Monday, August 11, 2014

AirBnB Curious?

AirBnB is such a unique way to travel, and our guests have really appreciated us opening up our home!
I first became intrigued about the idea of earning a side income by hosting with AirBnB last winter, after reading a great article from the perspective of a family from California (which naturally I can't locate now...). I had just left my stable City income, and the idea of earning cash while on vacation certainly appealed to me.

A month later, I was interviewing Ms. Kathy about the prospect of enrolling Mama Bliss Coaching School and trying to figure out how I was going to afford tuition (which isn't that much if I hadn't already paid for the Simplicity Parenting training). She kept gushing about how much she loves Portland, and visits often, so on a whim I threw out the idea of doing a trade for staying at our place during the month of August, when we were already planning to be gone on vacation. It turned out that they were planning a big move, so it wouldn't work. But the suggestion did get me thinking..."Well, what if I could earn that money from someone else staying at our place?"

We were already planning a big spring break trip back East, so initially I thought it would be great to get our place listed and hope that some family wanted to come to Portland for spring break. I did some more research about hosting, and decided to set up a profile. The only thing that was missing was photos.

But even as a Mama who strives to live a decluttered life, the place was never quite clean enough to be able to take photos for the world to see. So, I decided to clean and take pics the day before we were heading out of town. I was shocked to get two requests/reservations within the first 24 hours! 

Our first reservation was for ten days when we were already planning to take our annual anniversary/family trip. We're packing up for our trip to B.C. (Mayne Island/Vancouver Island and Van), and we'll be making nearly $2k while we're on vacation. A couple from Connecticut will be staying with their two grown daughters while they visit family in Portland. The woman even sounds excited about watering my garden!

Flash back to spring break, and ended up getting three reservations with guests staying at our place for nine of the ten nights we were gone on vacation. It brought in nearly $2k...nearly our monthly mortgage!

We've been out of town a fair amount this summer, and by Labor Day we will have grossed nearly $8k in our first six months of AirBnB rentals! 

Even if you haven't considered hosting until now, the potential for extra income may have you curious too... There's a lot more to it than just posting a listing, so I'll be sharing more of our AirBnB story...while we're away on our road trip. :-)

Let me know if you have any questions or if you have your own experiences to share!

Happy hosting,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's Your Story?

The interesting aspect about sharing our money stories is that everyone has their own. In a family this means that we each have our own story about the same set of events. Our kids, parents, and spouses all have their versions to go off of. And the story continues to morph and change over the years, perhaps to end up as something very different from where it started.

Even as identical twins we each experience events differently and remember them with different stories.  This is in part why we opted to share our money stories in the way that we have, allowing us to release these stories into the universe and set them free. Along with a dash of forgiveness and some self reflection, we hope for them to shift us into the next dimension of our ever flowing stories of life.

What's your story?


Miel & Darcy

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Money Stories: Releasing Our Cultural Stories

Miel and I enjoy observing our cultural environment, having both lived abroad as exchange students at an early age, and continuing on to major in International Affairs/Studies. Miel has lived abroad for far longer than me, but paying attention to your cultural surroundings can be practiced anywhere.

Our money stories are so deeply intertwined with our culture that it's impossible to separate them from our personal beliefs.

Here are some personal beliefs that I/we have held in the past that we are more than ready to release:
  • The economy is scarce, and there isn't enough to go around.
  • There aren't enough great jobs for everyone.
  • In order to earn a living, you have to work for someone else.
  • As women, we can always expect to earn less.
  • You have to work hard to get ahead.
  • Success is tied to stress.
  • More money means more responsibility/stress.
  • Managing money is boring and stressful.
  • Selecting and buying stocks is difficult, risky, and should be avoided.
  • It's better to save for tomorrow than to live for today.
  • Going to college was/is the only way to succeed professionally/financially.
  • Paying off student loans will take half a lifetime. 
  • You have to "do your time" in unfulfilling work to get to where you want to be.
  • Kids are damn expensive (this may still be true, but I am ready to remove the damn part ;-)
  • Saving for college is prohibitively expensive.
  • Money will spoil our kids.
  • Wanting more money is selfish.
  • Getting what you want is somehow bad.
  • Having money, or making more, is something to worry that your friends will resent.
  • We shouldn't talk about money.
  • Retirement either means living on a fixed income or spending your kids' inheritance.
  • You have to wait until the government allows you to retire.
  • You're lucky to retire "on time" and by the time we get there Social Security will be bankrupt.
  • We're beholden to an economic model that doesn't value the social good or environment, and politics are too corrupted for us to change it. A sensible carbon tax will remain a dream. A socialized safety net will never happen in the U.S.
This feels like it just scratches the surface of all the negative money stories we've bought into through our American culture.

What negative money beliefs/stories are you ready to stop believing in?

Darcy & Miel

Monday, July 28, 2014

Money Stories: The Importance of Forgiveness

Nelson Mandela quote on forgiveness

Perhaps the most important aspect of sharing our stories is to accept and forgive them. Sometimes that means a particular person, a more naive version of yourself, or a belief that you simply soaked in through your culture. Our stories have more to do with our understanding of the world than the actual reality.

In writing my stories, I felt that honesty was the most important thing in helping release any doubts about my self worth or my ability to manifest my dreams. I knew that no one else could possibly remember things the same way, and that each of my close family/friends has their own version. I wanted to be sensitive to those diverse perspectives, but I needed to be completely honest in order for this whole forgiveness thing to work.

So, it didn't entirely surprise me that a close family member read my post about Before Becoming a Cronin and took offense for saying "Essentially Kevin forgave me for growing up poor. He fell in love with me in spite of my meager upbringing, knowing that I was determined to be successful in life." We had a long heart-to-heart, and I explained that it wasn't that I felt poor growing up (with the exception of a few minor hardships), but that this realization of "growing up poor" first came to mind once I was out in the world. And, yes, wealth is all relative. As we both shared, we were very well off compared to most of our friends growing up and our parents were/are very generous. My parents were/are successful in life, just not in a monetary way.

My point in detailing Kevin's comparatively elite upcoming was to share the fact that we come from very different socioeconomic backgrounds. Early on a running joke of ours was that he fell in love with me even though I lived in trailer when we met (to save money for returning to Denmark), and I would loving remind him that he was an even poorer grad student. For the longest time he would tease me about the rednecks I grew up with, knowing full well that I came from a very distinct and privileged hippy breed. I honestly don't think that Kevin would have been attracted me if I weren't already a confident and hard-working person. And just as he forgave me for growing up poor, I in turn forgave him for growing up rich (As Miel did with James). He wasn't saddled with college debt and could always afford his picky tastes. I was probably secretly happy that his parents didn't continue to support him into adulthood, because I don't know if we could have related if he had never known what it feels like to come up with rent.

So, I hope my sincere apology will be accepted. I know in my heart that any adversity I've faced in life has only made me a stronger person. Publishing these personal stories isn't about tooting my horn or raking mud with my family, but it's my/our first step in releasing the subconscious money baggage that's been holding us back...and no, I don't feel held back by anyone but myself. I'm responsible for my own abundance, even as I give gratitude to everyone in my life who has and will help along my path.

Again, with each money story, big and small, repeat this forgiveness mantra:

I accept you. I forgive you. I love you.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Money Stories: What Would Wally Want?

After our father, Wally, passed away we both seemed to have a new lens on life, especially on how to spend our time and energy. We started to call it, What Would Wally Want? and his lifelong partner "best-ex" liked to think about What Would Wally Do?

Before we share that chapter of our money stories, there are a few that surround Wally's death
  • One of the most surreal things about Wally's death was that he was found peacefully in his bed on the same day that he was supposed to meet with the lawyer and his sister, our Aunt Carol, to settle the estate of his mother, our Grandma Jones. She had passed away at age 94 the summer before, and it turned out that we scattered his ashes on the one year anniversary of her death. 
  • Wally also happened to pass away just after Kevin and I had signed our own wills/directives. I remember telling myself that I would have the tough conversation about writing up both (I actually had had the conversation once before when Grandpa Ellis was in hospice, and didn't have a directive, and Wally still wanted to avoid the topic...even though he understood the need).  Miel talked to him about a Will on the last day they saw each other, and luckily got some information about what his intentions would have been.  It didn't save 7 months of probate, but it did help us to know his wishes.
  • In our late teens, we remember driving back from Fern Ridge Reservoir and him telling us about how Grandpa Ellis was going to sell his rhododendron nursery for a million and a half because a developer wanted to build condos near the mall, and he was way past retirement age by that time.
  • We remember Grandpa Ellis deciding to buy a post office, since it seemed at the time to be one of the safest investments possible at the time. He also wanted to invest in something that was a bit fool proof, knowing that asset management might not be the top skill of his wife and kids.  Now the future is rather bleak for small post offices, but we can hope that the modern one built in the 90's will be useful for many years to come... Regardless of the future, the investment gave/gives a reliable return rate. It brings in just over $5k in rent each month, and the only maintenance is a roof and siding, even the taxes are reimbursed by the feds. Now we each earn a 1/4 of the total business (Aunt Carol owns 1/2), which we've fondly and playfully named Sahalie and Koosah Adventures, LLC. At the moment, our income goes directly to pay the mortgages on the beach cabins...which we'll share more about below... 
  • Truthfully, the inheritance was always this "someday" thing. Someday when Wally would inherit his parents money he would fixer houses and invest like his good friend, Robert. When we went through all his belongings, a blank passport application was sitting on the top of this desk. He had only ever traveled to Mexico hitch hiking in his youth (where he met the astonishing woman from The Survival of Jan Little).
  • In the stack of mail, he had just requested to cancel his life insurance, which his mother had invested in 1963 and she had continued to pay on it for almost fifty years. Thankfully it hadn't actually expired yet...six days later and the $40k in life insurance would have been null and void.
  • He also had made two loans to his friend, Robert, with money from his father's inheritance when banks weren't lending money to landlords with dozens of rentals. The timing turned out just fine, and we were repaid just in time to finish paying for the beach cabins.
  • Which brings us to our biggest family investment, our beloved Olivia Beach Camp Cabins. This investment feels both very intentional and very serendipitous. It's frankly a big enough deal in our lives to warrant another post, but it's a good way to wrap up this post...since Wally would have wanted us to invest in our dreams and live them.
  • He also would have wanted us to be generous. That's why we chose to give away virtually all of his material possessions to his friends. The day after his wake, we invited his closest dozen plus friends over to take what they collections, skis, backpacks, furniture, was pretty much all up for grabs. Prior to the giveaway, we had each collected a few boxes of belongings, but neither of us wanted to hoard his things. Miel's favorite take away was a nice carabiner from Wally's key chain that is now on her own keys and Darcy treasures the variety of musical instruments for the kids to learn and play. Within the next few days, everything else was donated.
  • After we got the inheritance, we also gave $10k to his ex-partner. While never married, they were best friends and lovers for nearly thirty years. She in turn chose to use the money wisely, and occasionally on things that Wally would have wanted, like concert tickets or a pint.  This was one of the wishes that Wally had mentioned in his discussion with Miel about he need for a will.
  • As we come close to the country fair, I recall one of my last fair memories with him. We had met up on Sunday afternoon at Toby's Tofu Palace, and he could sense that I was mentally debated about whether to pay an extra $3 to get an hibiscus cooler. He shared his sage wisdom, always opt to get the drink. It's always worth it; you won't regret it.
With that, we continue to try to live each day and spend each dollar evaluating the true worth. Indeed there are paradoxes between living in the moment, and trying to think about future generations. But the sweet spot is indeed sweet.

Who inspires your money decisions?
What dreams are you investing in?

Darcy and Miel

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Anniversary - Expanded Family Finances

One critical aspect of maintaining a healthy and sustainable family approach to finances is to take time to appreciate all you have and to give thanks.  Today is our 8th wedding anniversary and I couldn't be more thankful than for all that we have in our lives.

Top on our list is Clark, the new addition to our family.  We actually decided to take the plunge and try to get pregnant last year at our anniversary.  Twenty-two years after we first dated, and ten years of living together (if you don't account for time overseas), we've now moved on to the next phase.  Perhaps we should be calling it AC, After Clark, given the change he means in our life.

James & Miel on 7th Wedding Anniversary
Having a child definitely changes our family as well as our finances, and despite the financial cost in terms of expenses, I feel that all aspects are actually a net positive in terms of what we gain be Clark's presence in our lives.
Clark 4 days old
I look forward to sharing our process as a newly expanded family with our readers and hearing about your perspectives on family finances.

For those interested in the nitty gritty of our finances, you can check out our current worth at DINKs Finance.  You can also check out Clark's Birth Story.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Darcy's Money Story - Life After Death

A photo of us at Wally's wake, held at Sam Bond's with barely enough room for all his friends.
The photo I'm holding still hangs in the bar.
One way to identify your own limiting beliefs is to ask yourself "If money wasn't an issue or if you "won the lottery" today, what would your do with your life?"I'm sure that I had done this little self-growth exercise along my journey, but it wasn't until my father passed away that I was able to answer it deeply.
  • My (Our) father, Wally passed away suddenly three years ago. His passing was one of the most surreal and transformational experiences of my life. It was heartbreaking, but in a surprising way. Instead of feeling depressed or lonely, I felt like my capacity to love had been expanded tenfold. In the days and weeks after his death I felt a vibrancy and aliveness like never before. I also felt a deeper joy (even in the midst of sorrow) and a deep gratitude for everything in my life. Wally had soooo many friends, and the outpouring of love that came from our friends and family was truly amazing. It was also sensing the preciousness of each moment in life.
  • Above all else, Wally was a friend to everyone. He lived life on his terms and defined his own success. He was a ski bum in his teens, then a college drop out hippie, but he didn't feel the need to seek other people's approval. He was unapologetically easy-going. Our Mom called him lazy growing up, but we enjoyed just hanging out playing cards and listening to him play his guitar. While his lack of money was embarrassing at times growing up, it wasn't something we held against him as adults. Our relationship/friendship grew as we hit adolescence and deepened as we explored the world, with him always being so eager to learn from our travels. He always loved to listen and debate, and even when we disagreed with his perspective, it helped us think through our own position better.
  • I remember lying in bed grieving, my mind racing with intense feelings and thoughts. I didn't know the exact total, but I knew that I (we) would be getting a large inheritance, via our grandparents. So, I asked myself the question, "What would I do if money weren't a concern?" I immediately realized that I wanted to have another child. I felt like, similar to my father, that my true legacy will be found in how I grow as a person through parenting and in turn through my children's own legacy. I didn't think of quitting my job, even though the thought of working half-time did appeal to me, versus the very hectic schedule with 9 hour days for two full-time working parents we had been managing.
  • Receiving an inheritance also felt like a big values test. I didn't want to blow the opportunity or make choices that my grandparents would have disapproved of (although they were veerrrry frugal, so I'm sure I've made a few splurges that they would have questioned). So, initially I made simple choices like paying off my student loans, and then buying our Toyota Sienna outright.
  • We still kept to our exact vacation budget on our already planned trip to Denmark, and truly didn't splurge in advance of our inheritance actually being deposited.
  • Knowing that the money would be coming did shift my money mind frame in some ways though. I certainly wanted to be more generous now that I was "able." About a month after Wally passed away a community member I had been working with to bring sculptures to Pittman Addition HydroPark sent me a link to her campaign where she was raising funds to do an art project with kids at an orphanage in Honduras. She's one of the most bubbly and vivacious people I know, always ending conversations and emails with "Have a blessed day!" So I couldn't help but want to fund her project, plus she was offering a unique "Destiny Map" session if you donated $100. So I did. But even though I felt great about my choice to sponsor her, Kevin completely wigged out when we reviewed our credit card bill during our "Money Honey" chat (which also included a thousand dollar vet visit that he was furious about). I realize now that I glossed over this part of our conversation, I guess mostly because $100 didn't seem like much money in comparison. But the reason money issue is/was that I am intrinsically more generous than Kevin. We've always had this rub in our money relationship. 
  • Prior to getting an inheritance I was already donating small amounts regularly, but once I had more money I certainly felt the desire to tithe/donate more. I set up auto-donation through my employer for my top five favorite charities (Rotary International, International Medical Corps, Oregon Environmental Council, Friends of Trees and McKenzie River Trust). They each got $5 per paycheck, so it was a total of $50 a month, $600 a year in extra donations. We were already tithing a small amount to our church, Grace Memorial Episcopal, but we finally upped past a $100 donation. Altogether we weren't donating nearly a true 10%, which is something I would like to do. At the time our childcare bill was so expensive that we figured out what we could afford after all our expenses.
  • Another "donation" that I started was to lend out $1000 through Kiva in what I dubbed, The Kiva Experiment. So far that thousand dollars has been relent over 60 times, and made a $5k impact around the world to aspiring entrepreneurs who wouldn't have a chance at a traditional loan.
  • Upon returning from an amazing trip back to Denmark, I also decided to join the Portland Pearl Rotary Club. Joining the club was/is a big commitment in terms of both time and money. I volunteer regularly through the club and pay a monthly dues of $550 a year, plus an expectation to donate at least $100 to the Pearl Fund and $100 to Rotary International. We now donate a rental our beach cabins to the annual auction as well.
  • While growing our family has been a long journey, I couldn't be happier with my initial instinct to have a third child. Teagan brings us such joy every day. (We even had a new babysitter last night, and she agreed that she's never met such a happy baby. She literally woke up and played with her for a full hour and half before she even started to wonder where we might be). Yes, she will cost us more, but any potential sacrifice would be worth it.
After Wally's death, we (being my sister and his best-ex, Karen) came up with a way to reference things through Wally's unique lens on life. We called it WWWW: What Would Wally Want?? We'll talk about this in our next shared post.
Have a blessed day!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Miel's Money Stories - Life or Death

Click here to buy at Powell's
Buy @ Powell's
I realized while reading this morning that I have a big money story that completely escaped me while going back in time.  I am reading Monique and The Mango Rains, Two Years Living With a Midwife in Mali. While the author, Kris Holloway, was a volunteer ten years before I was, village life across West Africa transcends time.  Following along her story brings me back repeatedly to my own experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana.

The money story is one that involves life and death.  In my case the story actually included my twin sis Darcy, who was visiting me for several weeks in Ghana at the end of my service.  She was there to see my enstolling as Queen Mother and got a glimpse at what my life was like as a PCV.
The story begins close to dusk, when we were returning to my house after being away for most of the day.  We ran in the caretaker of my compound - the larger family house that I inhabited two rooms that were once the library of a big man in my village who had passed away in the late 80s and left three wives and 14 children.  He took care of the house, though often slept in the village with his wife and family.

We greeted the caretaker, customarily asking after his family and such.  He said that his youngest son, who his wife was pregnant with when I arrived in the village, was not doing well.  He had come to get his bible to pray through the night because he didn't think he would make it until the morning.  

I of course began to inquire about the specific symptoms to see what I could do.  From my trusty guide of Where There is No Doctor, my best guess was the possibility of tetanus.  Knowing the seriousness of this, and believing that he would not make it without intervention, we sprang into action.

Buy @ Powell's
We went into the village to meet the child and assess the situation further.  We called the old guy from the clinic and got an injection, I think of penicillin, while we sorted out transportation.  My village was one stop away from a road that didn't go through, so villagers tracked the movement of vehicles to determine whether one would pass again that night.  We were in no such luck.  The only vehicle that sometimes slept in the village was out of gas.  

This meant our only hope was if a car happened to pass unexpectedly.  The odds of this were low.  We waited for several hours, while watching out for cars.  Then we saw the headlights off in the distance as the noisy truck approached.  I stood on the road, the only white lady for miles (except now with my twin) and tried to flag down the truck.  They were barreling down the road and I realized they had no intention of stopping.  They were our last hope.  Gauging their speed, I went for my last ditch effort and stood right in the middle of the road, which was not wide enough for them to pass me. I knew I would retreat if indeed they failed to stop, but managed to get them to stop at the very last minute.  

They thought I was crazy, I may have been at that moment, but still didn't want to help.  Eventually I negotiated to charter the truck and paid about $20 for them to take is to the hospital about 30km away.  The parents, child, my sister, and I set out for the hospital, by now around 10 at night.  

We admitted the child into the hospital and all prayed for the best.  We visited him the next morning but then had to leave to get my sister on a plane back home.  I ensured that we would take care of the medical bills and transportation costs.

In the end he had cerebral meningitis, which was just as life threatening or more than the possibility of tetanus.  He was in the hospital for a month before he returned to the village.  My sis helped to cover part of the bill, which was $80 for everything, but was more than a month's salary for me and out of the question for his parents to afford.  It was the difference between life and death.
When I sit now, nursing my first child, I can't imagine being in a position where I couldn't afford to save the life of my own child.  It makes me feel ever so fortunate to have so many opportunities that are often easy to take for granted.

When the child returned to the village, he clearly knew I had connected with him.  While I had lots of kids who admired and hung around my house, suddenly he was there at all hours.  When I awoke in the morning he was there shortly after (maybe even before).  Previously kids had kept a certain distance, but he was now up in my lap as often as he could be.  

I was at the end of my service and finally started to tell the kids that I was leaving the village.  His response was to tell the other kids that he would be leaving with me.  As a single 22 year old I knew this wasn't an option for me or for his family.  When I did leave my village I had to take him from clinging onto me to get in my car to leave.  It was heart breaking.

Not as heart braking as the case of Kris Holloway's story.  The outcome was not as kind, and the child passed away of malnutrition.  Having seen some of the worst possible cases of malnutrition in Africa, I can truly imagine.  I know all too well the fragile hold they have on life.

I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have in life, including the opportunities I have to give back.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Miel's Money Stories - Marriage

Every couple has their own quirks and dialogues about money. Generally these are pretty repetitive. Our marriage is no different. What I have noticed in this post is that what shows up is certainly more "story" than "the story". The relative present is much more laden with story than what happened years ago.
  • The first thing that has been a bit different about our relationship with money is that James and I have been blogging publicly about money since just before we were married, on  There are very few couples who write about finance jointly and have shared publicly about their finances as we have. This may not change certain aspects, and not everything is aired out publicly, but a public persona related to finance does change your relationship with money in some ways.  You can check out a recent interview at
  • James and I are both more financially minded than your typical couple, particularly when it comes to goals. We started working towards joint goals pretty much as soon as we moved in together just over ten years ago. We have definitely recognized that when we don't have a common goal established that we don't achieve nearly as much. We've just recently agreed to a goal of saving $50k over the next year. When we started out ten years ago we could manage to save at least $20k a year when we were making considerably less, so I have faith that we can do it even with a new addition to our family.
  • Despite our working together towards joint goals, we've actually maintained much of our finances separately. Last year was the first time we've finally established a joint household account where we both put in a set amount and then the rest of our paychecks go into separate accounts that we still maintain ourselves.
  • On day to day finances we most often go with the easiest option of giving each other relative autonomy to do as we like with our own money. However any couple who takes this route knows that it doesn't always work.
  • Generally speaking this comes about with one of us being annoyed with some financial decision of the other.  Namely James not agreeing with my household purchases and me being annoyed by James paying more than necessary on fees and related expenses that don't provide value.  Here are two good examples of this repeated dialogue going on lately.  
    • On James' side he doesn't agree with my recent purchase of a BBQ. My story is that I've wanted a BBQ for 3 years, ever since we moved into our place with a gorgeous private rooftop deck. I finally broke down and got a small $100 tabletop style from Costco. For right now we are at a standoff in our disagreement on the BBQ. My story is that since I know that James will disagree about most household purchases, that when I do decide to get something I make sure that I want it enough to stand by my decision.
    • On my side, I am highly annoyed with James delaying changing over to my family plan for his cell phone. If he had cut his contact a year ago and paid the penalty, he would have started saving money in the second month. He refused to do so, even though it would have saved $130 a month. So we wait until the end of his contract in April and I've been hounding him to transfer his account since then. In the mean time he has lost over $1500 in dragging his feet, and it still remains outstanding. While on a much more expensive level, it is very reminiscent of early money dialogues when I would get annoyed about James constantly getting dinged for late fees on DVD rentals (back when we had to deal with those).  This issue came up again last night, as James started to deal with it and again didn't finish through.  I realize how raw this story is, for both of us, and how pervasive it is.  Neither of us willing to give it up.  My friend recommended just that, give it up, but there is still a big part of me that can't be complacent about flushing money down the drain.    
  • While the two examples above are typical financial interactions between James & I, I try to consider my father Wally's advice, in that life is too short to argue about money. We also tend to live by this in the sense that we are more likely to throw money at the problem to fix it than we are to actually spend the time arguing about it.
  • We also disagree about savings, in that for me it is important that we have an emergency fund to tap into if needed, and James doesn't feel this is as critical. We tend to meet somewhere in the middle to make us both feel secure.
  • We actually spent the early years of our marriage with me as the sugar mama. James started his Ph.D. studies the year before we got married and quit his full time job a few months before we were married. James had a research position and invested in dividend producing stocks to pay for his incidental expenses, but I picked up the groceries, utilities, going out, clothing, and travel expenses for around four years. When I worked in Afghanistan for a year, in our second year of marriage, I sent him back an allowance of $1k a month.
  • I find it interesting in that while I didn't love having to cover so many of our expenses, I was also more comfortable being the one giving than I would have been receiving. Even as I am now on my second week of maternity leave, I have still managed to work it so I have enough saved to cover my household contributions for the next six months. While clearly it isn't a matter of fairness or deserving, I still feel better having that financial autonomy.  
  • Another thing that intrigues me is that while James is very financially driven, he is fine with me making more money than him. In fact, even being two years older and having a second masters, I still make 25% more than he does. My sis noted that her husband wasn't comfortable with this possibility.  
  • We also calculate our net worth regularly, and while we only post our joint net worth, we still calculate the separately and then combine. Both my retirement savings and inheritance have meant that my balance sheet has been the larger of the two for some time. While James would love to see both of ours grow, he doesn't begrudge me my success either.
  • Speaking of inheritance, one of the things that we put into our prenup was that inheritance funds would be separate even if they are used for joint purposes. Without this in a prenup it means that if you take your family out to dinner on inherited funds that suddenly the entire amount is now half your spouse's.  
  • This doesn't mean that we agree on my use of inherited funds. Darcy and I have built our dream beach cabins, but to James he has a harder time seeing the value in the projects since we aren't cash flow positive from day one. We have 15 year mortgages on the place and will have them paid off by the time we are 50, so I feel good about the long term investment. They have also appreciated well in the short term for their paper value.
  • One of the unique aspects of our marriage is that we are also business partners on several fronts. We've owned and managed rental properties throughout our relationship. We just recently sold one of them, so now have two remaining. It takes a lot of work and partnership to keep them running and not to get stressed when things come up, because they always do. We also own a blogging business, which has developed and expanded over the last 8 years. James' story, which is often too accurate, is that I have been an unreliable partner in that I might very well fly to the edge of the earth at a moment's notice and drop off the face of the planet in terms of my connectedness. I can't really deny this, as I know it has happened many a times, even with my best intentions. So when I go to Oregon for three weeks in July, I have made it clear that I will be on vacation and won't be planning to work on our businesses. He still doesn't see this as a priority, but for me it is. I took only one week of maternity leave before working from home full time, so I figure it is fair enough.
  • Travel is clearly an area that costs money and is more important to me than to James. I have handled this by making it a priority for me and that is that. There are times when this creates conflict, and say James isn't thrilled with me spending a weekend with friends in Zanzibar instead of saving the cash, but looking back there isn't an example where I would rather have the cash. James has been so used to me covering plane tickets that I think for awhile he thought that frequent flyer miles grew on trees. I've paid for more of his flights on miles than most people will accrue in a lifetime and a half.
  • As our newborn is only two weeks old, we are still getting used to a child being part of the equation, so I am certain there will be a learning curve. At least we are both in agreement for minimizing excess kid stuff and using second hand when we can, which I appreciate. I do know that James is interested in private school, which is okay on one level and yet I have a problem with the cost of it as well. We'll see how that ends up panning out, either way I know our child's education will be a priority, so that is what matters. We are also both in agreement with kids developing a good work ethic and savings ethic, as well as service.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Darcy's Money Stories: After Kiddos

Each chapter of my life brings a ton more we go...looking forward to getting this all off my mind to be able to start focusing on manifesting money for our current family dreams. :-)
  • Having gotten pregnant while wrapping up graduate school, I was happy to have completed my higher education, but I felt like my career was just beginning (hence the whole next section will mostly relate to my career progression). I was tired of working at non-profits to barely pay the bills, and felt like I would be the most effective working from the "inside" at the local government level. I had set my sights on working for the City of Portland before going back to graduate school, but still wasn't exactly sure how that would play out.
  • Applying for jobs while newly pregnant was an adventure. I had the mixed feelings of being anxious to prove myself in my career while becoming a loving new Mama. There were so many unknowns about what my life would be like in barely six months. At one point I ended up getting very close to a job offer, but in a third interview the employer still felt a hesitancy in me that they couldn't explain. I admitted that I was pregnant and they basically told me that I would be given ZERO maternity leave (aside from the few sick days that I could have accrued in my first five months).  
  • Realizing the complete lack of maternity leave, I ended opting to stay at my current p/t non-profit job organizing environmental lectures until they could find someone to take over for me. Then I work for a temp agency for about two months before Kieran arrived (10 days overdue!). I did a week's worth of filing at PDC (where Hubby now works!) and then several weeks of mindless data entry for Regence. It was the first time in my career where I had a job with virtually no decision making, and it felt very strange to simply punch in and punch out each day. (They kindly offered me a long-term job, which I very politely refused...over my dead body could I work in such a mindless cube job!)
  • Before quitting my job to go on truly unpaid maternity leave, I had budgeted out my various options. Childcare is very expensive in Portland, and in some ways it could have been smarter for me to simply stay at home, but I also felt like that I had a critical career window to apply my fresh graduate school skills. Plus, as much as we loved our starter home, I knew that there was no way could possibly afford a larger home on a single income and that we couldn't possibly fit more than one child into our tiny place (While the place was 1200 square feet, the second bedroom was a glorified closet).
  • My grandfather passed away when I was pregnant with Kieran, and I was given a gift of $10,000 from my Grandmother from his estate. Thankfully I was able to pay my student loan and my phone bill for about a year with this money. I was very grateful, since I didn't want to dip into our savings in order to take a maternity leave.
  • After taking three months of leave I started looking for job prospects, and quickly came across a part-time job at the City of Portland, coordinating their River Renaissance Initiative. Even though it was technically a paid internship, I was filling in for the Program Coordinator. So, the duties were fulfilling but the pay was minimal. When I accepted the position they didn't know whether it would be funded for more than six weeks, but I proved myself valuable, and they kept me on a temporary basis for ten months. I quickly found some expensive childcare downtown so I could nurse on breaks, and during that time I basically lost money on weeks with holidays (since I wasn't paid any vacation/holiday), but I felt like it was a foot in the door at the City. I was pretty crushed not to land the permanent position (mostly because they were trying to hire someone who could do my manager's job who literally only got paid to schmooze for long lunches and approve my work. I was actually kind of bitter about this at the time, because as nice as a person as he was, my manager showed up late and left early, earning over six figures, while I worked passionately to prove myself. He did give me one piece of solid advice: When someone calls or emails, return their message within an hour to let them know you're on it, even it takes you longer to track down the answer. Customer service is key with community outreach projects, so I've tried my best to follow this rule).
A few weeks after starting my new job at the City of Portland, I was asked to help organize an educational river cruise. It was a great gig, and I even took Kieran along...the first of many community meetings and events for our kids!
  • I left this job at the City when Kieran had just turned a year and stayed home with him for almost six months. Initially, there was someone I had met on a river cruise from the private sector who continued to try to recruit me for a position. He even took me out to Higgin's (a lovely upscale restaurant where lots of business types do lunch), and was eager to tell me how family-friendly the position would be, how flexible my schedule would be, and that I'd be able to work part-time and earn twice as much. In the end, the contracts didn't pan out (and I don't think I would have been the right fit anyway).
During my time "off" between jobs, I worked on several small home project like stripping and repainting this door (with six small bevels on each window pain!). I loved the tongue-in-cheek paint color: The Ego Has Landed. :-)
  • Our home projects, which I was mostly the foreman on, were all done with the idea of adding enough value to our home to sell at enough of a profit to be able to afford a bigger home. Literally as soon as Kieran was born, Kevin started itching to move. Our chimney was falling down, and we spent somewhere around $8k to fix it. Meanwhile our tiny cottage was feeling smaller and smaller. This put pressure on me to find a job that would help make our dream home a reality.
  • With some serendipity, I found out about another temporary job at the City, helping out in the community outreach group at the Portland Water Bureau. Again, I knew that I was skilled enough to do the job of any of the permanent staff members, but needed to get my foot in the door once more. This time I at least negotiated for enough to earn a few dollars after childcare tuition was paid, I think I started at $19 an hour with no benefits.
  • Eventually, after interviewing for a half dozen other City jobs, I landed my first full-time permanent position since I had left college. It was about time. The job ended up including several interesting community projects, and I was finally saving for retirement. Just the other day I was in a conversation with Miel about my desire to start saving for retirement again and I quickly realized how sensitive I've felt about this subject...knowing that Miel has socked every spare nickle while I've either been lagging on the career end or overpaying for childcare to the point that I couldn't afford to save much more. So this is definitely a money story I need to clear up.
  • Plus, I feel like I/we need to clear up how much kids cost. Our largest kid related expense has certainly been childcare. I don't even want to tally up the tens of thousands of dollars that we've spent. Partly because I ran the math between working and staying at home, I've always felt like it was my salary paying for tuition. I remember getting into a little debate with a someone who commented on this blog about why we didn't "share" this expense. It was really more of mental division than anything, just like how I always wanted to be the one to pay my own student loans back. In the end, I'm very happy with the caring and educational environment that my two oldest kids were essentially raised in during their early years. However, I am very happy now not to be paying tuition (just one more year of Kindergarten tuition...although I do plan on hiring a p/t nanny in the fall to give me dedicated time for coaching calls).
  • For the most part I feel like we've been fairly frugal. I've overspent on cute clothes, but also bought pretty much everything on sale. I've bought more books than I "should" have, but we've kept the toy purchases to a minimum. We've chosen to prioritize experience expenses, like swim or dance classes. These "non-essentials" do make new neural pathways, on top of simply being fun.
  • I can't recall specific arguments we've had about money related to kid expenses, but there have been debates/spats about how much things costs and both of us lamenting that kids are expensive. This may be a "fact," but only if we convince ourselves of it.
  • We were able to sell our first home within just a few weeks while I was newly pregnant with Makenna. I worked overtime to get everything decluttered and perfect (it didn't even look like a child lived there because we knew the new owners wouldn't have room for kids!). All our work paid off, and we were able to earn $70k in equity in just three years in our starter home.
  • We essentially plunged every last dime into our next (and current) home, where we have lived for almost seven years and plan to live for the foreseeable future.
  • When we moved into our new home, which is 1665 square feet, it was obvious that we had very little furniture to fill it. Our second-hand couch went straight to the basement, and for over a month our living room only had a lawyer's book case, some plants and a lamp. Our tiny cheap dining table went to the backyard to use as a potting bench. Despite our desire to have nice antique furniture, IKEA soon became our friend. Over the fall we bought and assembled a dining tables, chairs, coffee table, entertainment console and twin bed. Thankfully, they actually look pretty decent and we haven't regretted our purchases or are anxious to buy new stuff once the kids get better...they now have a distressed character with fork marks and kid tracks.
  • What we had already accumulated was a ton of kid gear, and now that our youngest is almost a year old, we're getting anxious to purge our basement once and for all...
  • Thankfully our "new" 1904 home had already been fully renovated and initially we only had a few repairs to make. Almost seven years later and we are now gearing up for some major repairs to replace the roof and finally make the basement dry.
  • Otherwise, back to life with kids, once Makenna was born (a lovely and inexpensive home birth), we tried to keep our expenses down, knowing that childcare for two kids would be like having another mortgage payment.
  • Just as I was returning to work full-time was when I first got the idea to start writing this blog. I had gotten a wedding invite for a close friend in Denmark for the following summer, but even with such advance notice, I knew we couldn't afford it. It made my heart sad and I was frustrating thinking that I didn't know when we could ever afford such a trip. Miel's DINKs Finance blog was becoming very successful and earning around $2k each month, which was basically what I was taking home after my childcare bills. Miel had continued to tell me that I should start writing a blog, but I had always shrugged it off...but admittedly once I learned how much she was earning, I thought long and hard about the idea. I brainstormed topics that I would want to write about and started making plans.
  • To date this blog hasn't earned more than a few random ads. I had agreed to do the writing, which I did diligently for the first several years, but Miel was too busy making life better for others around the globe. I honestly could never fault her for wanting to travel/work in Africa instead of help me make my blog earn an income, but it is something that I suppose I should fully forgive as in some ways it feels like we are restarting this venture five years after we first set out. She has still been my biggest fan and I'm truly excited to see what we can accomplish together.
  • Now back to that time just after kids, I guess it feels like it was a time of getting our financial systems down. I took the time to set up all our accounts on autopay, but was also very good about monitoring our budget as we set about saving up for our big trip to Denmark. We had regular "Money Honey" chats, which were probably just as important for our marriage as our bank account.
  • Thankfully, we were able to reach our savings goal, and afford our $7500 three-week vacation to Denmark. It's still amazing to me that we were able to save so diligently and that our budget was so accurate. Very soon I'll be coming up with a budget for a trip we plan to take back to Europe next summer, and I'm actually looking forward to saving toward the goal...that's just the incentive I need to save money. Somehow saving to the replace the roof just doesn't inspire me the same way! ;-)
  • One "last" note here is that we have had a challenge of not wanting my Mom in particular to spoil the kids with stuff. I wrote about our "official gift policy" first four years ago, and it can still be a challenge at times. My Mom (who is completely loving and generous!) does her best to comply, but it means that she often saves stuff up to give for the holidays and she loves bringing the girls second hand clothes that she's scored, which are adorable but not always necessary.
Lastly, in retrospect, having kids hasn't really changed who we are or what we prioritize in life. We still want to live as down-to-earth as possible, avoiding the consumer culture as much as we can. We believe spending money on experiences and travel is more important than buying stuff.

In my next post I'll reflect on life after we received a family inheritance, since it has changed things for us financially...although plenty still feels the same...

Have a beautiful day,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's my Birthday too!

Darcy and I are blessed to not only share our Birthday with each other, but we also share it with Paul McCartney.  This means that on radio stations across America you will hear "You say it's your Birthday", to which the other replies, "Well it's my Birthday too!"

Unless you are a twin, odds are that your Birthday is yours alone. This gives us all the opportunity to celebrate ourselves and get some love from friends and family.  We loved having a summer Birthday, often overlapping with swim lessons, our favorite.

Having recently given birth to my first child, it definitely gives a different perspective around Birthdays.  It makes me wonder why we don't celebrate our moms on our Birthdays.  So thanks mom, from both of us.

One of the ingenious things that our mom did was got us to buy into having a bigger party on milestone Birthdays, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 18, instead of doing something big every year.  We always celebrated in some way, but this was actually a nice way to make some years more special.  

Happy Birthday Sis!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Miel's Money Stories - Before Marriage

My early money stories are certainly important, but I also feel that those money stories that we live every day and cycle through repeatedly are just as important to break free from as are those that influenced us earlier in life.  These are the ones that show up on a regular basis and prevent us from getting what we want out of life.

When I first started out this post I thought I could somehow cover everything in one go.  Clearly I wasn't really considering how much money related history and stories we have together.  Here are my primary stories during our first 2.5 years living together before we were married.

  • To put things into context, James and my relationship hasn't exactly had a conventional track. The quick chronology is that we first dated 22 years ago, we moved in together 10 years ago, were married 8 years ago, and had our first child one week ago.
  • This meant that when we first moved in together we had a long history in many ways, but were certainly learning each other as we went along.  We dove into the deep end with our finances right off the bat.  
  • After reconnecting, not having seen each other in three years, the spark was still there and I took the plunge and moved across the country from Portland, OR to Washington, DC. It definitely took a financial leap of faith to go, but I felt it would work out.  I had lost my job in Portland, so in that way it was easier to go.  I sold nearly everything I owned, on the then new Craigslist, and shipped only a few boxes via greyhound.  It was a shedding of my material possessions, but given my nomadic ways this came easier for me than it might have others.  It also gave me some much needed cash.
  • Particularly having lost my job, I was mounting up credit card debt and knew that I needed to get out fast.  I had faith that I would be able to do so, but I can't say it was easy. I managed to start my first job in Washington 5 weeks after moving here, working several weeks of temp work just to make sure I was able to stay afloat.
  • At the same time as landing my job, I also put a plan in place to pay off my $13k in credit card debt.  I researched and found the best card with 0% interest and no transfer fees to consolidate everything and pay it off as quickly as possible.  I managed to do so in about seven months, even though I was only making $40k a year.
  • James was very supportive about me paying off my credit card debt.  Knowing him as I do now, I realize this was a huge show of love and faith in me. I think this was in part his having had credit card debt as well and having already turned this around and started to move towards better financial management. I do recall feeling a bit like a potential liability and not wanting that to be the case.  I very much wanted to maintain my financial independence that I had had since college.
  • James and I developed a household budget, though still kept things separate.  We each paid a percentage of the rent 60/40, with James earning more at that time. James paid for going out together, since he enjoys paying the bill, and I paid for groceries to make it easier to shop and buy what I wanted (James was used to a bachelor's diet).
  • I realize that there are lots of early money dialogues that we had in those early days that still perpetuate.  One of those comes around household purchases.  James essentially feels that no household items are essential.  I realized the strength of this conviction when I bought dishes for our place.  I believe he had something like a plate and a bowl, which clearly wasn't enough for us.   Rather than buy a huge set of dishware, I picked a nice classic red German plate and bought four dinner plates, four cereal bowls, and four salad plates.  James felt this purchase was excessive and unnecessary.  We still have the same set today, now with six plates.  I'm of the mind of buying something that you love once and then sticking with it.  I still today have to manage whether or not (or to what degree) James will find a basic household purchase in some way unnecessary.  This definitely helps in our minimalistic and small home, but also adds stress where it doesn't necessarily need to be.  I am better about delaying or thinking very carefully about how much I want/need something before I purchase, so I suppose I have James to thank for that in part.
  • Around gift giving, James is also always very generous with giving gifts, particularly jewelry.  I think during this first period that I write of he purchased me no less than 7 or 8 pieces of fine jewelry.  My grandmother taught me never to say no to jewelry (or you'll never get it again) and I'm ever grateful for James' generosity.  I do recall buying him a watch for our second Valentine's Day, after I'd paid of my credit card debt, and he absolutely refused this gift.  It was something like $150, when the ring he bought me was more than that, but he was adamant that it was unnecessary.  So while will only by me jewelry, he pretty much only accepts clothes or money related gifts from my side to him.  I suppose we all have our preferences.  
  • Meanwhile, we were working selling James first studio apartment within the first months of living together. It was a coop, and thus couldn't easily be rented, so we put the studio up for sale.  The market was climbing at that point, in 2004, and James sold the place for $130k after having bought it in 2001 for $40k.
  • James had also bought his first studio rental a few months before I moved to DC, so he was itching for more real estate.  I didn't have the funds to contribute, but was eager to work on something together.  James was interested in something in the ghetto.  We did many tours of places in areas of DC that I might never have had the chance to go otherwise.  In the end we settled on a place that was in a transitional neighborhood, but still close enough for us to walk to.  This made a huge difference in terms of improving the place and selling it.
  • Six months after I moved to Washington we bought a three unit townhouse at 4th & O, NW, in the Shaw neighborhood.  I recall thinking about it the night before we closed that we were biting off a lot, but could also make a big difference in getting ahead.  We spent nearly every night and weekend there working on it with sweat equity and some work with contractors.  We sold the place six months later for about $70k more than we bought it for, but with expenses we probably got more out of the experience than anything else.
  • By that fall I had paid off my credit cards and just kept shoveling any extra funds towards saving for our first placed together. We had a big thermometer tracker on our bedroom door and tracked every penny that went into saving.  We both did research studies and random things to make more cash to sock away.  It felt like we were really on track and was great to work together towards a goal.  Luckily this is still the case today and we just put up our first savings thermometer since then today.
  • We got engaged that fall in Hawaii, but decided right off the bat that we wanted a longer engagement (18 months) so we could buy our first place in six months and then save to pay for our wedding and honeymoon.
  • During our engagement we had many discussions about finances.  Like my sister, I also felt that James essentially forgave the fact that I came from a lower income family and had faith in me that I had already set myself on another track.
  • A prenuptial agreement was also something that we did and many others avoid.  I read a quick book, What To Do Before "I do", that was very helpful in considering what was important to protect yourself.  We are happily married nearly eight years later, but I am glad that we have the agreement in place.
  • Just before we were married we started a finance blog, DINKs Finance, or Dual Income No Kids. I had never been on a blog before, but it felt like we had a story to tell around money.  I was very much at the learning phases of investments, but felt that how you dealt with finances as a couple makes all the difference in both your relationship and your finances. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Darcy's Money Stories - After marriage, but before kids

Here goes another round of Money Stories, this time about my life between getting married and starting a family:

  • Kevin and I are coming up on our 12 year anniversary this August. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. We still seem to have more or less the same financial goals, and thankfully we have reached many along the way.
  • Our honeymoon was very much a budget trip. We had really wanted to take a train trip to Glacier National Park, but when we were in the process of budgeting (i.e. seeing how expensive it was) we went out to dinner with a work associate of Kevin’s. She graciously offer for us to stay at her rustic little house on Lopez Island in the San Juans. We practically jumped for joy at the offer, and spent a lovely week completely unplugged. It was located on Mud Bay with sweet view and deck as big as the tiny house, where we slept in a loft (not unlike our Camp Cabins!) We made most of meals, and walked down the road to pick up fresh eggs. We ate out mostly at brew pubs, as we still do. We rented bikes, did some sea kayaking and did a day trip over to San Juan. Free rent aside, it reinforced our belief that vacationing doesn’t have to be an expensive affair, but it is important to getaway and unplug.
  • In our conversations leading to marriage, we decided to combine our finances. We both knew that there might be times when we each wanted our autonomy back, but we also felt that it was important to form a true partnership. After two years of living together, the process was pretty seamless and we kept pretty much the same financial arrangements (Kevin was paying more of the rent since he had the higher income, I was paying all of my student loans and some of the utilities, shared food/dining, etc.)
  • Returning to Ashland we were already starting to itch to move. Ashland is a lovely tourist town, but not a place for young professionals. I had certainly hit the meager ceiling of my non-profit position. I started researching graduate school. I applied for Tufts in Boston and Bard in upstate New York, while mentally making plans to move the next summer. Eventually I was accepted to both schools, but before I had a chance to make up my mind the tuition bill came. I can’t remember how much it was then, but it was more than I could stomach to lend (it’s $46k per year for tuition now). Plus, I was legitimately worried that Kevin was going to have to leave his full-time job, and we’d have move ourselves across the country not knowing how long he’d need to search for work. Knowing how quickly Miel had racked up credit card debt while between jobs, I was very intimidated by the idea of taking such a financial risk for the sake of higher education.
  • In the process of deciding we went back up to Portland for an engagement party. Being back in Portland reminded us of how much we missed Portland, and got me dreaming of returning. I started to research graduate school options and realized that I could attend Antioch University Seattle from Portland (traveling up for four days of each month). The tuition was slightly less expensive, but the real deciding factor was knowing (planning/hoping!) that we could buy our first starter home before I finished grad school, instead of being faced with another cross country move after just two years. The graduate program, a Master’s in Environment & Community at their Center for Creative Change, was truly a much better match for me.
  • In the end we still ended up deciding to take a cross country road trip, but just for the fun of it. As newlyweds planning to start a family after I finished graduate school, we figured that it would be our last chance where we would both have more than 2-3 weeks of vacation together (between jobs!). So, we packed up everything and moved our belongings to Portland before heading out on the road.
  • Backing up a moment, I was really getting burnout on earning $15 an hour at my environmental non-profit job. So, after a misunderstanding with my manager, I gave my notice. I was planning to just take a couple months off before moving. Yet, serendipity stepped in when I happened to join an anti-war march down main street Ashland (Yes, there many of these during the Bush II wars to help us liberals feel connected and little less powerless). So, I started chatting with the woman who I was walking next to through the little march. It turned out that she was a faculty member at the local community college, and the head of their diversity program. She happened to really need someone to help organize an annual conference, and by the next week I was on payroll as faculty on a contract basis. It was simply easier and quicker for her to hire me as faculty, and it was my first job being paid $25 an hour. It was a great gig...I loved everyone I worked with and felt truly confident about my skills and the service I was providing. I was no longer learning, but knowing. I felt very professional and very valuable.
  • Then we packed up everything and headed on our cross country road trip. We backtracked along the Lewis & Clark trail, visiting a ton of national parks along the way. We spent two weeks traveling East, then two weeks on the East Coast and then two weeks back again. It was a wonderful trip in so many ways (minus one burnt afternoon driving across Ohio and Eastern PA). I remember while we were visiting Kevin’s family that they had lots of questions about our camping set up (we even demoed our backpacking stove for them!). We also tracked virtually every penny on the road, and we averaged less than $50 a day for food, gas and lodging. His family could barely believe it.
  • Returning back to Portland felt great, minus the fact that neither of us had a job. We were planning to live with Miel until we found a place, figuring that it would take a few weeks. It turned out that as soon as we got into town we met up to head out to dinner. On our walk there, just a block and a half away from her apartment, we found a beautiful apartment...the second story of a little dutch colonial between Chapman Park and the Stepping Stone diner (where we enjoyed many breakfasts). We moved in the day before our first wedding anniversary, and it was nice to settle into a new home.
  • However, being between jobs was stressful. Kevin really was set on landing a great job, not just a lateral move, but it took patience. He got tons of interviews, but in the end it took a few months. We still had a savings/safety net, but as the holidays drew near, he was almost in panic mode. He even applied for a temporary job as a delivery truck driver. This was first time that he/we ever stressed about money together. Of course I felt pretty responsible, since I was the one who really pushed the move to return to Portland for graduate school (and felt it necessary that we take our cross country adventure, even if it did leave us with barely enough of a safety net). But I still felt it critical to keep the faith for him and us, and looking back now I can see that that’s become our pattern: he feels scarcity, while I do my best to keep the faith.
  • I had also landed a part-time job just before Kevin, but it was just enough to supplement my expenses through graduate school (similar to my Ashland non-profit wages). I was doing meaningful work, organizing and marketing inspiring environmental lectures, but I wasn’t all that financially sustainable. I was earning enough to pay for my college loan repayment, my phone and basic expenses. I felt like a poor student waiting for my professional life to really begin, and as I was ready to bust out of the non-profit poverty cycle.
  • Once we were just starting to get into a groove with our new life back in Portland. I ended up tearing my ACL (the second run on a lifetime ski pass for Mt Bachelor!) (I had torn it in high I knew the pain/routine all too well, thankfully this time the recovery was much faster). I felt very fortunate to have health insurance. Growing up my Mom’s insurance was so good that it covered me until we got married. But between jobs we didn’t have any insurance for a few months. Kevin had just landed his new job, and I had just gotten coverage again just a week before I blew out my knee. Again, I felt very lucky to have good health insurance.
  • Unfortunately, karma wasn’t in our favor that winter, and the same week of my accident we were given two weeks notice that we needed to move out because our landlord’s son wanted to move in. They gave us a week extension, but I was still packing boxes on pain meds. This turn of events did inspire us (piss us off!) to resolve that we would save every penny for a deposit on our first home. Kevin did the math and calculated that we could afford to buy after another six months of renting. So, we moved, but didn’t truly settle in, knowing that we were ready to move as soon as we could manage it.
  • Even though I don’t remember particularly sacrificing, somehow we saved up enough for a downpayment by the next summer. We ended up closing on our first home days before our second wedding anniversary. Yippeeeeee! In case you haven’t added it up, our first home was our fifth place in four years! It felt awesome to finally put down roots.
  • We finally had a place of our own to invest our love and energy (even if it would mean unexpected repairs and plenty of obligation). The market in Portland was really hot at the time, and the median sale price was $195k. We bought for exactly that price, and the place had just been completely flipped and needed very little work. The yard/garden was in sore need though, and that’s where we put most of our sweat equity.
  • Our first home was a 1920s cottage with lots of charm and light. It’s was pretty small, but perfect for a couple. Plus, it was across the street from the Arbor Lodge Park, and the neighborhood was pretty up-and-coming in a working class family sort of way. It felt like our envisioned life was coming to life.
  • I was still busy with graduate school and pinching my meager non-profit paychecks, and had one more year to go before I would be able to restart my professional career.
  • Somewhere along the way I started feeling less confident with money. At times when I was younger, I remember feeling really frustrated about being told that I was like my father with money; i.e. irresponsible, frivolous and eager to spend. While there was some truth to it, I am passionate in the way I use my resources, I also felt/feel like it was a story about the past and an unhelpful label. It somehow condoned my bad financial habits.
  • Plus, by this time, Miel was starting to earn some serious bank in D.C., while I still struggling to save much. I didn’t have a retirement fund to speak of, and Miel had already socked away a good sized nest egg. I’ve tried not to compare us in this way, since after all D.C. is not comparable to Portland for earning potential, but it’s hard not to when you see your identical twin reaching her full potential. The only consolation was/is that she’s always been so generous and so emotionally supportive and kind.
  • As for Kevin, he’s also been very supportive and wants to see me succeed. Yet there is an undertone of male chauvinism. Partly because he’s seven years older than me, he’s always been forthright in admitting that he thinks he should be earning more than me and that it would be a big bruise on his ego if (when!) I ever earn more than him. We’ve had friendly and not-so-friendly debates about gender equality, and we’ve agreed to disagree (although he doesn’t believe that he should earn more than an female counterpart or superior, but there’s something in him that believes he should earn more than me).
  • One of my big life/career goals that I set my freshman year in college was that I wanted to earn my Master’s before starting a family. I knew I wanted to learn more than college had to offer and advance my career as much as possible, but I also felt like it would be too challenging to do this with kids.
  • But with my thesis coming along and graduation on the horizon, I started thinking about starting a family. We were back visiting Kevin’s family for the holidays (the same place he had proposed to me), and I went to bed on Christmas Eve knowing that I was ready for a family. Low and behold, the weekend I wrote my thesis I got pregnant, and announced that I was pregnant at graduation. A very effective way of ending one chapter and beginning a very new one...    

I can hardly believe how the stories keep coming...thanks for your patience and interest. I can only hope that you’re getting something out of my reflections and perhaps dredging up your own stories to forgive and release.