Tuesday, February 20, 2018

HSA Learning

I learned something new today.

New job, new benefits. As I was completing all the paperwork, I realized that my employer doesn't sponsor or contribute to an HSA, even though they offer two high deductible health plans.

We already have an HSA - we've been contributing to one at either Peanut's job or my job for years, first at actual expense levels and then fully funding (without withdrawing) for the last several years.

I know I can add money to our HSA any time I want, but I wanted to make sure that I'm getting all of the benefits of an HSA, including the initial tax benefit. (I love HSAs for their triple-tax protection: contribute pre-tax, withdraw tax-free for medical expenses up until retirement age, when you can withdraw for any purpose tax-free.)

My HR person didn't really understand what I was asking about so I did a quick google search and figured it out: we contribute post-tax, and simply deduct the total on our taxes next year. It feels less impressive somehow, but ends up the same financially. Peanut and I are now deciding whether to contribute in one lump sum for the year now or on December 31, or at regular intervals throughout the year.

Perhaps not a big insight - but a helpful one for me, and maybe for you too.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Breadwinning moms are increasingly the norm. Not to be confused with gender parity in the workforce, but it certainly speaks to the need for workplaces to have family-friendly policies around flextime, part-time white collar work, and other accommodations that recognize the fact that this is not the 1950s anymore.

Share your job, shatter the glass ceiling. I think this is an absolutely awesome idea. I have had direct reports in all sorts of situations (part time, contract, .8) to allow them to construct a life that they want. No one has approached me with a job share situation, but I think it would probably address every single one of the drawbacks I see as a manager in the current part-time set-ups. I'd love to propose something like this for future reports. (I am not interested in it for myself so much, because I have a stay-at-home-spouse so I don't feel the pinch of parenting as much as couples where both parents work.)


Monday, February 5, 2018

Linkfest - Working Woman Edition

The Baby, The Book and the Bathwater - on how crazy-making baby and parenting books are. And on the importance of keeping yourself when you become a mom. The desire to create and contribute doesn't disappear when men become fathers; why do we assume it does when women become mothers?

Share Your Job, Shatter the Glass Ceiling - I am finding more and more companies are open to less-than-full-time positions, but I haven't come across a job sharing situation yet. I'd like to explore that for some of my team, as it might alleviate all the "problems" we experience with having some part-time employees. (I say "problems" because they aren't problematic enough to avoid helping people achieve the work-life balance that keeps their talents where I can use them, but they do create some inconveniences, and my biggest fear - that people are working more hours than they want for less pay, simply because the work will never be done.)

Rather than thinking about how much revenue you need to cover your costs, think about how few costs you need to survive as long as you want. While this advice from the Basecamp team is ostensibly about building a business of slow, steady, sustainable growth, it also works as a great analogy for living within a budget and planning for retirement. While merely "surviving" doesn't sound like a lot of fun necessarily, it certainly takes a lot of pressure off in terms of aiming for exponential growth/gains, and helps focus on cost-cutting and meaningful.

The deck is unfairly stacked against women when it comes to retirement savings. We are paid less for the same work, are more likely to be in professions which pay less overall, are more likely to take time off work, are less likely to contribute to retirement savings in the first place - oh, and we live longer. If I could impart one thing to each of my 20-something coworkers is that there is pretty much no sacrifice too large for them right now to get a solid retirement savings plan in place.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Busting through that glass ceiling

I accepted a new job at the end of last year. It's in my same field but a step up to a bigger company, bigger team, bigger budget, bigger goals. And bigger salary. I finally broke through six figures!

Five years ago, I had just left my job to go on maternity leave with Pickle. I knew we had a very sick baby, and I knew I was going to have to stay home with her for longer than I'd planned. I also "knew" that I was ruining my career by doing this, but what else could I do? I was making $35,000 and Peanut made almost twice as much and had much better health insurance. It was obvious who had to stay home.

I had heard all my life that as a woman if you step out of the race for kids, you lose your chances at high-paying jobs, at career advancement. I bought into it and when I started trying to go back to work I undersold myself, badly. A lucky break got my foot in the door at my last job, and I proved the heck out of myself. I was so hungry to be back at work, to be doing what I love and what I trained for. I knocked it out of the park for two years and got recruited to join the new place. And what's ironic? I am definitely making more than I would be making if I had stayed on the track I was on.

Obviously, everyone's story is different, and my situation includes at least as much luck as talent or skill. But staying home with babies does not have to be a career death-sentence. I don't think there's a magic formula for making it work, except to say that don't let anyone else talk you out of your own worth. I was able to identify some skills that staying at home taught me - negotiation, advocacy, perspective, superduper budgeting skills - and how those translate into the workplace. I learned a lot about myself and what I want out of life, which gives me a drive I never had before. And that catapaulted me higher than I'd be if I hadn't had something to stretch for.

So far, the new job is going well. We're trying to avoid lifestyle creep. As we did last year, we'll be maxing out my pre-tax retirement account, as well as fully funding Roth IRAs and an HSA. Last year, that was all we could do, but this year we'll have a little extra to start saving towards the kids' college funds or general savings for something else. The biggest danger of lifestyle creep so far has been lunches - I've been invited to lunch multiple times every week since I started and that make sense as I'm getting to know people but isn't something I want to get used to. Otherwise, we are living much like we did when we made half as much, which sets our future up for even better things.

It's kind of silly that $100,000 is a benchmark goal - there's nothing inherently special about it. I did feel a particular satisfaction sailing past it, but hopefully I can be content here for a while.