Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

How learning more about FIRE gave me an existential crisis February 25, 2020

Filed under: Books,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:55 pm
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(Disclosure:  The Amazon links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.  You can read more about this on my Disclosures page)

Okay, the title might be a bit extreme. But as I’ve mentioned before, I hadn’t really thought about FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) as something we would do. But about a year few ago, a new book came out about FIRE that caught my interest. The book is Work Optional, by Tanja Hester. Surrounding the release of her book, there were plenty of articles in both news sites as well as personal finance blogs.

A few articles in particular got me thinking a little too much!

One of the articles discussed one of the reasons Tanja and her husband Mark wanted to retire early. They wanted to be able to do things sooner, before Tanja’s illness progressed to the point where her options became more limited. This article got me anxious about running out of time to enjoy life! What am I doing wasting time on work?

The other post was at Tread Light retire early. It was Angela’s review of Tanja’s book. She reviewed the book, but also delved into the part that asks you to consider what you would do with your time. And then prompted her readers to answer that the question: “What do you want your life to look like?” And I felt like I had no idea. My response was basically to live a more relaxed (less stressed) life.

A combination of thinking about these ideas and a little bit of postpartum depression (and also listening to The Good Place podcast which talked a lot about the meaning of life and other heavy topics) led me into quite the meltdown one night. I started wondering: what is the point of anything? What’s the point of working or advancing in your career (besides earning money) if your goal is to retire early? Should I optimize my life for saving money? For earning money? What do I even enjoy? Am I running out of time? What am I doing with my life?

Oof. I definitely was spiraling there…

Well, the good news is I started feeling a bit better. I took advantage of my EAP again for some free therapy sessions. So I was able to talk through some of my PPD and my concerns about trying to figure out what I actually enjoy. Turns out, once you become a busy mother of two, you tend to get lost in just making sure the kids are cared for, fed, and sent to bed every night rather than concerning yourself with pursuing your own interests.

All of this to say: after a year of Tanja’s book being out, I finally finished reading it. The book itself didn’t give me existential dread, so that’s good! There was a whole section early on in the book where you were asked to brainstorm about what is important to you, what you would do if you had the time to do it, etc. and I actually sat down and made the list for myself. Which helped remind me that I do in fact have interests and goals for my life. Phew.

I also found her book helpful in general to understand the ways that people can pursue FIRE. I always felt a bit lost trying to catch up on FIRE bloggers’ steps towards FI or FIRE. But the book shares various ways that you can make progress towards a work optional life. There were tips on growing your income, reducing your spending, how you can invest, and how much you should actually be saving to reach your goals. Overall, it was very useful whether or not you are planning on retiring early!

I still don’t think I’ll be pursuing early retirement, but I feel like I know a bit more about how to continue to build our wealth and identify what I want for my future, including getting a better idea of near term vs long term goals. I very much admire so many folks in the FI and FIRE community, including Tanja and Angela and so many others. They and others have found a great path that helps so many others!

Have you read Work Optional by Tanja Hester? What other books and resources have helped you?

 

Reading Books: The Index Card October 8, 2018

Filed under: Books,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:57 pm
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(Disclosure:  The Amazon links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links.  You can read more about this on my Disclosures page)

I’d been meaning to check out The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated for quite some time. I’d heard about it awhile back from a bunch of different sources (most likely a Marketplace podcast). I really enjoyed Helaine Olen’s book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, about the personal finance industry, so I wanted to check out this book she co-wrote with Harold Pollack.

I really liked the way the book walked you through steps to get your finances in order and on the right track.  The book was inspired by the realization that most money advice could fit all on one index card.  You can see the original photo of the index card here.

If the entire premise is that all you need to do is follow everything on the index card, how is there an entire book?

Each chapter goes into detail about each piece of advice. There are anecdotes from the authors about why each step is so important (or what happens if you don’t follow the advice!) Each new chapter builds on what you (hopefully) started in your own life from the previous chapter.

They cite lots of references and provide some good resources where you can find even more information.

I read this as an ebook I got from the library. Which made me realize that ebooks should have a way to share updates alongside the original text. Besides urls that might change or disappear, there are facts and recommendations that change. For example, they mention the myRA as an option for saving for retirement. But the government decided to phase out this option.

I highly recommend reading this book! Whether you’re just starting out and trying to figure out how to get a handle on your personal finances, or if you have been focusing on your finances for a while and just want a refresher (and to make sure you’re not forgetting something!), you should check out this book!  As someone who has been thinking about personal finance for over a decade, I found this book really helpful for reminding me why I started on this path in the first place.

Now I’m looking for a good follow-up book to read: what do you do after you’ve gotten your finances started on the right track? Share your suggestions in the comments!

This book is one of many personal finance books that were recommended recently on Marketplace.  Definitely check those out, too!

 

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.  I went to a few of the ones north of Boston affiliated with the hospital I delivered at, 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?

 

Reading Books: Pound Foolish August 4, 2013

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

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 (now called Marketplace Weekend,and is soon to end.)).  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.  I also learned about 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 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? 😀

 

2011 Year in Review: Networth Update, Looking Back, Looking Forward January 1, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 6:16 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Happy New Year!  It’s 2012!

A year ago today, I posted some numbers.  The changes in my finances in 2010.  So it’s time to see how I did in 2011!

How much did my assets and debts change this past year?  Check it out:

Assets:

  • Liquid assets (checking and savings accounts):
    +$15,101 (would have been ~$4k higher…see student loans below)
  • Retirement (401(k), Roth IRA, Rollover IRA):
    +$12,235 (the stock market is still a little crummy.  But I did increase my 401(k) contributions to 7% as of the end of November)
  • Car (edmunds.com private sale value):
    -$626 (I know there’s a lot of debate over including cars in net worth calculations.  I initially included it to make myself feel better about my auto loan, to balance out the ugly dip in my net worth)

Debts:

  • Credit cards:
    I pay them off every month, but if I want to be exact, I have $446 more to pay off as of December 31, 2011 than I did on January 1, 2011.

Change in net worth since last year:  +$37,386

Not as high as last year’s change of +$43,140.  But I’m still pretty impressed.

Let’s review this year!

I read a bunch of personal finance books, including Generation Earn by Kimberly Palmer and Get A Financial Life by Beth Kobliner  I did read the Personal Finance Book Club book, Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It by Mariko Chang, but never got around to reviewing it.  You can check out reviews from Savvy Working Gal and Little Miss Moneybags.  I am also halfway through John C. Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.  Spoiler alert of anything you’ll read by Bogle:  Buy low cost index funds and hold them forever.

We moved!  We used to live in a 4 bedroom apartment with roommates.  Now we live in a smaller apartment, just the two of us!  It costs a bit more to live in the new place, but it was time for a change, and we love our new apartment!

I’ve checked out a few personal finance websites.  Though I’ve tried more, I only reviewed Payoff.com and Credit Karma.  I’m a fan of both!

I tried again to get Take Control of Your Finances Day up and running.  Hope to get even more support this year to help spread it!

I started a blogging series:  My Friends are Buying Houses.  So far I just have 2 posts, but I welcome more!  Let me know if you’re interested in posting about your homebuying experience (or why you’re not buying a house yet!)

I guess there were a lot of other things that happened on my blog (and in my life) this year. You know, like paying $4k towards a student loan.  But you’ve heard about that a few times now 🙂

Reading last year’s post is funny because I realize not much has changed when it comes to my personal finance tendencies.  I’m still wishy washy about my decisions (personal finance or otherwise).  And still paying down my loans with occasional lump sums in addition to the monthly payments.  I also thought it was funny that I debated doing a $4k lump sum payment.  Which I ended up doing!  I didn’t even remember that part of the post!

So looking ahead.  Should I make the same goal I made last year?  Take the gains in my liquid assets and apply them towards my loans?  $15k would eliminate a few of my loans!  Hmmm.

I don’t have any big plans for this year (as of yet).  Maybe we’ll finally go on a big vacation (we’ve been talking about taking one for years).  That would cut into the liquid assets a bit.  But we haven’t gone on a big trip since Nicaragua in 2007 (unless you count all the weddings we’ve gone to).  We’ll see.  For now, I’m just going to relax for the last few days of my vacation, and meditate on my future goals.  I’ll try to make (and actually meet) some resolutions/goals soon!

Happy New Year!

How was your 2011?  What were your main successes?  What are your top resolutions for 2012?

 

Reading Books: Get a Financial Life June 19, 2011

Filed under: Books,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 3:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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
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[Disclosure:  The link to the book is an affiliate link.  For more info, check my disclosures page]

I first heard about Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back 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!

 

 
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