Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

Maternity Leave: Plans vs. Reality April 24, 2016

(Disclosure:  The links to books on this site are Amazon affiliate links.  You can read more about this on my Disclosures page)

I had big plans for my maternity leave.  I was going to read a ton of books!  I was going to use the bread maker every day!  I was going to binge watch Psych!

This wasn’t quite how things went.  My first days after giving birth were quite overwhelming.  I was either sleeping or nursing or eating.  Actually, that pretty much describes most of my maternity leave.  Oh and changing diapers.  Though I didn’t actually change any diapers until we got home from the hospital (husband or nurses did it while we were at the hospital) and I briefly got overwhelmed when I got home when just trying to change diapers.  But more on that in a post about diapers.

I tried to take advantage of “sleep when the baby sleeps” but at the very beginning, she only really fell asleep if you were holding her and then it was tough to put her in her bassinet after she fell asleep.  So, having family around to hold her while I got some sleep came in very handy.

I very much appreciated visits (and food) from family and friends.  Trying to make meals on top of everything else that needed to get done was just not feasible.  And it was nice to be able to socialize.   A few visitors also helped clean the house a bit, since at times trying to tend to dishes and other chores was also overwhelming.

As time went on and it was just me and the baby at home every day (husband was able to take a week off after we came home from the hospital, then my mom stayed with me for a week), the the routine of sleep, nurse, eat, also got a bit of laundry thrown in, and occasionally dishes (I could handle loading and unloading the dishwasher, but doing the big pots and pans was a bit much at times).  And I started making some simple dinners if the baby managed to fall asleep at the right time, or if I could wear her while working in the kitchen.

As for those big plans at the beginning:  I only fully read one book, and read part of three other books.  The book I fully read was recommended to me by a fellow new mom.  I’d recommend this book to other new moms planning to return to work and pump breast milk.  It was Work. Pump. Repeat.  It was very helpful to help me figure out how to get ready for pumping when I went back to work.  The other books I partially read included another book for working mothers, Working Mother Nursing Mother.  It came recommended to me by a few other folks.  I also found it helpful, but didn’t get to finish reading it before going back to work (I still have it and will probably catch bits of it when I can).  I also started reading Your Baby is Speaking to You, which had some fascinating insight on what exactly a baby is up to in those first few weeks.  It helped me understand a bit more the different movements and reactions the baby was having.  The other book I had started reading before the baby was born but I gave up on reading a week or so into maternity leave was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I had put it on hold at the library months earlier but it finally became available a week before I had the baby.  I am in definite need of tidying in my house, but I don’t think I can get through this book any time soon.

I didn’t use the bread machine once.  My husband did use our rice maker to make overnight oatmeal, which was delicious, filling, and easy to do.

Instead of rewatching all of Psych on Netflix, I went ahead and rewatched all of Parks and Recreation.  Totally worth it.  The last few days of maternity leave, I did actually start watching Psych.  Most of my Netflix watching happened when nursing or if the baby was resting but I wasn’t able to fall asleep.

I did manage to get out of the house a decent amount.  In the beginning most trips out of the house were for doctor’s appointments, either mine or the baby’s.  We didn’t leave the house much.  But after the first month, I did try to make the effort to get outside.  I put the baby in the stroller and ran local errands (drug store, library, etc.) or otherwise just explored our neighborhood.  I also met some new moms at the local “Baby Cafe” events.  These are meetings hosted by lactation consultants and other trained professionals for nursing mothers.  It was helpful to get out of the house, meet other mothers and hear about their experiences and what worked/didn’t work for them.  Plus the professionals had plenty of advice and would answer any questions new moms might have.  Here are a few north of Boston-area ones but if you live elsewhere you can find out about Baby Cafes (in the United States) here.  They were started in the UK, so there are quite a few there, but there are also some in a few other countries as well.

I went back to work this past Wednesday.  Unfortunately, my husband had to travel for work starting that same day, so I had to juggle daycare drop off and pickup, and then tend to everything at home.  But luckily I had prepped a huge amount of food before Wednesday so I could just reheat and eat when I had a moment to myself.  But very glad he’s back home!  And I am very grateful to my boss for allowing me to work more flexible hours in order to accommodate my schedule.  So I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to be able to do everything!

I’ll have plenty more to say about being back at work, having my child in daycare all day, and other observations about being a working mother, but for now, that’s a good starting recap for what my maternity leave was like.

How did your maternity leave plans compare to reality?

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Reading Books: Pound Foolish August 4, 2013

I think I first heard about Helaine Olen and her book, Pound Foolish:  Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, from Marketplace (or maybe Marketplace Money).  I’m always listening to those shows, either on the radio or through their podcasts.  I also caught her interview (pt 1, 2, and 3) on The Daily Show, where she went into quite a bit of detail about the topics in her book.

The idea of taking on the personal finance industry and exposing the not-so-pretty realities definitely appealed to me.  I get sick of all the sneaky fees and “sponsored” financial products.  So I was interested to hear what she had to say about the personal finance movement.

The author takes on quite a few topics, from personal finance “personalities” to the “flip this house” mentality.  A common theme throughout the book is that the industry is just that, an industry, and so the focus of many advisers, authors, and companies is, in reality, to make money for themselves.  While they may also be helping us save money, they’re not ready to do it for free, out of the kindness  of their hearts.

The start of the book reviews the beginning of the personal finance movement.  Olen talks about the sometimes wrong/changing talking points that come from personalities like Suze Orman and David Bach.  She also emphasizes the point that all the frugality in the world can’t make up for stagnating wages and increasing medical costs and housing prices.

She goes into great detail about how screwy the whole retirement plan is now with 401(k)s, 403(b)s, etc.  A move from pensions to individual retirement accounts mostly means a much more uncertain future.  So much money can end up going to fees for managed funds and portfolios.  Fees cut into EVERYTHING.  Individual investors are left to fend for themselves, and they end up falling for expensive funds or buying investment products they don’t need.  Yes, sometimes we can find no load, low fee funds for our retirement accounts.  But it’s not always the case.   This chapter led me to want to learn more about Teresa Ghilarducci, one of the main opponents to the current 401k system.  She believes that leaving all the retirement planning to the individual was flawed and leaves most people woefully unprepared for retirement. (see one of her recent articles).  I also learned about a Brightscope, a website that helps you see how your employer’s retirement plan stacks up.

Olen discusses many more topics in her book, including the focus on stock picking (and CNBC stock market obsession, Jim Cramer, etc.).  She also talks about the recent push to specifically help women control their finances, noting that while there are plenty of women who are lost when it comes to managing their money, there are just as many men in the same boat.  But that women are at a disadvantage mainly because “[w]omen have less money than men for most of their lives for a basic reason:  they earn less and live longer.”  There are other reasons, of course, and Olen goes into much more detail on the many misconceptions about Women and Money.  And while she is fine with young people learning the basics of personal finance, she is not so comfortable with the way that kids learn about it:  through branded experiences and sponsored programs by the big banks, all trying to get in on their lives early.

There’s plenty more to read, and Olen has pages upon pages of references and notes to back up her information.

Reading this book was a bit depressing, because it reminded me of quite a few of the harsh realities of personal finance.  She doesn’t quite present any “answers” to all these problems, though she does list a few suggestions on her website as to what should be done.

I did still enjoy reading  her book, since I did find myself agreeing with most of her points.  It’s a lot easier to read a book that you agree with!  It’s a serious read, but got me thinking a bit more about what I’m doing with my money and to be a little more skeptical of all the big money personalities and financial companies.  And to watch out for fees!

Have you read Pound Foolish?  What did you think of it?  Did you agree or disagree with certain points?  And aren’t you glad that I give away my advice completely for free? 😀

 

Reading Books: Get a Financial Life June 19, 2011

Filed under: Books,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 3:53 pm
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No matter how much I think I know about personal finance, I’m always willing to learn more.  So when I heard about Beth Kobliner‘s updated edition of Get A Financial Life:  Personal finance in your twenties and thirties, I knew I had a book to add to my reading list.

My overall impression of this book:  READ THIS BOOK!  I think it’s a great book, both for the recent grads as well as people still trying to take control of their finances.  Plus, the updated version reflects the current economic situation as well as newer tax codes, so you won’t hear the old general advice that has since been debunked.  The book is divided into sections that guide you how to get your financial life in order by examining your budgetmanaging/paying off your debt, finding the right banks for your checking AND saving needs, and other steps and decisions like investing, setting up and contributing to retirement funds, buying vs. renting, selecting insurance (health, disability, life, car, homeowners/renters, etc.), and filing your taxes.

The thing I really liked about these different sections was that they had actual information and resources included.  It wasn’t merely things like “make a budget”, “open a 401(k)”, and “check out mutual funds”.  There were actual explanations about the benefits and drawbacks of a lot of financial choices, as well as in-depth information and examples of the consequences if these decisions.  I definitely learned some things I didn’t know before!  I learned a lot about the different income limits for different retirement funds, and the amount of coverage I should be buying for my car insurance.  I got a better idea about all the different investment options, and the difference between mutual funds, bond funds, and the tax implications of investing in these different funds.  She includes lots of information that, had it been my personal copy (and not a library copy) I would have gotten out highlighters and post-its to remind myself of the important information.  Throughout, she provides links to websites and calculators (which would be even more handy in an ebook format where you could click-through to the sites), as well as recommended books for further reading on each subject.

So, I’ll reiterate:  Read this book.  I took a lot of notes for myself while reading this book.  It got me thinking about my current financial setup and how I can improve it.  And maybe I might even buy myself a copy so I can highlight the important points that I will want to come back to (there was a lot of useful information for homebuyers that I don’t need right now, but will need in the future). Plus there’s a great list of resources at the end of the book (more books, magazines, blogs, websites, etc.) that will help me add to my to-read list.

Have you read the book?  What do you think?  I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone!  Buy it for recent grads!  They’ll grumble at being told what to do, but they’ll appreciate it 🙂

 

Reading Books: My Review of “Generation Earn” January 22, 2011

Filed under: Books,Careers,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 1:19 pm

I first heard about Generation Earn when I read about it on Wellheeled’s blog.  As is usual when I hear about a good book, I add it to my library reserve list. I was around 119 on the waiting list, so I forgot about it for a while. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I finally got to the top of the list.

I liked this book a lot. It contains a lot of information and advice, and works well for personal finance novices as well as people like me who have already started along the personal finance path. The book acted as both a refresher, reminding me to check up on my finances, as well as an eye opener, presenting ideas I hadn’t really thought about.

The book walks you through the major steps required to establish your finances.  Each chapter builds upon what you learned in the previous chapter.  The reader is guided through important decisions in a young adult’s life.

The book is really well written and very useful. She uses real life examples, not just imagined case studies. Between the non-fiction scenarios and the pages of cited materials, it is apparent that the author did a lot of research for this book. I appreciate this, because I cringe when people use statistics without backing them up.    The author’s style is very helpful and thought-provoking. You learn how to begin your way as part of Generation Earn (her more descriptive title than Gen Y, and more complimentary description than Generation Debt).

She has a very bright view on how the current 20 and 30 somethings can grow and succeed, and believes that we will have a positive impact on society.

I recommend this book for anyone in their 20s or 30s, especially those who are just starting out.  There’s a lot of great advice, and, with short “Quick Tips” peppered throughout the book, you’ll definitely learn something new!

So, go out and read it!  And let me know what you thought of it!

 

Reading books: My review of “The Elements of Investing” October 15, 2010

Filed under: Books,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:22 pm
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I’ve been known to read the occasional book.  And I also listen to a lot of podcasts.  So, while catching up on some older Marketplace Money podcasts, I heard an interview with Burton Malkiel, author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street.  He and another finance writer, Charles Ellis (author of Winning the Loser’s Game: Timeless Strategies for Successful Investing) got together to write a streamlined investing book.  They modeled the simplicity and straitforwardness of their book on Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”.

This book, The Elements of Investing, is VERY basic.  If you are completely in the dark about personal finance, it might be a good place to start.  It lists basic tenets of personal finance.  Spend less than you earn (so that you will have extra money to invest).  Invest in low cost index funds (buy and hold, don’t spend extra money on fees).

If you’re looking to read this book, and you’re too lazy to go to your library, there’s another free option:  As “My Money Blog” posted, you can download a digital (pdf) copy of the book from Vanguard….

This book is great for beginners.  The basic rules they present (and then present again and again) are important first starts to investing.  I was hoping the book would have more specific investment advice; I know that low cost index funds are great, but what if you don’t have those options in a 401(k)?  What else can I do?

What are YOUR “Elements of Investing”?

 

Reviewing “Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel” February 25, 2010

Filed under: Books,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:34 pm

I’ve seen quite a few reviews for this book.  It’s been out since last year, and I read a lot of personal finance blogs, so I guess I would see a lot of reviews.  But I never imagined I’d be asked to write a review!
Let’s go back a bit.  It all began when I was looking at the Money Crashers giveaway.  They had a huge list of sponsors, authors, and others related to the giveaways.  I decided to follow the new ones that I wasn’t already following, just to see what else was out there.

I started following Phil Villarreal.  (He’s the author of Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel).  Soon after, he followed me, added me to his “Money Mavens” twitter list, and then messaged me, asking if I’d like to review his book.  I was flattered!  Where do I sign up?! Well, he said if I sent him my address, his agent could send a copy for me to review.  Call me old-fashioned, but when a man I meet on the internet asks me for my home address, I might get a little weirded out.  I debated if I should just send him my address, seeing as he’s a legitimate person.  He also suggested I could buy the book if I was uncomfortable giving him my address.

Well, in true stingy fashion, I put it on reserve at the library.  Hooray free!  So, when I finally got to pick it up from the library, I was excited.  Here’s my first book that I’ve been actually ASKED to review!

You have to start reading this book with a certain mindset:  This is meant to be humorous.  If you’re reading the book with the hope that there will be nothing offensive in it, you’re going to be disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, there actually are decent bits of advice in there.  The word on the street was that every suggestion was at least minutely morally wrong.  But he does have very good advice, like:

5.  “Don’t Smoke”:  pretty much self-explanatory
33.  “It’s in the Cars”:  don’t be afraid to haggle on a new car
39.  “Keep on Walking”:  don’t ever pay ATM fees!
41.  “Juice Doesn’t Taste So Good”:  Eliminate debt ASAP, take advantage of your 401(k).
42.  “Bank off”:  call your bank when they charge you fees and demand they remove the fees.

See?  It’s your typical personal finance advice!  Nothing to be afraid of!

Of course, some of the suggestions could make you feel a little icky.  You may question the ethics behind the different tactics.  Most of the tips encourage you to take advantage of the “big corporations”…since they’re the ones that are usually out to screw the little people anyway!   But, towards the end, he actually has a section devoted to the truly slimy actions that he hopes you don’t actually do.

Overall, it was a humorous look at the traditional personal finance books.  It also got me thinking about advice you read in other places.  Sometimes the time you put into something negates its value.  Spending hours and hours to save a small amount of money, or to get something you don’t even need at a major discount is not really your best plan.

I think it’s a good book.  It’s not too long (it only took me a couple days to read…and I’m a slow reader!), it’s funny, and it has plenty of advice!

So read it!  And let me know what you think!

 

Book club returns! February 12, 2008

Filed under: Books — Stephanie @ 10:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

After reading a few posts about books to read (at Well-heeled, with a mission and Let Us Go Then, You and I), I realized I should talk about the book club my friends and I do every month. About a year ago, one of my friends started up a book club. The idea was to get together with friends and discuss a book every month. They were all very cool books to read, though I only started in after the second book. Last year, the book club books were:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Inside the Magic Kingdom: Seven Keys to Disney’s Success by Tom Connellan

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

When we decided that “The World is Flat” was going to be our next book, it was just around the time that a lot of our friends (including the leader of our book club) were moving to different places (for new jobs, grad school, etc.), and that, combined with such a long book that no one was very excited about, basically made our book club fall apart.

I recently started it back up because it really was a fun way to meet new people and catch up with friend and find a way to make ourselves read more often!

This past month, we read On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction by Karl Iagnemma . I think I’ll post a separate post about the book. I used to do that way back when, so why not bring that back as well!

Next month’s book choices are among these three:

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks (Hardcover, 400 pages)

Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris (Hardcover (Paperback comes out Feb. 26th), 400 pages)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollen (Paperback, 464 pages)

Do you have any suggestions on what to read?

[Edit:  In a close, 6-5 run, Then We Came to the End won over The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  I’ll probably still read  the other books, either on my own, or for a future book club meeting.  I’m also thinking about reading Michael Pollen’s new book, In Defense of Food.]