• When She Makes More: 3 outtakes from this breadwinner

    What happens when she earns more money

    I put off reading When She Makes More by Farnoosh Torabi until now, because of the criticism I’d heard about this book: patronising, sexist, heavy-handed on the stereotypes.

    There’s some truth to those points, but you know what? I loved this book. LOVED it. I felt so much less alone reading When She Makes More and honestly, I wish I’d read it earlier when I was really in a bad place. I just devoured all of the stories of the couples she interviewed. It was incredibly validating, and that for me was the real value in When She Makes More – just knowing that others out there totally got it, went through similar experiences, and recognise that it IS hard.

    While I didn’t come away with any groundbreaking insights or practical tips, I appreciated what I got out of When She Makes More. Based off the pages I nodded at/bookmarked the most, here are the key points that most resonated with me.

     

    Who we are

    Of course there are thriving couples out there with female breadwinners, and that’s not really who this book is for. It’s more likely for those of us who fall into the category defined by the divorce lawyer Torabi quotes in one of the chapters: the husband who sort of has a job but isn’t trying very hard to generate more income, or is self-employed but not really working.

    Why it’s different for women

    The stress we feel as primary income generators is just not the same.

    We live longer. Any financial decisions need to factor this in – how might they affect the stability of your future if you outlive him?

    It’d be remiss not to mention the gender pay gap in here, too. Our earnings underpin everything. Yet on average we tend to earn lower incomes than our male equivalents.

    If you’re not planning on kids, this isn’t so applicable – but the question of starting a family is where it really starts to get complicated.

    If the household is dependent on your income, then there isn’t even a hypothetical choice about whether to scale back or stop work. Plus, that’s assuming everything goes smoothly. What if you have health complications during pregnancy or after birth – or the baby does? And what if you want to take a longer maternity leave than normal? What if your mindset totally shifts after birth and you decide you want to be primary caregiver? There are so many unknowns.

    Obviously, the ideal would be if both partners earned an income that was individually sufficient to support the household. If that’s not the case then there may need to be some serious conversations and forward planning – whether that means working toward a plan where he can bring in more income, or something else that works for the couple.

    In many of the couples cited, the woman had a seriously high powered, high paying C-suite job, and presumably this was less of a concern than in couples where the woman earned more but not necessarily a huge salary. At a high enough income you’d at least be able to bank a lot to hedge against those hypotheticals.

    Torabi writes that female breadwinners with a dependent family are living in a high stakes world – it’s vital to remain sought after in your work, to learn to navigate the biases and double standards at play, and build the reputation and professional capital that will serve you well later on.

    Another point that probably belongs in here: the so-called second shift. Even when the woman makes more, even if the man doesn’t work, she almost always puts in a significant amount of housework/childcare. Even when the financial roles are reversed, the roles at home do not typically fully reverse.

    The risks

    Resentment, resentment, resentment. Particularly when paired with the point above re: equality of housework. Resentment is the most dangerous feeling of all, particularly when it leads to wondering if you’re better off without him. (And maybe in some cases you are. It wasn’t until I actually left that he bucked up and started to get his act together.)

    “The longer the woman has to support her lackadaisical husband, the quicker her feelings of frustration move into the bitter zone, after which the resentment takes over,” Torabi writes. It’s common for breadwinning mothers especially to feel at least some resentment, guilt and anger.

    Female breadwinners are more likely to be unhappy, feel pressured to work less and even get divorced, she says. There’s the pressure to keep your job, the worry of having everything depend on you, and the desire to have an equal relationship with your partner.

    Let’s face it, this permeates every facet of a relationship. When we talk about money, Torabi points out, we’re actually talking about our entire lives. Money affects how each of you feels about one another and about your relationship – and it also directly influences the frequency of and satisfaction with your sex life. (Can confirm. Broke sex is bad sex.)

    If the guy has made financial mistakes in the past and is yet to prove he can be financially responsible, it can be difficult to trust him. Often it leads to mothering and controlling in an effort to remedy that, which sucks for both parties. I never liked being the mean/boring one saying no – we can’t afford that – or assuming responsibility for handling all the finances, or feeling unable to rely on anyone but myself. When a partnership turns more into something resembling parenting, it’s a bad sign.

    Often couples that struggle the most are those whose incomes were fairly equal until he lost his job. But whatever the cause, what matters is how we cope in response. And figuring that out takes time. Financial and emotional equanimity are moving targets in any relationship, Torabi says, and this is so true in my experience. Ultimately, it’s a process.  




    One last point I liked in the book and would love to see play out: the suggestion for a shift in the campaign for paid parental leave that puts the focus on the benefits for families. How could anyone be against working families?

    But ultimately, the biggest strength of When She Makes More is that it’s not too concerned with how things should be; it’s about how they are in reality, and how to cope with that. Yes, things should be perfectly equal at work and at home. It shouldn’t matter who makes more, practically or emotionally speaking. BUT. We live in an imperfect world and we as humans are flawed – we just have to work within these constraints the best we can.


     

  • My love/hate relationship with my mortgage

    My love hate relationship with my mortgage

    I’ve always felt … oddly grateful toward my mortgage.

    I feel much better about making mortgage payments every two weeks than I ever did about paying rent. My mortgage is a means to an end:  better health, quality of lifestability (and peace of mind). And one day it will be gone, gone, GONE.

    But it does weigh on me sometimes.

    I recently got my 6-monthly mortgage statement.  Since buying my house in March I’ve paid off $6574 of principal. Sweet! But nearly half of that was extra repayments, which I made straight to principal. Eeesh.

    Much as I want to throw everything at it, though, there are other things I want to do in life. Like modernise my 1960s kitchen, for starters, and invest regularly (outside of KiwiSaver, that is).

    I’ve always been terrible with balance, and balancing my mortgage against other financial priorities is probably going to be an ongoing struggle.

    Homeowners, how do you feel about your mortgage?

  • How homeownership saves me money

    The surprising ways home ownership saves me money

    Over the past decade I’ve wasted thousands of dollars renting (not even counting rent payments – those would be in the tens of thousands and at least I got shelter in exchange for those).

    There are costs that come with home ownership – some unavoidable, some totally up to you – but those are covered extensively elsewhere on the internet and I’m not getting into those today.

    No, what I’m talking about are the surprising ways home ownership has saved me money here and there.

    Power

    A poorly insulated house is less efficient to heat. We’ve lived in iceboxes half the size of this house that cost the same in power bills as this one. And in the case where we’ve lived with flatmates, well, other people often don’t care about saving power the way you do.

    Related: I’m probably saving a small fortune on tissues. I no longer have a constantly blocked or runny nose – it’s the exception rather than the norm now.  Rental standards in NZ are pathetic (and here’s even more skin-crawling stuff).

    Now don’t get me wrong. This is still an older house and we’ll need to add more insulation to the roof, which will be in the realm of $1500-2000 if we DIY and more if we get in the pros to install it. On the very coldest nights this winter the roof has gotten down to single digit temperatures overnight, with the rest of the house plunging to low double digits, which isn’t ideal. But it’s noticeably drier and warmer than the many rentals I’ve endured.

    I’m sure winters are getting colder (either that or I just feel it more with age) and T agrees. We experienced some record low temperatures this year and last, so I don’t think it’s entirely my imagination.

    Insurance

    My content insurance dropped to a third of its former cost once I became a homeowner. I’m deadly serious. Car insurance also decreased by a tiny bit. Just another way renters get ripped off.

    Going out

    Home is a haven now. Not a cramped, damp place to escape. Not a place with flatmates who grate on your nerves. I love my house so much, warts and all. I’ve always been a homebody and at last, after so many years, I have somewhere I can honestly nest and settle in for real. I feel an unbridled sense of joy and serenity every time I  step out onto my  sunny deck or sit down in my dining nook.

    As you can probably guess, I have had zero regrets about buying a house. Home ownership has been everything I dreamed of and more.

    brokeGIRLrich
  • PSA: Check your credit!

    Credit check

    Credit check

    It’s that time again: time to check up on my credit report!

    As a commenter wisely pointed out, my recent drama with collections (over $50, of all things) means I should definitely check and make sure that it has been fully withdrawn and isn’t on my credit record. If it is, I’m seriously going to go ballistic.

    If you’re not sure how to check your credit report in NZ, here’s how. There are 3 reporting agencies. Below are the current links to request your free credit record:

    You can do it all online – just enter your details and request a copy to be emailed or posted to you. They ask for your name/s, address history, and employment info. You will need the details of your ID (eg driver’s licence info) and may need to upload a scanned copy as well.

    NZ credit reports include your personal details, a list of credit enquiries, any default, judgement or insolvency details, and repayment history. The repayment history isn’t exhaustive – not all credit is reported. For example, my 2015 report included my credit card history but did not include my car loan history at all.

    Although I was able to obtain my credit score for free back in 2010 when they were first introduced, it seems you can no longer see your credit score unless you pay for it. Not like in the US – where you can easily get your free credit scores in a jiffy.  I have no idea what mine is now!

  • When sanity > principles

    Money or sanity?

    I have a strong sense of fairness and justice (which sometimes makes it hard to exist in this world). But I’m also quite pragmatic and getting more ruthlessly so over time.

    Which is why I’ve made the conscious choice to write off certain sums of money over the past few years. To move on and look forward. Let go of the expended stress and energy, and devote that time and headspace into productively making that money back even quicker. And of course, to not get into the same situation again.

    Let it goooo

    Heinous flatmate (approx $1000)

    Blood from a stone. He was a terrible person to live with and is terrible with money/being employed/adulting in general. I’ve written off the money he owes for bills and damage and moved on.

    Tax refund

    Can’t really remember the amount – maybe $500? Anyway, T was due a tax refund a few years back that went into limbo somewhere between the IRD and his bank account. Endless back and forth never resolved it and we’ve moved on. (Subsequent refunds have made it through fine.)

    Work expenses

    Again, the exact amount has faded from memory and I’m certainly not going to check and dredge it up, but a couple hundy? Suffice to say toxic boss #2 in this post was a nightmare from start to finish. T chatted to someone from the labour department but ultimately, not enough proof of the context and it being a work expense. Live and learn.

    Unpaid freelance invoices (approx $1000)

    Loved the work. Hated the chasing of payment. I did a series of features and was paid for about half. Struggling magazine, new editors, tardy accounts … just one big clusterfuck.

    Unrefunded bond (approx $700)

    Our last tenancy was a nightmare. Anything to put that memory behind me.

    I know lots of you mentioned in the comments on this post that you’d written off small amounts in the past – what about bigger ones?

    Disease Called Debt
  • CYA: Revisiting my insurance coverage

    Although insurance isn’t a huge line in my budget, the peace of mind it provides is invaluable. While my car insurance is pretty sussed and doesn’t require much thought, a couple things have got me rethinking some of my other insurance cover.

    Contents insurance

    I stumbled across a TradeMe thread the other week in which people were discussing how much contents insurance they had. $100k for a three bedroom house seemed to be the consensus. This was my reaction:

    WTF?And then I followed one of the links through to a contents insurance calculator and whizzed through quickly. By our standards, their allowances were a teeny bit insane. $7k for two laptops? A $1500 dryer? $4000 of shoes per person? An expensive china cabinet full of antiques? Nuh uh.

    I’m not sure we count as minimalist, but we don’t have a ton of stuff realistically and most of it isn’t worth very much.

    To be fair, we probably are a little underinsured (I can’t even remember exactly how much cover we currently have) but hopefully come next renewal, we’ll also have redone the kitchen and may as well roll all those changes up at once. Very little we own was obtained new, but I am definitely aware that should we need to replace it all at once it would be expensive. That said, should we lose everything in one fell swoop, we would still replace things gradually in order to get more for the money. It took about 3 months for us to buy a bedroom set after moving in here (dresser and bedside tables).

    A kitchen with a dishwasher, a decent fridge, a gas stove and cabinets not from the 1960s will probably add a significant number to the amount we want to be insured for. Still, the annual premium dropped to around $400 when I became a homeowner, so hopefully it will still be pretty affordable even after increasing the coverage and updating the policy accordingly.

    Health insurance

    Previously I’ve had a bit of a look into private health insurance – where previous employers offered discounts through Southern Cross (my current one does not) and when I needed my wisdom teeth out. And maybe now once again, since a friend is undergoing expensive dental work after an accident which is only partly covered by ACC.

    Every time I’ve reached the conclusion that for me it’s a waste of money, my needs are around optical and dental and the cost of policies just don’t stack up against what I would get back. T might benefit from policies that cover physiotherapy, being both accident and injury prone.

    What I would give for a comprehensive health insurance comparison site! Maybe this is an instance where an adviser would actually be worth it.

    But I suspect this is something I’m going to put aside yet again. Maybe when kids come into the picture (my two bosses who have kids reckon they’ve got their money’s worth and more from health insurance).

    When did you last reconsider your insurance coverage?

  • What to do if you have champagne taste on a beer budget

    What to do if you have champagne taste on a beer budget

    No judgement if your tastes skew a little more extravagant than your budget indicates. I think most of us know what it’s like to not have everything we want.

    It’s an eternal struggle. Our money is limited but the list of things we can potentially do with it is not.

    Spend less

    The quickest win is to cut expenses where possible. A dollar saved is a dollar earned (and won’t be taxed!). Trimming the budget = instant savings.

    For most of us the three biggest expenses are housing, food, and transport. If you can cut down on any (or all!) of these big ticket costs you’ll be saving money every week/fortnight/month on these regular expenses.

    While renting I always endeavoured to keep rent as low as possible, but now that I own I’m making extra principal payments with the aim of eliminating the mortgage outright earlier than scheduled. We’re a one-car household, which saves an untold amount of money, and while we could easily spend much more on groceries and eating out (and would love to) we keep it in check as much as possible.

    Other recurring categories to look at are all your utilities and subscriptions – internet, phone, power, water, TV, gym, etc. I have a fear of commitment when it comes to these things and have no contracts for any utilities. That said, I do have a Spotify subscription, mainly for music on my commute!

    Earn more

    Sometimes there’s no way around it – you just need to bring in more money.

    The most basic existence in today’s world costs money, and the kind of life you want almost certainly costs more than that.

    If you can’t achieve what you want on your income, or at least make progress towards it – even after cutting back and ruthlessly prioritising – you may need to grow your income.

    Whether that’s by diversifying your income and making money on the side, learning to negotiate or change jobs to make more, or even retrain and upskill in order to increase your earning potential, there are options.

    In my experience this has made the biggest difference. Even when I was first starting out I was constantly side hustling to earn more money to squirrel away for my goals.

    Making more has seriously supercharged my ability to get ahead. With that extra money I’ve been able to save and invest, buy a house, stop buying clunker cars. Quite simply, I could not have gotten this while making $40k, because there’s only so far you can trim expenses. I increased my income $15k overnight, and almost $30k in under 2 years – no amount of frugality could have achieved that same impact.

    If you want to get right back to basics, the key thing is to spend less than you earn. And thus there are only two ways to improve your financial standing are: spend less and/or earn more.




  • I used to be afraid of debt. Now I understand how to use it to my advantage

    USING DEBT TO GET AHEAD

    I was super lucky to sidestep the burden of student loans. Thank you, scholarship! I’m getting to the age where a few people are starting to clear their student debt, but I’d say the majority are still paying theirs back.

    I’ve always been debt averse. I’ve never really bought anything I couldn’t afford, and have avoided going into consumer debt.

    (Granted, I have carried a balance on my credit card during some of the super fun times of unemployment and being down to one income. Paying that interest sucked – they were small balances of a couple grand but still. That shit stressed me out.)

    Using debt to get ahead

    We paid for all our cars in cash. But unfortunately that never turned out too well for us, because we couldn’t afford very good vehicles.

    For this car I took out a loan and paid it down aggressively, eventually pulling from savings to pay it off  in full 9 months in. This saved so much stress and at the end of it we have a reliable paid off car that should have years left in it (touch wood).

    And after years of enduring substandard NZ rentals, I have bought a house of my own and am already enjoying the benefits. The peace of mind that comes with the stability of owning is priceless; I am finally able to own a dog; and I’ve noticed my health is better now I have a warmer, drier home environment. This means I can be more productive – not to mention be taken more seriously as a professional when I don’t have a constantly literally dripping nose through winter and sniffles year round.

    I don’t expect interest rates to stay this low so I’m directing extra money to the mortgage where I can – early repayments at this stage have a massive impact on the long term total cost.  Reaching retirement with a paid-off home will be a big win.

    Going into debt as a calculated move has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’d probably be better off had I done so sooner.

    Debt is debt and I still hate it – but money is a tool and debt can be too, done right.

    In an ideal world nobody would ever need to borrow money (and we’d have 0% unemployment, poverty, homelessness etc…).

    Sadly, that’s not the world we live in – and if we do need to borrow money then the key is to do it wisely.




  • How I doubled my pay and halved my stress

    How I doubled my pay and halved my stress

    Since graduating with my degree, I’ve managed to double my pay. Most of that growth has happened in the past couple of years, thanks to two strategic job moves. Here’s the process I went through.

    I realised it was time for a change

    It’s a long running truism that you don’t go into journalism for the pay. Young, energetic and idealistic, we rushed into the trenches with shining eyes and grand notions.

    It’s thankless in those trenches. The work never ends. You’re constantly being forced to do more with less. Media organisations keep cutting back; the whole industry is struggling to find a sustainable model.

    I loved my job, but it was tough. When I took a six-month sabbatical, the person covering for me quit after just a few weeks. For what it’s worth, I’d always worked at that pace and this was a bit of an awakening. It really did get me wondering what a normal workload outside of publishing might feel like.

    When I started thinking about my next move, I looked around and saw no opportunities in journalism that excited me. Forget advertised positions; even just considering what roles existed and were currently filled, there was nothing that spiked my interest. Nothing I wanted to aspire towards.

    And just as importantly, I saw little opportunity to increase my income. I was getting by fine, but in order to get ahead, or to afford a family or a halfway decent place to call home, I had to make a change.

    I assessed my transferable skills

    I took the skills I had and started applying to jobs outside of publishing. The decline of journalism has led to lots of new opportunities in all kinds of companies – as content marketing grows, editorial talent is in demand on the brand side. (The typical trajectory for ex-journalists is to head into PR or communications, but you could not pay me enough to do media relations.) They need people who can write, understand their audience, and manage digital channels.

    How to get a job you love

    I researched salaries as best as I could

    I talked to people. I looked at salary surveys. I spent time on TradeMe and Seek just playing around with the filters and seeing how the results changed when I altered the salary band in my search parameters. (This works for real estate listings, too. In both cases you typically won’t see a number listed outright but you can use the filters to see when listings disappear from the results and make an assumption about the range based on that.)

    I sucked it up and negotiated

    Full disclosure: it took me until my fourth job to actually negotiate for the first time.

    In Job 1 I was on union pay rates. My hourly rate wasn’t very high. But a few months into the job I accepted a change in duties that had me working weekend shifts. As a result, I actually took home something like 40% more than that every pay day unless I had a weekend off.

    In Job 2 I was willing to effectively take a small pay cut for better hours, (though technically my actual base rate was higher).

    In Job 3 – my first outside of journalism – I had every intention of negotiating. But the application form asked for a salary range and I was afraid to leave it blank. They offered me more than the figure I wrote down, and more than I would have even dared to expect, to the tune of a 25% effective increase. And so, I didn’t negotiate further. But this was a real eye opener. There was money to be made! My skills were valuable in the marketing world!

    In Job 4 I negotiated and received the exact salary I wanted – a 25% increase again. Boom.




    In hindsight

    Life after journalism is sweet. I’ve been picky about the organisations I apply to and the kind of work I want to do – and as as a result I find even more meaning in my job now. Plus I’m better resourced to do it (though of course, as is the way, there’s usually still too many ideas and too much to do compared to actual capacity). I’ve been able to save more and start to build wealth. And that is incredibly important to me.

  • Does your budget reflect what you value?

    Does your budget reflect your values?

    “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

    Everybody does money differently – we all have our own way of approaching things. But ultimately the key to happiness is spending in line with our values.

    There are infinite things I could spend money on. Being mindful about my money and where it goes – specifically, spending it on things that enrich my life – gives me immense satisfaction.

    I don’t really drink; I don’t have a clothing budget. Here’s where the bulk of my budget goes.

    A home environment I love

    For me, that’s an Auckland-sized mortgage in order to live in the city I love and grew up in. To have a dog I love. To live in a home free of mould and mushrooms, where I can literally breathe easier. Surprise: warm dry air is a lot better for you than cold wet air. (Sure, theoretically it’s possible to achieve the latter while renting, but quality rentals are rare and expensive and the market is competitive. At that kind of price to me it made more sense to buy – even in a less central location – and pay the premium of rates and maintenance in exchange for long term security and quality.)

    Food­­ that makes my tastebuds tingle

    Eating out is our main form of entertainment, but we don’t do that very often either. Quality not quantity (although we do tend to do at least one weekend bakery breakfast run). I buy cheese and dips and olive oil with minimal guilt and don’t fret too much at the supermarket checkout till.

    Travel and getting away

    At this point in time I’m not specifically saving for travel. I’m more than happy just to burrow in at home since buying a place. But at some point a holiday will definitely be in order – I’m just not sure where in the pecking order it will fall as a financial priority just yet. I’d like to do another South Island road trip; visit Melbourne and the Gold Coast; and head back to the US to places both new and old.

    How does your budget stack up against your values?