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Starting Over (Again)

January 21st, 2014 at 10:02 am

How have you been??
Let's catch up!
I left my position as partner at the law firm for a new position in higher education (not a teaching position). This is a financial mixed bag. On paper, I left a higher salary -but in actuality, I gained financial stability, (hopefully) lower taxes and a retirement plan. If I stay at my employer, my kids will be eligible to attend a nationally known and accredited 4 year private university for free.

Over the last two years my partnership cost me financially, forcing us to stop forward progress on debt reduction and spend a chunk of savings. It was disheartening.

Moving forward feels good. As expected, the first few months in the new job have been rough - less take home pay, a new paycheck schedule and the usual round of holiday spending and the oil bill.

I've got real progress to make: I need to make selections for my retirement plan, evaluate and adjust our debt reduction strategy and adjust our savings goals. I've also got to figure out how to help my kids learn to appreciate and manage money.

Here's to a prosperous 2014.

Living in Stepford

July 26th, 2010 at 11:23 am

Disclaimer: this is mostly not financial in nature, and absolutely peppered with off the cuff sarcasm.

My oldest son starts kindergarden next month, and I'm nervous about starting at a new school with new parents and teachers, and not only because not everyone appreciates my dry humor and generally sarcastic nature.

I'm the only working mom in our neighborhood.

Our town is very...traditional. Stepford, Mad Men, Neil Armstrong on the Moon traditional. We don't have a gym or YMCA - we have a tennis club. We don't have sewers because "that's how the government gets into your house." (Actual quote) We don't have an ice cream shop or dry cleaner because it is "too industrial." Everyone uses last names.

At kindergarten orientation, the PTA co-president (we also have a co-secretary and a co-treasurer..?) told the assembled parents, "I know many of you moms are busy with your other children, sports programs and volunteer activities...(and then in a hushed voice) some of you may even work...!"

All of the school functions and meetings have been scheduled during normal business hours -which has been difficult to manage when both parents work. All the sports activities are scheduled for weekday mornings between 9:30 and 11:30 -impossible for us to manage.

I've already had a difficult time connecting with the other mothers. I know there are parents who have made some pretty interesting assumptions about our lifestyle and values based on what they perceive of our family...and it irks me. I am too tired to deal with this ridiculous "Mommy Wars" mentality.

I want to say to these people, "Look. What's important is that the kids grow up into responsible, caring adults with a love of life and learning. Who cares if you make tollhouse cookies while I'm arguing a motion? Your kids are going to turn into adults with dependancy issues, and my kids are going to be underemployed with multiple piercings and bad taste in music. Let's work together with what we've got!"

Also, I would like to go in to the Principal's office and say, "If you don't stop scheduling every freaking thing for a time between the hours of 9 and 2, I am going to be a giant boil on your backside for as long as my kids go to your school."

(For the record, I am not going to do either of those things.)

I am hopeful that we'll be able to make some new friends this year, and that my son's mohawk grows out before the start of the school year. Because if it doesn't, I have no chance of ever fitting in in Stepford.

When Trimming the Fat is Cutting Too Much

July 15th, 2010 at 07:17 am

We have cut out a lot of extras at our house in the last couple years (having the second baby was a bit of a financial stretch). However, I can attest that when one spouse is frugal and the other isn't - there are going to be times when you have to give in.

We went back to having the groceries delivered (for a 6.95 fee -often free with coupons and discounts): because it turns out that husband always overspends at the grocery store and when one or both of us goes (with kids) it's a nightmare. I find that we spend less, only buy what we need, and save time and santity by not going ourselves.

I learned not to complain about his occasional trips to the donut shop for coffee before work: because it's important to him to have that perk, especially since I've budgeted out all the other ones.

We treat ourselves to the occassional (4 times a year) expensive video game: because going to the movies is too expensive, and we really like spending time together killing aliens.

Finally, ice cream is very important to my husband -and we're lucky to have great New England ice cream stands. In the summer, I never, ever, suggest that he get a smaller size when we go out. Smile

I say tomato, you say toh-ma-to!

August 28th, 2009 at 07:33 am

Recent research by scientists at the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University suggests that people tend to seek out their opposites in spending patterns. The researchers also determined that people self identify that they would be happiest with people of their own spending patterns -but the research suggests that people do not actively seek out partners who share their financial outlook.

The researchers noted that the findings suggest that we dislike aspects of our own spending patterns and unconsiously look for partners who believe differently. For example, thinking: "he makes me feel so free" or "she reins me in -I feel more responsible"

Unfortunately, partners who do not share a like outlook on finances are more likely to have marital conflict, and divorce.

(the abstract of the paper is here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1339240)

My husband and I are probably fiancial opposites, but rarely fight about finances, because he's taken the "Yes, dear" approach. That, and we can talk about finances without getting mad or accusatory (mostly!).

So, in the spirit of the study: is your partner your financial opposite?

Wedding Woes (for the bridal party)

August 26th, 2009 at 06:30 am

My husband and preschooler are in a wedding on Labor Day weekend. My husband is the best man. I am hopeful that this is the last wedding they will ever be in. Ever. It's hard not to compare this non-frugal, no holds barred, to heck with the financial and scheduling constraints of the bridal party wedding extravaganza with our (as I remember it) simple and beautiful wedding and reception.

But let's see the breakdown for this extravaganza (for us):
Husband's tux (which we had to drive 150 miles for): $200;
Son's tux (and shoes??!-because his black shoes won't match the other men?!): $200;
Wedding shower gift: $60.00;
Hotel for night of wedding: $145.00 (big fight about this one -but I think we didn't have much of a choice);
Wedding brunch: $unknown (but mandatory);
Bachelor party: $unknown (husband is keeping quiet about the details);
Wedding gift: $unknown (see below).

Then, there's the babysitting for the younger son, who was not invited to the wedding, the time off work for the rehearsal, driving across the state several times, and ... (cue ominous music) my dress.

My dress, which was supposed to be frugal as well as classic. It is classic, but definately not frugal. The wedding is orthodox Greek, in the late afternoon, so I wanted a dress that would look good in the afternoon, but fit in at the evening reception. I wanted something that covered my shoulders and would look ok with a hat, in case I had to cover my head. I wanted something classic, and that would look good for any pictures with my tuxedoed husband and son.

I bought on ebay a vintage 1950's dress, tea length, black taffeta with tiny off white polka dots, cap sleeves and a beautiful asymetrical neckline. I paid too much, but in my defense: it was the perfect dress; good vintage in my size (a modern 8/10) are tough to find; and I was suckered into an ebay bidding war. Then, I had to buy the crinoline and the undergarments, which cost more than I expected. At least the hat was frugal: $10.00. Except that it was the second hat, and the first one was $15. (I love hats.) Let's just call the dress $400. (Which, sadly, is more than I spent on my own wedding dress, veil, crinoline and undergarments.)

So, with my help, this wedding has been a financial disaster. (I can only guess what it's costing the couple and their families -and I'm thinking we're up around $40,000.) That said, we have to come up with an appropriate gift for the bride and groom. They already have a fully furnished house, and I bought a lovely shower gift for the bride, so I decided to go with cash.

The question is: how much? Is $100 too low? What is expected from the best man? Cash or check?

Has anyone been to a wedding lately? Do you think there's a difference in the spending of weddings of younger couples vs. weddings of older couples? Are weddings recession-proof? Also, does anyone need a vintage dress after Labor Day weekend?

Happy Birthday, Davy Crockett!

August 17th, 2009 at 10:11 am

Davy Crockett was born August 17, 1786. He died at the age of 49 at the Alamo. He was a serviceman, a husband, a member of the House of Representatives, a writer and father of 6.

Davy Crockett was popularized in the 1950's by Walt Disney in a series of televison programs and films originally produced as part of the run-up to constructing Disneyland. It is reported that American consumers snapped up $300 million dollars in Davy Crockett merchandise by 1955.

For contrast: in 1786, the year of his birth, Philadelphia printers went on strike to protest a reduction in their wages from approximately $6.00 per week to $4.33 per week. (They won.) California (Disneyland's home), was purchased in 1848 for about 15 million dollars.

Davy Crockett saw the start of the industrial revolution. Over his lifetime, the steam boat (1786), gas lighting (1792), small pox vaccination (1796), tin can (1810), steam locomotive (1814), typewriter (1829), sewing machine (1830) and the stereoscope (1832) were invented.

He is quoted as having said: "Always be sure you are right, then go ahead."

Good advice. Happy Birthday, Mr. Crockett.