Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Welcoming Baby Number Two! May 25, 2018

Filed under: baby,Pregnancy — Stephanie @ 2:35 pm
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As I mentioned in some previous posts, we were expecting our second child at the end of May/beginning of June (estimated due date of June 3rd). Well, apparently our little boy had alternate plans, as my water broke very early in the morning during the 37th week of my pregnancy.  We had only partially packed our hospital bags when we had to rush to the hospital!

So now we’re a family of 4!

It’s definitely been tricky getting used to navigating the needs of our toddler daughter with our newborn son, while also making sure I’m taking the time to recover!

Luckily we’ve got some help: a really good friend of ours was able to come to the hospital to watch our daughter when I went into labor, then my mother-in-law came to watch our daughter during my recovery at the hospital. And now my parents are up to help out for a week. And my husband was able to save up a lot of PTO so he will still stay home with the baby and me for a month before he has to go back to work.

I’ll be taking the 12 weeks allowed for me from FMLA, with some portion of it paid.  Then I’ll be heading back to work, with both kids going to daycare.

I still plan on breastfeeding (and later pumping/breastfeeding) this baby like I did with his big sister, but we’ll see how it goes.

We didn’t bother with cloth diapers this time around. We tried it last time, it definitely cut down on our trash output, but was not a long term solution for us.  We’re currently using up the stash of newborn diapers that the hospital gave us, as well as the extras my sister gave us after her baby outgrew the newborn size.  Our toddler is still in diapers, so we are dealing with quite a lot of diapers these days!

I’m going to try to find balance in maternity leave.  There’s some things we need to take care of, but for the most part, especially early on, I need to focus on recovery and, of course, caring for and bonding with my new baby

I was going to write a blog post about how to help out new parents (and I still might) but for now I’d recommend the YouTube video from Bridget (from Money after Graduation).  Parents of new babies definitely appreciate the help! Just be prepared to show up to a messy home and offer up some help and/or food!

Back to resting up and nursing!

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What you need (and don’t need) in your hospital bag April 25, 2018

Filed under: baby — Stephanie @ 9:58 pm
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I’ve been thinking about packing up my hospital bag for baby #2 and thought I’d share what we packed last time (and plan on packing this time).

One thing I kept looking for advice on last time was what to pack for my hospital bag.  I saw plenty of blog posts, articles, and even a youtube video about what to pack, but I still wasn’t quite sure what I really needed.

I’m not an expert in packing for a trip to the hospital (we’ve only done this childbirth thing once) but I thought I’d review what we needed (and didn’t need) to bring to the hospital.

Mother-To-Be:

  • Sleeping mask:  A friend recommended this for me, and I’ve made sure to recommend it to every mother-to-be.  Both before and after you have the baby, there are going to be times you want to sleep when the hospital room is not going to be dim enough.
  • Hairclips/hairties/hairbands: For keeping your hair out of your face before, during, and after labor.
  • Tech: pack your various phones/chargers/etc.  If your support person isn’t packing the camera/charger, then you pack it, then make sure he/she has it.
  • Toiletries:  Keeping in mind that you may be restricted to your bed for some time and/or you wont be at the hospital for very long (depending on your situation), you don’t need much when it comes to toiletries.  I packed my usual “weekend trip” supplies:  toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash/soap, deodorant (all travel size).  Because I had a c-section, I was at the hospital recovering for 4 days, so I was actually ready to take a shower after a day or so.  But I’m pretty sure I wasn’t doing much on the personal hygiene front for the first day… I’d also check with your doctor if there are medications you take daily on whether you should bring those along or not (in case they don’t want you taking medication at certain parts of labor/delivery/recovery).
  • Going home clothes (optional):  If you’re planning on taking a photo of yourself leaving the hospital, you might want to pack something nice.  But I just went home in the clothes that I went to the hospital in, since they were still relatively clean.  But I guess if your water breaks while you’re wearing those clothes on the way in, you wont want to wear them, so pack an extra pair of your comfiest maternity pants.  Or a loose maternity dress.  Basically dress like you’re still pregnant (because you’ll still have a belly and you will probably be in some pain and not want anything restricting). Underwear-wise you might be leaving in the “special” ones the hospital gives you. Bring a nursing bra if you have one.
  • Reading materials (kindle/book/magazine):  Depending on your situation, you may want to bring reading materials (if your labor is slow) but I don’t think I ended up packing anything extra.  I had my phone, so I could read stuff on there if I needed it.
  • Stress balls/tennis balls/other labor “aids”:  When we went to a childbirth class, they suggested a few items to bring along to help you deal with your aches and pains in early labor.  The tennis ball was meant to rub on your aches, and the stress ball was good to squeeze during contractions (if you didn’t want to break your support person’s hand!)
  • Other items to make you feel comfortable: lip balm (if it’s too dry), extra socks (my feet were FREEZING during early labor).

Support person (spouse/partner/parent/friend/etc.)

  • Snacks.  Yes, I’m a big proponent of snacks at all times, but this will be key.  You may or may not be allowed to eat, but your support people will be able to.  And depending on when you deliver, the hospital kitchen/cafeteria may or may not be open.
  • Clothes:  pack what you’d usually bring for a night or two away:  PJs, change of clothes, underwear, socks, etc.  Also slippers or slipper socks.  Pack a few extra pairs of underwear/socks in case you end up having to stay at the hospital longer than expected (and are unable to make it back home)
  • Toiletries:  Again, pack what you’d usually bring for a brief visit away.  Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, razor, medications, etc.
  • Tech:  Pack your camera (fully charged), charger, and any other tech you want to bring, keeping in mind you may or may not have time/energy to use your laptop/kindle/iPad.  Include your phone charger and phone!

Baby:

  • “Going Home” clothes:  while your hospital should provide clothes for your baby to wear while in the hospital, many won’t let you take home the clothes or other linens (blankets, hats, etc.).  Plus, you probably want to take some photos in one of the outfits you brought!  So you’ll have to provide your own:  at least a onesie or two (in various sizes, if possible, so you can accomodate whatever size your baby is) and especially depending on weather, a hat and blanket.  Our pediatrician recommended baby wears an extra layer over whatever we’re wearing.
  • Car Seat:  If you’re driving the baby home, you will have to have a car seat.  I’m almost certain they won’t let you leave the hospital without a car seat.  Plus they’ll check it for you to make sure your baby’s secure.  Our nurse even walked us to the car to help us put the seat in.

One thing I’d recommend is that you get a tour of the hospital you plan on delivering at.  It will help you get an idea for what to expect when you show up to deliver, including getting familiar with the various monitoring equipment and other hospital technology you might not know about.  Plus you can ask questions about what they will and wont provide.  I was glad they had slipper socks to keep my feet warm and keep me from slipping around on the hospital floor.  Some hospitals will have toiletries, and they should have all the “post labor” special toiletries that moms will need (i.e. special underwear, pads, breast pads, etc.).  They should also provide all the diapers/wipes/ointments your baby might need for those first few days  (and don’t be afraid to take whatever items they give you!  We left the hospital with at least a package of diapers for the baby and plenty of stuff that I needed, too).

Things I didn’t need, even though it was recommended by various websites:

  • Makeup: Just. No.  Sure, you might feel like you look like crap after you have the baby.  You probably do.  I know I did.  But I rarely wear makeup as it is, and I wasn’t about to start just to have fancy pictures.  We all look like that after giving birth.  EMBRACE IT.
  • Nice pajamas:  Another no.  I wore the hospital gowns the entire time.  It provides the best access for doctors and nurses, can easily be removed, and can just be replaced by another one if/when your current one gets covered in blood, poop, pee, breastmilk, vomit, spitup, etc.  I’ll admit, I did bring a scrubby old robe that I did end up using after a day or two.  Like I mentioned, I was in the hospital recovering for 4 days, so I lounged around in the robe for a bit.

An interesting note:  Talking to my Canadian friends, hospital amenities are very different.  Since you’re getting “free” healthcare, they don’t tend to provide many of the extras. So definitely find out ahead of time what they will (and won’t) provide.

Anything else you found you needed or didn’t need in your hospital bag? Share your advice/experiences in the comments!

 

I finally opened a 529 account! April 13, 2018

Filed under: baby,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:12 am
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I’ve been thinking about how I’ve slacked off on various money related things these days.  I’ve set so much on autopilot (which is good, for savings, paying bills, etc.) but then I sort of forgot to check in on or change anything.  Which meant that, when my daughter was born, I didn’t bother opening up any savings accounts for her.  This seems sacrilege for someone who had been obsessed with being so on top of thing with personal finance for so many years!  I think I let my confusion about the process get in my way of just doing it.

So, one day, I tweeted about how I still hadn’t opened any savings accounts (specifically a college savings account) for my 2+ year old daughter, seeking out advice and pointers.  A few recommendations came in that we should go with Vanguard, and Chief Mom Officer sent me a link explaining the Massachusetts-specific 529 option (part of a bigger site that gives explanations of all the 529 options).  I even came across this great introduction for college savings options from the SEC.

But the one thing that really kicked me into high gear was the pledges from @LazyManAndMoney,  Evan (@MJTM), and Stephanie Kibler (@stephonee) each for $25 if I opened up a 529 within 3 days.  FREE MONEY?  I’m in!

I checked out the Vanguard site for what options were available.  Turns out you can technically open a 529 from any state, but you’ll only get extra tax benefits (like deducting your contribution amount from your state taxes) if it’s YOUR state. (You still get the regular tax benefits of tax-free growth of your investment and tax-free withdrawal for qualified education expenses).  The main option from Vanguard appeared to be The Vanguard 529 Plan (sponsored by Nevada).  I’ve always heard good things about Vanguard, and I liked the looks of their low-cost fund options, but I was a little taken aback by the initial $3000 investment requirement.  Though they point out that if you want to still invest with Vanguard but start with a lower initial investment ($25) you can open an account with College Savings Iowa 529 Plan.

So, after looking over the options from Vanguard, we ended up going with the option from Fidelity for Massachusetts (our state of residence).  It allowed us to start with a low initial investment of $50 (just to get things started), and we can do automatic investments of $15 per month or $45 per quarter.  My husband and I are still talking about how much we want to set up for automatic investments, but it’s good to know we don’t have to start with a ton of money right at the beginning.  Plus, we get to deduct the contribution amount from our state taxes (which doesn’t amount to much, but, hey, every little bit counts!)

So, we opened an account!  And funded it with the initial $50.  And will sit down this weekend to discuss exactly how much to contribute each month.  AND!  My twitter friends stuck by their pledges and sent $25 each!  Now I have to figure out how to transfer money from PayPal into the 529…

Have you started saving for your kids for college?  Why or why not?  What did you end up doing?  I look forward to hearing your feedback!

 

 

 

Go ahead, join a startup April 3, 2018

Filed under: Careers,Uncategorized — Stephanie @ 8:43 pm
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The other day, Desirae tweeted about an article she came across about whether or not you should join a startup company right after college.  The general gist of the article was that you shouldn’t join a startup right away, because even if the salary/benefits seem good, if/when the company goes belly up, it’s like you never worked there.

Um, what?

He says that after the company goes bankrupt, you’ll have nothing to put on your resume because no one will have heard of the company or be able to look it up.  Which is an odd thing to say on multiple fronts because you WILL have things to list on your resume (all of your experiences at the company) and even if the company doesn’t exist anymore, you still have fellow coworkers/bosses who can be contacted as references with other emails/phone numbers.

He also complains that all the work you’ll be doing is “grunt work” and therefore you wont have any “relevant experience” to show on your resume.  On the one hand I know that if you are entry-level person at ANY job, there’s going to be some starting work that’s not super exciting or stimulating. But you need to learn things, you can’t expect to be thrown onto a super important project your first day on the job.  You work your way up, regardless of the size/age of a company!

Of course, I’m basing my response to this article on my own experiences.  I worked at a startup for 2 years straight out of college.  And then I got laid off.  But my resume had plenty on there from all my useful experiences there, and a few months later I was able to get a new job.

And even at my new job, I started with the less glamorous work, but I’ve learned so much these past 10 years and worked my way up to gain more responsibilities.

What do you think of the article?  Is joining a startup a waste of time right out of college?  Or a worthwhile experience?  Did you join or start a startup?

 

The childcare decision revisited March 9, 2018

When we had our first child, it was pretty obvious that we’d both keep working.  I took the full 12 weeks of maternity leave allowed through FMLA, then headed back to work.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I came back to work part-time, with a flexible schedule that allowed me to work however much I could each week as long as I worked a minimum number of hours.  This definitely helped with my transition back to work, especially when I was still breastfeeding/pumping, and even now when trying to juggle the life of a working mom along with sharing the daycare pickup/dropoff responsibilities with my husband (especially when he has a business trip and I have to do both dropoff and pickup!)

We found our daycare with help from my Employee Assistance Program, who helped narrow down choices to nearby options that had openings.  The daycare center is very conveniently located relative to both our jobs, and we’re really happy with the care and education she’s gotten so far.  And she’s happy, too!

Of course, the one thing we’re less happy about?  The cost.  Daycare is EXPENSIVE.  And I know this cost often weighs on people when making the decision:  should a parent stay home?

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re expecting again (due late May/early June) and so the discussion came up again.  Should one of us stay home?  Or should we keep paying for childcare, now for two kids?

I have plenty of friends who have chosen to be stay at home parents, for both financial and personal reasons.  They’re awesome people, and I think they made the right choice for their family.

But for us, for now, we will follow the theory that childcare is an investment.  A quick calculation shows that childcare for two at our current daycare is about 25% of our combined full-time salaries (gross pay).  Of course, after taxes and healthcare, and acknowledging that I’m only currently working around 75% of full time (so I only get paid around 75% of my salary) the percentage of take-home pay (net pay) creeps much higher.  And of course, this year, with me going on maternity leave (which is not all paid, and when paid, is not at 100% pay), and probably dropping my hours back down a bit to accommodate my pumping schedule, we will probably be spending quite a lot of our income on childcare.

But we both see good futures in our jobs, and know that leaving the workforce entirely, even for a few years, could have significant impacts on our careers.  Being away from our careers for an extended amount of time will make it harder to “get back in”, if we haven’t been in the industry for a few years.  And once the kids are in school, we’d want to be back at work, anyway.  And as this great article points out, there’s more than just the lost wages when leaving a job for a few years.  You miss out on 401k contributions (yours and your employer’s, and any of the growth from those contributions), some of your potential social security benefits, and all the raises you would have gotten.  And, with our other big expense (mortgage) it also makes more sense to have two salaries, even if one (mine) is less for a little while from maternity leave and reduced hours (as mentioned above).

On top of all the financial reasons, it’s also a personal reason.  If I’m being honest, I don’t think staying home with my kid(s) is the best choice for any of us (parents or kids).  I’ve seen how exhausted I can get from just a single day taking care of my daughter (on a day she’s sick, or daycare is closed, or my husband is gone for a weekend day for work) and I can’t imagine being able to do this every single day, especially now with an infant set to enter our lives in less than 3 months.  And my daughter benefits greatly from being among her peers, and learning every day from people who are actually trained educators.  She gets variety every day in fun (and educational) indoor and outdoor activities.  I don’t think I could offer that level of education and fun every single day!

Yes, my husband could be the one to stay home instead, as he somehow manages to survive the day better than me when he’s home alone with our daughter all day, but as mentioned above, we see other benefits to having our children attend daycare.

And of course, we could seek out a less expensive option.  Either a nanny or finding a cheaper daycare center.  But most centers around here are around the same price, but less convenient to get to which means it would still mean less time one of us could spend at work to take care of pickup/dropoff on time (which at least for me, means less pay, so that defeats the purpose of finding a slightly cheaper location).

I know everyone’s situation is different, and I wouldn’t dare judge people on whatever decision they made for childcare.  I just wanted to share how we came to the decision to continue with daycare.

I’d love to hear from you on your childcare/work situation, and how you came to that decision!

 

 

 

 

I’m still here February 21, 2018

Filed under: baby,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 8:03 pm

Cue Elaine Stritch.  I’m still here.

I know my blogging has been pretty sparse, which I could blame on chasing around a toddler, but I’ve been pretty bad at maintaining this blog for years.  I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet, as I’ve got a lot of personal finance stuff still to think and talk about.  I just need to get back into the habit.

I have a pretty long/epic blog post in the works where I want to talk about how having a bunch of life changes all at once (we had a baby AND bought a house all in one year) can really throw money (and life) into chaos.  And to top it all of, we’re expecting again (yay!) which means that’s a whole new level of money (and life) chaos to consider.

So, I’m still here.  I’m usually tweeting rather than blogging, so that’s the better way to know what’s going on in my life.  But I really do want to get back into all these money (and life) discussions!

So, don’t worry. I’m still alive.

 

Taking advantage of workplace benefits: Employee Assistance Programs January 6, 2018

Filed under: baby,Careers — Stephanie @ 11:34 am
Tags: ,

[Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  I just wanted to share my experiences and make people aware of a program they may not realize they have available through their job!]

I had never really heard about Employee Assistance Programs before I started my current job.  EAPs tend to be offered by bigger companies, and my previous job at a startup was a bit more lean when it came to benefits.  It’s one of the many ways employers can help out with that ever elusive “work life balance”.

It turns out, there are a lot of potential resources from these types of programs.  I myself was able to take advantage of quite a few of their offerings when it came to having our baby.  My employer offered a Lactation Consultant program, and sent me a “Life Events Kit” for Baby Care, with books for pregnancy and the first few years, and other goodies to help me out.  They also ran a search for me for local daycare centers that had spots available for our daughter around the time she’d be starting daycare.  This was such a time saver, since they found out what places were available and how much they would cost, without me having to do a bunch of searches and phone calls.  We still had to make calls and visits to the few places that we liked from the search results, but it was still such a help!

Another great benefit they offered was one geared towards mental health.  You can get up to 8 visits with a mental health professional (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, etc.) at no cost.  This is such a valuable benefit, since, with most insurance plans, you’re likely spending a lot out-of-pocket before you even hit the deductible, which might deter you from seeking the help you need.  I went through a few rough patches emotionally these past few years, and getting these sessions for free made me willing to go and deal with things rather than keeping my issues bottled up inside!

There are plenty of other resources available for other life events and issues.  There are other “life event kits” for when your kids first head to school, for when your kids are teens, and one when you’re dealing with elder care issues.

My EAP also has advice lines for financial and legal questions/issues.  There’s also assistance for navigating special needs and other parenting situations.

Not sure if you have an EAP at your job?  My benefits are through Optum, and it looks like quite a few other companies offer it through there as well, so check to see if your employer is on the dropdown list here.  If your company isn’t listed there, check with your HR department to see what they offer.  And maybe you can help convince them to start something if they don’t currently offer it!

Have you taken advantage of employee benefits like these at your job?  What do you wish your company offered?

 

 
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