Do You Have Enough to Retire?

ID-100267709I had an ex-boyfriend who was a computer science major and I remember asking him if he could build me a computer. When he said he wasn’t able to do that, I gave him a lot of flak. “How is it that a computer science major can’t build a computer from scratch? That’s like me being an English major and saying I can’t write a book.”

Oh the irony. Even though I have an MBA, I don’t know googly squat about managing money. Sure I’ve socked a lot away, but that isn’t a retirement strategy. Do I have enough? Hell if I know. When can I retire? Your guess is as good as mine.

Now that I have a baby, I’ve suddenly become hyper-responsible. I’ve retained a lawyer to create a trust for our family. I scheduled an appointment with a financial advisor I found highly-recommended through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Mothers Group. She gathered all my financial data and recently walked me through my plan. It was really informative and she advised the following:

1) Continue to max out our 401ks (no brainer).

2) Keep an emergency fund of 6 months living expenses in cash (already done).

3) Save at least $12k/year (duh).

4) Save an additional $12k/year to be able to pay private school tuition for Franco from K-12 (not a problem).

5) Rebalance my stock portfolio because having half my investments in Berkshire Hathaway isn’t smart (must rebalance ASAP, bad Catherine).

6) Supplement with life insurance for me and Dean.

All really great points that I will be acting on, especially life insurance. If you are young and healthy, life insurance is a no brainer. I should have gotten life insurance years ago! For a nominal monthly fee, I can ensure that all our debts (i.e., mortgage) are paid off and my family is provided for in case I get killed by a wayward Amazon Prime drone. Now if you’re old (i.e., in your 40s) then you’re screwed because life insurance premiums are exorbitant.

Now here’s the part that was really empowering. After decades of scrimping, eating Cup O’Noodle and maxing out my 401k from the time I was 22 when I absolutely hated my first full-time job after college, I am on track to retire when I’m 57 years old, which is when Franco turns 18. Happy dance! At that point, I can withdraw $10k/month until I die at 92 years old. How insane is that? First of all, I don’t even need half that amount to live comfortably every month. Secondly, there is no way with my genetics that I am living to 92 years old. No one in my family has lived that long.

Put this on your to-do list: schedule an appointment with a financial advisor. All of the above was free advice!

Thumbnail image courtesy of ddpavumba at

The Very Stressful Catherine: Inching My Way to Less Stress

the-very-hungry-caterpillarIn talking to a wellness coach recently, she asked my stress level on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. My response was an 11 because I have never been more stressed out in my life.

Here’s the thing. I thrive on stress. I like being busy, overworked, and admittedly, I actually enjoy being a bit on the overly-stressed side. I’m also the type of person who doesn’t need much sleep. 6 hours is the perfect amount for me. But these days, I feel like I have no reprieve.

Pre-child, I could always get into the office earlier or stay later if I was busy with work. I could go for a hike or a run. But all the things I could count on previously to de-stress no longer apply.

The nanny picks up Franco at 7:30am. Soon after, I am practically running to catch the train. Luckily my commute is 25 minutes from the time I leave home to the moment I’m logging into my computer. I’m the last person on my team in the office (when I used to be one of the first) and now I’m also one of the first to leave because I try to be home in time for Franco’s drop-off at 5:30pm. We barely get any time with him before he starts fussing and needs to go to bed.

Further, I pump at least twice at work which means booking a reservation to the company mother’s room, getting there, partially getting undressed, pumping, collecting, labeling, washing and cleaning the pump supplies, then getting dressed again.

I dream of the day when I can go to a spa or gym and sit in the steam room for 10 minutes. Imagine!

I have no time, I told the wellness coach. Taking this into consideration, she gave me one action item to implement and pointed me to an excellent resource. Three times a day at 9am, noon, and 3pm, I put into my calendar a recurring appointment to breathe and stretch. I roll my head around, stretch my arms and legs, and breathe deeply. I also dab lavender oil on my nose. It’s such a lovely relaxing scent.

I read a few articles on stress here and they were really helpful. Some tips included:

Look at a favorite picture or memento.

Listen to uplifting music.

Spritz on your favorite perfume or cologne.

Stretch or roll your head in circles.

When have you been super stressed out?

What do you do to alleviate stress?

The Buck Stops Here: When Your Children Steal from You

change-20272_640I was reading an article in Money magazine that posed the question, ‘How much should you help your adult kids?’ I was appalled at the real-world situations that were featured. Most of the parents were delaying retirement as they continued to support their college-educated children. They were footing the bill for cell phones, groceries and rent.

One couple agreed to pay for an expensive design school because their daughter realized after college (which they financed) that design was what she was passionate about. Are you F*ing kidding me?

One daughter needed her parents’ continued support because, sigh, NYC is expensive. No shit Shirley. How about moving to a more affordable city rather than depleting your parents’ 401k?!

What happened to common sense? They sure didn’t teach you that in college, so why even go?

[Insert major head shakes here.]

At what point do you stop supporting your children? When they’re adults, correct? How about when they can vote at 18? Personally, I think that’s the right age. If our ancestors can withstand hard manual labor, sweeping chimneys or grazing farm land for hours on end, then it stands to reason that our educated, iPhone-loving, privileged children can financially support themselves at the age of 18. If not, then there’s a big problem!

Money may not grow on trees, but opportunity sure does. We can educate ourselves online for free. There are plenty of jobs to be had; the unemployment rate is steadily dropping.

But most importantly, children will meet whatever expectations you have of them. If they are low, then expect low performers. These are parents who have no goals set for their children. They’ll pay for college and grad school and design school and provide them with an allowance until they are ‘adult’ enough to figure it out on their own. These people will dip into their retirement while I’m sitting on the beach drinking a mimosa the day my baby Franco turns 18.

Why? Because I have high expectations that will be made crystal clear. No ambiguity, no room for error. There will be no inheritance. Mommy ain’t paying for college. Get scholarships and loans if a college education is what you want to pursue. Mommy did it. So can you. The gravy train stops at 18. And while his friends are trying to figure out which expensive college to go to because their parents are going to pay the bill, my adult Franco is going to be running cost-benefit analyses on what’s best for him.

I guess it’s not stealing when you are aware of the theft, but the way parents are raising their adult kids these days is practically criminal.

Paying for a twenty-something’s cell phone bill? Time to get Skype.

Paying for your son’s rent? Time to move home and pitch in with the chores.

Paying for anything at all? Time for your kid to get a job!

Children cite all sorts of reasons for their reliance on their parents: the poor economy, the lack of jobs, their inexperience. There’s an excuse for everything! Let’s stop enabling their lack of ambition and start promoting independence and security. It can be done, as long as you let them.

No More Sugar, At Least for 21 Days

ice-cream-309008_640I went 11 days sugar-free which is pretty impressive considering what a chocaholic/ice-cream-aholic I am. I took a break over the Labor Day holiday, celebrating with lots and lots of sugary goodness. But honestly I’m ready to do it again. My friend Patti sent me this and I feel up to the challenge of going 21 days straight. Also, I’ve been meaning to read this book.

My whole life has revolved around dessert; it truly gives me a high. I’d call hot chocolate, ‘a little cup of happiness.’ Sugar tastes so damn good. But I also like how I’m winning this war against a serious addiction. Multiple times a day, I was trying to figure out what cookie or ice-cream flavor or cheesecake I was going to eat. How insane is that?

It’s rather surreal, but I feel really focused having cut the crap out. I’m healthier and have less mood swings. Poor Franco is currently sick. Dean, in turn, caught the baby’s cold. I’m the healthy one, when normally I would be the first to get sick.

21 days starting today. Wowee! This is exciting.

Fighting an Addiction

Anyone who spends time with me knows that I am addicted to sugar. Checkout this post from my birthday, when I was showered with lots of goodies. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say I am addicted to junk food. On any given day, I consume a Venti Peppermint Hot Chocolate and chocolate croissant from Starbucks, cookies and chips with lunch and for an afternoon snack, and plenty of ice-cream after dinner. The other night I ate a whole container of Ben & Jerry’s Cookies and Milk ice-cream and felt so disgusted with myself, I decided to go sugar-free and see what happened.


Here’s something about me: I’m game for anything. I signed up for a marathon on a whim. I like traveling and exploring new things. I enjoy supporting friends in their creative pursuits. I don’t mind eating out or having a drink by myself. I spent the night, away from my tour group, with the Maasai tribe in Kenya. They offered me a cup of cow blood to drink and I said no. You gotta draw the line somewhere!

I’ve read research indicating that one of the best things you can do for your health is to refrain from eating sugar. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

Today is day 8 of going sugar-free. I can’t say I feel any healthier, but it is nice to think of weekend plans that don’t revolve around dessert. I will say that so much of my diet is allocated to sugar and fat, that the first couple days I was practically starving. Entrees alone weren’t cutting it because I usually added dessert to every meal, resulting in me feeling faint by the end of the day. I’ve had to eat a lot of heavier items, like pasta and fried rice. I told myself I’d give it a go for a week and see what happens. At this point, I can go for another week.

Even though I am not trying to aggressively lose weight, I’ve lost 2 pounds in the past week. I gained 35 pounds with my pregnancy and figured if it took me 9 months to pack it on, I could give myself 9 months to lose it. It’s been 15 weeks since I gave birth and I now have 8 pounds left to go.

Going sugar-free for life is not an option for me. I love ice-cream too much. But curious how long I’ll stay down this path. Anyone want to tempt me with alfajores or red velvet cheesecake?

Would love to hear from anyone who has tried going sugar-free or who limits their sugar intake in the comments.

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