I’ve been tracking everything I eat and buy food-wise the entire month of April (post to come). One thing I’ve learned, or I guess that I’ve always known but is just highlighted in the data, is that I’m terrible at moderation. I am and always have been an all-or-nothing kind of gal.
For instance, I have a general rule not to eat processed carbs. But once I’ve broken that rule I go all in. Ate some bread? Well some chips won’t hurt. And, here, let’s add a cookie in there too why don’t we.
On the other hand I am very good at abstaining from things in the first place. For instance, I almost never have alcohol– I never buy it, it’s not a part of my daily consumption, therefore it is easy for me to make the healthy choice without too much thought. (Luckily, I’ve not drunk enough to have acquired that much of a taste for it so moderation in that particular sphere is not terribly difficult.)
Really it’s where I deviate from the boundaries I’ve set for myself that it feels like all the flood gates have been opened and things go haywire.
I see this in the way I treat my work. Either I’m the superstar who’s getting everything done or I’ve messed something up (even something minor) and have decided that nothing matters and I’m the lazy duck who can barely string a sentence together. Actually, no, it’s not quite that severe anymore though it used to be. Still, success does seem to snowball into more success, failure to more failure. And so it goes.
It’s also apparent in the way I treat FIRE. I wake up in the morning and think: Man I don’t feel like working, but at least I make good money. And then I lean into that super hard. I optimize how much money I make, I save it, I kind of even hoard it. And maybe retire in ten years? That’s all a totally reasonable reaction to kind of sort of not wanting to go to work, right?
Anyway, that is all to say: maybe I should work on this moderation thing? Or at least create glide paths from minor failures back onto the regular track. Because the world is not all or nothing, even if my brain wants me to feel like it is.
Are you an all or nothing thinker? In what areas do you have difficulty with moderation?
Six weeks and counting until I leave my job. Time flies by quick.
I’m waist-deep prepping for work deadlines that wrap up right before I leave so I’m in adrenaline rushed, get ‘er done mode. Even though the burnout part of my brain is ready to check out, I’m doing pretty well at making sure all the big things go smoothly. I want to make sure my teams are in a good place by the time I depart. I haven’t told most of my colleagues I’m leaving yet. We’re all in a crunch so I’m waiting to announce until things slow down around mid-May.
There was a period that I considered contracting for my company part-time. With Fiancé’s new job, I’d be able to make enough for us to live on pretty readily. I’d still be open to the possibility if it works out, and management seems to be on board, but the bureaucracy doesn’t seem to be able to get it together in time for us to have a contract in place by the time I leave. And I refuse to stick around in limbo all summer hoping that changes.
So I’m now outlining the plan assuming I won’t be contracting and I won’t find a new job before I leave. Originally I drew it up still relying on a separate finances model. (Honestly, I’ve been putting off combining my finances with fiancé because of my upcoming unemployment. I really hate the idea that right when we merge our financial lives, I’m no longer contributing to the family pot. He’s been very supportive about everything– pointing out that I’ve contributed the lion’s share while he’s been unemployed before and that I’ll probably be back to work again soon. Still, it feels weird and vulnerable and while I like that we can rely on each other, it’s very scary to loosen my grip and feel less in control.) But I’m coming around to basing things off our proposed joint budget.
Introducing a staged approach
Because this period of unemployment is going to include my first real summer in the six years since I graduated college, I really want to make the most of the time to decompress. But in order to make that happen, I want to set boundaries so that I feel free to really enjoy this time and not rush myself into hasty decisions going into my next job.
According to my monthly net worth projections (based on my monthly tracking), I’ve done pretty well enough adding to our cash position that even if I stuff most of my upcoming paychecks into my Mega Backdoor Roth 401k, we’ll be sitting on more cash than we would typically want or need in our emergency fund. How freaked out I plan to be will be based off of where we are in terms of that cash position: well above normal emergency fund, getting close, at or below, or in the red.
Here’s my unemployment in four potential stages:
Stage 1 – Guilt-free decompression
Primary goal: relax.
Spend money as I would normally.
Put together revised resume and LinkedIn. Otherwise, no obligation to search for jobs.
Only accept job offers from companies that align with my values as well as my professional and personal goals. No accepting low-balls or any position I don’t feel 95%+ about.
Duration: until 1/3 of “excess” cash position is spent, approximately two months (June 2018 – July 2018)
Stage 2 – Strategic workforce re-entry
Primary goal: get a good job.
Spend money according to joint budget.
Apply for jobs in product management. Use variety of avenues — recruiters, LinkedIn/Glassdoor/Indeed/AngelCo, Meetups, alumni networks, personal network
Accept job offers that align with professional and personal goals.
Duration: until remaining “excess” cash position is spent, approximately four months (August 2018 – November 2018)
Stage 3 – Aggressive workforce re-entry
Primary goal: get a job.
Spend money according to joint budget but cut personal allowances.
Apply for multiple types of tech or tech-adjacent roles- product management, software engineer, data analyst, QA, technical writing. Continue using variety of avenues. Use side hustles to supplement income while waiting for full-time work.
Accept job offers which meet minimum salary requirements, that I could deal working at for 1-2 years.
Duration: until half of emergency fund is spent, approximately nine months (December 2018 – August 2019)
Stage 4 – Drastic times call for drastic measures
Primary goal: stay afloat.
Revise joint budget and cut personal allowances.
Apply for work within and outside tech. Continue using a variety of avenues. Get in touch with temp agencies. Beg for my old job back? Use side hustles to supplement income while waiting for full-time work. Consider renting out second bedroom to roommate or on AirBnB. Investigate strategies for tax-effectively liquidating assets as needed (brokerage > half retirement > home > rest retirement).
Accept any non-illegal job that’ll keep household afloat.
I refuse to write out a stage 5 plan. I’ll worry about it if we get there. Here’s hoping I stay in stages 1 and 2!
What would you do if you left your job? Would you start finding a new job immediately? At what point and by how much would you lower your standards during unemployment? What would you cut first?
We’re six months out from the “Big Day” and have made a lot of progress on our wedding planning. Here’s what we know:
We’ll be having our wedding in a public park. It’s a nicer park in a more well-to-do (read: expensive) town, so it’s pretty costly for a public space. The ceremony location is a tempietto which looks kind of like this but is on a pond.
Our wedding is scheduled for the early fall period so we’re hoping we can see some leaf-turning and get reasonably good weather. Most of our spaces are outdoors but have roofs, so a little drizzle is not the end of the world, but could get pretty miserable and cold for our guests. The reception will be in a covered BBQ shelter like this:
I have no idea if we’re going to do any amount of decoration for the wedding. The caterer is going to be bringing linens for the tables. Maybe we’ll get some used chalkboards to indicate where the wedding is? Otherwise, I’m at a loss what sort of decoration we really need. If it wasn’t clear already, wedding planning is not my forte or interest. Thankfully Fiancé has been picking up my slack here.
We’ve decided to go to with a Chinese-American woman-owned restaurant to cater our wedding. I came across this place as a food truck that sells near my work and I love everything they make. Fiancé and I had a tasting to make sure the menu was accessible to his family. No fermented black bean dishes, for instance, even though we both love the taste. Strangely enough, none of the Asian side of my family is likely to come– maybe my dad, except he’s having visa issues– but I know that my guests can generally deal with “weird” food.
Here’s our menu:
Sweet corn fritters with creamy maple dipping sauce
Scallion pancake bites with cheddar & pesto
Carrot & coconut soup shots with mint
Thai coconut curry with tofu & veggies
Red roasted pork shoulder
Honey butter roasted carrots
Beet salad with arugula and goat cheese
Fiancé’s mom has graciously offered to pay for the wedding’s catering. This includes set up, tear down costs, silverware, etc. That just leaves fiancé and I to deal with the cake. We probably won’t go with anything custom, but rather get two half-sheet tortes (right now we’re thinking chocolate sacher torte and princess torte) which look presentable but can be served directly to guests without fanfare.
Clothing & Appearance
We’re using our engagement rings as our wedding rings. Fiancé has offered to make our clothes for the day, which is a big project. I’m a little worried he may be biting off more than he can chew. He’s made formal wear and has a lot of costuming experience generally, but it is a ton of work. So while the plan right now is that he’ll make our garments, I’m ready to pull the trigger on pre-made garments if need be. That said, we’ve already picked out patterns for the clothes we want and have already bought the fabrics.
In terms of styling, I still don’t know if I even want to do any styling for the wedding. Like, I’ll get a haircut a week out that’s suitable, but otherwise I plan to wear that down and normal. I never wear makeup in my daily life (sensitive skin) so I might want to skip that too. Is that a terrible idea?
Fiancé knows that he wants to his usual hair stylist to prep his locks on the day of the wedding. His stylist has already agreed but also recently announced that he’s moving to Chicago. He noted that he plans to come back into town for the fall season since a lot of his clients are getting married then, but we should probably start looking for Plan B’s in case that falls through.
I know it’s probably gauche to rely on the labor of friends for a wedding, but in our defense there are some things we really prefer our friends be involved with.
For instance, officiating. Both fiancé and I come from mixed-religion families but neither of us are particularly religious. The things we value most are a sense of community and love toward one another. So we though it’d be nice if one of our friends officiated. I don’t know if this is a common thing everywhere, but it certainly is something many of my friends have considered or done for their own ceremonies. We felt it would be lovely if one of his friends in particular, who would have been his best man if we had a wedding party and is the picture-perfect definition of a Lawful Good alignment, would do us the honor. He’s accepted which is thrilling for us, but I want to make sure we give him some material to work with (without being overbearing) so he doesn’t have to work from scratch and we overburden his kindness.
Similarly, another one of his friends is a hobbyist photographer who is amazingly good.It was her wonderful and whimsical photographs, posted onto Fiancé’s online dating profile, that piqued my interest in Fiancé in the first place. We asked if she would be willing to photograph our wedding and whether she had a going rate. While she seemed thoroughly excited for us and graciously offered to help us for free (and some wedding food), we don’t really feel comfortable with that arrangement. Photography is a lot of work so at the very least, we want to give her a token $250 or so to show our appreciation. I still feel a bit guilty we’re being cheap here. I don’t know, thoughts?
Lastly on the labor list, we still have to figure out whether we should get a day-of coordinator or an attendant (i.e. someone who can help clean the park bathrooms). It would help relieve some of the stresses on the big day, but then of course there’s always the consideration of money.
We were planning on Fiancé’s violin instructor, who is just a stunning musician, play at our ceremony. However she recently got accepted to a big-name conservatory in New York so she will be moving before our wedding. She’s promised to help find someone that can play– there’s a very good conservatory here and lots of musicians floating around. But we probably should be prepared if this falls through.
For the reception, Fiancé will be preparing a playlist for dancing / easy listening purposes. He thoroughly enjoys setting the soundtrack for performance events so this is right up his alley. He’s also mentioned that he’s been secretly putting together this playlist (for a hypothetical wedding) in his head pretty much his entire life. So, we’ll be taking the low-key route on that item.
We used Paperless Post for our invitations.
The only stationery we’ll theoretically need on top of that is for thank you notes. Do we have to write thank you notes if we tell people not to bring gifts and to donate to charity instead? I’m really lazy. Also, I have never personally valued correspondence I’ve received as mere formality, though I understand this sentiment isn’t shared by all (most?).
The appeal of flowers is lost on me.
I remember one time I was at a quiz bowl tournament in high school. Each table had a pot of daisies in the center. Bored out of my mind at listening to introductory speeches, I started picking at and then eating the daisies. Which led to the rest of our team looking at me very strangely and then after a few minutes also picking at and eating the daisies with me.
So yeah, flowers. Food, friend, foe, decorative purpose? I don’t know. I imagine we might get a brooch for him and I guess flowers for the tables maybe? Or maybe not, because they are insanely expensive? Still on the fence here.
Around the same time as the wedding, either a couple weekends before or after, we’d like to have a second reception for all our local friends and acquaintances who we couldn’t invite to the wedding itself (since we’re trying to keep it small). Our thought is to have this after-party at a local roller skating rink and pay for folks’ shoe rentals and greasy rink food.
Here’s the total cost of everything for our wedding, along with our previous budget.
Note that since MIL is covering catering, we’re responsible for only $3750 of the above. That said, this is starting to get significantly more expensive than I had imagined. And we’re trying to keep things simple and small with an estimated head count of 65 people. Sigh. *braces self for overages to come*
How much did you or would you spend on your wedding? Would you ask a friend to help “work” your wedding? Are written thank you notes important? What’s the appeal of flowers? Any other tips?
Xin recently posted a Man Repeller style money diary on her blog which I loved. I really appreciate the format, especially the emoji summaries for the daily expenses (were my emoji game that strong)! Also I feel like the general tenor of the comments section for MR is a lot less judgmental than the Refinery 29 money diaries (although I must admit R29’s salary negotiation series is pretty great). Along the same lines, I’ve really been enjoying The Guardian’s How I Spend It posts, the UK diarists seem to be from a lot of different financial backgrounds and have incomes/lives which seem much closer to “average” than I what I’ve seen on the American outlets. Also Kitchn’s food budget diaries, which has basically underscored for me that I still spend way too much.
Trying to remember this as I go into the next few months:
This Twitter bot which spits out demographic data of vote-eligible Americans is super trippy. It really goes to show how disparate our views on a number of issues are, how little they align with the dipolar narrative espoused on major media outlets, and– most strikingly– how many people just don’t vote.
I know the media is in a tizzy right now about Facebook’s politics-related scandals, but can we take a moment to reflect that they are still actively allowing landlords to post discriminatorily targeted ads in violation of the Fair Housing Act? Like, I know the motto has long been “move fast and break things” but this is not some deeply complicated technical issue, guys. Come on.
Mark Zuckerberg's fundemental belief (shared widely in Silicon Valley and government) is that poor people of color… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…
Speaking of tech companies creating their own unregulated surveillance state, did you know that Slack now has a feature where your boss can export your private messages. Neat, huh!?
Given how much interest there has been in tech regulation, I am kind of surprised-unsurprised that there’s been no mainstream coverage of either GDPR or FOSTA, which are going to have a huge effect on internet content in the very immediate future.
For FOSTA in particular: On the one hand, human trafficking is an under-addressed problem in the US and more tech-savvy trafficking rings have long used sites like BackPage to bulk-advertise forced sex work for underage girls (average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen). On the other hand, losing access to online ad agencies are forcing independent sex workers to go back to working with pimps or on the streets– making a currently un-trafficked population become trafficked. Plus, the likelihood of overly aggressive moderation is going to cause spaces where consensual sex connections are currently being formed online to be pushed further to the fringes or go underground. For instance, Craigslist personals has already shut down. One can readily imagine dating sites– OK Cupid, Tinder, Grinder, etc.– to face massive legal difficulties as it becomes increasingly difficult to connect strangers online without an in-depth and costly background check process to ensure they are complying with FOSTA.
In the long-term, though, it seems like what’s most likely is that sex-oriented sites and/or dating sites will end up going off-shore, a la Mastadon (now “Switter”). So the BackPages of the world will crop again, just with servers outside the Untied States. And then we’ll be back to square one, but with a lot of upended lives as collateral damage.
Another study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.
I’ve really been enjoying listening to the FIRE Drill Podcast lately. The hosts, Gwen of Fiery Millennials and J of Millennial Boss make it really clear that they are committed to putting on a diverse array of guests on their show. In a recent episode with ESI Money (now owner of Rockstar Finance), they push him to consider his own biases in selecting content that may not serve the diverse array of the personal finance community.
J also recently posted on her blog a post for girl’s coding boot camp Kode With Klossy— which is offering free scholarships to its camp, getting more young women into the tech pipeline. Definitely something I’d like to see if I can sign Little Sis up for when she’s the appropriate age.
I’ve been thoroughly obsessed with this song since watching Thoroughbreds:
How have I never heard of Lizzo before!? All her music videos are amazing.
My company offers post-tax 401k contributions. I have never contributed to my 401k post-tax, thereby paving the path toward a Mega Backdoor Roth, because my employer hasn’t allowed for rollovers from my 401k. Which means I’d either have to not invest those contributions for a long time or instead deal with super annoying tax stuff on the post-tax gains being rolled over from a Traditional to Roth account that I didn’t want to bother with.
But then I realized: I’m leaving in less than two months.
Which makes Mega Backdoor Roth contributions a lot more approachable and a lot less rife with confusion.
The catch, though?: I’m leaving in less than two months. Which means I might not have a salary until who knows when. Which further means liquidity is at a premium. Which means maybe I should favor getting my salary in cash to sit on like a greedy dragon rather than stuff it into my retirement fund for favorable tax treatment.
That said, fiance did just finalize his job offer, so we’re probably in decent shape for a while? We can’t live just off his salary, but a back of the scratch pad calculation indicates his pay plus our emergency fund will last for about three years assuming we more or less follow our joint budget plus personal allowance plan. My last few paychecks would add another six months or so to that runway. That’s assuming I don’t make one red cent (but also that we don’t face any truly expensive emergencies). I can’t imagine being unemployed for that long given how strong the job market is right now, particularly for tech.
On the other, other hand, if I take the cash now, then fiance can contribute correspondingly more money into his pre-tax 403(b) when he starts his new job. Which brings us to the old “take the tax break now or later” debate.
I think I might take the middle-of-the-road path and dump half my pay into Mega Backdoor Roth and the other half keep in cash. If by Q3 I have decent job prospects, we’ll up fiance’s 403(b) contributions so we can utilize both our pre- and post- tax investment space.
Anyway I’m interested in hearing some opinions on the matter:
How much do you value liquidity? Would you go for the Mega Backdoor Roth contributions, pre-tax 403(b) contributions, or stockpile some cold hard cash?
On my way out the door, I’m starting to impart my last words of wisdom to our newest hires. It didn’t really dawn on me until the past year that there’s a cohort of people who look up to me. Not just as a manager but as a… mentor? Whom they ask for… advice? It still feels awkward to think about.
When I joined my company, there were no other women in the firm’s technology group. Just twenty-five-ish guys, most of which were at least six feet tall, all of which were white.
Now, our team has six women out of a group of thirty-ish, not including myself. Two of which are non-white. In spite of the fact that I’d never considered myself the type of person to actively lean in, guess how many of those women moved into our group after I started getting involved in hiring decisions.
In my short time I’ve even been in the position to mentor others– not just women, but especially women– there’s one thing that I’ve wanted, desperately have tried to impart, over and over:
Now, being entitled doesn’t mean what you might think. It doesn’t mean being a jerk, doesn’t mean to obstinately block progress lest you get exactly your way. But it does mean getting what you deserve and really knowing you deserve it too, even if the little gremlins in your head tell you maybe it’s an overreach, maybe you aren’t ready.
Here’s the thing: over the years, I’ve had the benefit of learning from some really smart and talented men. One thing I’ve learned is that when those men have very strong convictions about something, they make sure those convictions are heard. Sometimes prolongedly, sometimes stepping on the toes of others, sometimes ad nauseum until a poor new hire is checking the clock every thirty seconds to see if she’s going to make it out of this meeting in time to catch the train to a dinner party she needs to get to. And these men do this not because they are trying to be jerks, but because we work in an environment premised on collaborative argumentation and in that environment they are entitled to have their opinions heard in full and considered by others in good faith.
It took me a while to get used to this way of working. When I was new I would often come and go from meetings not having said a word, feeling unsure of how to interrupt and make space for my opinions. Managers would have to call on me like I was still a student, YAPFB, what do you think about this?YAPFB, you’ve done the analysis, does this fit what you’ve seen?
It took a few good mentors, men who are staunch feminists and walk the walk, to reiterate for me again and again: You can interrupt. You are entitled to have your opinion heard. You are allowed to take up space. It had been so engrained in me all my life to be as background as possible, to take up as little oxygen in the room as I could, that my understanding of my own desert was warped. While I didn’t need my mentors permission, I did need their reminder: I am not just allowed, I am entitled.
This revelation of entitlement expanded to other areas of my work life. I was not just entitled to be heard, I was also entitled to be paid. I was not just entitled to be paid, but I was also entitled not to take on all the career-stunting admin work that nobody else wanted to do because I was so “organized.” I was entitled to work-life balance and, as a human, I was entitled to sometimes make a mistake. I am entitled not to hear sexist jokes by the water cooler and I am entitled when I hear them to call them out.
When I see newer, younger women in my group, I often see a mirror of my younger self’s habits and behaviors. Recently, one of our newer hires jumped back into projects the day after a semi-serious head injury and working into the late hours of the night to hit a couple of deadlines. Because she felt like she had to fulfill her obligations to the team, she ended up exacerbating her injury. When I told her manager that I was concerned, he said, “I think it’s cute that she works so hard.” #nope, going to go flip some tables now
Because she, you, I, all humans in decent living conditions are entitled to drop tasks after a head injury. (Hopefully not silently, but whatcha gonna do?) Basic things, health being the first among that list, nobody else should be able to take from you. Not your employer, not anyone. You as a person, an identity you had way before you as an employee, are entitled to that.
It’s taken a lot of practice to feel comfortable being entitled. To learn to assert my own desert than to wait for others assert it on my behalf. To learn to state what I feel entitled to instead of asking if I am entitled to them. To be– if I’m being flip about it– like “one of the boys,” who haven’t had a sense of diminutiveness, of sweet and passive deference cudgeled into them from the day they were born. I hope to pass this along to the next cohort of women as well as I can, with what little time I have.
What advice would you give young professional women in your field?
Each month I will post an update on my finances to both give you, the reader, some insight into my situation and to give me markers of my progress on my financial journey. My updates consist of two parts:
Financial Progress Table – Tracks net worth progress.
Spending Table – Compares monthly spending to an average (for me) “bare bones” budget, keeping me accountable for additional expenses.
For now, monthly updates include only my personal net worth and spending. As my fiancé and I combine our finances, updates will shift to cover going values instead.
Each net worth goal in the Financial Progress table is broken down into undisclosed units of money. My current goal is to reach “Financial Freedom.” By the time I reach this goal I will have:
A retirement account that can support us when my fiancé hits 65
Two college savings funds funded for four years of in-state public university tuition, room, and board
An emergency fund for six or more months of living expenses
Sufficient liquidity for my fiancé and/or I to make a career change with one to two years’ runway
A mortgage less than two times my gross salary without bonuses
Once “Financial Freedom” is achieved, the focus will then working be towards “Financial Equilibrium”, where the income from investments covers all our ongoing expenses.
I’ve created a “bare bones” budget which represents the average minimum amount I can expect to spend each month. This is the minimum amount I need to comfortably live in case of a job loss, emergency, etc. I expect to frequently go over my “bare bones” budget in a number of categories (here’s looking at you, “Groceries & Dining”), but I want to remain accountable to myself when I do so.
For privacy reasons, there are two things I do not include in my spending updates: my monthly mortgage and charitable donations (pegged at 10% of my net income).
Lots of volatility in the market the last couple months, but my annual bonus erased my losses. I am kind of annoyed that I front-loaded all my 401k contributions into the first quarter this year especially if it turns out we’re in a prolonged bear market. I had been planning on waiting until the second quarter to max it out, but I didn’t manage to change my withholdings in time. Oh well, so it goes.
For the next couple months before my planned departure I’ll be stockpiling cash. I’m in negotiations right now with my employer to see if they’ll hire me on as a contractor to finish off my existing projects, but there’s a lot that can go south so I’m not holding my breath on that one.
I spent a lot of money in March. About half of the excess was comprised of planned one-off expenses; emergency supplies and career coaching came to about $550 on their own. A quarter was shopping for books (because, books) and replacement shoes as my Merrells fell apart from heavy wear. The last quarter was a function of stress spending. In particular: food spending.
When I’m feeling stressed out, particularly as I have been at work, I’ll get more delivery or “treat” myself with fancier foods. I realize part of this has to do with the way I use food, particularly the kind I couldn’t afford when I was younger, as an emotional crutch. Affording “good” food reminds me I’ve made it. I’ll admit it’s probably not the best habit, but it’s I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Something to keep an eye on and rein in, though, lest it get too out of hand.
Notable things that happened this month include:
Endured seven bazillion snow storms.
Tried selling my body to science and was in return informed that science doesn’t actually want me all that much.