Tag Archives: reflections

The 2 things I learned this year that changed my life

2 things I learned this year that changed my lifeThe past 18 months have been a lesson in patience.

Waiting for things to fall into place, to resolve themselves.

Waiting on the outcomes of other people’s decisions or actions that affect me and my plans.

Waiting and working towards building savings, investments and paying off debt.

Waiting to see how our two adolescent rescue dogs settle in, respond to training and mature.

Patience has never been my strong suit. As usual I find myself vacillating between extremes: am I expecting too much of the dogs, other people, the universe? Or should they really be further along by now and is this a reflection of my own suckiness? What is simply a work in progress, what will always be in flux, what is yet to come and what is just never meant to be?

Perhaps the best question is in fact: can I ever just sit back, stop thinking and enjoy the ride? Time has shown this just isn’t in my nature, so while I can try to keep it in check, I’m always going to be a worrier.

Especially when it comes to the living things in my care. Do those wilting herbs need more or less water? Why did that egg have a dent in it? What’s up with that paw?

Focusing on my locus of control

I can recite that old saying a million times:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Actually letting go of the things I cannot control is not something I’ve really nailed. However, I’m getting closer and closer.

On the one hand, letting go of things is frustrating; it feels like admitting defeat. On the other, it is just about the most freeing feeling on earth.

Setting boundaries

As I said above, letting go can feel like giving up. But it doesn’t double as an excuse for sitting back and simply throwing up your hands. Nor does it mean letting others take advantage of you along the way and dictate your path.

That’s where boundaries come in. They are so crucial. For me, learning to let go goes hand in hand with knowing and setting limits for yourself. Otherwise it’s easy to drift, be swept away, get lost and wonder how you ended up nowhere. Sticking to healthy boundaries is vital to my self care.

It’s been so long since I kept a journal. I switched to writing songs, and then this blog. Next year I want to return to paper. Record small wins, track bigger projects, scribble down ideas and goals and dreams and the things I’m grateful for on a regular basis.

In a perfect money world…

In an ideal money world...You would never be unemployed.

Or ill, injured, depressed, disabled.

Have to support dependent family members.

Deal with the gender wage gap.

Struggle to understand a finance document.

You would earn a living wage for the area that you live in.

Be able to support a household on one average income.

Receive pay rises every year that match inflation, plus merit raises.

Have reliable transport and decent housing from day 1.

Smash through glass ceilings and class barriers without flinching.

 

We all have financial blind spots. These are mine

What are your financial blind spots?

Every experience we go through – good and bad – shapes us, makes us who we are.

The flip side of this is that we have somewhat of a blind spot when it comes to things we haven’t experienced. For me these include:

Unemployment

I graduated into a recession. Yet I haven’t struggled with unemployment so far and I don’t think I’ve interviewed for a job I didn’t get (career wise, not counting the part time jobs I held before starting my career!) I know it’s not easy and have seen others around me deal with unemployment but I have not personally been through it, and thus am probably not as understanding or empathetic as I could be.

Lifestyle inflation/mindless spending

I’ve never been much of a shopper. I worked in journalism for a few years, so pay rises weren’t exactly a thing. When I changed paths to make more, I had an unemployed partner, so we weren’t exactly rolling in it. These days we spend a little more on groceries (hummus, fruit and cheese ain’t cheap) but it’s really just having pets that I would put under the ‘lifestyle inflation’ bucket for me.

Student loans

Student debt isn’t as insane here as in some countries, but student loans are still a significant burden for many of my peers. Thanks to my scholarship, I simply don’t know what it’s like to graduate with a huge debt load knowing it would follow me through my twenties or beyond.

Golden handcuffs

The notion of being stuck in a lucrative job simply for the paycheck is not something I have experienced. I don’t imagine I will, either. It’s worked out so far that I have loved all of my jobs and I hope to maintain that to a healthy degree going forward. Earning more is a goal – but not purely at the expense of maintaining balance in other aspects of what makes a good job to me. Will I retire early? Don’t imagine so, but that doesn’t worry me.

More money than time

Time is absolutely a constraint at times. But money has always been the bigger factor. That’s my reality, and the reality for most people around me.

Supporting parents

My parents are ageing. Luckily they seem reasonably healthy so far and they are not financially struggling. Rather than me needing to worry about their retirement it’s more a case of them worrying about my financial future in today’s world.




So, what DO I know about, then? (For any of the above, there are many blogs that cover each of these subjects – bloggers who are reformed shopaholics, bloggers who are financially responsible for extended family, bloggers who have jobs that pay very well but which they loathe, etc.) I guess the stuff I cover here includes:

Being a female breadwinner

Not a position I thought I’d be in, but it’s one I’ve found myself in. See: here and here. And another post is brewing…

Financial opposites

What happens when a saver meets a spender? It’s been a process, through various iterations of joint vs separate accounts, paired with sporadic employment, etc. Probably got another on this in the pipeline, too…

The struggle to find balance

I am terrible with balance. I tend to get obsessed with things for a little while and burn out. Right now it’s balancing my mortgage against other financial priorities. In the near future it may be next career moves: making more money vs work I enjoy that isn’t too stressful.

In relation to the saving vs earning more spectrum, you’ll find me leaning toward the latter. As a naturally frugal person I’ve never really come across any groundbreaking saving advice. What’s dramatically altered my financial trajectory and pumped up my financial security is making more money. I still worry about the future, all the time! But I am less worried than I have ever before.

What about you – what are your areas of financial expertise and weakness?

brokeGIRLrich

I like big bucks and I cannot lie

Money stress? No thanks

“Money is the biggest stressor in Kiwis’ lives, and it is the young that are feeling it most.” – Stuff

Man, do I know that feeling. Money was the number one source of stress in my life for the majority of 2014 and 2015, and it was THE WORST.

We spend most of our lives working for money, and you can’t get by in the world without it. My life has only improved as my income has risen. It is not the #1 factor in my career decisions, but it is a significant factor.

I’m no longer ashamed to proclaim that I like, nay, LOVE, money. Like Bianca Bass, I’m taking a stand and putting it out there. She sums it up wonderfully in these three sentences.

“Money is wonderful. It’s the difference between having choices and having none. It’s the difference between worrying about bills and having the mental space to think about more creative things.” – Bianca Bass

Being broke is a time suck, and an energy suck. Things like navigating public transport in many cities, bargain shopping and researching every single purchase to save every possible cent takes up a huge amount of your time.

They say wealth is the ability to fully experience life. Hell, even a modest existence requires money – and in New Zealand, quite a bit of money, actually.

It’s not very PC to say that you like money and want more of it. People like to argue that money doesn’t solve all problems, that having too much money is just as big of a problem, etc… Which I just find so hilariously out of touch with most people’s realities. More of us than not are worrying about how to make ends meet, how to support a family, how to afford a comfortable retirement. Your average person is never going to have #richpeopleproblems – myself included.

“I think about how much money I’m making and how I could find more of it, not out of greed but out of a pressing need to know that regardless of what happens, I will always be able to take care of myself. I love money for the security it represents. Worrying about money has been a defining characteristic of mine for as long as I can remember.” – Megan Reynolds

Preach it… To me, money means options. It means peace of mind. I spent a solid chunk of time feeling panicked about money on a day-to-day basis. Downgrading that to mild worry has been awesome. I want to accumulate money, not for the sake of it, but for the security and freedom (ha yes, two slightly contradictory words) it brings.

brokeGIRLrich

Husbands, housework and harmony: Why do men who earn less also do less housekeeping?

This just in from the Atlantic:

“Things change when the wife earns more than the husband. In that case, he does less than he otherwise would. In female-breadwinner households, the greater the income disparity, the less housework the husband does.

The Cassinos speculate that being out-earned by their wives threatens mens’ masculinity, so they react by doing less cleaning, a stereotypically feminine task.

The only exception to this double-injustice? Cooking. In Cassino’s study, between 2002 and 2010, men upped the amount of time they spent cooking each day. And cooking didn’t follow the same gender-threatened trend cooking did: The more their wives earned, the more time the men spent in the kitchen.

Cooking, they speculate, has become manly—more of a leisure activity than a chore, and one that can involve flaming-hot meats, no less.”

Sobering reading. Full disclosure: division of housework has never been totally smooth sailing for us. And oddly enough, it was at its roughest while he was unemployed. Funny, too, that cooking was the task most seized upon, or at least, the least avoided, though in our case that’s how it has always been.

Rather than “the best househusband ever” as a friend suggested (and as you might EXPECT) I found myself not only bringing home the bacon but having to pick up far, far too much slack around the home. A symptom, I suspect, of general all-round unmotivation during that time. I won’t try to speculate on the issue of lost masculinity, though I will say that the fact our normal/prior division of labour – which does inevitably have some degree of gender influence – was not perfect to start with and this wouldn’t have helped.

Cooking is great, but it doesn’t cancel out cleaning

Yes, I know we should all settle for nothing less than a complete equal who pulls their weight and more around the house without being asked. (And no, it’s not always the dudes who are slacking, but a) it truly often is and b) I like alliteration.)

But I’m gonna be honest. That was not my reality.

In our case, he’s the much better cook. I probably produce one ‘wow’ meal in a decade, where he knocks them out on a regular basis with little effort. I’ve always been glad about this because we both get to eat better – and cooking is a significant part of keeping the house running.

But when it comes to cleaning? I’m accepting of the fact that I am better at certain cleaning tasks and that my bar for ‘clean’ is actually higher. (When we came back from overseas and were temporarily homeless, we stayed with my parents. Thankfully. I don’t think I could have handled living at the in-laws’ – let’s just say we don’t seem to share the same standards.) It really isn’t just a gender thing in this case, it’s moreso that we come from families with very different habits. However, I’m not okay with doing all the cleaning, for obvious reasons.

It was quite some time ago that I first read this Modern Love piece in which the author basically uses animal training techniques on her husband. (It worked – and apparently he eventually even began to use them back on her.)

How patronising, I thought. And how frustrating. The basics are so obvious.

And yet. I hate to say it, but maybe there’s some truth to it. I’ve found myself trying some of these tactics in the past, and I gotta say, the results were pleasing. Carrot over the stick, any day. (Gadgets also help, in this case. And I now know that steam mops can also be used to clean the shower. #lifeprotip.)

That said, making the effort to thank each other for the little things on a day to day basis goes both ways. It’s something we both do regularly now and appreciate each other more for it. Particularly now there are two dogs in the picture (must update you guys on that!) who can be a handful, as well as the chickens and a yard to look after.

For a relationship with less history, I doubt I would have bothered. If I was single today, I would be looking for a fully fledged adult, no exceptions.

Mothering the manchild

I can’t believe I’m about to type this and I’m sure I’ll get some grief in the comments. But more than one woman I’ve chatted to recently has voiced the idea that sometimes we almost have to treat them like children, which I’ve found myself nodding along to… Again, ridiculous, and I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, but it isn’t an isolated one. I came at it from the Modern Love animal training perspective, but I suppose the same holds true for training kids.

FWIW, in these cases the women were either the same age or a little older than the men. Maybe there’s real truth to the differing rates of maturity. How often we wind up in mothering roles just as much as partnership roles. Much as I hate the term ‘manchild’, it exists for a reason; I am honestly noticing too many real-life examples around me of late.

I really do think everyone should live on their own before living with a partner. Going straight from the family home to cohabiting seems to be a common factor in this issue. We got together young and while I’d lived on my own for a bit, he never had. I have a natural tendency to step in and handle things that need doing when they don’t seem to get done.

The trouble is, once you’ve set a default and fallen into a pattern, breaking it is difficult. When you’re good at something it’s easy to get stuck doing it all the time. I had a real moment recently when he mused out loud about how stressful it is managing money and how naive he was – how much I actually used to shoulder when I did everything financial for both of us.

Communicating my needs clearly is something I’ve been working on. I live very much in my own head. Introverts often have a rich inner world and countless thoughts that don’t actually see the light of day. I’ve been trying to be more conscious lately about explicitly communicating the important stuff and making sure it gets through and isn’t just locked away inside my brain, or lost in translation.

 

Finding a balance

I would love to have perfect income equality and household division of labour equality. Realistically getting to 50/50 in the former is unlikely, but the latter? I’m firm in the belief that a workable and equitable system is possible and necessary so that neither party (generally, me) gets the short end of the stick.

The general weekly routine feels reasonably painless these days, more so than it used to. The house will never stay clean for as long as I’d like (things fall apart by the middle of the week, and that’s only with adults and dogs, no kids!). And if, months on, he insists on leaving things of his out lying around that invariably get chewed by the dogs, well, that’s not my problem. But it’s a meeting in the middle.

Sports season does mean time crunches, and next season I anticipate outsourcing grocery shopping/food delivery from time to time if needed. Also, at some point in the future I think it would pay for us to get a semi-regular cleaner in to outsource a bit of the load – that was always part of my homeowning vision.

With things having settled onto more of an even keel, I’m keenly aware of the need for balance and fairness. Winding up in a situation where I am doing all/most of the earning AND most of the chores is not an option. That is one statistical category I ain’t falling back into.

TLDR: I think back to certain periods in the past and how much tension the division of labour caused, and wince. It’s taken time to reach a better balance, but it’s so worth it. Seriously, it shouldn’t be this hard, and yet it’s still an issue in many households.

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.


brokeGIRLrich

Finding our financial footing (again)

Finding financial balance with your partner

If there’s one thing I wish my parents had taught me about relationships, it’s the importance of financial compatibility.

Instead, the one lesson they imparted was the importance of genetic testing early on – you know, to ensure we didn’t have any horrible nasties lurking in our cells that might pass on to our kids, when combined with the other person’s DNA.

(I didn’t really take that one on board – not when I was 16, and not when I was older, either.)

High up among the criteria for a suitable prospective partner, according to How To Be An Adult In Relationships author David Richo, is this:

Has no disability with respect to money (e.g., cannot earn, spend, share, save, lend, contribute, receive)

Isn’t this just the most perfect phrase? I’ve never seen it articulated quite so well.

I still think there’s value in different styles. Here’s a really nice way to look at it.

When you think about it, a spender in a relationship is really working on improving your quality of life right now. Savers, on the other hand, are improving your quality of life in the future.

I’ve got a lot of priceless memories; fun experiences I would have missed out on otherwise for sure.

Savers can complement spenders, but it’s certainly not always easy.

I honestly believe we would have well and truly found our groove a long time ago, had multiple bouts of unemployment not derailed things so badly.

Lately we’ve been finding our way again, working toward a workable financial equilibrium.

As it stands now, what I see happening is a rebuilding of trust. Proving that we are both pulling our weight, adequately protecting our income through insurance, so we can work together towards a shared future.

I wish it were the kind of thing that could be done with the flick of a switch, in the blink of an eye, but it’s a process.

5 things I’ve learned from surviving a marriage crisis

The best relationship advice I can give

After more than 10 years in a generally happy union, I recently realised that – like Jon Snow – I knew nothing.

Nothing at all.

I once read that good marriages begin after the first gigantic crisis. When you begin again, in spite of everything, and work to make it through the anger and fear and sadness.

Separately, the wise and inimitable Alain de Botton has said that pessimism offers a solution to a lot of the pressures around relationships. Romanticism is unhelpful, and makes a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling.

Depressing as those two paragraphs may sound, I think they ring with truth.

There are five main things this crisis taught me. Here is what I’ve learned.

Love is a verb

Don’t just tell me you love me; show me through your actions.

So many of our habits and behaviours towards our partners are manipulative

Whether we realise it or not. Awareness is the first step.

Do not tolerate sustained unhappiness in a relationship

Don’t put up with it now, hoping that it will improve eventually, if you have no inkling at all for when that might be. Think about how long you could stick it out if nothing changed – a month? Six months? A year?

Never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm

There is no glory in martyrdom. This isn’t a social movement; this is your life. Your happiness is what’s at stake.

We are flawed

All of us. So very deeply. This is something we must accept if we are to move forward.

There it is – the best relationship advice I have to give. Have you been through a relationship crisis, and has it taught you anything new?

Call me mercenary, but…

More money, more options

There’s no nobility in poverty.

No romance in being broke.

No joy in struggle.

I really really really like being able to afford to:

  • Heat my home
  • Visit the dentist
  • Eat dinner out
  • Wear real leather
  • Buy 3-ply TP
  • Donate to charity

Call me mercenary, but in my life, money has directly correlated to quality of life and happiness without exception.

Literally every area of my life has improved thanks to money. Not saying I’m on a never-ending chase for more above everything else (especially since I hit the so-called ideal salary for happiness) but earning more is certainly a goal. As long as I can grow my income while maintaining enjoyment in what I do, why wouldn’t I?

Fewer dollars = fewer options. Life has only gotten easier as my income increased.

I eat better. I am healthier (because I live in a house that isn’t damp and cold). I have a reliable vehicle. Pets. I’m a hell of a lot less stressed and feel less vulnerable to the bottom falling out of my life.

When you’re going through a period of life that’s defined by scarcity, it’s incredibly stressful. You’re panicked and constantly worried, living on the edge. You make poorer decisions because you’re just not in the best frame of mind and/or have fewer choices available to you. You simply don’t think about the long term future because you have to focus on getting through today, tomorrow and maybe next week. How can you possibly think about retirement when you lack decent housing today?

Whatever the reasons for money being tight (and they can be oh-so-complex – acute, chronic, unfortunate, deliberate) the outcome is the same. And in the moment, that’s all that matters.

Money stress has a way of keeping you up at night, not to mention tainting your waking hours with its sneaky way of spilling into every moment. 

The first day in 2016 that I felt truly free from financial stress – for the first time in, oh, just about a full year – was amazing. There are no words for the lightness that brings.

I’ve spent far too much time in misery for lack of money. On the other hand, I’ve never been miserable with money.

I cannot relate to the ‘broke but happy’ brigade. YMMV.

I’ve lived through times where I’ve had enough, and times without enough – and I’d take the money every single time.