things that keep me up at night pt 2 + things I want to teach my kids

March 27, 2013 |  Category:   life parenting rambling

Retirement. I know…that word.

Doesn’t seem like this impossibly far away thing anymore and I woke up one day rather consumed by it as if a switch went off overnight, much like when I knew I wanted to have a baby.
I wasn’t taught as a kid about money and saving, though I wish I had been. I don’t blame my parents; it wasn’t in their culture or upbringing to know about things like retirement accounts or even savings accounts for that matter – not when you come from a poor, wartime childhood. I also think in traditional Asian cultures, children are expected to take care of the elderly so retirement planning isn’t quite what it’s like here, though that may be changing. My mom used to stubbornly tell me that we wouldn’t be left with the burden of taking care of her in retirement and that she wouldn’t want to live with us if that time ever came. Well, that remains to be seen, but it certainly signals a shift in her part from generations before her.
I’ll also divulge this, which is (or maybe was?) another cultural thing that I would later realize was not necessarily a given among my peers: it was always assumed that college would be paid for by my parents so I didn’t come out of school with student loan debt. Going to a scholarship based school certainly helped (though because of mounting financial deficits, Cooper Union is controversially considering charging students tuition for the first time, which would challenge its defining philosophy of free education when it was founded in the 1850s). My parents paid for everything. Maybe this sounds incredibly privileged, but I didn’t know any differently. All of this, however, made me fairly naive about money until I got my first job. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the value of money and I suppose I was fiscally responsible enough to never go into credit card debt, but I didn’t learn the importance of saving until I was 30 and at that age I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do.
That said, I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to start saving for retirement before I started at 30. I spent much of the 90s in school, stretching out my undergraduate studies to 6 years when I switched majors and schools, and then going to grad school which I did take out loans for – a whopping 60k debt which I was determined – and did – pay off within 8 years. But when I read articles of how compound interest works, it makes me wish that I had started saving earlier, that someone had pulled me aside and showed me a picture of the future and how saving even a little bit every month could change what we could be sitting on today. As it turned out, my long time accountant who retired last year, was the first adult in my life who urged me to open an IRA at 30 and for that I will be forever grateful.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about how our generation is screwed mostly because of the timing of the housing and market crashes, not to mention the whole social security debacle. It’s likely that many of us will never accumulate the wealth that the baby boomers have been able to build (though interestingly enough, this article suggest that the picture for 20-somethings might actually be better than those in their 30s). If you ever want to give yourself anxiety, just read any article on retirement. Guaranteed to make you depressed instantly! Despite the fact that I don’t feel prepared for retirement with what we have saved so far (and I recognize that everyone’s comfort level is relative and personal) I also know that we’re doing better than a good percentage of Americans. Sometimes it takes a real scare to put things into motion and as counterproductive as it sounds, I’ve been reading these articles to scare myself into being more proactive about retirement planning and learning all I can about investing. I’ve not much of a big consumer, though I certainly like to buy things and do prioritize our spending, but no material purchase will ever feel greater than being able to sock away that money instead. So starting this year I have new goals: max out retirement, but continue to save for family vacations even if that means buying less stuff. That ugly ceiling light in our room that I’ve been dying to replace can wait a little longer, I guess. “Buy experiences and not things” is still a philosophy that is really holding true for me.
Ironically, I don’t have a clear vision of what the future holds for us in 2, 5 or 10 years, but I can visualize a 20 year plan now that has strangely calmed my nerves. In between now and then, however, remains a big question mark. Job stability and career longevity seem like a thing of the past and we have college to deal with in only 9 years. If private colleges are already costing 40k in tuition a year, what will it be in 9 years? All of this is scary stuff.
I keep coming full circle to the fact that it’s really important to teach our kids about saving money and the value of compound interest. Who knows what the world will be when they become adults? The education about money has to start at home. I don’t know if I can give my girls the gift of debt-free undergraduate education like my parents gave me, but what I can give them that my parents weren’t able to is an earlier start by teaching them about money while they’re still young. I also plan to open a Roth IRA for each of the girls as soon as they graduate from college to get their start in retirement early. I do believe it’s one of the most valuable gifts you can give your kids.

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  • Ilenia March 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I feel this topic it’s classified under the “complicated” ones. I admire the way you treated it. Retirement it’s something that scares me profoundly as well, even though we don’t have any kids, and if feels ages away. It’s one of those things that I have been putting aside because I didn’t quite know how to approach it but reading the articles and your words has motivated me to act on it. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      yeah, I hear you. For us, it is suddenly something that doesn’t seem so far away anymore! Also, when we were in our 20s in the 90s things in the economy didn’t seem so dire during those good old Clinton years you know? I feel like it’s different for people in their 20s and early 30s today, which those articles point out

  • tamera March 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    This entire article makes me hyperventilate and panic. :/ I should probably get my 401K going.

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      yes! I only had one job that offered a 401K and that was way back in my 20s when I didn’t give retirement savings a single thought.

  • Caitlin March 27, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I am 27 and just started a 401K plan through work this week (I have worked at the same company for 3 years and have only gotten my act together to do so this week). I know I am ahead of the curve compared to many but couldn’t help but feel like I wasted 3 years of good savings!

    I, like you, also had my parents pay for my college education. It was never a question whether they would. I assumed many people were in the same boat as I but only realized once I got to college how many of my friends had taken out loans to pay for their education. It made me feel like a spoiled brat at times but I truly hope I can do the same for my children. The rising costs of education are insane and it seems like an unbelievable wish to be able to provide for my children the way my parents provided for me.

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      The cost of education is insane and outpacing inflation. It’s definitely a big concern for me as that looms in the near future! Saving at 27 is great, btw!

  • W. Kim March 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I never comment, but rather read and admire your photos and posts, but as a soon-to-be graduate, I am so grateful that my parents paid for my college tuition. For some reason, I took that for granted, but after listening to all all my friends who are going to be swamped in debt really solidified the fact that I am lucky that my parents did that for me. But I really wish my parents taught me the importance of saving and investing money because I feel that I am very naive about money/savings/etc. and I don’t even have a job yet! Thank you for this post. 🙂

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      You’re young! Save now! 🙂

  • Pamela March 27, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Oh good, you’re saving now! I’ve always been a saver, even as a kid, and sometimes you’re like, “Wow, I could be playing with all this money instead!” but you just have to remember what’s ahead of you when you’re old and unable to work anymore. Depressing yes, but … like you say, it’s almost comforting once you’ve set everything up. Good luck!

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      No, we’ve been saving for awhile. Just wish I started in my 20s rather than at 30. It would make a difference, which is why I’m teaching my kids the value of saving. It’s great you were a able to start so young.

  • Aithne March 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Delurking to write my first comment. I really, really, really appreciate your blog, Jenna. Please know the time, effort and energy you put into creating this space is valued. I treasure your honest, thought-provoking posts on topics I rarely see covered elsewhere and have bookmarked several to refer to when I need reassurance I’m not alone!

    This post really resonates. I, too, am Asian and completely empathize with your description. Despite the fact that my father was a corporate banker, he never passed on any financial advice. I am incredibly grateful that I don’t have the burden of student debt, thanks to my parents, but I do wish I had had someone to teach me about finances.

    This last year has been a season of much change and transition and, for the first time, I am finding myself thinking a lot – and very seriously – about money. My husband and I had our first child, he left a job with good benefits for a less financially secure one with none (long story, good reason) and I am in the process of being investigated for a myriad symptoms and an abnormal blood result – it may be as serious as a brain tumor but I am hoping for a less stressful diagnosis! Pregnancy and postpartum hormonal changes notwithstanding, our financial situation has been the source of some emotional stress of late!

    I am only now beginning to read up on retirement planning and it can get overwhelming and frightening. I have a graduate degree in a field that often intimidates laymen with its terminology. It was something I was acutely aware of and I often tried to avoid such parlance in my interactions with those outside of the field. It frustrates me that the financial world can be similar. They too often fall prey to technical jargon that leaves me confused and intimidated. I often wish we could afford a financial advisor/accountant/someone to help us make sense of compound interest, stocks, bonds, etc., but am thankful that at least the internet exists and we have a few friends who may be able to help explain what we struggle to understand.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      I think it sort of speaks volumes about the asian culture that your father, the banker, didn’t pass on any knowledge to you as a kid. I am so sorry you are dealing with tough times right now. Please know that you are in my thoughts. xo

  • diamondkelt March 27, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I guess I’ll be a first then.
    I took out a few loans to get me thru college. As did my parents to help the 3 of us (i’m the oldest of 5) who did go to college.

    I never expected my parents to pay for college because it was considered a privilege not something that was drop dead necessary and it was something I needed to work towards aka saving up for it some myself, scholarships and pell grants. I still hold to that belief that all the higher ed in the world won’t guarantee you any job nowadays. In fact it almost seems like a HS diploma will get you just as many places as a 4 year non-trade degree will. I think employers who hire those who have graduated 4+ plus of college are hiring out of the mindset that if you go to college you should know more and be more qualified than Jane Doe who only graduated HS.

    All that aside I was not able to finish college because I did not want to put myself into an insane amount of debt. I paid off all my student loans within 5 years so I could start over fresh. Right now I’m not even sure I want to go back just because of the expense. It’s a turn off.
    At times it’s almost like you’re just paying future employers (via college tuition) to hire you when the time comes.

    It’s sad when I apply for a job, out test, out program and out do all other applicants and am rejected because I don’t have that 4 year degree. They’d rather hire someone who knows less than me but completed college.

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      I really do think it’s cultural and part of that “immigrant” mentality that I’ve alluded to in the past. None of my Asian friends, most of which were also first generation, paid their way through college. I have felt some resentment from friends who had to take out loans and it made for some uncomfortable dynamics at times. I’ve talked with other asian friends about this too. Mark came from a different background as me. He worked his way through college and took out some loans, but he went to a state school so tuition was reasonable.
      It’s really hard to say what the value of a college degree is anymore when the cost of tuition is so outrageous these days. I certainly don’t buy that it’s the only way to get a job, however, what you’re saying, that you sometimes get passed for jobs to someone who has a college degree still proves that it’s still valuable to employers. I even read recently that jobs are so competitive now, that some employers have raised the qualification benchmark to include graduate degrees – that college diplomas are more equivalent to high school diplomas these days. Ugh! This is why I worry about the future for my kids.

  • Kiana March 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Hi Jenna. My parents didn’t teach my sisters and I about money or saving either. But they’re both immigrants and we constantly struggled with making ends meat as children so I learned to hoard money, save as much as I could, and always seek the cheaper option. Even though I have no credit card debt, I have A LOT of student loan debt even though I had a scholarship that paid 75% of my tuition in undergrad and I worked all through grad school. Unfortunately, I didn’t get degrees in anything that made it easy for me to get a job especially in this economy. Also I just had a baby which makes it even more difficult to find a work/baby balance.
    I would LOVE to pay for school for my kids but I think I’m going to push them into fields where they can earn a more lucrative salary than the fields I picked. I really REALLY hate to say that but it just seems true.

  • Dee March 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    You might find helpful information at another blog I read, Mr. Money Moustache at

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks. I’ll check it out!

      • Aithne March 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm

        I just had to chime in to say that Mr. Mustache is one of the very internet resources I was referring to in my post 🙂 That, and Investopedia. (Somehow, I get the feeling you are much more well-informed than I, though, so I don’t know how useful you will find either. They’ve been an immense help to me.) Also, Northwest Edible (and fellow Mustachian ;D) does a wonderful annual series called No-Spend November.

        • Jenna March 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm

          I’ve read through Investopedia a bit. I don’t know that I am that well informed – I’ve always been good about saving and savvy about putting plans in place to finance certain things, however I am really just beginning to understand investing, which can be so confusing.

  • Juliet March 27, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Jenna, Thank you so much for this post. Your honesty and your willingness to share lessons learned are so helpful and grounding. I feel the same panic as you whenever I stop to think about the long-term future. If only there was one manual that taught us how to deal with finances and handle all the grown-up things in life. Some people are financial geniuses and the rest of us kind of just slog along trying to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of financial advice and hoping that we are being prudent financially. Roth IRA versus 401K…it’s all so confusing. I find my artist friends (and husband) tend to be particularly bad at managing finances or setting long-term financial goals. In the past I’ve been so overwhelmed with inertia and inability to make financial choices that we’ve had consultations with a financial planner. This person was very skilled in his profession, but he wanted to charge us $5,000 a year (at least) for his services. I just couldn’t reconcile paying that much money to get our financial household in order. So we’ve pretty much done nothing since then. Sigh. Anyway, thanks to you for this wisdom you are sharing.

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      I understand. I would contribute to retirement every year but never really paid attention to it. Had I actually paid attention, I might not have lost as much as I did in the ’08 crash.

  • Renita March 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm


  • RR March 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I vividly remember my mom taking me and my brother to a bank where the banker presented us with a few different mutual fund options. This one is riskier, this one is conservative, etc. My brother picked the risky one, and I the conservative, which aligned exactly with our personalities. I was 10 at the time. I think my mom started off those accounts in our names with maybe $1K each, and while they didn’t grow into a huge sum, that memory from my childhood is like a movie scene I have memorized and ‘watched’ many times over.

    I’ve always been a saver (hence the conservative mutual fund choice) and my brother has always been a spender. While the lesson to save and invest clearly stuck with me, it really never did with him. But at least my mom tried! 🙂

  • cravate noire March 27, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Ever since I got my first job, my parents told me to set up a 401k and IRA account, and for a while, I thought that was the only option available for saving for retirement because, that is the paradigm you are told at in the media, and at work. The fact is there are many other options, and you have to walk into a local reputable bank and ask them what kind of financial products are available for retirement savings besides IRAs (they usually have someone at the bank who is a certified financial advisor so speak to that person, they won’t charge you for asking about options). So in addition to 401Ks, traditional, and roth IRAs, there are also annuities, which lets you defer taxes on the interest you make on your money- similar to 401Ks but there are annuity accounts that are FDIC insured, so just in case the market crashes again, your money is still there. Also just in case you need the $$ before you’re 59.5, there’s no 10% penalty. It’s also important to be very aware of the risks associated with 401Ks too – be sure to place your money in more conservative fixed income funds if you don’t want your account to fluctuate too much with the market. It can be very time consuming to make the initiative to go to the banks and find out what your options are but the more you learn, the more prepared you’ll be for retirement.

  • Alison Presley March 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Awesome, awesome post and I nodded the whole way through. My parents WERE good about teaching us to budget but an English major and slim earning prospects haven’t done a ton to help me get ahead.

    But much like you, I’m committed to saving and living frugally. I spend only on what matters and hoard the rest.

    I think there’s hope for we 30-somethings yet!

    • Jenna March 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      I hope so! But Mark and I are already in our early 40s!

  • Claire March 27, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I’m pretty much in the same boat – only just figuring out saving & investing because I’ve only just got a job with a salary that leaves room to do so. 1 year to 30 – I need to get my act together.

  • Jess March 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you for writing this post! My DH and I are in our 30s and really just now in a position to save. We also have a lot of student loans. Luckily, my grandma paid for my education and my in-laws (also Asian) paid for my husbands undergrad. We are paying off my husbands law degree, which we hope to pay off in 7-8 more years. At the same time we are raising two kids. I want to pay for their college but my oldest will be in 8th grade by the time we pay off law school loans which doesn’t leave us many years to save for the kids. I think more people of our generation are thinking of these things a bit more. The dialogue is great. We all benefit from evaluating our situations and passing lessons down to our children.

  • rae March 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    my husband and i just opened a roth ira at the urging of my uncle (an investment banker) we’re just 28 now and are putting 100 bucks a month in, and he has been really encouraging. it is hard to think about that stuff, especially when we are finally making pretty good money and i would like to be a little frivilous for a while. haha, but i won’t. my dad paid for my undergrad too, because his dad paid for his, and i am so thankful for that. he and my mom had tons of credit card debt when they were first married so he always stressed savings and money management to us as kids.

  • carol March 27, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    hi jenna, when my daughter was 8 or so, my husband and she would sit down and do the bills together. she saw the check book with the balance, saw what things cost, even wrote out the checks (my husband signed them). today, at almost 29, she is very savvy about money and recognizes that for most of us, $ equals work and spends accordingly.

  • jen March 27, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    same here, asian parents, never taught us about money. i think it’s because we just didn’t have any. but i always worked, babysitting at 12, cashier at the local drugstore at 16, i worked 3 jobs at college so i understood where money came from and how hard you had to work to make money at a very early age. at age 22 i have to thank my 50 year old colleague who told me how important 401K was although retirement seemed so far away. so even while i had college loans to pay off i maxed my 401K contribution at every single job before i left to start my own company.

  • cantaloupe March 28, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Aw. My mommy opened a Roth IRA for me when I graduated college. I haven’t put a cent into it since then (because I’m perpetually broke) but she was very nice to do so all the same.

  • Tricia March 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Thank you for posting what is on my mind. I am 42 and we need to get our financial act together. I should say I need to get MY act together. My husband does a great job of paying off all bills right on time, saving for retirement, only buying necessities etc. Me, not so much. I would be screwed without him (in so many ways).

    I may be getting old but I still am living with a paycheck to paycheck mentality, like when I was 20 something. It is crazy, we make a very nice income which allows us to put money away but I always feel like ” wow, it is Friday, we just got paid. Let’s shop up”. Nuts. I really have a weakness for getting clothes for myself and my kids. I need to often tell myself I DON’T NEED ANOTHER DRESS FROM MADEWELL! I think I need to read more of those articles you speak of. And stay off Pinterest for a while. It really can trigger a frenze of want in my mind!

    So I will try to join you in a year of only buying what we need. Save for vacation and retirement. Experiences not things.

    And I really want to be able to pay for collage for my kids. My folks paid for me to go to collage (not imagrants but education was something our family paid for for generations) and my husband’s parents paid for his undergrad. We paid for his law school. I want to be able to give my kids that start to adult life. Yikes. My oldest is in 5th grade. I need to save.

    I thank you for putting it all on the table. Your candor has helped me so many times to put my own life and goals into perspective, I also appreciate that we are in similar life places, age, age of kids. You are a gem in the blog world.


    • Jenna March 28, 2013 at 10:03 am

      I think many blogs and pinterest boards are so focused on material things and consumerism that it’s so easy to get tempted. I think this is why I generally don’t have that much interest in them. Don’t get me wrong, I totally like to buy things – and I do – having kids necessitates that since they’re growing and need new things every year. We don’t have huge amounts of disposable income to spend on stuff so I’d rather spend it on vacations and little trips. We’ve made that a priority (it also helps that Mark never spends money at all!). I wouldn’t totally deprive yourself from spending – just put yourself on a budget maybe for things that you like to shop for like clothes. I find that helps a lot. We’ve lived on super tight and disciplined budgets before (like when I was paying off my grad loans), but I’ve learned long ago to pay myself first – that is, every month, funnel money into a savings or investment account automatically every month, then increase it a bit every so often. I feel much better about spending money because I know I’ve already saved this month. Good luck!

  • plum March 28, 2013 at 8:28 am

    my cousins & I now wish our folks had bought us property instead of a face-saving college degree. Unless my daughter is amazingly academic or gets a fantastic offer, I won’t be pushing her to be a graduate at any cost. We’ve built up equity in our property by taking on massive debt (A gamble but we’re able to work now and inflation seems to be eroding our debt. Plus interest rates for savings where we live is hopeless) and will be moving countries for our retirement. Anywhere with a decent infrastructure, low cost of living and balmy weather. Of course, all conditional on good health…and the insurance companies playing fair…

    • Jenna March 28, 2013 at 9:54 am

      The one thing that is preventing me from thinking that we aren’t totally screwed right now that we own our apartment. Yes, health and insurance really is the x factor for both our generation and our parents. I think that’s what scares me the most.

  • Anne-Marie March 28, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I can’t believe how much college tuition costs in the US! Getting more expensive in Europe, but still cheaper than that (fees for overseas students in Trinity College Dublin are about $22,000 per year for arts degrees, although they are about $40,000 for dental and medical degrees). Maybe going to college abroad could be an option for your daughters?

  • Lauren March 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Hi Jenna, I love that you have such open posts – they really generate thoughtful discussion and introspection on the part of the reader.

    Do not feel guilty if you don’t pay for your daughters’ educations. It’s better to save for your retirement and spare them having to worry about financing your retirement and convalescence. My husband and I (early 30s, both millenials) are looking at a future of complete support for one or both sets of parents. Thankfully, my parents told me repeatedly they had nothing for my education, which motivated me to succeed and have my entire undergrad paid for in scholarships.

    And, yes, it’s true – we millenials are probably better retirement savers having come into our profession, post 9-11, and around the time of the housing crash. We are very cognizant of a lack of safety net.

    • Jenna March 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Advisors always say to save for retirement before college – and we’re doing that. We’re putting away a small amount each month and my mom gives them a check for their college every birthday that we put in as well. I always figured that we’ll worry about it later, but man, that time is approaching faster than you think!
      Also, I think it’s good to talk about these things sometime! Sometimes I wonder why people don’t? Especially for us women to have a dialogue about it can be especially helpful, but I guess we live in a society where talking about finances is taboo…

  • Funaek March 28, 2013 at 11:43 am

    This post really hits home for me as I’m always fretting about retirement and money. Not because I’m lacking in funds or haven’t been preparing, but because I see what it’s like for my parents now. My parents were old school Koreans who didn’t save much for retirement and lived it up when business was doing well (gotta impress the church friends). I ended up getting a decent sized scholarship for college so my parents didn’t have to pay much for my undergrad but I did have to fund my entire grad school education. They did pay for most of my older sisters’ undergrads though since education was always first priority. But they never really taught us about saving and money managing skills.

    My dad sold his business early and didn’t really think about how that money is now all he and my mom have to live on for the rest of their lives. So now my sisters and I subsidize their costs. I know that’s kinda expected with Korean parents, but I didn’t expect to have to start doing this so early and so much. I can still remember when I was young and just learning about saving for retirement and I’d ask my mom what their retirement plan was and she’d say, “You girls!” At the time I thought she was joking, but I guess there was some truth in it after all. So having seen their situation, I’ve always got saving and retirement on the brain. I hate my current job and dream of quitting and pursuing more creative paths but the fear of not having enough money saved up always stops me from making the big jump. It’s always good to start saving however much you can early and to teach kids the same. Thanks for posting this and starting an interesting dialogue!

    • Jenna March 28, 2013 at 11:53 am

      I’d say this sounds very typically korean! Not saving for retirement till late, education a priority, etc.
      When my mom switched from nursing to real estate right around when I entered college, this is when she started to earn more and she didn’t save for retirement until well into her 40s. I think they will be ok based on some very savvy business investments by my mom, but she is realizing that she could very well live longer than she initially thought (my grandmother is 90 and still alive) and that maybe changing her thoughts a bit on retirement and living with one of her kids. She recently relented on the fact that maybe this could be a possibility whereas 10 years ago it was a “no way!”

  • Sora March 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I feel your concern for the future. I know that my parents paid for my college expenses from the equity on their house. That may not be an option for us and the housing bubble — it will never be the same after what happened there. I know that for us it will be unrealistic to think we will be able to afford a 4 year private university for our two kids and not have them take a loan out. My goal is to at least give them two years so that they won’t have as much debt. As for retirement, I feel like we are in a pickle as we aren’t able to save right now for anything between daycare expenses and just the cost of living here. I am so glad you posted about it though as it has me thinking about where we can cut back to make it happen even on a small scale.

  • MCC March 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Great discussion, as always Jenna. I am fortunate that my parents paid for undergraduate degrees for my siblings and me. They also spoke very openly, and one could argue too much, about finance when we were children. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized not every family grew up with CNBC blaring in the background.

    They insisted we choose degrees that were “practical” and the 3 of us all were finance majors. We basically had the unspoken choice of a business major, nursing, or engineering. On the flip side of your argument, sometimes we felt “too” directed. And that conversations were “too” focused on money.

    As an adult, I am grateful that I have a sound understanding of financial concepts, jargon etc. And not to be antagonistic, but the principal of compounding interest really looks compelling because sites like Fidelity and other retirement providers use an implied rate of return that most of us will not have. They still use 8% in most of these examples. Very few funds are returning 8% annually with consistency.

    That said, saving earlier is great, more is better than less, but maybe not *as* great as some of these articles imply. Let’s not forget that Fidelity et. al make management fees on your money. It is in their best interest to write articles to steer people into saving more not less.

    One could argue a condo in Brooklyn will appreciate far more than an S&P index fund 40 years from now. …speculation, of course. But just using it to prove a point that $17,500 (which I believe is the current 401k annual max) can sometimes earn a better return in a well thought out investment.

    Just wanted to add that tidbit in. As always, an interesting topic and some nice feedback here in the comments. Thank you.

    • Jenna March 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks for your comment! Appreciate the insight from a finance person. Yes, I know the rate of return is a bit optimistic, but savings accounts, CDs, etc are returning close to nothing so it seems as if it’s a better place to stash money, for the long term anyway, management fees aside (this, of course from a totally amateur, layman person guess). I moved over some of my money over to funds with lower expense ratios after researching what that actually means! And you’re right…Brooklyn property might very well appreciate a lot more than money socked away in an S&P index fund, but I also don’t want to rely too heavily on home equity, as sound as it appears to be at the moment.

  • caroline March 28, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I just wanted to say I love this post as someone who reads a lot of personal finance sites. it’s always nice to read some actual helpful posts amidst all the consumerist-like blogs that I frequent.

    and can I recommend Marketplace Money, a weekly pf podcast. it’s one of my favorites.

  • Carlee March 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    About college/university, another option for your kids could be going international as in looking at options in Canada. The major benefit is that tuition fees and cost of living is a lot lower in most cases, with the same level of education. They could begin their education at a Canadian university and transfer back to a US school in their third or fourth year, credits permitting, if they wanted to graduate from an American school.

    One of my best friends who is American did her masters here in Canada at McGill University in Montreal and always says she wishes she new about Canadian schools before she began her undergrad for the sake of saving some money.

    Just food for thought. It would definitely require some further research but it’s an option for saving some dollars.

    • Jenna April 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      I have a few friends who went to McGill actually…

  • Virginia April 1, 2013 at 1:11 am

    I have to say that this post made me panic a bit, but I suppose it’s the kind of panic that at least pushes you to think about necessary things and hopefully, lead you to a more secure future.

    Coming from an Asian family, I was also privileged enough to have my undergraduate education paid for by my parents, which I didn’t realize was a thing for all families until I hit high school. I have always been grateful to my parents for this gift, because without it, I would be in a huge financial hole right now. I look at tuition fees for American colleges, and I am stunned. I constantly wonder how students can afford school there, because the tuition costs are so much lower in Canada. I paid nearly half of what you quoted in your entry for my four years of tuition. I cannot imagine. And yet, with equipped with two degrees, I find myself floundering in the wide world of employment, which while wide, feels desolate. Finding a full-time, permanent job was harder than I could have ever anticipated, and even in my mid-twenties, I think about retirement. I think about how I will ever be able to afford marriage, children, a house, and then retirement. It’s frightening, and often times I’m scared about it all. I read your entries and see what what your life has been, at least the part you share on this blog anyways, and it comforts me. It comforts me to know that hard work and creativity can lead to good outcomes, and so thank you for that. Thank you for being a source of inspiration when it comes to being persistent.

  • Darcy April 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    my parents talked about saving constantly when I was a kid. For Xmas every year my mom would take me shopping in October and save all the receipts, then the day after Xmas the expectation was that I would return/exchange everything and get the discount price. Everything (literally everything) was all about money. We never went grocery shopping without coupons. I never had a single item of clothing that wasn’t on some sort of sale. I wish I could say I appreciated it, but instead I just wanted more money. I became a lawyer soley because of starting salaries (seriously). I just didn’t want to nickel and dime everything like my parents did. Now I have really complex feelings about money and wealth. On one hand, I know how much it matters (and yes, we have 401ks and iras and all that stuff) but on the other hand life is short and i dread the thought that my kids will ever care more about saving then about living in the moment and having fun. i also hope they never pick a career soley based on starting salaries. it’s a tricky question – how much to save/how much to spend. and i still don’t have the answers. but teaching your kids too much about money doesn’t always work either.

    • Jenna April 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      interesting perspective Darcy. And there is a balance of course and I do believe that we should spend the money that we work so hard for on things that make us happy. I’m not a believer in squirreling away money in a miserly way – like you say life is short (but ironcially life is also getting longer for some!) We’re living longer than generations before, but not getting some of the benefits that they were able to receive. The future for us and our kids is unknown…