed to leave our homes except to get groceries and medical supplies.

My overall thoughts right now is:

  1. Make sure we have our downpayment fund (ideally $500k) secure in cash or cash equivalents by fall (we have about $363k right now if I sold the bonds, and if I needed to I could make up for the rest selling stocks, but I’d prefer to not have to do that.) Be ready to buy when no one else is buying.
  2. Try my best to keep my job. I’ve actually been making progress on my coaching plan and things seemed to be turning around. Then Corona hit and–who knows. I’d be on the chopping block if there were layoffs, probably. I’m hoping we don’t have layoffs coming, but I have to assume they are with the state of the world. If I assume they are, then buying a house sooner than later makes sense (kind of, I mean not having a job won’t be great after buying a house, but that’s why I’m making sure we have a 12 month emergency fund.)
  3. Just try to get pregnant and see what happens. Worst case, I’ll be giving birth while incubated with a shared ventilator wrapped around my head, with my husband waiting from home to hear if I’ve survived childbirth and coronavirus and if the baby is ok. Ok, that’s a pretty horrible worst case, but it’s a possible one. More likely if I were to get pregnant I’d get a different standard of care as the doctors would try to keep me out of the office as much as possible. Given my infertility situation, it’s still unlikely I’ll get pregnant naturally. I do worry about being able to get infertility treatment in the next year, especially if we need something beyond the medication-based treatment protocol we did to conceive baby #1… The good news is that I conceived baby #1 right after a 3 month in-between job break where I focused on my health, travel, and relaxing. This isn’t exactly the same scenerio–I’m working and stressed–but I think over time with this WFH situation, if I can manage to keep my job and be as productive as I know I can be WFH, I can really focus on making the most out of every hour in the day to eat healthy, exercise, sleep, and do the things that set my body up for the healthiest possible pregnancy.

Things sure are crazy for everyone these days. I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to figure out how to balance being a mom and working from home with no childcare and getting to that level of health I want–I ordered some new running shoes and plan to use them, while staying six feet away from the other residents of my neighborhood, to disconnect from the panic sensation that fills me daily and reconnect with the sounds of nature and the taste of spring air. I hope things go somewhat according to plan, but not counting on it.

 

 

 

 

Time Just Keeps On

There is something about turning 36 that feels different then turning anything prior to this. Maybe it’s because I’m now mom to a little monkey man who I must keep alive and nurture and support. The one thing I have the chance to do right in all the world is raise an emotionally healthy kid. I’m trying.

The money thing is getting old. By “the money thing,” I mean working a job that pays enough to provide the potential to maybe be able to afford a life that meets the expectations I’ve set for myself and my family.

You know, I thought when I saved $1M I’d feel some sort of–something. It’s a major milestone and I’m there, give or take, by end of this year. Yet, there’s just this emptiness. It isn’t enough to provide financial security, so it is really meaningless. But it’s also so much more than what most people have, so I also have guilt multiple by every dollar I’ve saved. My privilege made this all possible, and I don’t deserve any of it.

I really don’t know what I want–and it doesn’t matter any more. I want so much and so little. I want to pause time, revert time, swallow time whole, but of course, that’s not possible. It keeps ticking on and it always will. My saving grace will be giving up wanting anything at all. To silence my mind from spinning up a thousand scenarios and just see what’s good right in front of me, in the moment, that often doesn’t cost a damn cent.

The Job Downward Spiral: There’s a Physics to my Employment

Either I’ve done a better job overall this time around or things just move slower in public companies. I think it’s a mix of both. But now a year-and-a-half in and it’s clear I’m past the phase of newcomers victories and excitement and well into the phase of “I suck at this.”

I’ve been assigned a few larger projects to manage and after failing at one or two my boss was really hoping I could pull off the latest and greatest, but nope, I fell right on my face. Looking back I see a few areas where I could have improved, but overall I just feel lost. I don’t know how to help drive collaboration when I’m unsure what the expectations are. I did uncover these expectations along the way (and feel I could do a much better job managing a project like this next time) but the problem is I seem to keep missing the obvious and not getting what I’m supposed to be doing… which at my level, as my boss points out, is not acceptable. She used nicer words, but that’s what she meant.

The good(?) news is that I’ve been assigned a slew of projects that I HAVE been successful at. Unfortunately, these projects are one-off “do not make any sense on a future resume” type of projects. Maybe it’s time I stop caring so much about said future resume and just try to do what I do best–which is run with the punches and take on creative projects that no one else would have the foggiest how to manage versus trying to become a manager of cut-and-dry processes and failing time and again.

At 35, it’s no longer cute to fail or figure shit out. I should have it figured out by now and it’s clear I don’t. I’m scared because without resume-building projects I have no where to go after this. It’s hard to have that conversation with your boss because you aren’t supposed to be thinking about “after this.” And it’s less about moving up at this point and more about maintaining some semblance of a living wage once this job is no more. Maybe I’ll stay in this role until I retire with inflation-based raises, but that’s unlikely. I know my boss sees that I can do SOME things well (otherwise I’d be OUT already) but is that enough? I don’t want to be the easy to cut person in the organization and without adding clear value I’ll be cut sooner or later.

I just wish the last project didn’t end up the mess it was. I really don’t know how I could have done it all better. I still am not sure I could really do it better if I started over, which is the scary part. I don’t know how to get teams inspired to do great work, or to collaborate. Everyone seems to think I go off and come up with ideas on my own and decide everything without consulting others, but I keep asking everyone else what they want and I’m not getting any answers. I guess I’m not asking them in the right way. Or… they just hate me and don’t want to collaborate. I don’t know. My one co-lead on the project was super nice, but he also ended up driving things down a path that made it all more complicated and took away my control–which, funny enough, is what my boss wanted me to have… control to make the project great, but then also be collaborative and get everyone else’s input, but to lead. At the end of the day, I’m a shitty leader. But I’m not going to stay in a senior-level role without BEING a leader in my field. Independent contributor is not worth much and I’m way overpaid to be one right now. Good problem to have? I guess. It makes me feel like crap every day. I can’t even look my colleagues in the eye anymore.

I’ve set 7 time-based goals for myself to stay in the company and just try to survive. And by survive I mean do great work that keeps me employed, but also do not try to move up or gain resume-building experience… just do whatever my boss(es) want me to do and stop trying to do the things that would help me move up but do not come naturally to me. That’s 7 dates across 33 months that I need to survive and then, as long as there isn’t a major recession, I’ll have some sort of flexibility to figure out my next steps… I mean, not a ton of flexibility because if I have a mortgage and another kid, flexibility is out the window unless my husband is willing to move to a lower cost of living area and he isn’t.

It is just all so suffocating… I’m so fortunate for all I have and I know I’m in a much better spot than many others in this country, but I just can’t breathe. I don’t want to get caught in this self pity crap but I also don’t know how to be better. Once I start thinking this way it’s hard to focus and be productive. Every little thing I do I self doubt so much that I slow down my output and my output gets worse and worse until I inevitably get let go. Fired. Whatever. That’s what I do. It’s not funny. It’s not poetic. It’s just my life.

But with a toddler and wanting another child, it CAN’T be my life. I’m really fucking scared right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the day I have a. job where I’m not worried about getting fired. This is the best situation yet as the head of the department likes my work and has given me the opportunity to do projects seen by our senior leadership team, but that still doesn’t make me professionally immortal. And I know even if I can hold on for dear life these next 33 months, there’s still after that… if my resume has nothing on it other than weird projects that make no sense at another company, or would be comparable to what a much more junior person would do with a much lower salary, I don’t know what I’ll do —

I was talking to my husband and we agreed that our mortgage should be no more than $5000 with his father adding another $2000  in rent (basically $2500 for each of us per month plus $2000 for his father.) My husband really wants his mother to go in with us on the property but I’d prefer to buy separately and just have his father rent from us (his parents aren’t married, it’s complicated, but I am comfortable living with his dad if he is renting from us and it’s clean cut like that.) So we can put down $300k on a $1.5M property which is about $7k a month. That might be doable even if I lose my job, but it will be hard to maintain 30 years of a career that can support $2500 a month. And it’s going to be very hard if not impossible to find a place that costs $1.5M that has a good place for his father to live.

Ugh. When will my life not be a mess?

Why I want to be rich

When I was younger, being “rich” equated to buying stuff. Now that I’m older and wiser, I still want to be rich, but for different reasons. Sure, I still want to buy things, but the things I want to buy have changed substantially.

Having just hit the $1M milestone with my husband (with almost 90% of it being my savings), I am not rich yet, but feel finally on our way. Rich, to me, is having $10M in assets. This is what I would do if I was rich:

  • own a home outright and be able to comfortably afford taxes and maintenance on investments/interest (i.e. in Bay Area a $2M home)
  • easily afford college for all kids in full and leftover $ to help them get started out (but not to the point where they become lazy)
  • pass down some wealth to my children–enough to help them but not enough so they do not know the value of a dollar
  • “treat” friends and family to meals out, buy them nice gifts, even take them on vacations and pay for the trip
  • donate to causes that matter and/or put $ into trust for later donation after it grows to more substantial amount.
  • take time off to spend with family and travel
  • afford IVF if needed to have 2nd + 3rd kid
  • pay for kid’s extracurriculars, camps, pre college programs, etc, without worrying about $
  • have enough financial stability to start my own business (or non-profit) and it not impacting long term financial goals
  • not worry about retirement or long-term care or unexpected disability
  • hire household help to cook healthy meals, clean, personal trainer, etc, esp while working
  • buy my mother a home and make sure her financial future is stable
  • help future grandkids out as needed
  • take classes in art and photography, focus some time on my hobbies and see if I can get any better at them
  • write books or at least have the time to write them

I don’t think I’ll be “rich” ever but if I do get to $10M it will be after many years of working and I’ll likely be on my deathbed! But it’s good to have goals!

Will this be my $1M year? One million is just the start.

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 8.51.32 AM

It’s crazy how one turn of good luck (or perhaps a series of turns) can make such a huge difference in your net worth. As you can see from the chart above, my net worth has been gaining steadily since 2007 — but suddenly in the last year it has jumped from $625k in Dec 2018 to $884k in July 2019. That’s kind of insane.

How did my networth increase $259k in 6 months?

Well, it’s mostly paper gains at this point — and given we’re likely headed to a recession, I see the blip up evening out over time. Still, $259k in 6 months — seems impossible, except I have the data to prove it actually happened.

Between the stock market doing well overall and my company stock doing even better, I’m achieving some major milestones faster than I ever though I would. My goal of reaching $1M by 40 now seems like it might be achieved THIS YEAR. It’s possible, depending on when a recession hits. I estimate by the end of the year, I should have another $100k in my various workplace stock plans, which, if the market doesn’t drop, gets me to $984k. That’s close enough that I could hit $1M by the end of 2019 or even before my 36th birthday.

If you add in my husband’s accounts, our overall networth looks even better. Currently, our total net worth (we do not own real estate so this is cash/stocks/bonds only) is 130k (his) + 884k (mine) = $1.01M!!!

So, while I don’t count my husband’s $ in my net worth, if I did, this actually IS the month we crossed the $1M threshold. I feel like I should celebrate or something. I wish my husband was as excited as I am.

It’s funny because when I was 21, I thought $1M was completely unachievable. I also haven’t increased my lifestyle that much. After all, I’m still living in a one bedroom apartment with my husband and 1 year old.

Once my own networth hits $1M, I think I might be willing to move into a larger space. I’d like to get to $1.5M (doable in the next 3 years) before I purchase property. This way if I own a home worth $1.8M, I know I have the $ to pay it off (mostly) if I had to… that’s what financial security is to me. I don’t mind debt, as long as I have the money to cover it available and the debt has very low interest rates. Or, maybe we’ll buy sooner. I think once I get pregnant with #2 it will speed up the process. For now, we like our apartment a lot, and it’s hard to think about moving. Maybe an extra room would give us more quality of life, but it probably would just become a storage room (however, I would like if my husband moved his office/gaming computer out of our bedroom!)

Anyway, I’m celebrating our $1M here because my husband doesn’t care and it’s a pretty big deal. I certainly don’t feel rich at all, but I feel like we’ve achieved the first major milestone to wealth. Wealth to me is not buying things you don’t need or designer crap, but it is being able to spend freely on your friends and family without worrying about running out of money now or in retirement. I think about $10M is the amount needed for true wealth based on what I could ever want to spend in life (assuming its invested and about $2M of it is in a home and another $1M or so is paying for my mother’s home and life, since I do want to pay her back for all my parents gave me in my life and hoping I can do this before she gets too old!)

Well, we’re a long way off from $10M, but I finally feel like we’re on our way.

New Goal: $1.3M Networth by 2022 (age 38)

In 2008 or so, I had $29k in total net worth. Ten years later, my net worth closed out the year at $625k. Ten years ago I couldn’t fathom having more than $100k in a bank account. At age 24, I was just getting started in my career, making very little, and wondering how on earth to save money.

I started out ahead of many–a college degree with no loans. I’m not sure I’d be where I am today or even close to it if I had massive loans to pay back, because that would have not only cut into my savings, but also likely prevented me from taking some of the risks I’ve taken over the last 10 years that helped me save so aggressively. But, I do try to take a few moments to be grateful for what I have, and how much I’ve been able to save–despite not being able to afford the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

Today, I’m especially grateful that my current path has not only enabled me to hit my goal of saving $500,000 before giving birth to my first child, but also is looking to possibly support my second goal of saving $1M before my second–which was a long shot just years ago.

Screen Shot 2019-05-11 at 9.26.43 AM

The last few months have been especially fruitful, thanks to vesting stock–my first stock vesting period working for a public company–and selling it off immediately. I do not include any unvested stock in my networth calculations since if I lose my job that $ isn’t real. But it’s hard not to fantasize about it being real–even with it being not that much once taxes are taken out–it’s still a substantial amount and can be life-altering given my whole financial strategy is save as much as possible as fast as possible… not for FIRE, but for financial freedom (working PT, consulting, or pursing more risky opportunities, or those that don’t pay as well, in order to help others and/or just spend more time with my family.) And I won’t give up a decent lifestyle today to assume that I’ll have enough money for a frugal one “tomorrow” that doesn’t require working. I want to LIVE today but support a future where I’m not worried about money and can afford a decent lifestyle with a family.

I’m still uncertain what my “number” is. At last estimate it was about $4M-$6M, including a house worth about $1.8M. I still don’t think I’ll EVER get there, but as I set new financial goals for myself along the way, it helps to keep focused on these mini wins towards this major goal. Even if $4M is my “goal” that’s far off.

I had said I wanted to hit $1M by 40. Right now, I’ve sped up that goal to 38 (I’m 35 and a half now.) Within the next 3 years, I’d like to get to that $1M mark. A lot will depend on the volatile markets — if we have a crash, there is no way I’ll get there. If they stay stable or keep growing, there’s a good chance…

  • April net worth: $847k
  • Remaining 2019 stock value after tax: ~$92k
  • 2020 stock value after tax: ~$123k

With saving my stock amounts, and with the markets staying stable, it’s quite possible I’ll get to $1M even earlier… by 37… which actually is my goal since I want my second kid by 37 and I would like to get to $1M before I give birth. I won’t feel any richer for it, but I think with $1M in the bank I’ll start feeling ok about taking a few more risks when it comes to buying a house. Ideally I’d have $1M in the bank (investments) plus enough for downpayment and closing fees in cash. Perhaps I can get there in 3 years. That requires saving $500k in 3 years, or $150k per year.

  • 2019 (35): $92k (stock) + $25k (interest) + $35k (income savings) = $152k
  • 2020 (36): $123k (stock) + $25k (interest) + $35k (income savings) – $50k (IVF) = $123k
  • 2021 (37): $123k (stock) + $25k (interest) + $35k (income savings) – $20k (preschool) = $153k

Total end of 2021: $1.275M. Not quite $1.3M, but close. Close enough where at that point I’d be willing to put $300k down on a $1.5M house and have $1M in the bank as a safety net.

Past 2021, my savings will go down again… my stock will be vested and it’s unlikely I will find another job where I make anywhere near this much. If I can keep this job until the end of 2021, I just realized… I’ll be really close to my goal–my new goal– $1.3M by the end of 2021.

BUT – big but here – is that to do that, we need to stay living in our 800 square foot one bedroom apartment rental for the next 3 years/until I have my second child. Maybe that’s crazy–but it won’t be that bad. If it means in 3 years we can buy a house and feel financially stable (ish) then it’s worth it, right?