Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

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!

 

 

 

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Women’s Money Week 2014: Kids and Work March 6, 2014

It took getting prompts from the Women’s Money Week list to get me back to blogging.  Sorry for my absence, I thought I had run out of things to say (it turns out I still have plenty to talk about).

Women’s Money Week is an annual week leading up to International Women’s Day.  The goal of Women’s Money Week is to discuss personal finance related topics that may especially be of interest to women.  But don’t worry if you don’t identify as a woman!  This week has some pretty good topics.  Check the list of topics here.

Monday’s topic was Kids and Work.   (and yes, I know it’s Thursday…you know I’m not the speediest blogger around) Let’s dive in.

I feel like this is something that has been on my mind recently.  I’m getting married soon, and I’m pretty sure that within, oh, an hour of us officially tying the knot, nosy folks will be asking, “so, when are you having children?” (and probably also, “when are you buying a house?”).  Part of it is just people seeing you go through one big life change and assuming that the other big life changes will follow soon after.  I get it.

The part I don’t get is why it actually matters to them.  Granted, I can be as nosy as them sometimes and hope for my friends to start having kids.  Babies are pretty  darn cute, and visiting with friends’ children can be fun in small doses.

My fiance and I both want kids eventually.  But we have no real idea when we should start having kids.  We’re both 29, so we’re probably at the age where we should start seriously considering the whole “having kids” thing.  But one thing we also need to consider is the whole “kids and work” issue.  Will one of us stay home while the other works full-time?  Will we both work and then send the children to daycare?  If one of us stays home, who should it be?  How will taking these breaks impact our career?  We’ll have to crunch some numbers for how much childcare costs vs. salary, and consider the tax brackets we’re in with one vs. two incomes, and childcare tax credits vs. dependent care FSAs.  And this is only considering the direct work/money questions.  You’d think as a person obsessed with personal finance and planning ahead, I’d have a better idea about all this.  But…not so much.

I know there are plenty of other expenses to consider, including everything the baby needs (food, clothing, shelter, DIAPERS) and then there are the future costs of college and everything else beyond the initial baby stage.  I know Save Spend Splurge has a listing of all her baby-related expenses so far, as does J.Money.

At any rate, I suppose this post is not fully focused on the Kids and Work issue…. so can I be a little more introspective here for a moment?  I see so many friends posting facebook updates about their children.  Some friends are stay at home parents, others are juggling full-time work and children.  It all seems so overwhelming, like my friends all have magical doing-it-all-and-doing-it-perfectly powers.  I suppose that’s the power of facebook, I’ll only see the good moments in their likely hectic lives.  But it does make me worry.  Will I be a good mother?  I hope so.  Will I be enough of a mature adult by the time kids come around?  Do I have to be?

I’ve heard two different sides of the “when to have kids” idea.  Either “you’ll know when you know” you’re ready, or “you’re never ready, but you have kids anyway”.  I’m not sure which camp we’ll end up in.

What about you?  Have you figured out the Kids and Work thing?  What did you end up doing?  If you don’t have kids (but you want to have them), do you have a plan?  Or are you as clueless as I am?

(Interested in seeing some more perspectives on this topic?  I really enjoyed eemusings post on the subject (we have a lot of the same concerns).  Also check out the other posts on this topic here)

 

Looking back at 2013: Blogging about Money January 8, 2014

Filed under: General Blogging,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:45 pm
Tags: , ,

Happy New Year!  I had some big things happen this past year, and I’m looking forward to some even bigger things this year!

I’ve been posting my yearly changes in assets and debts for the past few years now.  You can check out my money reviews for 2012, 2011, and 2010.  How much did my assets and debts change this past year?  Check it out:

Assets:

  • Liquid assets (checking and savings accounts):  +$25,825
  • Retirement (401(k), Roth IRA, Rollover IRA):  +$36,845
  • Car (edmunds.com private sale value): -$2,916 (I’ve been including this in networth for the past 5 years.  Recently lowered the “condition” I’m considering it, since it’s been beat up a bit over the years).

Debts:

  • Student Loans: Reduced  payoff balance by $3,989 (I wasn’t aggressive with my payoff like I thought I would be)
  • Credit cards: I pay them off every month, but if I want to be exact, I have $185 less to pay off as of the same time last year.

Change in net worth since last year:  +$63,558. Looking good.

This is probably the last year I can easily do these comparisons, since I’m getting married this year!  Some of that cash in savings will be put to good use, but not too much!  Plus, we’ll probably be taking the approach of “yours, mine, ours” with money, so tracking everything will be a little more difficult.

WordPress put together a review of my blogging for 2013.  Turns out I only published 22 posts.  I guess no one can accuse me of posting too often!  My blogging this year covered a few different topics.  There was, of course, personal finance.  And as with last year, I had a decent share of posts about fitness.  I also threw in a few general updates about things happening in my life.

I started the Graduate’s Guide to Being a Grownup series, but it sort of fizzled out after just one post on retirement plans.  I promise to get that back up and running in 2014, and definitely want to hear what you’d like me to write about.

I reviewed Helaine Olen’s book, Pound Foolish about the dark side of the Personal Finance industry.

I also wondered if my Roth IRA conversion was a bad idea, and took another look at health insurance options.

I’ll post separately a wrap up and review of my fitness posts and activities for 2013.

In the meantime, let me know:  How did your 2013 end up?  Are you excited for everything happening in 2014?

 

End of September, time to recap September 28, 2013

I promise I’m still here.  I’ve got a few updates.

Fitness:

Last Sunday was the Tavern to Tavern 5k.  I ran it last year, but it was a different route this year.  I wasn’t sure I was ready, because I’d been traveling, then sick, so I wasn’t fully in tip-top training.

Major upside of this race:  I have a new personal record for my 5k time!  I’ve got a pace just over 10-minute miles.  Next goal, get the pace under 10-minute miles!

Downside of the race:  I’ve become a bit of a road race connoisseur (read: snob).  I was disappointed they didn’t have a water stop (I found out afterward that the person in charge of the water stop got stuck in traffic).  Also, there were no signs saying how far we were (1 mile, 2 mile, etc.)  Luckily, I did have a general idea of where I was based on the voice-over on my iPod (it has Nike+ and reports approximately how far I’ve gone).  Another weird thing, they had blocked out an area across the street from the Tavern for the race, but then didn’t use it for the post-run party, and instead had a crowded, long line leading into the Tavern.  It seemed like a waste of blocked off space!  Lastly, and most importantly, there wasn’t quite enough police coverage.  I understand that local residents HATE when road races get in the way of Sunday morning traffic.  But there were plenty of intersections along the route where cars were just going right ahead and nearly running over runners.  SCARY!

Wedding:

In case you missed my last post, I’m engaged!  I’m trying to not let the whole planning process stress me out.  The good news is I have some stuff nailed down.  I’ve got the date blocked off, the ceremony and reception locations reserved, the wedding dress (I still need to get it altered), I’ve asked my bridesmaids to be my bridesmaids (and they’ve picked out dresses), and I have a vague guest list made.  The next steps near term are to make a few phone calls with some local photographers, and actually get serious about our guest list.  And then we can meet with the manager of the reception location to nail down our food and drink options.  Yes, this wedding seems to actually be taking shape.  Still in the works long-term will include finding a florist (or identify alternative options for getting flowers), and calling hotels to get them to put aside a block of rooms.  But I’m not worrying about these just yet.  Anything else I should think about? (Besides our registry and our honeymoon, both of which I’m not even close to planning out yet)

Careers:

My sorority (yes, I was in a sorority) at MIT hosted a “career night” where local alums were invited to come chat with current students about resumes, interviews, job fairs, etc.  They had a panel where alums could give more advice.  I was proud to be able to share the gospel of personal finance to the ladies there:  Save your money.  Take advantage of the 401(k) plans and matches at your new jobs.  Spend less than you earn.  You know, the usual.  But it got me thinking, I’d love it if my sorority hosted another event focused solely on personal finance.  I think I’ll ping the alumni relations chair and suggest it.

Random blogger meetup:

Leslie is in town for the Massachusetts Indie Comics Expo.  And Deena already lives in Boston.  So it’s a perfect chance for the 3 of us to meet up!  My expectations for tonight is that I will find out that Leslie’s last name is Freslie.  Stay tuned.

Well, that’s the latest from me.  Up ahead will be Birthday Fondue (just like last year, and the 4 years before that) and I’ll try to get back on the blogging train with more posts for the Graduates Guide to Being a Grownup series.

So, what have you been up to?  Have you become a road race snob like me?  Have any new running or fitness accomplishments to share?  Any advice for my wedding planning (what am I not thinking of that I should be)?  Had any opportunities to spread the word on personal finance to unsuspecting friends?

 

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? 😀

 

A Graduate’s Guide to Being A Grownup June 8, 2013

I was chatting with an old friend yesterday at one of the events at MIT’s Tech Reunions and she asked me how I got into all this personal finance stuff.  Well, as my blog’s sub-heading reads: “I got a degree, I got a job, now what?”  That’s really how it started.  I graduated (with a hefty pile of student loans), and started a job, and realized I had a lot to learn about this “being a grownup” stuff.  How should I attack the student debt?  What do I do with all these retirement plan options? WHAT DO I DO?!?!

So, that’s how it all started.

Well, this same friend told me that when she went through orientation on her first day of work, she also started having all these questions.  With new college hires getting training in the same class as experienced professionals, the topics discussed (401ks, health plans, etc.) were all things that the “grown ups” already knew about.  It felt awkward and confusing to try to learn when the “grown ups” were asking higher level questions about the benefits that the newbies didn’t even know about yet.  She wished there was a separate class just for the recent college grads so they could get into the basics and not feel intimidated.

She also wished there was a guidebook to life after college.

Well, here’s the thing.  There are TONS of books, blogs, websites, articles, etc. to guide you through your transition to being a grownup.  A lot of the personal finance blogs I’ve read over the years touch on these topics.  I consider my blog to be all about this, too.  After all, my blog is called Graduated Learning:  Life after College.  (Is it because I’m learning after graduation?  Or because I’m gradually learning new things?  MIND BLOWN!)  While I’ve touched on quite a few of these topics in the past, I figured I might as well kick off a new series to my blog.

That’s right.  Here it is.

A Graduate’s Guide to Being a Grownup.

I have a few specific topics in mind.  I’ll share what I know/learn, and invite comments on each post so others can share their thoughts, or ask more questions.  On this post, I invite you to comment with your own thoughts and ideas:

What do you wish had been explained to you when you graduated?  What did no one tell you on your first day of work that would have been helpful?  Are you a new graduate who has a million questions?  What resources have you found useful in your transition to the real world? (p.s. I’ve also heard really good things about Jenny Blake’s blog and book, Life After College)

If you’re a recent grad, or even a not-so-recent grad, I want to hear your questions!  We’ll get this figured out!

Commencement 2006

 

Money: 2012 Year in Review January 9, 2013

Filed under: General Blogging,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:28 pm
Tags: , , ,

Happy New Year!  It’s 2013! I’ve been posting my yearly changes in assets and debts for the past few years now.  One thing I noticed this time around is that the changes in my liquid assets and my student loans are just about the same as they were last time around. How much did my assets and debts change this past year?  Check it out:

Assets:

  • Retirement (401(k), Roth IRA, Rollover IRA):  +$28,369
  • Car (edmunds.com private sale value): -$938 (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 $713 less to pay off as of the same time last year.

Change in net worth since last year:  +$55,194. Booya!

It turns out, I didn’t post very often.  Only 26 posts!  And quite a few of them talked about fitness.  That became quite a focus for me this year.  (More on that in a separate post).  Though I definitely thought about money and fitness together!

Looking back at my old personal finance related posts….remember the Approved Card from Suze Orman?  I wasn’t a fan.

I shared my story about getting into and (partially) out of student debt.

I confessed that I have a strange relationship with shopping, especially when it comes to Kohls.

I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff, and keep thinking about the big picture.

My nagging tendency was in full force when I told you that there were NO EXCUSES when it comes to opening an IRA.

I tackled the yearly concern of Benefits Open Enrollment.

I converted my traditional IRA into my Roth IRA.  Which also means that the networth numbers will be lowered in the next few months when I have to pay taxes on the converted amount.  Shhhhh.  Don’t worry, I have the money saved to pay the taxes, but we’ll recalculate things later.

And, even though this is more in the fitness than the personal finance category, I’m really glad I did the Walk For Hunger last year.  I look forward to doing it again in 2013!

I mused on twitter that I might try to pay off my entire student loan balance by the end of the year.  Not sure yet if I’ll actually do it, but I do have a plan in mind.  The cool part about that tweet?  The amazing, personal finance queen Gail Vaz-Oxlade replied to my tweet asking how I would do it!  So that might become a 2013 personal finance goal.

Happy New Year! How was your 2012?  What were your big events (positive or negative) for 2012?  What are your big plans for 2013!  Please share your own blog posts (if you have them) in the comments, I want to make sure I read all of your year-end wrap ups and your 2013 goals!