Browsing posts in: Making Money

Mid-Life Career Changes

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I come to you today with a bit of an announcement…..though nothing has actually changed yet, so it’s more of an announcement of things to come (not of things that have already transpired).

I’m sure it’s pretty evident that I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately. I haven’t been able to blog nearly as frequently as I’d like; I’ve sometimes written reactionary/overwhelmed posts (like this one); you all know the vast amount of time that it takes to deal with my Dad’s stuff; finding “balance” has been a reoccurring theme in my blog posts, etc. etc. etc.

It’s something I’ve been talking about with hubs quite a bit over the past several months (I just want to note that this is not another reactionary thing – it’s been on our minds for a long time).

So here’s the deal….I want hubs to quit his job.

Hubs is a flooring contractor. He has a couple of crews of people who work for him but he, himself, also goes out and installs floors all day every day. He’s quite good at it and takes a great deal of pride in his workmanship. But for some reason, we have been unable to grow this business. He’s done it for nearly 7 years here in Tucson (with lots of experience prior to living here, both in Florida and Texas on high-end homes). But every time he starts to expand his operations, we’re hit with HUGE blows. Typically he has someone from an install crew make some mistake and he’s left having to cover the costs to rectify the situation. I think, at most, he was once hit with a $15,000 repair. But he’s had several jobs over the years that have cost him $5,000 here or there. I’ve gotten away from giving our monthly budgets (just due to time constraints as those are one of the most time-intensive posts to write), but when I reported our income monthly I’d sometimes talk about how he had a no-income month or a negative-income month. Yes, these things tend to even out (there are super high income months, too). But, on the whole, things just don’t seem to be progressing. We feel stagnant. And unable to gain traction.

And aside from that, hubs isn’t getting any younger. Let’s face it – his job is manual labor. He’s going to need knee replacements at probably a very young age. His back aches daily and even now (at 34 years old), it takes him a couple minutes just to get up and start moving around some days. He has to stretch to make sure his knees don’t buckle beneath him.

We’ve always known this job wouldn’t last forever. But we’d hoped he would transition away from doing physical install work and toward just managing at some point. Unfortunately, we’ve been trying to do this “transition” thing for nearly 4 years now and every time he gets close, he’s hit with these huge expenses and forced to go back to working, himself. It’s just not a sustainable business strategy long-term.

Looking at the past couple of years’ taxes, we know that I make roughly the same from my part-time job that hubs makes from his full-time job. I say this not to shame him, but just to state a fact

(As a side-note, I want to mention that hubs was the sole income earner in our family for a very long time. I’m blessed beyond belief to have a work-horse as a husband! I’ve seen friends with lazy husbands who drag their feet applying for jobs or just basically refusing to work and in no way can I relate. Even when we first moved to Tucson and hubs had no official employment, he was buying and selling things on Craigslist and trying literally anything to make some extra money for our family. The man is one of the hardest workers I know).

But when I’m literally talking about quitting my part-time job because I can’t keep up with it, yet it only takes me about 15 hours per week and is bringing in the same income as hubs’ 40 hour/week job…..it just doesn’t make sense for me to be the one to let my job go.

When I first broached the subject with hubs, he was vehemently against it. Again – the man is a work-horse. He’s considered it and come to the conclusion that he would not be happy or personally fulfilled to be Mr. Mom. He wants to work. He yearns to work and provide for our family.

But then we started considering some other options. Instead of quitting work and becoming Mr. Mom/Homemaker, what if hubs throws his time into securing a new career. We’ve looked into it and he can take college classes at the university where I’m employed for literally $25/class. Yes – twenty five dollars per class. So, what if he takes a few years “off” of work, during which time he helps out more around the house and with the kids to afford me the time to dedicate to work, and simultaneously goes back to school himself so he can change career trajectories???

Hubs has “some college”, but never finished an actual degree. One field we’ve talked about, specifically, is engineering. It doesn’t require a crazy amount of school (typically the four year degree is all that’s necessary), and you come out on the other end pretty employable (unlike many fields that require different advanced degrees just to be competitive on the job market).

The big drawback to this is age. If we do this, he likely won’t be graduating until he’s 38 or 39 years old. Is that “too old” to make such a major switch in careers???

Like I said, nothing has happened yet. IF we do this (still a big “if”), we’ve talked about doing it as a slow transition. He would ramp down his business across the course of the next few months. He’d likely keep at least one crew working under his business license for the time being (he has one crew that is totally self-sufficient and does great work, so he could continue drawing a small income from the profits on their job). Then he’d look into some college courses for this coming Spring semester (starting in January).

It’s just scary to make such a major life decision. It would obviously affect our debt payoff at least a bit, but the way things are operating currently are just not sustainable. I’m talking about having to quit my (very lucrative) part-time job, which would be a big blow to our income. Losing hubs’ income would also be a big blow, but when looking at it from a perspective of time versus money, it just makes more sense to keep my part-time job and give up his full-time one given that it’s basically the same amount of money either way. To test the waters, he’s already been ramping up his help around the house. He basically does 90% of the laundry at this point, 75% of the general cleaning, and significantly more childcare (he picks up and drops off at preschool much more regularly than he used to last academic year & always takes them somewhere once every weekend so I have a few hours of dedicated work-time on Saturday or Sunday).

It’s just hard. There’s no guarantee on the other side that he’ll 100% for sure be able to go into this completely different career field. And we know that this can not be a long-term plan because, like I said, he would not find it to be a personally fulfilling lifestyle (which is very important, even though I’m sensitive to the fact that many would bend over backward to be in the position to quit their job and not have to worry about the financial implications).

So I’m just kind of laying it out there for you. I’d love to hear if you have stories of mid-life major career changes (into a totally different field all together). Do you know any books on the topic that might be helpful to read as we consider this type of major life transition? Do you have any suggestions of things we might want to research or take into consideration? For the record, yes, it will have an impact on our budget and debt payments. But, as I’ve mentioned, that’s likely to happen anyway (since the alternative is that I quit my part-time job and at some point down the road we would still need to figure out an alternative plan for hubs because he cannot physically stay in his current career forever).

In addition to constructive criticism, advice, and suggestions, I also welcome happy thoughts and prayers for clarity while we try to figure out what the best move is for our family in the coming years.

As always, thanks for your unwavering support! : )

 


Lessons from Therapy: Day #1

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I just had my first therapy session this week and I’m happy to say that it went better than I’d expected! I was nervous about whether we would “click” and be a good fit, but we really gelled in terms of personalities and it felt like I was chatting with a friend (albeit a friend I’m paying to listen to me. heh).

I’m only one session deep at this point so, obviously, this person doesn’t know all of my “issues” yet. We mostly focused on my Dad’s health issues (and the time it takes to deal with said health issues – there’s a literal crisis every week) for my first session. And while I don’t plan to divulge all the inner details of my therapy with everyone reading (sorry!), I do want to touch on some things that come up as they relate to my finances.

For instance…my therapist suggested we hire a nanny/house-keeper. She got that one of the key stressors in my life right now revolves around time. Lack of it, to be precise. So she suggested I look into agencies where I could hire someone to come and help with the kids, drive to/from school if needed, do laundry, clean, cook, etc. etc. etc.

omg – that would cost a small fortune, right?

But even though I really don’t think that’s feasible, I kind of liked the idea of trying to hire out some help. I started thinking about “what if we hire a cleaning service to come monthly?” That’s not something I’ve ever done in the past. Never. But, given our imminent move (and likely to a place that’s a little bit larger), coupled with the fact that we’re already always behind on cleaning, it does relieve a good bit of stress to think that – at least once a month – our house could be thoroughly cleaned.

Again – the therapist doesn’t know all my “issues” yet, and we haven’t even touched on finances, financial goals, financial stressors, etc. etc. etc. But seriously….maybe not a terrible idea if it helps keep my mental health in check???

What do you guys think? Is it silly to even be considering hiring a cleaning service when we’re still so entrenched in our debt payoff? Or could I think of it as one of the costs I pay to have such a great income (meaning – since I’m working 2 jobs and making more money than I’ve ever made before, I have to make some trade-offs in other areas. Like, paying for cleaning help so I can spend that time focused on work)??? Thoughts???


Under Contract

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We are now officially under contract!!!

Not hubs & I (we still haven’t even started house-hunting, but plan to start in August!! Can’t wait!!!) – my dad’s Utah house!

After receiving a couple competing offers, we accepted one that we felt was more than fair (it’s actually over our listed asking-price). We’ve already completed inspection and all the requested repairs are super minor, so we’re paying a handyman to get it all fixed up.

At this point, the last hurdles are in regard to the buyer’s financing. Our realtor has been in contact with the lender and believes the loan will be funded without a problem. Given that the buying price is above the list price (and above the comparables our realtor pulled), we’re holding our breath and crossing our fingers that the appraisal comes in high enough to cover it. Fortunately, our realtor is a rock star and has made up a whole list of home improvements for the inspector and feels confident that the appraisal shouldn’t be a problem.

If all works out with buyer’s financing, we are set to close on August 15th! Super pumped!

Initially, we were thinking we wouldn’t make too much off the sale of this home. Remember, both my siblings were in favor of renting it instead of selling due to this reason.

But given our higher-than-expected sale price, we should stand to net nearly $100,000!!! Not too shabby!

The next question is what to do with the money.

My dad does have a decent-sized net worth but, to date, we’ve done next-to-nothing with his investments. Everything is still in the original investment accounts he selected and has not been touched. We want to be somewhat conservative because my dad is legally disabled and will never be able to work again (if interested, read more about his condition here). His physicians have said that his illness tends to have a life expectancy of 2-20 years. If he lives another 20 years, he could easily burn through all of his savings. He’s already in assisted living and his care is incredibly expensive. So we really need to be smart and manage his money wisely so that costs of his care don’t end up falling on the shoulders of my siblings and me.

I’m a fan of pretty boring investment strategies. Mutual funds and such. My brother has talked about perhaps investing in real estate back in the Austin area (which makes it less complicated and risky than an out-of-state rental). He’s even thrown out the idea of establishing an LLC for a rental property so my dad’s other assets are protected. Depending on cost, we could possibly pay for a rental with liquid cash without needing to withdraw from current investments (the alternative would be putting a large amount down and taking out a small mortgage).

I’m open to various ideas, but I’m also a fan of EASY. Taking over my dad’s affairs has been incredibly time-consuming and, frankly, none of us has time for it. Meeting with an investment advisor once or twice a year is infinitely easier than dealing with rentals and such. That being said, in the past year that we’ve been in charge of my dad’s finances, his investments really haven’t performed great. He’s averaged about a 4% rate of return. I’d like to see closer to an 8-10% return, if at all possible. At only a 4% rate of return, we’re eventually going to eat into his nest egg. Fortunately, he had enough cash in the bank that we haven’t touched any investments at this point but eventually the liquid money will dry up and we’ll have no other option but to raid his investments in order to pay for his care.

What do you all think? If you were charged with caring for a parent’s estate, what types of investments might you make? What are your thoughts of investing in mutual funds versus investing in real estate?

Another possibility is to still invest in IRAs. My dad technically has an “earned income” because he received a generous severance package from his previous employer before having to leave due to his health issues (it’s paid out monthly for another year still). So would it be better to actually fund a retirement account versus buying mutual funds? Or is it better to keep the money more liquid than in retirement or real estate? Something like mutual funds that are easier to sell and claim the cash?? My dad is 60, by the way. I’d value any and all input you may have!


Profitable Rental Properties

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With home prices touching record highs, there are more families renting than owning in many parts of Britain. It’s a great time to enter the rental property market. You will never have to look for long to find your next eager tenant.

Yet, the path to take from deciding to get into the rental market, to being finally ready to receive your first rent cheque, can be a challenging one. There is a lot that you need to keep in mind making your investment, and there are plenty of things that you need to learn before you are able to successfully navigate the rental market. If you’re ready to take the plunge, what follows is a short guide.

Getting help looking for an income generating property

Many first-time home investors will attempt to bring a home listings broker in right away as they begin to look. It can be a problem having such help very early on, though, when you don’t know what exactly there is out there. Looking on your own gives you the freedom to make your own observations without having someone influence you.

If you do need guidance from a professional starting out, it should be from a well known rental agency such as AladeMaid.co.uk. If the agency sees that there is a chance that they can retain your business, they can let you in on lots of great information on what to look for to make the best of the market.

The neighborhood is more important than the home itself

When you look for a home to live in yourself, it may be very important to you that you find a neighborhood that you are able to form an emotional bond with. If it’s a rental that you’re looking to buy, though, your feelings don’t really count. People coming to rent your home won’t be looking to fall in love. They are likely to be more interested in checking off points on a list. It would be sensible if you could do the same. It’s important to focus intently on the best possible neighborhood for schools, jobs and amenities.

You also want to look out for your own interests

While you don’t want to judge rental property on personal appeal, you do want to look at a few technical points of your own. To begin, property tax levels are important. The ease with which you can obtain building permits for future home improvements are a significant point, as well. Rent levels, demand for rentals in the area and proneness to natural disaster, are all important areas to judge a neighborhood (or a city, for that matter) on.

Judge the property in a professional way

If this is your first time investing in a rental unit, you’d do well looking at flats, rather than individual homes. With a flat, you get to leave all the maintenance to the building’s managers. All you need to do is to take care of the interior.

It’s important to look for the right kind of unit. Homes suitable for families, rather than single people, are likely to be far easier to manage. Families are usually more financially stable, and are likely to pay their rent on time.

Be realistic thinking about money

It can be very hard to accurately judge how much house you can afford. It isn’t just about buying whatever property you can afford the mortgage on. There are all kinds of other costs involved in closing the deal, and you can have a very hard time predicting how reliable those rent cheques will be. The first couple of houses that you buy, it’s a very good idea to buy 75% of what you believe you can actually afford.

Be careful of a few unpredictable areas

When it comes to investing in property, there are few things that you can completely rely on. In some cases, property taxes have been known to rise very quickly, wiping out any profits planned. You also need to be prepared for eventualities involving crazy tenants who like to damage the homes that they are in. The deposit is unlikely to cover major repairs. If you tap your home insurance, you’ll find that your premiums rise dramatically.

It’s important to plan for major expenses even if it means cutting down on your profit outlook. Leaks, failed furnaces and the effects of poor construction can all catch you unawares.

Even more importantly, if you should ever want to manage your rental yourself, rather than ask a professional to do it, you’ll find that setting rules and implementing them is not for the faint of heart. You do need to turn hard-nosed businessman.

Yet, it can all work out perfectly well. As long as you go in planning conservatively, rather than optimistically, rentals are a gold mine that you can depend on to carry you through life.

Martha Rivera has been buying and flipping properties for the past few years, and thankfully, she has found she has a talent for it. Not one to keep the pie for herself, she shares some tips and insights with others online.


Changing My Mind

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I mentioned last week that I was in the final interview round with not one but two companies, it was a great feeling, and for a fleeting few days, I had these grand plans dancing around in my head.  But reality started setting in as I started running numbers.

First, I should tell you, I did not get the Cincinnati job, which was frankly an answer to prayer as the thought of moving to a new city where I know no one was very overwhelming, not to me personally but as a single mom.  But during the few days I waited before the interview and finding out, I started thinking.  The salary was a good salary, very good.  But several things would have eaten it up immediately upon arrival leaving us living on less than we have in the past….

  1. I would need a whole new wardrobe. I know negligible in the long run, but would need it pretty quickly.
  2. Currently, I have bartered for Gymnast’s training.  Not only would I not have that at the new gym, but the costs at the new gym are AT LEAST 3x that of our current gym…3X…so we are looking at a minimum of $500 a month, minimum.
  3. I would have to hire some help because I would be spending 40+ hours a week in the office, I would need to hire someone to come in and help with the kids, not full time but definitely a few hours several days a week, at minimum that would be $600 per month (used $15 per hour at 10 hours a week and I’m not even sure how realistic that is.)

So in the end, I was grateful that I did not get that offer.  It would have been tough to turn it down knowing our current situation, I am relieved I did not have to make that tough decision.

Now for the local job which I had a final interview for last Wednesday.  I left that interview super excited, really like the team I would get to work with, the job is expansive so I would get to put my current skills to work as well as get the opportunity to add some new ones.  The money was, at first, reasonable in my mind.  It was more than $15,000 less than the Cincinnati job, but I figured with no move expenses, barters already in place, etc.  It would be okay and allow us to stay here.

Then I got home and started running numbers.  I used -30% as the baseline of what I would be bringing home after benefits, taxes, etc.  I will be bringing home almost $1,000 less than I was previously, working at least 10-15 more hours per week, need a new wardrobe and still need to hire someone to help with the kids some.  And on top of that, if you have been reading my posts for a while, we live in an expensive housing area.  That has ALWAYS been a problem for us, and exactly why I decided last fall to move away from here if we hadn’t found something by April of this year.  Ugh!

Now we come to the point of this post…based on the points above, I have decided to resurrect my consulting business and focus on building it again.  I have not made this decision lightly at all.  I REALLY, REALLY wanted the stability a ‘real’ job would offer, the benefits, the vacation time, the work without the need to constantly sale and market myself.

But, on the flip side, I REALLY, REALLY can not stomach the idea of being away from my kids so much, especially with no other adult in the picture.  And I know this sounds petty, but I HATE dressing up, I have always said that if I can’t wear my jeans there, I should probably not be there.

So here is a rough account of where I stand right now:

  • I’ve currently contracted out 30 hours a week beginning next week (first week of March.)  I’m not making the hourly rate I need on all hours, but I am on some, and I have the possibility to grow both of these clients with good, consistent work.
  • I’ve secured an additional 4 short term contracts doing website work.
  • I’ve paid for a 1 month subscription to one of the freelancing sites I’ve gotten a great deal of work from in the past.  (Subscribing lessens the percentage of my fee that they keep for work procured.)
  • I’m planning to re-up my LLC and business license this next month.
  • I’m planning to re-brand and re-launch my corporate site: epoh.com in the next month.

Now the only caveat to this is that I have been working primarily with two recruiters looking for corporate work.  I plan to keep my resume out there, but with the caveat that I am looking solely for work that allows at least 50% remote work and that I am willing to relocate through August of this year at which point, I will withdraw the offer to relocate until after the next school year.

I do not know if we will stay here next year, housing continues to be a BIG headache and financial drain for me.  But while we have free housing over the next several months (move at the end of April to the RV,) I am going to explore all options.

One more thing to note…I have going to add more teaching to my schedule if we stay here next school year.  Currently, I am teaching two classes, 1 hour a week each.  I plan to teach at least 4 classes next fall if we stay here.  That will not only cover the cost of the kids homeschool co-op classes, but also bring in some income.

This has been a really, really hard decision.  I know many will not understand 1) my commitment to being available to my kids, 2) not being willing to send my kids to public schools and 3) my other reasons for not wanting to take on a full time plus, in the office corporate job right now.  Rest assured, I am still very committed to get out of debt, perhaps even moreso than before after this experience.  But I know, really know, that my kids are my number one priority, and I’m willing to live on less, to be present in their lives for every moment possible while they are still young.

Oh, one last thing…in conjunction with starting my business back up, I am committed to spending the summer when we are not on such a heavy school schedule, renewing and gaining some new certifications in my field to 1) make me marketable and 2) increase my skills and maintain them so I am ready when the right opportunity presents itself to return to a ‘normal’ job.

Sorry for the book…

Update: As of Tuesday night…still no word from the local full time job, but the recruiter did text today and say they expected to hear in the next couple of days…


Is it Worth It?

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Continuing along the lines of last week’s post on Lessons I’ve Learned Being Poor I’m having an internal debate /struggle with myself.  On one hand I am applying for all sorts of corporate IT jobs that should reasonably pay $80K+ per year with benefits.  On the other hand I am applying for anything that peaks my interest including but not limited to: teaching English in China, church secretary, social work liaison and so on.

I want the corporate job again.  I want regular income, I want benefits, I want travel.  But on the other hand, I want to make  a difference, I want to stay home with my kids (or at least work from home,) I want to feel good about what I spend the majority of my time doing.  I’m really torn.  But I keep moving forward and am just waiting for something to stick.

So here’s where I’m at as I write this.  Today I interviewed for a part time church secretary position.  It is one of my “makes my heart feel good” job applications.  I could do Powerpoints, graphics, some technology and also answer phones, support people through tough times, really build community.  Kind of the best of both worlds in my mind at the time I applied and even after my interview.

Now, as I’m writing this, I have no idea if I will be offered the position.  But I started thinking as I returned home…of the money, benefits side.  It’s part time, no benefits, other than the fact that for the most part they would be willing to work around my kiddos schedule.  Big win there in my mind!  But it only pays $11-12 per hour.  After taxes, I was guesstimating bring home pay would look like $8 per hour.  At 20 hours per week…that’s $160 a week coming home, $640 a month.  Ouch.

So is it even worth it for me to pursue these types of jobs?  With my current part time job and this type of job, I would be working 40ish hours a week bringing home just at half of what I was making prior to November.  A very tough pill to swallow.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

I’m still hopeful for some other interviews I’ve had and have scheduled shortly…but I am looking at an considering everything until something sticks.  Lots of moving parts in this job search and considering options that come up.


Relocation Expense vs Signing Bonus

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In my defense I haven’t sought a new “job” in almost 14 years.  I’ve written before about how off my resume was at the beginning of this one and Faye from LeapofFaye.com jumped in and saved the day.  And really, truly it was saving the day…I think to date I’ve had 8 first interviews for what I thought were ideal jobs.  I count myself blessed with every single call I get from an application or recruiter.

But now I think, rather hope, I am coming to the end of several application processes…multiple interviews done, references checked and reviewed,  interviews with CTOs done…etc. etc.  What I haven’t been prepared for were questions regarding “What do you expect?”

I mean I’m good with my salary requirements question…and throwing in the request for a full benefits package, that’s coming pretty naturally.  The thought of a paid day off, a paid vacation, well, that’s what dreams are made of!

But what other requirements do I have…and thus we come to Relocation Expenses vs Signing Bonus.  I’ve pretty much been clear with companies that if I need to relocate…well, they have to pay for it.  And then I was told this…

  1. Relocation Express – A budget is set at the beginning of the process, but I have to cover the costs upfront and then be reimbursed.
  2. Signing Bonus – Paid up front but taxed upfront, possibly at a high tax bracket?

So my question…what are your thoughts, have any words of wisdom for me on this front?

Relocation Expenses vs Signing Bonus – which would you choose? Pros and cons of each?  Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated!


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