I plan on being a tech-departing statistic.

Note: I graduated with my STEM degree in 2009 and started working full-time in the industry in 2010. I have been working on this post since 2014 off and on.

Being a woman in a STEM field is a beast.

This blog is about finances, not about career, though in reality, those two go hand in hand. Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog, people have occasionally commented on my seemingly low job satisfaction and not understood why I assume I won’t make good money forever.

I don’t know how many of my readers are in STEM or women, but for those who aren’t, there is systemic discrimination against women, undercompensation compared to men (I was reasonably fortunate with my compensation and was not underpaid until I took my most recent job), and little to no training for new managers, in addition to the high stress environment. The tech industry is a burn out recipe for any sane person (somehow other than my husband…), let alone a woman with one or more bad managers or coworkers.

On compensation: for comparison of AGI figures, when my husband and I first started dating, I outearned him by 10-20% for the first two years, but by the third year when we got married, he earned 70% more than me. That is controlling for two people of the same ethnicity, socioeconomic class growing up, education level, undergraduate program, and alma mater who worked at similarly sized, valued, and located companies. This year, two years since I last held my most recent job, he is on track to earn only just under 10% less than we did combined back in 2016. Granted, there is huge privilege in all of these numbers as our household income has been in the top 1-3% the whole time we’ve been together, even now, but that doesn’t negate the comparison in his earnings versus mine. To me, that makes it even worse because he is earning that much and I really doubt my income will ever recover from the poor job change back in 2015, if I do find another job in tech.

So yes, this industry pays well. Very well. But is it worth it beyond aggressively saving for financial freedom?

There is a statistic that 41% of women leave the tech industry within the first 10 years out of college. This is higher than the statistic for men – only 17% of men leave the tech industry within the first 10 years out of college.

I don’t blame them and I very likely plan to be one of the women who leave within the first 10 years. My female friends and I compare our savings plans, our exit strategies, and when we think we’ll leave, what the last straw will be. My male friends talk about the work they do, not the sexist comments and toxic work environments they’re in. My male friends rant about project deadlines and high work demands or coworkers refusing to work weekends.

Over the course of my career so far in the tech industry, I’ve had coworkers express an interest in sleeping with me or suggest that I sleep with another coworker; managers treat me differently because I am a woman. I’ve seen management by guilt and humiliation and other such toxic work environments, had coworkers not listen to me because I’m a woman let alone a young looking woman, and had coworkers repeatedly comment on my attire to the point that I stopped wearing feminine clothing, makeup, nail polish, accessories, etc. to work for months. I’ve missed important meetings because they happened over drinks. When the keg comes out, I go home, even if it’s the middle of the day. Whenever I would negotiate, the other side would assume I was bluffing. I had the same recruiter as a male friend at the same level and he had the complete opposite experience – the recruiter took him seriously the entire time and gave him far more money. This is my life and from talking to other women in my level, it’s normal. Do the women who get further ahead get lucky in their work environment or do they have a harder shell to ignore the tiny cuts? (My older friends who are still in tech say it’s both.)

I want to be financially independent so that I can some day quit the tech industry without ever worrying about money again.

My plan was to financially plan so that I can quit my job by my thirtieth birthday and be set for life, while career-wise working to build a career that I wouldn’t want to walk away from. I wish I could simply change companies and ditch the systemic issues in my industry. I was cautiously optimistic that my future Master’s degree will help me pivot to a less toxic subfield, but after the multi-month panic attack I had when it came time to look for a job, I’m unsure.

At the best of times, I’ve felt Othered in my job in that I don’t, for example, play video games outside of work. I don’t fit in. I don’t have my people.

Whenever I’ve complained about any of my comments in this post in the past, the feedback I usually get is:

a) The money is good, so you should take whatever crap people give you. Hah. That’s what my nest egg is for. So I don’t have to take the crap.

b) If you’re underpaid, just ask for more. A lot of studies have been done to show that if you control for job title, the wage gap is smaller. Those studies hide the fact that fewer women are at the higher levels where the men are making substantially more money.

c) Women ask for the sexism. My response to comments about my attire eventually became “I’ll only accept comments on my attire if you comment on [John]’s attire just as frequently as you comment on mine.”

d) You shouldn’t complain because women have these problems at lower earning jobs too. Sure, that also sucks.

I have always been a go-getter, an over achiever, a studious hard worker. I was an oddity – I loved coding from an early age and always wanted to work in this field. Coworkers were regularly intimidated by me in my early twenties, which really countered my looking young. Thankfully I’ve also always been a saver, as has my husband. I thought I was a career lifer, so I keep wanting to try just one more job to see if it might be better. But then the pain comes back. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being so much of a go-getter.

That’s the why behind my path to financial independence. I want freedom from working in the STEM field. Financial independence means figuring out who I am, letting me define myself as myself.

My offline friends say I’m happier now than I was in any of my jobs. They want this reduced stress life I have, too. They figure with the amount my husband is earning (ignoring the nest egg that I have…), why should I work too if it leaves me so dreadfully unhappy? So far, the best reasons I’ve come up with to go back to work are for better temperature control than our condo, so I would have my own health insurance, so I can make further contributions to my 401(k), and so I can earn money that is sourced by me by myself.

further reading: Cate Huston e.g. http://www.catehuston.com/blog/2016/09/15/real-talk-women-in-tech-and-money/

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2018 Goals Midway Check-in

We made a pretty random assortment of goals this year. Well, by we, I mostly mean me since I’m the goal-oriented person in our family.

Personal

1. (Family) One restaurant night per month not related to the theatre

SUCCESS! We have season tickets to a local theatre, which we love and makes for a great date night. Last year, we always went out for dinner before the show and sometimes slept through parts of the show. So this year, we decided to try and decouple the restaurants out from the theatre. It has been going great! We have been staying awake through the entire shows and the restaurant nights have been way more fun too since we’re not rushing to get to the theatre on time. At this point, I would say that we have successfully decoupled these two things. We have also been aiming for a weeknight dinner out per month, which is super fun.

2. (Leigh) 100 barre classes

BEHIND! I set this goal last year and I came very, very close. As in, I was four classes short. I set this goal again this year since 100 is such a lovely round number. My stretch goal is 113 so that I’ll hit 250 total classes with this studio. Due to health issues, I mostly took Q1 off from barre classes. If I had been on track in Q1 to hit this goal, I went enough in Q2 to stay on track, but I wasn’t on track in Q1, so I’m a bit behind. (18 classes behind as of 6/18) Depending on how things go in Q3, I may be able to get back on track.

3. (Leigh) 10,000 average steps per day

ON TRACK! I’m going to call this one on track since I’m very close to being on track. January is always a tough month for 10,000 steps a day and then I had a cold in April, so that didn’t go the best either. I was at 9,923 average steps for the year so far as of the end of June, which is very close and substantially better than I was doing at this point in 2017 (about 8,500 average).

4. (Leigh) Pain-free life

PROGRESS! I’ve been tracking this in my bullet journal habit tracker since March. January was bad at close to 100%, but February was down to about 50% days with pain. March I got it down to 19%, which was amazing and April was even better at 17%. May and June haven’t been going quite as well though – up to 23% in May and 50% in June. I will not answer any questions regarding the pain, but I do want to start talking about it more as I feel comfortable.

5. (H) Two bicycle rides per month

ON TRACK! This is the goal I convinced him to set in January, which was a solid goal for the winter when the weather doesn’t cooperate every weekend. (He tends to not plan things and then we just end up hanging out, so I try to help him plan his priorities into our schedule.) In the summer though, he’s been going weekly. He’s on track to ride about 3,000 miles this year on his bicycles, which is comparable to the number of miles we’ll put on the car.

6. (Leigh) 12 52 books read (31 so far)

ON TRACK! This goal started out as 12 books read for the year and I upped it to 52 when I read 11 in January alone. As of June, I’ve read 31, so I’m definitely on track with this one! This is the most number of books I’ve read since I started tracking on Goodreads back in 2014. I read a whopping 11 books in January and 7 in February – reading and Netflix have been my two main hobbies through the pain. My number of books read seems inversely correlated to the number of pain free days, which makes sense, as I’ve been going to barre more and getting outside.

I love finding personal finance tidbits in fiction books! For finance books, this year I’ve read: (1) Meet the Frugalwoods, (2) You Need A Budget, (3) The Financial Diet (If you’re going to read this book: get the hard copy, not the e-book version as the hard copy was really well designed and looks incredible!), (4) The Year of Less, and (5) Worry-Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons.

My favorite fiction books so far this year were: The Shell Seekers (by Rosamunde Pilcher), The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd), Miller’s Valley (Anna Quindlen), and The Atomic Weight of Love (Elizabeth J. Church). My favorite of the finance books was You Need A Budget.

7. (Leigh) Resume regular journaling habit – 50% of days

ON TRACK! When I was single, I used to journal every night before going to sleep, to get all of my thinking out of my head. Before I started that habit, it would take forever to get to sleep because I spent so much time getting caught in my thoughts. That definitely seemed to help reduce stress, so I’ve been trying to find new times of day to pick up the habit. 50% of days as a goal seemed like a solid figure to shoot for and it’s been going great! I hit the goal in March, was slightly under in April, and hit it again in May and June.

Financial

8. Max out all available retirement accounts

ON TRACK! We both contributed the maximum to our Backdoor Roth IRAs on January 1st and my husband has been contributing to his 401(k) every paycheck, getting the maximum employer match. He did get a partial refund of his 2017 contribution, but he reinvested it back into his taxable account immediately.

For simplicity and that the Vanguard money market returns are pretty solid right now, I’ve been keeping all of my personal cash at Vanguard in a money market account. My goal is to have about six months of expenses (by some definition) as a personal emergency fund, plus two years of Roth IRA contributions so that I can continue to make the contributions out of my personal funds without selling any stocks. I turned off dividend reinvestment in my taxable account to help with this too. There’s almost enough funds that a year of dividends should fund a Roth IRA. (Note that my husband and I are filing our tax returns jointly, which allows both of us to make IRA contributions assuming that we combined have $11,000 in earned income. This is a really great feature if only one spouse is working!)

9. Spend less than $X.

ON TRACK! We had a couple of spendy years in 2016 and 2017 between some remodeling, getting married and going on a wonderful honeymoon. So I set a low-hanging fruit goal of spending less than $X which is a large number and there’s no way we want to hit that number because if we did, we would also fail at goal #13. We have currently spent a bit under 40% of $X, so it looks like we are solidly on track for this goal, especially since I anticipate H2 being less expensive than H1 this year.

10. Budgeting

ON TRACK! Hah, this goal wasn’t very SMART. YNAB has been going great though! We are both very pleased with it. We spend much closer to my husband’s now-biweekly paychecks each month, so YNAB has substantially reduced my money anxiety without increasing his, which seems like a solid success!

11. Successful more money combining

ON TRACK! We decided this year after a lot of discussion that all income would get deposited into joint accounts. So far, things have been going mostly smoothly. I was really frugal in 2017, so that means that I’ve had to replace things this year like a worn out backpack that was damaging all of my clothes and too-small hiking boots that were several years old, which has resulted in some negotiation on how much personal money we each need from month to month. We have also been working on negotiating other money goals including joint investment allocations and the mortgage.

12. Open joint Vanguard taxable investment account

ON TRACK! We allocated some money for this goal in June at last! So that’s step one of the goal. Step two was figuring out how to allocate the investments in it, which we decided on 50/50 US/international stocks for now since we are also keeping a large cash cushion. Step three is figuring out how we want to title the account. Step four is opening and funding the account. I’m marking this as on track since it seems we should be able to figure this out this year still…

13. Live on H’s regular paycheck income

ON TRACK! This seems like a silly goal coming from two people who used to save 50% of their salary income, but when we each made half the salary income, that means dropping to one income means spending all of the salary if we don’t modify anything. So far, we’ve done this every month except January! We were on track to have a reasonable chunk to save each month until his employer decided to start paying him biweekly instead of monthly in Q2. We should still be okay with this goal though and we are saving the rest of the income (which is significant).

14. Have one month where 4% of investments more than spending

PROGRESS! This is looking like a stretch goal for this year… We would need a confluence of factors to result in a really low spending month with no irregular large expenses for this to happen. But notice that I didn’t use a possessive pronoun in the goal? So it’s possible that I will hit this personally – I did have a month that credit card rewards + 4% of investments covered 99.1% of my personal spending + half of our household spending. I’ll probably leave this on as a yearly goal until we hit it, and then I’ll increase the number of months of the goal each year. Our best month so far is credit card rewards + 4% of investments covering 80% of our combined spending. Even if we don’t have a month this year where we hit this goal, we’ve been making some substantial improvements over 2017 (our best month last year was 62% coverage), so I would still call it progress.

15. Reach $Y in investments

ON TRACK! We reached $Y in monetary assets, which was incredibly exciting! It looks like we could still hit it in investments at some point this year, depending on how the markets go and how much we allocate to cash versus investments for the rest of the year. This number is meaningful for many reasons, but largely because it will mean we are life insurance FI.

16. Estate planning finalized

PROGRESS! Ah yes, it seems this is a task that stays on everyone’s lists for too long. We started it originally because my husband wasn’t on the title of the condo. We’ve solved that problem, but we should still finish this. The money to pay for it is allocated in YNAB, we set up a new donor advised fund that is part of the strategy, and we’ve picked who we want to make our medical decisions. So there’s some progress here, but we need to follow back up with the lawyer we had contacted last spring, they need to draft the paperwork, and we need to make an appointment to go in and sign it.

17. Refinance mortgage

CHECK! All done. This closed at the Q1/Q2 boundary. We are both really glad we did this as otherwise our previous mortgage might have gone to 5% next year, whereas now we have the rate locked at 3.09% for five years and there are only 10 years left on the mortgage.

Readers, how are your goals going this year?

Adjusting our giving strategy to 2% and a milestones checklist from 2015

2015 future milestones checklist

Back in December 2015, I wrote a post entitled “Envisioning the future of my finances”, which I refer to occasionally because I talked about how I planned to adjust my giving strategy in the future. What I didn’t realize until just now is that I have actually hit several of the milestones on this list:

My pre-tax 401(k) is worth $165,000 today. That is more than my salary has ever been, so I successfully have more than one year’s annual salary saved in pre-tax retirement accounts.

Withdrawing 4% of my (or our) investments could cover all of my (or our) needs, with a bit of room to spare.

Our liquid assets far outweigh the mortgage now, by several times.

My 401(k) grew by $24,420 in 2017, with no contributions by me. That’s more than I can contribute myself, if I currently had access to make such contributions.

We are millionaires. (I forget what I meant then by “on paper”.) I should be a millionaire by myself soon too, in the next year. I remember eight years ago, running the math and not fully understanding compound interest because I thought I would be 50 when I became a millionaire!

I used most of my husband’s final condo buy-in money to contribute to my taxable account at Vanguard, catapulting it into the six figures. We are going to start a joint taxable account at Vanguard very shortly too – it’s on our to do list for the month of June. My retirement accounts aren’t worth half a million dollars yet, so I think my projections were a bit off on that part.

I learned about tax loss harvesting I think actually back in 2015 because my husband had some shares in his taxable account that he could apply it to!

A new Donor Advised Fund at Fidelity

Just after we got married in 2016, we opened a Donor Advised Fund at Schwab. It was a painful process that involved filling out paper forms, taking them to a nearby branch, the person we were supposed to meet with not being there, and them taking the wrong shares out of my husband’s Vanguard account. It worked just fine for donating to various charities over the last year and a half, but to make new cash contributions, it wasn’t a one step process – we would need to first transfer cash to the checking account we have at Schwab and once it settled there, we could transfer it to the brokerage account and then we could contribute to the DAF. Plus, we wanted to use the DAF as part of our overall estate planning strategy and with Schwab, you can’t see your succession (i.e. where the money in the account goes if you both were to pass away) settings online and you need to mail/fax a paper in to update them, which isn’t so useful.

Needless to say, our existing DAF was running low on funds and we didn’t want to contribute anything further to it. We spent quite a while hemming and hawing and I discovered that the Fidelity Charitable website has a demo online account that you can check out! That showed me that not only can you see and update your succession settings online, but you can also make cash donations online from your checking account easily on a one-time or recurring basis and their website is a gazillion times cleaner and easier to use.

We opened and funded our new Fidelity Charitable account with $5,000 within about 10 minutes online. It was really easy!

If we were really trying to tax optimize, we would have opened the Fidelity Charitable account in December and saved a bit on our 2017 taxes, but we chose not to as it would have been too much additional work to add in when things were already a bit chaotic with reorganizing our finances.

Adjusting our Giving Strategy

In the post I mentioned at the beginning, I talked about how when I paid off the mortgage, I wanted to increase my donations from 1% to 2% of gross income. By my original formula for paying off the mortgage, we would have already paid off the mortgage, so I suggested to my husband that we should increase our charitable donations budget to 2% of gross income! With how much my husband’s income has increased, that actually puts our donation budget for the year at a high four figure dollar amount, which we are both really excited about! With 2% of gross income, we are still pretty far from donating with the new $24,000 standard deduction for married couples filing jointly. My goal is to eventually donate enough that we will itemize again!

I really like having the donations budget be a % of gross income. It’s easier to calculate than net income because it doesn’t change from month to month and the % allows us to scale it up and down with how income changes quite easily.

Sometimes it’s simply easier to make donations not from the DAF, so we plan to continue monthly budgeting in YNAB for donations and keep a portion of the money there rather than sending it to the DAF.

Managing my clothing spending with a whitelist

I’ll leave this tidbit for a more financial update: I own 68% of the condo, my husband 9%, and the bank 23%, or in another way: I own 59%, we own 18%, and the bank owns 23%. This is a huge change from December where I owned 76% and the bank 24%. I’m not ready to write a 5 year homeownership update (!!) as I prefer to write about things after they have settled and we haven’t yet figured out how to get approval to make the condo board less broke.

Over the years, I’ve spent the most time managing my clothing spending. I have tried many ways to reign it in, to limit myself, to plan for spending, to budget, etc. and nothing seems to work for very long until now. I’ve struggled with my clothing spending for a variety of reasons over the years. Primarily, I value having a wardrobe with pieces that I love and fit and suit me well. Yet I have donated and purged so much of my closet over the years and worn a really small portion of it.

I feel so, so guilty buying clothes. I feel guilty putting them in my cart. I feel guilty putting them on my credit card. I feel guilty taking them out of the bag they come in. I feel guilty seeing the pile of online shopping bags by our mailbox. I even feel guilty wearing new clothes, sometimes so I leave the tags on them without wearing them! I feel guilty spending down investments or cash savings or using my husband’s condo buy-in money to buy clothes or asking for clothes for my birthday.

I used to over-buy clothes in categories that were easier to buy (tops) and under-buy in categories that were harder (everything else). In May, I went into a store looking for a pair of shorts that fit, a pair of white pants that fit, and a cropped cardigan. What did I walk out with? A pair of shorts, a pair of yellow pants (I decided they were so awesome they were worth foregoing the white pants), a dress that fit splendidly (but was terrible quality and I later returned for a damaged material credit after one wear), and two non-cropped cardigans that were the same colors as cardigans I already had at home. I had reached decision fatigue and bought whatever cardigan I could find instead of the cropped style I was specifically looking for. On the one hand, my color selection at least proves I know my style and color preferences but I when got home with the cardigans, I realized my silliness pretty quickly and took them back to the store later.

Despite all this guilt, when I was filling in my mindful budgeting planner, my best purchases recently were: bras, underwear, workout crops, and a summer dress I bought recently. That tells me that underneath all the guilt, having more than one pair of workout crops encourages me to go to the gym more often, which in turn brings me joy. It also tells me that summer clothes bring me far more joy than winter ones do.

To reduce my guilt and to not stress as much about the necessary clothing spending, I’ve been keeping a “Clothing whitelist” and setting one of my monthly goals as “Clothing whitelist only” and it’s been working. (I use these soft cover daily planners – not an affiliate link. I love them because they are small and fit in my purse or backpack easily!) When I start contemplating a particular item of clothing, I add it to this list. Sometimes the items stay on the list for a few months and other times, I add things to the list and immediately buy them. As I review my spending throughout the month, I check in – is a piece of clothing I bought on the whitelist? If it isn’t, I either need to add it or return the item.)

A recurring theme on the list this year is “X that fits” which falls into the “one in one out” philosophy for wardrobe management: spring jacket that fits, hiking shorts that fit, 2 pairs of workout crops that fit, bras that fit, underwear that fits, shorts that fit, summer pants that fit. Other items have included: N* winter sweaters, N* pairs of underwear (finally swapped down to just black and beige colors which is life changing), a cropped cardigan, winter over-pants for walking to the gym, N* days of summer clothes, shoes for my wedding reception. With my huge exercise push this year, I’ve lost some of the weight I gained in my last couple years of jobs I hated and felt stuck in. It’s been huge for my general happiness levels and has given me the opportunity to shop the parts of my closet I didn’t purge from what fit back in 2014/2015, plus some pieces of last year’s closet.

Similarly, I picked which bra styles and colors to buy in what number by listing out the possibilities, along with which items I would wear with them in my wardrobe. I hate having a bra wardrobe that doesn’t match to my actual closet! (What you get when you take a CS nerd and get them to shop: spreadsheets, tables, and charts.)

So far, this method seems to be working really well this year, better even than assigning a dollar number to the clothing budget. If I gave myself a dollar figure budget, I probably would have kept those cardigans I didn’t need.

Readers, what is your trickiest category to budget for? How do you handle it?

N* is variable, depending on the category.

The evolution of managing shared spending in a dating relationship

I started working on this post after my husband and I had been dating for about a year. I’m publishing it now as a snapshot of how our financial management evolved during our dating relationship. I’ll have plenty more to say about how we will manage money going forward in our marriage, don’t worry!

Friends and Early Dating

My husband and I have been friends since college. We occasionally went out for food together prior to beginning to date and we just split the bill by what food we ordered. That’s what most friends do, right? When we were first casually dating, we continued to do the same. I remember one occasion when we were trying to figure out how to split the bill, he put his card down, and poof the server took off with it! I turned out to have some cash and gave him some for my share. Since that instance, we’ve always made sure to figure out what we’re doing before either of us put our cards down on the bill. I still remember the first time we went out for dinner after we had The Relationship Talk and we looked at the bill and went “What do we do?”, realizing that maybe there was a new process to this paying for eating out madness. He also asked me how much I was going to tip, which I found quite amusing at the time. (He later explained that he didn’t want to tip vastly different amounts on similar bills.) Until we moved in together, we had several approaches:

  1. If the amounts were way off, sometimes the person who ordered more $ of food pays the whole bill
  2. Sometimes one person randomly pays for both of us
  3. If we split all the food or ordered within $1 of the same amount of food, we split the bill 50/50
  4. If the amounts we each ordered are off by less than the amount we would tip, then we adjust the amount with the tip

For any costs in cash, usually whoever has the most convenient denomination of cash pays.

For expenses that we couldn’t split at the source, we set up our checking accounts so we could transfer money to each other without seeing the other’s balances after we’d been dating for about six months, which made random things so easy to split. It did drive me a bit nuts with the number of transfers going back and forth, but it was a great system. (Square Cash made this pretty easy when I moved my money to a different bank.)

Travel

In 2014, we took a few trips and they were relatively easy to share the costs:

  1. In March, we went on a trip to an all-inclusive resort. Pretty much everything was paid for upfront, so one of us paid with a credit card and the other transferred half the cost. Super easy. If you’re ever traveling with friends, these are great trips to take! One of us took out some $ from an ATM to have some spending cash and the other transferred them half of that. We ended up spending none of it though so we both had enough cash to last us several months of normal cash spending.
  2. In June, we went on a trip to another city, a short-ish flight away. One person booked the flights on a credit card, the other booked and paid upfront for the hotel, and the person who paid less for those two transferred the other the difference. We did one activity that one person paid for in advance and the other transferred them half. Once we were there, we followed our normal pattern for splitting costs.
  3. In July, we went on a driving weekend away. One person booked the hotel and activities and the other paid them back once we had the final amounts. My husband filled up the gas tank. We followed our normal restaurant pattern.

As of early 2015, our trip to New Zealand was our biggest shared cost so far, the first one being our shared checking account for groceries. At home, we split every expense except groceries at the source. This sounds tedious to everyone else, but it works for us. When we go out to eat, we either pay for what we ordered or we split the bill evenly if our separate amounts are within a dollar of each other’s. We agreed as we were booking this trip on about how much it would cost, how long we wanted to go for, where we wanted to go, and the type of trip that we wanted to have: hotels not hostels, renting a car instead of tour buses, not a big group experience. We also decided to put most of the expenses on one credit card (and agreed to use a recent card that my husband got) and then deal with things when we got back. We both had separate credit cards that we used for non-shared expenses. This system worked out pretty well!

Living Together

It took us a few months of living together before we found a good routine with our financial management systems. The system I described in that post isn’t exactly what we ended up doing over the last two years. We did, however, stick to our plan of splitting the outgoing shared expenses other than the mortgage payment 50/50. Our incomes when he moved in were pretty similar and so that seemed like a fair system. Our incomes eventually diverged quite a bit, but we’ve still kept to the 50/50 system as we don’t want to create a financial dependence on the other person’s income.

We determined who would pay what with the question “If we were renting, would the landlord or the renter pay for X?” In order to keep my condo equity safe and clearly separate, I paid for everything related to the condo. I paid the mortgage payments, monthly HOA dues and special assessments, property taxes, and any maintenance or improvements. He paid for most everything else: groceries, travel, restaurants, utilities, new towels, etc.

To keep things simple, all of the shared expenses that he paid for were put on one credit card and I have an Authorized User card on the account. We also set up a financial aggregator account with it so that I could see the data without him sharing the online banking password. Every few months, I would enter my part of the data and his part of the data into a spreadsheet and make sure that things were relatively even since we weren’t splitting at the source.

When we did a living room furniture remodel this year, we agreed to split every item purchased at the source so that we fully owned all of the items together. I ended up getting a couple of credit cards (including the Chase Sapphire Reserve!) for credit card bonus points with the large purchases and then he paid me back for his half of the furniture pieces.

After we got married, we moved to a slightly different system (which I will talk more about next year), though I continued to pay for everything related to the condo until the postnuptial agreement was signed. I am so excited to retire the haphazardly updated spreadsheet of shared spending!! I’m really glad I kept that spreadsheet though as it made creating our 2017 joint budget much, much easier.

Happy holidays, everyone! This is my last post for 2016.

Living My Values in 2017

This is normally the point in the year where I contemplate the upcoming year and what financial goals I want to accomplish. This year, I’m switching it up a bit. Instead of writing SMART goals, I’m going to talk about my values.

Financial

No debt. I am pretty strongly against debt. I’ve never had student loans or credit card debt. I aggressively paid down my mortgage. One of my strongest financial values is to maintain this status with the only debt in the household being the mortgage on the condo. My husband is absolutely on board with this plan. His student loans are long gone at this point and neither of us have ever maintained a balance on a credit card nor do we plan to start doing so.

Save for retirement. Other than my first year out of college, I have contributed the maximum I can to all retirement vehicles available to me. I plan to continue that going forward, though it does look different from year to year and from job to job.

Spend consciously. I don’t practice extreme frugality, nor does my husband. Instead, we consider purchases for a reasonable duration of time before committing to them. We buy reduced stress. We buy a non-financial lifestyle that brings us joy. We naturally don’t spend our entire incomes, which results in a large gap between our spending and our incomes and thus results in a high savings rate.

Security. I value financial security above so many other pieces in life. I plan to keep one year’s expenses in cash at all times. Any funds available beyond eliminating debt, saving for retirement, and one year’s expenses will be invested in a taxable investment account, per my Investment Policy Statement.

Home

Home. Loving my home is so key to my mental health. Living in a home that brings me joy, that I want to go home to, that I want to hang out in, is so important to me. More important than travel.

Possessions. Thanks to Stylebook, I’ve been buying clothes more strategically. We’ve also been working on drastically reducing the amount of stuff we have in the condo, which has been a continual work in progress and I’m sure will be for a while. Trying to be more conscious of what comes into the apartment is also helpful here. Both my husband and I have parents that are minor hoarders and so living with less has been a point of growth and learning. I had no idea it wasn’t normal to keep everything you had ever owned in your life…

Style. I like having clothes that fit my body, no matter how much my body shifts around. This seems to go against the grain of the personal finance blogosphere, but I get enjoyment out of a closet that I like and that’s worth something.

Mental

Learn. It’s really important to never stop learning and to push myself to stretch my mind. Having a career as a tech professional is not the only answer to this. My Master’s program has been great for this. What does learning and pushing myself mentally look like after my Master’s program? If I’m not learning or not enjoying my job, then what’s the point? I have enough savings now that it’s becoming more and more difficult to put up with a job that gives me minimal fulfillment.

Health

Keep moving. I have a monthly average steps goal of 10,000 steps per day. I find that the closer I get to that figure, the happier I am overall. Getting outside is such a stress reducing factor, no matter the weather, even if certain types of weather make it less enticing to spend time outside.

Practice joy. I’ve always been a naturally critical person. In 2016, I started to practice contentedness with where I was in life and to find the positives in situations where really there didn’t seem to be any. I have an exercise where I write in a joy journal all of the pieces in my life that currently bring me joy. I’m always surprised at how many there are, even while I’m incredibly stressed out over something else. Practicing joy has helped me in so many ways.

Water. One of my projects this year was to start drinking more water. I have not always been the best at staying hydrated, but I’m finally making progress. I set my goal to drink 64 oz per day and I well exceeded that in the summer and since then, have been getting pretty close most days. My husband and I have noticed that we don’t drink water nearly as well when we’re traveling and my body definitely feels different as a result, so that’s something we plan to be more conscious of on our next trip. I’ve also made some minor diet shifts that made a huge difference.

Community

Support. In a way, this comes back to spending consciously. I have a variety of charities that I strongly believe in and love supporting their causes, as does my husband. It also means supporting other people in their learning and growth.

Relationships. In addition to movement keeping me happier, so does a certain level of social activity. There’s a careful balance between too little and too much and it’s so easy to fall on the side of too little when we are busy with our own lives, families, and careers. My relationship with my husband is central to my well-being, as well.

 

Layoffs: one door closes and a window opens

Note: This is more personal than most posts that I write here. It has been multiple months since the layoff happened now and I’m in a pretty reasonable place emotionally at this point, though triggers do still happen sometimes and publishing this post last week was a trigger in the few seconds that it went live, which is why I held off on publishing it for a week.

Layoffs. We think they happen to everyone but us. To no one we know. To no one in our family. Until they do and our world explodes. No matter how much you possibly wanted to leave your job, a layoff still results in far more emotional shock than you would think it does.

I could write a post about how to prepare financially for a layoff, but it’s pretty simple: keep your finances in great shape and you will be okay when you get laid off. That two year liquidity fund I was saving up with so I could take a sabbatical? Super handy when I was unexpectedly laid off this year. As was my severance package.

Nothing, however, can prepare you for the emotions that come along with getting laid off. How it feels to be told your job was eliminated in a room with multiple other people by someone you’ve never talked to before. How it feels to go into work one day and see a mysterious email about a mysterious meeting. How it feels to go into work one day assuming you have a job and leave no longer having one. How it feels to most definitely now be the lower income earner in the household for a bit. How it feels for people to assume your spouse is supporting you financially because you are “unemployed”. How it feels to wonder if you should spend any money at all on joyous things when you spent years teaching yourself how to spend money on yourself. How it feels to not get paid on the last business day of the month for the first time in almost seven years. How it feels to live off of your savings account for an indeterminate amount of time. How it feels to be laid off in an expensive season of your life.

You find sad joy in knowing others who also got laid off that day, friendly faces in a time of uncertainty, making for a shoulder to cry on. You follow your list of self-care, going on long walks in the sunlight every day that week. Somehow your partner is the one more unsure of how to proceed through this, confused that you are simply in checklist mode until you break and then he’s there, holding you steady.

But the finances? It is so wonderful to not worry about those in this strange time.

That checklist that you had ready to go for when you gave your notice? That checklist is so key at keeping your emotions in check while you wade through the last week at a job you didn’t love. In a haze, you call your 401(k) plan provider to request an after-tax 401(k) in-service distribution the afternoon you receive your layoff notice. The check comes in the mail the next week and you deposit it into your Vanguard Roth IRA.

Health insurance? You don’t even think about it. Your checklist already knew based on where your deductible was for the year, that it makes sense to keep COBRA for the remainder of the year even if it costs the insane $500/month versus joining your partner’s plan.

You’re free. After a series of jobs where you didn’t fit or didn’t succeed after a series of jobs where you had flourished, you’re set free to figure out what you want. What will you do next? You’re not yet financially independent, yet you don’t need to immediately find a new job. You can take the time to figure out what to do next, rather than rushing on to a new job that you don’t love either.

Your sense of independence has always been so key in your life. How do you reconcile that with being unemployed for a season? How do you reconcile that with your partner earning more than you ever have while it also being a success for him to be earning so much as it shows how valued they are in their organization?

The layoff took away your decision on when to leave the job. That bandaid was ripped away from you, by someone you don’t even know. The door is shut and gone forever. The job can no longer be fixed or improved or gotten better, no matter what your manager told you the previous week. Which window do you pick?

You try to be cautious about who you tell because everyone else has their own Feelings that they then want to discuss and this isn’t the time for you to manage everyone else’s Feelings. This is a time for you to get support. You shut down the person who offers you a job in their group like five times in a day. You ignore the person who outbursts their emotions about when they got fired. (Not the same thing, buddy.) Your parents try to tell you that having the mortgage paid off would be better than having cash in the bank and you call bull on that – liquidity is far more useful.

Life goes on. That self-care that you had been working on all year when you started to realize you hated your job? It, your partner, and your savings account carry you through this confusing time.