Ask the grumpies: What to tell a non-mom friend who says you need mom friends

Rented life:

What to tell a non mom friend when she says you need to find mom friends. (I expressed being lonely, never mentioned my kid). I don’t want mom friends. I don’t like most other people’s kids and good lord I don’t want to talk about kids.

Crucial Conversations recommends thinking about the best story behind her actions.  Probably she’s just trying to make polite conversation.  But maybe she’s concerned for your welfare.  CC also recommends thinking about what your end goal is– what is your ultimate objective from this conversation?  Do you want her to know you better, do you want her to stop making this recommendation, do you want to spend less time with her?

What to say also depends on your relationship with said non-mom friend and what you want to get out of this interaction.  If it’s a close friend, then you can ask why and then say what you said here.  If it’s not a close friend, then is this someone you want to be polite to or someone you’d prefer to alienate?  Do you think she’ll keep saying things like this if you don’t stop her or do you think it’s a one-time delio?

If polite and one-time, then smiling and nodding is always good.  Saying something non-committal and changing the subject works well.

If you want her to stop, then just tell her that you’re happy with your current social life.

If you want to be really alienating then ask her if that’s a dig at you and is that her way of saying she doesn’t want to spend time with you, thanks a lot.

#2 says: #1 is much better at this than I am.  I would respond with “Why?”  possibly followed by “Boy, you’re rude, aren’t you?  If you don’t want to be friends, we don’t have to.”  #1 hopes that isn’t the case– it isn’t necessarily rude when someone is complaining about being lonely to suggest solutions.  Kids really can be a hindrance to spending time with friends (that whole demanding attention + people call CPS if you leave them by themselves thing), but can help with spending time with people who have kids about the same age (since the kids entertain each other and leave the adults to socialize– and not all parents are stuck on birth stories and poo!), meaning you don’t need a baby sitter to get adult interaction.  So it’s not a completely off-the-wall suggestion.

Poll: What is your area of expertise

This could be by training, by profession, by hobby, whatever.  You get to decide.  Pick as many as you want.  Add details in the comments!  Especially if you choose other!

 

 

Ask the grumpies: When bullies bully through tone-policing

Oldmdgirl asks:

[A]ny advice on how to handle the following scenario: Say, someone tries to bully you into doing something and you hold your ground patiently but firmly — often they will claim you were “rude” in order to try to get you in trouble with your superiors. I’m not sure how to handle this type of feedback since a) complying with their request may not have been reasonable/safe/possible in any way, b) you provided a completely reasonable alternative that they rejected without listening, c) they actually tried to bully you and were rude to you. Do you stand your ground? Do you defend yourself? What is the best way to handle this sort of scenario? I had something like this happen recently, and I was wondering if there was any merit to proactively seeking out feedback about how the situation could have been handled differently in order to have avoided the frustration on everybody’s part. Thoughts?

Crucial conversations tends to suggest you pretend they’re not bullying you and to reframe what they’re saying to make sure you understand etc. etc. etc.  You would then proactively seek feedback as you suggest, following their instructions on keeping the other party safe and focusing on the situation, not anything personal.  But Crucial Conversations also doesn’t really get that women are treated differently than men. Some of their afterwards from the updated edition get into this idea a little bit but don’t offer any solutions, just say that although their recommendations usually work with even difficult people, they don’t always work with all bullies.

With bullies, I have found that what often works the best (as a woman in a male-dominated field) is to channel your inner mom/kindergarten teacher/nun (your choice) and sigh a bit, and then talk in your disappointed voice. “I wish we could do that, but you know that isn’t safe/wasn’t reasonable/could hurt someone.” “Oh, [name], I did give you a suggestion, but …” “I don’t like being treated this way/Did you just say [x] to me? Why did you say [x]?  That wasn’t very nice/constructive/etc.” Some of my female heroes have this really cool way of being firm and disappointed at the same time. I’m mostly just disappointed– I’m working on getting more moxy so I can add just the right amount of underlying “they shoulda known better”.

People seem to be able to defer to a woman when reminded of a woman who once had power over them and you address them as if they’re naughty toddlers or elementary schoolers, especially when that’s what they’re acting like.  Students stopped trying to bully me pretty much entirely once I had a toddler of my own and started treating them like preschoolers instead of adults.  The same treatment works with overbearing white guys as well.

Grumpy Nation, do you have any suggestions from the trenches?

Ask the grumpies: How to deal with anticipating/receiving difficult feedback

MidA asks:

[D]o you have any favorite past posts on receiving difficult feedback? I think some may be coming my way (though not sure what precisely–I’ll spare the backstory but suffice it to say that this is a surprise) and if I don’t have a gameplan, I’m afraid I may be noticeably holding back tears.

I don’t think we do have any favorite posts on that topic.

What I usually do that works for me (but may not work for you) is to go through every possible scenario including the worst possible ones, and then think about what I’ve learned and how not do do the bad thing again, how to put a plan in place, what larger problems does this highlight, are there structural changes to be made etc.

Usually the feedback isn’t as bad as my worst imaginings. And having a growth mindset helps to think of screw-ups as chances to change/grow/fix stuff.  Sure, maybe I did something stupid, but it was a temporary stupidity that has resulted in a learning experience for me or highlighted something that needs to be changed structurally.

As a warning though, admin often doesn’t like structural changes (even something as simple as getting a coffee maker that doesn’t set the office on fire when someone leaves a burner on) and sometimes will attack rather than explore their feasibility. That’s a sign of bad admin.

Oldmdgirl added this for when you don’t think the feedback you’re getting is actually worthwhile:

[E]ven if the negative feedback is a bunch of baloney, I recommend saying, “Thank you for taking the time to tell me your concerns. Do you have any suggestions on how I might avoid this happening in the future/ things that I can work on so that this doesn’t happen again?” Try to focus on what you can DO differently in the future. Take the focus off of who you are as a person. Depersonalize it. Then you can go stick pins in the voodoo doll you created for that purpose.

What do you do/suggest, grumpy nation?

Ask the grumpies: getting out of unproductive funks

First Gen American asks:

How do you suck yourself out of an unproductive funk. Do you find that allowing yourself to wallow in it for awhile is actually is more helpful than beating yourself up about being unproductive.

Yes, with the caveat that beating oneself up about being unproductive can sometimes be an important component of wallowing in it.  To get the full wallow a little self-hatred is necessary.

To get out:  Just Do IT.  Sometimes I will ask #2 to remind me about vans by rivers and request a kick in the posterior.

#2 says:  I think the how getting-out part for me has involved meeting people at coffee shops.  I haven’t done much of that recently.  Hard deadlines also make me ridiculously productive.   Unfortunately last-minute deadline blitz is unsustainable, if for no other reason than RSI.

We here at grumpy rumblings love to cross things off lovely lovely lists.  Sometimes even if I can’t be productive, I can write a list about what it would take to be productive.  Then day two I can cross one of the things off the list.  Breaking up tasks into smaller tasks is great for goal motivation.  Doing them from smallest to largest is also good for motivation, though one of us works best when she has an important goal that she doesn’t want to do hanging over her head– it makes all the other tasks on the to-do list seem so much more worthy of doing by comparison.

I guess it depends on WHY the funk.  I have anxiety which I manage with meds and awareness of it.

It’s also important to ATTEMPT to realize that it’s really not so bad once I get going.  Starting is hard! But starting is often the hardest part. Like Boice says, tell yourself to do it for 30 min– if that’s too long, then 10 min, or even 5 min. You can do almost anything for 5 min, and once you’re started it usually isn’t so bad.

What do you do, Grumpy World?

Ask the grumpies: What to do with 25K and some other concerns

Pondering25K asks:

I have a financial question that my spouse and I have been mulling over for a few months and wondered if we could tap into the expertise of you and your readership.

Here’s our situation.

We have about 25K to throw at some of our debt, and can’t figure out the best place to put it. Our feeling is that both major options we have thought of are good, but we’d like more advice.

We have a 30 year fixed rate FHA mortgage with a 3.25% interest rate that we have been prepaying about 800 extra per month (our interest + principal payment is 1500). The mortgage currently still has 27 years left, since we refinanced a few years ago. We have a $335/month PMI payment that will go away in 2 years if we reach 80% loan-to-value ratio. This will happen if we prepay with the 25K. If we don’t prepay with the 25K now, we will have to prepay more than we are currently each month to reach the 80% loan-to-value ratio. We cannot re-amortize our FHA loan to recover this cash in the future.

We also have a car loan with a 2.99% interest rate and about 5 years left (it had a 6 year term) that has a $405 monthly payment. The payoff balance is slightly under the 25K, so we could kill this loan now.

We have a better-than-required amount of money saved for retirements in IRA, 401Ks, and a teacher retirement plan, and are maxing everything out already. We also have started saving for our toddler’s education in a 529, and contribute $260/month to that.

My salary is 60K, but will go up each year as I just started as a teacher and will move up the step system. It is pretty secure, unless our state budget was drastically cut and they got rid of my entire school system (it’s run out of the state Dept of Ed).

My husband’s  base salary is 130K, with bonuses that are pretty significant, but not guaranteed. His job itself stable, but he’s not happy there. If he were to find a job he liked, it would likely involve a change to a much lower paying career, or starting a small business of some sort.

We can’t re-amortize at any point (a major disadvantage to an FHA loan). We have thought about refinancing to have a mortgage where we could, but the interest rates are higher and closing costs would be around the same as the amount of PMI we would pay in the next two years.

We are torn between lowering our monthly expenses now and saving money long term. Both of these are important to us, as we would like flexibility in case of job loss or the desire to switch to lower paying careers. We don’t want to be trapped by our mortgage payment.

Standard financial disclaimers apply.  We are not financial planners and everyone should do their own research and/or consult with real financial planners before making major financial decisions.  Our opinions are opinions, apply at your own risk.

First to answer the question you actually asked:  Should you put the money towards your mortgage or your car loan?

Unless I’m missing something [UPDATE:  See discussion below about FHA loans compared to private industry loans– depending on the circumstances, I may have missed something], paying down enough to get rid of PMI dominates (or matches) the benefits of paying down the car loan (assuming you’re not planning on ever declaring bankruptcy, foreclosing, or getting a car repossessed).  First, it has a better return on investment given that 1.  You’re still early in the mortgage, 2. the interest rate is higher, 3.  PMI is a big additional chunk.  Second, dropping a $335 monthly payment isn’t really that far off from dropping a $405 monthly payment in terms of solvency given the numbers you’ve been throwing around, so if you need to lower required monthly payments you’re not actually gaining that much from paying off the car vs. getting rid of PMI.  Not nothing, but there are other places to cut that would give you more bang for the buck.

And now for the question you didn’t ask.  You’re currently making 190K plus bonuses.  You are very high income.  It’s great that you’re putting so much money away in retirement, but unless you have (and are using) the ability to put insane amounts of money away for retirement (for example, you’re saving in a 457 plan in addition to the standard pension, or your spouse is putting money in a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA), you might want to try cutting  your spending and funneling the extra money towards a large emergency fund and possibly some taxable investments.  Why?  You note that your DH is not happy with his job and may want to leave the job for a lower paying career or starting a small business with its attendant risk.

Think about what kind of paycut he is likely to have, and run some emergency scenarios (a financial fire drill in the words of Donna Freedman).  What savings would you stop?  What spending are you required to make?  What changes might you need to make long term?  How much would your DH need to bring in to supplement your salary given the step schedule?  Once you have all of that information figured out, try living on the new salary just to see what it’s like.  While you do that, funnel that money you’re no longer spending into a healthy emergency fund that you can easily access and into your car loan in order to decrease your required monthly payment (2.99% is a low interest rate compared to long term investment, but it’s higher than what a savings account will give you these days).  This will allow you to feel what it’s like to live on a lower income and make adjustments now while there’s no danger from making mistakes while also saving up so you will be able to weather emergencies while on that lower income in the future.  (This is also a standard recommendation for planning for a spouse leaving the labor force to take care of a child.)

There’s a lot to be said for being able to let a beloved spouse quit the job he dislikes if he wants to, even if it brings in a good income.

Books you may find helpful:  Your Money or Your Life, All Your Worth.

Note here that if the couple were lower income, I would suggest cutting some of the long-term savings rather than spending to boost short-term savings for two reasons.  The first being that lower income families get more financial aid so the 529 should be a secondary consideration after PMI and after the car loan.  The second would be that they would already be spending less and would both have less slack in their budget now but would also be unlikely to have to cut as much spending later (as the going from 130 to a lower salary isn’t as big a drop as 50 to the same lower salary).

Additionally, if they didn’t want more flexibility, then their current plan would probably be fine since their jobs are secure.  But the need for freedom is important, even if that freedom is never acted upon.  The ability to leave a job is a wonderful freedom to have, and worth more than a lot of kinds of spending.

What do you think, grumpy nation?  Did I miss anything with the 25K?  How about the other advice?

Ask the grumpies: save for retirement or save for graduate school?

P asks:

I’m a fairly recent graduate, 23, and just started my first real job as a paralegal at a big law firm at a salary of $42,000 a year.  I will probably start graduate school, most likely in law or another $$ professional master’s program, in the next five years. (Future schooling is an important goal for me.) After grad school, I could be in biglaw, making very good money, or elsewhere, probably not making as much. Should I be directing money to grad school savings or to retirement? What would you do?
Other considerations:
  • I have ~60,000 from an inheritance in an investment account–This could be used for school, or I could think of it as my retirement nest egg. It’s in a mix of no-load/no-fee mutual funds.
  • Looking at my budget now, I’m planning to save definitely $500/mo, and probably up that to $600 once I’m more confident about what my general living costs will be.
  • I also have probably over-budgeting for general spending (groceries, entertainment, eating out, clothes, etc.), by maybe $100/mo, and I was planning to save the rest of that for travel.
  • There’s no match in my employer’s 401(k) plan, but in a year I’ll be eligible for profit sharing. I…don’t know exactly what that is or how it works yet, but I have a year to figure it out!
  • No student loans. (Grandma, thank you!) No other debt.
  • $2000 in a traditional IRA
My long-term financial goals:
  • Pay for my hypothetical future children’s college at whatever school they want to go to, possibly with help from my parents. (No kids for probably close to ten years)
  • Travel as much as possible
  • Flexibility to quit a job, take a lower-paid job, etc
  • Live reasonably well. (Right now I live in a cheap, gross apartment BUT it’s in a great area and I have an indulgent $70/mo. membership to a nice gym.)
  • Retire, at some point in the very far future
So where should I put my savings? Should I open a 529 with the thought that I’ll probably use it, and if not, my kids will appreciate the early help? Split it half and half? Some in the 401(k) and some just in my regular investment account? In a year, when my profit-sharing kicks in (???), would your response change?

All righty, first a disclaimer– this is a bit more complicated than our usual financial questions and we are not financial planners.  Always do your own research and/or consult with a fee-based certified financial planner before making big money decisions.  When we say “you” here, we’re actually answering the question of what we would do in your situation.

First off, if you had an employer match, generally the no-brainer thing to do would be to put in money up to the match amount because the return on investment there is larger than anything else.  But there isn’t an employer match.  :(   Once the profit-sharing starts, it’s likely that the best bet will be to begin to contribute up to the match and then convert your company stocks to index funds as soon as your holding period is over (you don’t want to be in an Enron situation where your retirement savings are all in company stock– that increases your risk).  You will have to look carefully into the details of your company’s program when that time comes.

Before that time period, the next thing you should consider is the Roth IRA.  Roth IRAs are extremely flexible– they’re great for retirement, but the principal can be taken out penalty free while the earnings remain in the account.  Although you probably won’t want to take money out once you’ve put it in until you’re actually ready to retire, they provide more flexibility than your company plan, 529, or traditional IRA.  Max this out before even considering the 529.

Because you are (moderately) low income, the money that you put away for retirement may have an additional tax advantage, the saver’s credit  during your first year of work.  For example, if you started your job during the summer so you’ve only got half a year of income the first year on the job, then you would get a credit for something like 20% of your contribution at tax time.

If you can’t afford to max out your IRA with your monthly income, gradually convert your savings into tax-advantaged savings.

So, what would we do in your situation?

1.  Max out the Roth IRA each year using a Vanguard Target-Date fund from Vanguard.  (Alternatively, just put it in the S&P 500 index– you’re still young and have time to diversify your portfolio manually.  There’s a small additional fee for setting and forgetting for the Target-Date fund and you don’t need any bonds at your age/distance from projected retirement.)  Use your inheritance savings to do this if you need to, though at your current savings rate, you may not (a lot will depend on calendar year considerations).  Be sure to get the saver’s credit at tax time!

2. Make sure you have a reasonable emergency fund that will cover, for example, moving costs, or late reimbursements.

3.  In a year, look into the profit-sharing option and see what you need to do to get that.  If it is manageable on your budget, go for it, but make sure to convert company money to index funds as soon as they allow it.  (This is assuming it’s a standard profit-sharing match where the company is already established, if it’s stock options instead… that’s a much more difficult question.)  If you can’t afford to get both the match and do the IRA (but you should be able to given your savings), look deeper into your budget/emergency fund.  It is most likely that you will want to contribute to the profit-share up to the match and then max out your Roth IRA as much as you can, but there are some situations in which the profit-share wouldn’t be as good of a value as the Roth IRA.  Note that if the match is good, even if you don’t plan on keeping the money in your 401k, you may still be better off getting the match and then taking the withdrawal penalty than not taking the match.

4.  When time comes to go to graduate school, look at your projected student loan rates (and whether they’re subsidized or unsubsidized– the government may change its mind yet again about whether or not graduate students can get subsidized loans) and compare them to stock market rates (use ~7% for comparison if you don’t want to put in your own number) before deciding if you’d rather take the loan or withdraw savings/IRA principal.

tl/dr:  Put it in retirement, but in a way that it can be used for school in a pinch (Roth IRA).

What have we missed, grumpy nation?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 295 other followers