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Archive for November, 2021

Rent where you can buy?

November 24th, 2021 at 05:12 am

It's pretty obvious that it's usually cheaper to rent to buy. Also with the way things have been going it's become very apparent that rents haven't gone up at the same rate as homes.  It's also true that renting typically has always been cheaper than buying.  So if you wanted to say live closer you could usually rent a place cheaper than it would cost you to buy.  This is probably even more true if you have been renting say for 10 years.  The amount paid might definitely be lower than owning in this market.

So my friend who rents in our neighborhood has rented here for about 15 years.  She's gotten a great deal on a rental since she's lived there so long.  But now owning in our neighborhood and surrounding areas have gotten beyond their reach.  Because they've waited so long it's gone up way faster than rent.  And their income hasn't gone up by the same percentage. If you had to ask I would say that prices have 3x but their rental hasn't gone up by that much nor has their income.

So the question should they keep staying here?  She said that she's starting to realize how they don't fit into the neighborhood anymore.  The lifestyle that most people affording living here is substantially more than average.  I agree it's not normal, it's not like most of the US. It's a very priviledged, affluent area.  It's not how most people live. 

What brought this on?  The fact I mentioned that a bunch of our friends are on vacation for the week of Thanksgiving. They've pulled their kids out of the week and they are vacationing somewhere.  Some are going somewhere warm, others are visiting family.   She said most average people need the income of working the full week and I agree that's normal life. 

But at the same time it's part of affording the area.  That if you can afford to buy $1m home you probably have the type of job that affords you the privilege of taking a week off and vacation.  I didn't know what to say because we visit hawaii 2-3x/year.  But our trips to hawaii are cheaper than most since I know when to buy my tickets. I know how to work the system.  We also don't pay usually for hotels/rental cars and eating out isn't as pricey as someone going for  the equivalent amount of time. 

Our expense is paying for airfare but like this Christmas the kiddos and I are using miles and DH is traveling for $549 roundtrip at christmas which is an outrageous deal.  So total for family of 4?  $549.  Not what people usually pay for hawaii at Christmas for a family of four.   This summer?  I think we did miles again and DH came for $400 roundtrip which is again a great deal because of covid.   Hotel?  I think we paid $1000 for a couple days on another island and I did spend a lot on eating out the month with my parents so $1500.  But a month in hawaii for $3000 for a family of 4?  Again not possible for most people.  But would I come to hawaii if I weren't seeing my family?  No I would not. So it's not exactly a fair comparison.  I also watch airfares constantly and have updates can tell you when the price hits $149 or $199 one day per person. Sometimes I buy and sometimes I use miles.

But that being said, typically DH and I can afford our neighborhood.  Yes we live somewhat modestly but for the most part we probably make now what most people make in our neighborhood.  Before we were making a lot more than most of the people we live near.  Now we are average.  So I feel normal.  

But I get what my friend is saying.  They are barely affording their rental and no way can they afford to buy.  But their kids are in 6th and 1st grade and they are becoming more established.  But it's also becoming evident that they can't "keep up with the Joneses" which you don't want to do but it's hard to not notice.  To realize that you don't go to Mexico, Hawaii, Europe or Caribbean for vacation.  That every holiday you don't travel for a week and think nothing of it.  That you can't and don't drive high end cars.  That thrift shopping isn't the norm.  

So how do you deal with it?  I didn't know what to say.  I wouldn't live somewhere I couldn't afford. I would look at moving to be honest where I think I fit in and we are the average income if not higher than average.  Where we could own our house and still afford everything like everyone else.  Meaning the 1 week vacation we take a year is similar to others.  That the car we drive is similar.  

I know that we don't seem like our neighbors (the minivan and legacy) stick out like a sore thumb.  But it's by choice not because we couldn't if we didn't want to.  So I think that makes a huge difference.  Affording a nicer lifestyle but choosing not too I don't feel the comparison or jealousy.  But I think when you know there is a difference it's harder to overcome. To know that you are comparing your lifestyle with their. I can't help but think that it would be easier to live somewhere that you can afford everything everyone else can.  

So should someone rent where they can afford to buy?  Or is it okay to rent where you know you can never buy?

When your goal changes

November 16th, 2021 at 06:57 pm

So I have always said we'll save enough to pay for 4 years of college at a public in state university.  That has always been our goal.  It was a SMART specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable within timeframe goal.  I hypothesized $30k/year or around $120k per kid.  Potentially $40k/year so $160k.  We have 7 and 9 years left.  My DK1 has $104k and my DK 2 has $90k right now set aside for their college costs.  I think we are definitely on track with saving another $2k/year for the next 7 and 9 years.  5% returns gets us to $163k for my DK1 and $162k for my DK2 when they start college which is right on the high end of target.

But the equation recently has changed.  I realized (ephiphany) that I can't be so inflexible.  I do not want to forced my DK1 into a situation where she would be unhappy or set up to fail. Instead now I am looking at the situation retrospectively and thinking okay whatever she chooses we can manage.  We have a foundation to afford any college and I believe she'll go because she's smart and curious. I also think that perhaps a big public university is not a place she will thrive but she might need a smaller, more private setting.  I realize that we will not qualify for financial aid.  She might get a merit scholarship but I won't bank on that because who knows how she'll navigate high school.

But my DH has never wanted to quit earlier than the kids finishing college. To him he's seen that as the accomplishment of launching our kids.  For me? I thought he should be ready to quit by 50 if not sooner.  But as we've grown he's become more adament and I'm resigned that he won't be mentally able to retire or downshift until the kids are done.  I think moreso now understanding my older child and worrying about her future, he'll resist any sort of retirement until he feels she's secure.  

That being said I realize looking at things we might need to pay for a small private college.  Cost?  $60k/year?  Astronomically more than we ever planned.  I had hoped on gifting a wedding or house down payment and car.  Again in the cards but it means either we save and live more prudently or we work longer.  Also she might take longer than 4 years if she switches schools because it's the wrong fit.  I believe she's going to pick something that plays to her strengths and I believe that she will be able to accomplish any major she picks.  She's quite smart.  But I want her happy and I don't want her to also overload on courses so that could also determine if she needs longer to stay  than 4 years.

But what do to? I don't know. I need to look at a few more simulations of our portfolio, DH working, and decide.  Right now we are on cruise FIRE not saving much more than the minimum and on track to retire in about 13 years when the kids are done 2034.  But this new variable of doubling to tripling our college costs is quite difficult to prep this late in the game.

I'm embarrassed about myself

November 14th, 2021 at 07:21 am

 I'm writing this because something happened to me tonight and it really bothered me tonight and I didn't speak up. I realize I did the WRONG thing by not speaking up to offensive people.

I was sitting in a kitchen with a group of people, couple of neighbors and other moms/dads at a birthday party my DK2 attended. I realize that most of them might have been drunk and I did not drink anything. But I feel like people are being very honest when drinking and to be truthful I didn't much like any of the moms at that moment.

They were talking about a girl walking around the neighborhood calling her the "walk-around girl." That I could understand. This girl in 6th grade who walks around the neighborhood solo. That is fine a description when you don't know someone's name.  The name wasn't the problem.  It's how it was said, described, and the connotation.   It's the fact she was laughing that the girl was constantly smiling and occasionally it seemed flared/danced, or had a tic that caused her to behave a bit unusually while walking. I was curious about who the girl is because I wanted to speak up and say do you realize you are making fun of a child? And I didn't.

I feel sick to my stomach. The idea of this mom saying these things was offensive and I don't know her well but I knew I was wrong not speaking up to put that mom in her place. I should have and I probably would have ruined the mood of the party. Maybe I could have turned the mirror on them to reflect on their attitudes and mindset.

Is this because of my DK1? Yes and no. I would have felt offended even before because I have always been sensitive to knowing my DK1 was different. So I would never say someone else is different or make fun or comment because I always have worried about being judged.  Judged at how my DK1 behaved in public with some really bad meltdowns.  Judged at being a bad parent unable to "control" my kid.  Made fun of for my child that wore clothes that barely matched and marched to her own tune of just ignore all social conventions.  That "walk-around" girl could have been my child.  So no way would I ever say that.  I type this with tears in my eyes because I know this.

But yes I probably would not have been as offended before my diagnosis.  But it bothered me probably more than it should because of the sensitive place I'm in right now.  That now I can see even more clearly the kids who are "odd" and realize there are many other parents of kids who look "normal" who are struggling.  Who feel what I feel about being judged for my seemingly neurotypical child not acting "normal" but looking perfect.  That i'm a bad parent or neurotic for "giving" in to something that I know she struggles with like riding the bus.

I was wrong. I was wrong to sit there and listen. I was wrong to not speak up. But the question now is do I tell my neighbor that I was offended? I was going to tell her because our kids play together about my DK1 diagnosis and ask for an understanding in case when our children play something is said or misinterpreted. That's how another mom I know  said she does for her daughter. She will mention it to the other parent so they can can help smooth over rough edges for her daughter. But now I don't know. Would my neighbor even realize the offensiveness? Would they even care?

What happened to be kind? It's okay to be racially sensitive, gender sensitive? But mental illness or something like autism/add/adhd differences if not seen are ignored and allowed to be made fun of?   That being slightly different but looking normal is glossed over?

Should I say something?

weird thing

November 10th, 2021 at 11:51 pm

I got an economic impact payment of $1400 for my DK2.  It was weird. I filed a tax return for her because I wanted to carryforward losses I took for her in 2020. I want to capture some gains this year as well and pay minimal taxes for her.  So last March I sold VTI and bought VOO and QQQ.  I now have about 60% gains so I'm thinking of harvesting the VOO and buying SPY and then using the losses from last year to reset my basis.

These are just some tiny things.  But i'm wondering if I'm cashing the check makes sense? I wonder if I will have to return it.  We don't qualify for it.  Uggh.

Have you seen the inflation at stores?

November 9th, 2021 at 06:00 pm

I know that our biggest budget item and most noteworthy is groceries.  Eating out somewhat.  Travel sure we probably spend $ more.  But Travel is easy to track with airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, attractions, dog boarding, etc.  But the day to day spend is the one that's easier to cut and hard to keep track of.  But this year well I've been doing reasonably well I think. 

I have an excel spreadsheet tracking everything and breaking down categories and pulling to an annual statement.   Jan/Feb I spent an average of $1037 and $1056 respectively on groceries. Then when I got serious about our new budget I spent $313-820 from March to August.  Our eating out was $362 Jan and $45 Feb.  But March to August it was $112 to $1553 (month of august away).  

But these last two months our grocery bills are averaging $950 and $919.  The eating out bill has been $412 and $664.  Everything I feel these last two months has become astronomical.  I really noticed coming back from Hawaii end of August that groceries went up like on average 20%.  I also noticed how expensive 1 meal out for a family of four is running more like $100.  

So far this month we are at $160 groceries and $129 eating out.  I am hoping to stay under $600 for groceries and $400 for eating out.  

How my daughter with autism was different

November 8th, 2021 at 06:51 pm

So my kiddo was different from an early age.  But there are lot of other things going on that meant there was always an excuse for everything.  Everything that seemed off or was different was explained away.  It sounds ridiculous but it really was.  I was the only mom of a girl in a special needs playgroup of boys with autism.  As I write this I feel like I can finally say to every mom who talked down to me there "hey now that I'm one of you, do you respect me??  Now that I have the same diagnosis as you, you can stop telling me we don't belong.  We are taking a spot from a kid who needs it?"  I really struggled a lot when she was younger because when you are the only mom of a girl in a group of boys, often times you are bit avoided and shunned, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.  But a big part is that often times her interests were different and she was different.  She was as different from boys presenting with autism as she was from neutotypical girls.

I knew she was different when she could never join in with kids to play.  She would stand there and quietly watch from the sidelines, or playing by herself.  She would sometimes come to me and ask to leave and I would say can we try?  Can we try to fit in?  I always called her my square peg trying to fit into a round hole.  I didn't get it at all, except we both tried to fit in.

She had physical problems which is why she couldn't speak clearly and we needed speech therapy from age 1.  Same problems that plagued her younger sister.  We also did OT because she had poor fine motor and sensory issues with sounds and severe anxiety. This was often the diagnosis, you have a super sensitive child with severe anxiety.  Since my mom has OCD and severe anxiety I went along with it I mean when you meet my family it's pretty obvious.

She also never present with ADD or ADHD.  We would spend hours reading in the library and our daily routine was going to every library read/sing along. She knew every book, song, and word.  I mean the general day was reading for about 3-4 hours.  She memorized every fact of dinosaurs and animals.  She was obssessed with giraffes like other little girls loved princesses.  But I was never into princesses so I didn't think anything of it.  She wore only leopard or animal print clothes.  She got over certain types of fabric and clothes going over her head and zippers.  She ate everything I put in front of her.  So we muddled along with lots of social pragmatics playgrounds, speech, OT.  This continued for years.  The psychologist said the speech and OT might have taught her to self mimic and pretend so well she could cover and hide her problems for years.  Especially since she was gifted and it didn't have any real impact academically but clinicall significant was the difference bewteen most of her scores and her social score.  She is 2 standard deviations between academic and social.  She basically failed all social communications.

I accepted their diagnosis of anxiety because it made sense.  Yes she had no friends.  Yes she didn't ever have a BFF.  She couldn't seem to get over her shyness and make friends.  She never played with others in a public setting, but my mom was a terrible germaphobe and my DH wasn't exactly into it so I brushed it off.  She was the type of child who needed "playdates" with the same children to get comfortable.  Okay fine no biggie.  

Then she outgrew her fears of movie theaters, dark rooms, loud noises, etc.  We could watch tv again, she was afraid of stories that we "dark" with villans.  She enjoys watching shows like cirque du soliel, the circus, plays, music events, etc.  It took until about age 6 for this to pass. But I didn't care. We had a second child who wasn't ready, it was hard to do things anyway.  

Also when I had the second child I was in post-partum depression for a year and I struggled anyway.  And I was glad I had a super easy child that was potty trained and quiet.  She didn't like going to preschool which is how she ended up in the social pragmatics group.  But they told us that it was because i was a stay at home mom and made her clingy with her anxiety.  They said it was good for her and montessori where she would have been allowed to never talk and do her own thing I could see was the worse possible environment. So we went to a normal preschool where there was a routine and structure for 4 hours a day 2-3x a week.

But then elementary came and we seemed to be "fine".  We were outgrowing the fears, we could finally go to bed before midnight.  We seemed to be "normal".  Then covid happened. I could tell she wasn't talking during online schooling but there was nothing to be done. I couldn't be a ventriloquist.  It was an awful year at home.  But at the same time she finally made a couple of real friends.  She got it.  The constant proximity and space meant that she had a chance to develop something deeper socially. 

But now at 11 almost 12 and in 6th grade?  My daugher still doesn't speak at school to kids or teachers.  She is pretty much selectively mute.  She always looks sad and unhappy and depressed.  She is not part of the girl drama.  Emotionally the psychologist said she is 12-24 months behind which I can see.  She's outgrown OT and speech.  And now we just need help moving forward.

I'm trying to figure out what she wants.  I have people saying let her be.  I have others saying "work" on being normal. I'm not sure what she wants.  The let her be folks say maybe she doens't want human interaction or social connections.  That people with autism do not.  But then there are those who say they do.  I'm not sure what the answer is. 

I like to think that I think she does want a connection. She lights up at the thought of inviting her friends over for a sleepover or being invited.  She does smile with them and laugh.  That yes the support of being at home and being there and having other children over more seems better received.  

But trying to explain this to other moms is hard.  Explaining to others who say "she seems normal and fine" is hard.  Explaining why we aren't surprised is harder still.  The fact she can fake it so well makes me worried about what's behind the mask.

my long journey with my aspie girl

November 6th, 2021 at 01:06 am

I guess this is more a reflective post and not at all about finance but somewhere to write my thoughts and perhaps put it out there for other mom's of girls looking for answers.  This week my DK1 was diagnosed with autism at 11 years old nearly 12 years old. I remember I wrote on this blog how excited I was to be pregnant, and secretly thrilled to be having a girl (I really wanted one).  I remember my husband just hoping for a healthy baby and we were blessed to have a healthy baby girl. Amazing.  Spectacular. I probably spent the first year taking a picture a day to commemerate her life. 

Life with my girl wasn't easy. In fact it was super hard for a variety of reasons physically, mentally, and emotionally.  She was so hard but I never felt like I could complain or say how hard it was when so many other parents had it harder.  I heard about others being diagnosed with a physical disability or autism early.  Instead I had many services of early intervention and I knew something was wrong. She never slept and had so many sensory issues. 

I always felt something was different and observing from the time she was about 3 I could tell she was different.  But every evaluation, therapist, counselor told me she was fine.  She had sensory issues but lots of kids have that.  She was smart, talkative, intuitive, seemingly mature.  She was stubborn and difficult but that would "serve" her well in the future and was her personality.  She withdrawn nature was called shy.  Her introvertedness was personality. Yes she was in social pragmatics group from age 3 for her shyness.  But she never failed her evaluations.  They kept telling us that she was fine.  That she was just shy and quiet and needed some social skills.  Multiple evaluators said this. 

But what changed?  I noticed since they she never fit into a group easily.  She was less socially skilled than boys her own age.  She was less adept at being part of a group and never really played with other children.  She also lacked a lot of emtion.  She was very logical, smart, stubborn, strong-willed, and difficult.  She masked a lot of problems by being quiet, but it just seemed off. While she can make eye contact she struggles holding it.  She struggles having a conversation even with me.  A lot of answers are one word answers and she struggles to vocalize what she feels or thinks.  She has a hard time making decisions.

So why the problems?  All the benchmarks and studies and hallmark evidence are based on boys with autism.  Girls present differently.  Yet are judged on the same scale instead of their peers.  If it had been peer based we would have been flagged much earlier.  She obviously and very evidently behind her male peers let alone her female ones.  Yet even I as a parent knew something was wrong and worried.  But I let all the "professionals" tell me it was fine.  Tell me that we didn't need our IEP anymore.  That she was just quiet, shy, and introverted.  Nevermind that my mother's intuition worried me.

The mantra I've had has been I only want her to be happy. I really have felt tis way. I didn't care about her education and I was right.  She's gifted.  It compensated for a lot of things.  Turns out that her speech therapy and occupational therapy also might have helped masked the problem by teaching her to "mimic" appropriate behavior and responses.

On the autism scale she's not severe.  Instead she just has complete lack of social skills and social communication. Her verbal communication score was "very high" 95%.  Her verbal skills and matrix math skills were all 95%.  It's obvious when you ask her and force her to explain things.  But to hold a conversation?  Impossible.  Even now in school she struggles about talking to a teacher or other students.  This year she tested and did 8th grade math and english but according to the teachers hasn't talked to any students.  She placed at the 80% of 8th grade math as an entering 6th grader.  Her IQ score was 130.  But she hasn't spoken in school yet when she has to write and tested she was "very high" 95% again.  She also apparently has no friends.

She also looks so normal. She is physically perfect.  No ticks. no repetitive behavior, nothing out of the norm.  She is cute, nice hair, skin, teeth, great clothes.  Since we are "upper" middle class it shows in a way that being poor showed when I was younger.

Covid was hard and good at the same time.  It allowed her to develop a best friend. Something she's never had.  She's never had a close friend.  But this girl lived across the street and her parents both worked full time so she came over everyday.  It took about 2-3 months for her to finally break through my DK and start really talking but then she did and they became I think friends.  That BFF has been a godsend and amazing.  She totally gets my kiddo.  Her emotionally EQ is off the charts.  To understand that my kiddo can't talk to others she tells to others and explains.  She joked with my Kiddo and got her to smile for her school photo.  

But now the journey is different. It took us a long time to get here.  The struggle was and is real.  I guess I needed to vent and write about being a mom to a girl with "autism".  That I am a mom with an aspie girl and it was hard to get here.  The journey forward is just as challenging but in a different way.  Perhaps this is where I write it.  Perhaps on a blog. But now i'm just curious to see if others have found the same challenges for having a girl with autism.