Category Archives: Family

A Sneak Peek into Your 30s

sneak peekHi, Gen Y Finance Journey Readers! I’m Jana and I run a personal finance blog, Daily Money Shot, where I talk about money (but not the boring parts). I’m also a freelance writer and founder of the blogger mentoring program, Bloggers Helping Bloggers. I’m thrilled to be guest posting here and when you’re done reading what I have to say, come say hi on Twitter or Facebook!

Back in September, a post was published on Gen Y Finance Journey, Six Things I Hope I Know in My Thirties. I loved this post and, since I’m well into my 30s, I figured I could respond to a few of her points and questions with my own experience. So here we go.

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Financial Lessons From My Father

financial lessons

These people look nothing like my father or me, but we did spend a lot of time at the beach!

Yesterday I talked about all the great financial lessons I learned from my mother. I’ve got to give my father some love too, since a big part of my financial belief system comes from him. If my mother keeps me balanced and reminds me to live a little every now and then, it’s because I’ve been heavily influenced by my father’s hyper frugal ways.

My father is the kind of frugal that you really don’t appreciate when you’re a kid.  The kind who, if you ask him for some money so you can go to the mall with your friends, will hand you a $10 bill. But some of my greatest childhood memories are of time spent with my father doing very primal things, like helping him plant seeds for our garden, going to the horse farm to load up the back of his car with manure for said garden (yes, we really did that), cooking and baking, and going on fishing trips. Looking back, you realize these are the kinds of things that really matter.

Here are a few great lessons I learned from my father.

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The Season of Giving

Now that Halloween’s over, it’s officially Christmas season, or at least that’s what I learned from a trip to Target. In fact, I actually went to Target on October 30th, and the Christmas section was already taking over the Halloween section, so I can only assume that by now Christmas has engulfed about 25% of the store.

I was brought up in a practically-no-gifts house, so the whole concept of buying gifts for people just because the calendar tells me to is very foreign to me. My fiancé, on the other hand, was brought up in a house where Christmas and birthdays meant piles of gifts. It’s a completely different way of life, and it’s hard for either of us to understand the other. But like all other things in relationships, compromise is the answer.

On Christmas, my fiancé likes to give gifts to everyone in his life. He’s a frugal fellow though, so most people just get a dozen or so homemade cookies. That’s a good thing, because if he went out and bought expensive gifts for everyone, my head might explode. He does spend a bit more than I’m comfortable with on his immediate family, though.

My family is Jewish, and my parents were always clearly a little annoyed that the “spirit of giving” associated with Christmas overtook American culture so much that they couldn’t completely deny their children presents during Channukah. Unlike many other Jewish families in our community though, my parents didn’t give us kids presents for every night, and when we did get presents it was something small, like a comic book. My parents didn’t believe in showering kids with gifts on holidays because they didn’t want to instill in us an entitlement or expectation that we “deserve” gifts. If we wanted something, we could ask our parents for it, and if they thought it was reasonable, they’d get it for us, regardless of the time of year. So as an adult, if I see something that I know someone close to me would love, I’ll get it for them, but I won’t give someone an impersonal gift just because it’s Christmastime.

It’s amazing how much we’re shaped by our upbringing in every aspect of our lives. When my fiancé’s sister and sister-in-law email him telling him what he should get their children for Christmas, it rubs me the wrong way like crazy. And my fiancé can’t even begin to understand how I think it’s acceptable to let my brothers’ birthdays go by with just a “Happy Birthday!” phone call.

The key to compromise is accepting that just because you don’t understand someone else’s viewpoint, that doesn’t mean their viewpoint is invalid. I can’t ask my fiancé to stop giving gifts to his family, and he can’t judge me for not giving gifts to mine. But now that we’ve joined our lives, we do have to think about what’s best for us. In the interest of our finances and future goals, he has to keep the amount he spends on his immediate family down. And in the interest of ensuring that my future in-laws don’t hate me, I need to participate in the gift-giving, as much as it kills me to buy a gift for someone “just because.” Thankfully, I have a very personal gift that I know his mother will love already, so I won’t have to grit my teeth buying her some stupid trinket I won’t know if she’ll like anyway. Yay!

Are you in a relationship where you have differing views of gift-giving? How do you deal with it?

Considering Relocating

My fiance and I have been living in a dream world for the past week. I don’t remember which of us first brought it up or why, but we got the idea into our heads of moving to a new location. Our two nominees are Portland and the Denver area. We’ve spent all week on www.zillow.com looking at gorgeous houses sitting on quarter acre plots of land that cost half of what a one bedroom condo would cost us here in the Bay Area. We’ve been wondering why anyone would be willing to pay the steep price to live here. Is the Bay Area really so much better than Portland or Denver that the houses should cost three times as much?

With all big decisions in life, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. There’s more to this decision than just housing costs, but I can’t deny that that’s a huge factor.


Housing

We started aggressively saving for a down payment on a house this year, so even though it will be some time before we can afford to buy one, it’s on our minds quite frequently. At current prices, a small house in a decent, safe neighborhood that’s not too terribly far from our work would be about $500K. That means we’d need to save up $100K. At our current savings rate, that would take about 8 years. And in 8 years, who knows what the houses around here will cost! But in Portland or Denver, we could get a bigger house, on a much bigger plot of land, for around $250K. We’ll be in a position to buy a $250K house in 4 years at our current savings rate. And we’d have a much smaller mortgage to pay off. When it comes to housing, the Bay Area is the clear loser.

Family

This is the tough one. My fiance’s entire family lives in the Bay Area, I have two brothers in the area and my parents are about to retire to the Bay Area, so we’d be moving away from our whole family. This is why we’ve been thinking about Portland and Denver – at least they’re relatively short and cheap flights away, so we could visit a lot. But it’s still a big deterrent to moving.
On the other hand, we’d like to start a family of our own, and I want very badly to be a stay-at-home mom. There is simply no way we can do that in the Bay Area. Paying for a $500K house and saving for retirement, children’s college, etc. means that we’ll need two incomes. Slashing that housing cost in half means that I could at the very least cut back to part time when we have kids, and possibly stop working entirely.
As I said, this is a tough call. Moving would mean leaving our family, but it would also mean we could start our own family without worrying as much about money.

Job Opportunities

I have a great job here, and my fiance has a decent one. Neither of us have a great deal of career ambition though – we’re not looking to climb the ladder to the top, we just want to make enough money to support ourselves and save for the future without taking on an inordinate amount of stress. To be cliche, we work to live, we don’t live to work. We’ve both gotten pretty comfortable in our jobs, so looking for new ones – and wondering if we’ll find any – is a little scary.
There is the possibility that I would be able to keep my current job and work remotely, but it’s not an option for my fiance. But if I could swing it, it means I would be able to continue working for a year or so until he gets set in a new job. His new job may pay slightly less than he’s earning now, but the difference in pay is nothing compared to the difference in housing prices.

Culture

We have an incredible amount of cultural diversity in the Bay Area. Whatever we want to do/eat/see, we can. I can’t imagine that Portland and Denver are devoid of culture, but it will definitely require a lengthy visit to each location to determine for sure. It is also a requirement that anywhere we move would have good community theatre, as I love performing.

Religion

As a non-practicing Jew, it’s not crucial that I live in a community with a large Jewish population, but it is crucial that I don’t live in a community with a lot of evangelical Christians. There’s a pretty good mix of religions in the Bay Area, so I don’t feel suffocated by any one religious group, and I’m mostly able to avoid contact with any hyper-religious people. From what I can tell, Portland would be a similar situation, but there are several suburbs near Denver that may be too religious for me.

Politics

I’m a die-hard liberal. My fiance is much more moderate than I am, and tends to dislike all politicians regardless of party affiliation. I can deal with a healthy mix of Democrats and Republicans, but if my neighbors are all pro-lifers who still believe that Obama is Muslim, we’ve got an issue.
So there you have it, those are a lot of variables to weigh. As my down payment fund continues to grow, these considerations will creep to the forefront of my mind and become a frequent topic of conversation between me and my fiance. From a financial standpoint, moving to a cheaper location seems to be a no-brainer. It’s all the other factors that make the decision a lot harder.