Wednesday, March 27, 2019

March 2019 Shopping Reflections

Now that the weather's starting to warm up, I've been thinking a lot about summer clothing. As I can't help but emphasize several times every year, I don't particularly enjoy dressing for our long NYC summers. It tends to get hot and humid fast, with barely any days of balmy spring weather, and then I insist on wearing only fabrics I consider warm weather-friendly (cotton, linen, silk, or rayon) as much as possible until mid or late September, whenever the temperatures start descending rapidly.

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Once I'm sure that warm weather is here to stay for the foreseeable future, I'll need to start taking steps to do some maintenance of my winter gear. It's now been two long fall/winter seasons since I last had my L.L. Bean boots (with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate) resoled, and it's high time to send them back for another round. (Fun fact, my post about resoling my Bean boots is my single most popular one, because it gets, by far, the most Google search traffic. Alas, most people who come across it have no interest in the rest of my blog!) It's also long past time to launder my down coat (don't think too hard about how long it's been, but in actuality it simply doesn't get dirty easily, even with frequent wear). I think I'll be machine-washing my coat, and machine-drying it with some tennis balls tossed into the dryer to fluff it up. Wish me luck!

I tried on a few other things this month that were less summer weather-oriented, but was disappointed to find that those items, some of which I had really loved the idea and look of, didn't work for me at all. That was mainly the Rachel Comey Mars boots, which run very, very small (I sized all the way up from my usual 7.5 to an 8.5 and could only barely get them on due to the lack of zipper) and just weren't the right shoe for me, and the MM. LaFleur Etsuko dress in blue and black brush jacquard print, which didn't fit me right at all, as I'm just too busty. I was quite sad neither item worked for me, as they're both so pretty.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $69.80)
  • Uniqlo x J.W. Anderson Wrap Skirt, navy blue - $39.90 - Longtime readers may recall that the last time I bought skirts from Uniqlo, it turned out poorly. Those skirts were too voluminous, and one flared out too much at the waist. There were also too long, close to being maxi length on me. I also didn't like the synthetic-blended fabrics, which made the skirts unsuitable for hot weather. When I wore one outside briefly in summer, just to run a quick errand and test it out, it started feeling a bit like a non-breathable fabric tents that held in hot air. This time, I have a clearer sense of what I'm looking for, I've been thinking about midi length wrap skirts or slip skirts, ones that wouldn't have as dramatic an a-line silhouette. This skirt seems to have been designed to be knee-length, but it's midi length on my relatively short-legged 5'3'' self. Plus, it's 100% cotton. I'm optimistic about this purchase, but we'll need to wait until the weather warms up to see if it turns out well and I actually reach for it often. This is a true wrap skirt, so it runs the risk of being fussy to put on, but I found it easy to work with when I tried it on a few times at home. Because it's so adjustable, I found the size S and M to both look very similar, though I picked the M because I wanted it to be potentially more forgiving in the waist if needed. 
  • Uniqlo Linen-Blend Short-Sleeve Blouse, blue - $29.90 - I really wanted the white version of this or the linen-blend button-down short sleeve blouse to work for me, but I found both white blouses slightly too sheer. I wasn't going to keep this blue one, but after trying it on with jeans, I thought the slightly lighter and brighter than navy shade of blue was very pretty, and that it made for a nice contrast with jeans. I've generally been pleased with the durability of Uniqlo's linen-rayon blend fabric (those long open cardigans I bought last year and loved so much have a similar fabric composition, and they're still going strong) and find it to be comfortable to wear during the height of NYC summer. Both of these Uniqlo linen-blend blouses run quite large and have a lot of room in the body, and they can both flare out a bit from the widest point of the chest (a little bit of that "boob tent" effect I'm sensitive to, as a fairly busty person who is otherwise smaller-framed). But because this blouse is a bit shorter in length than the button-down and because of the sleeves and the look of the light, breezy fabric, I'm okay with the overall look of it, that effect is not as pronounced as with the other blouse. 

I found this to be a very reasonable shopping month, though of course, I still have most of the year left to go, so I can't be too proud yet! Although it might look like I'm thinking about a really large number of potential purchases, certainly far more than I could ever need, a lot of those images sort of represent many different possible ways of getting at an idea for just one or two actual potential additions to my closet, maybe one new summer dress, whether it turns out to have sleeves or not, whatever the silhouette or color (I find all my summer dresses fairly interchangeable in terms of the role they play in my wardrobe, even ones with dramatically different looks), and one or two new tops and skirts for summer. And sometimes I'm mulling over multiple colors of the same thing, or something like that, or thinking about many different possible ways of indulging in just one really fancy purchase, and only after I've moved some other things around in my budget.

How was your shopping month? Are you starting to think about clothes for next season? Do you have a preference between dressing for winter or for summer? I'm a winter person all the way, though of course, once the cold temperatures set in, I complain about that too, the same way I do about summer heat and humidity. Comfortable temperatures simply don't last very long here, so I'm fussing about the weather most of the year!

Monday, March 25, 2019

My Silliest Past Money Mistakes

In 2014, I visited Europe with some dear friends (this is a filtered and edited photo from Capri). Before I left, I vaguely knew that Bank of America had recently changed their policies to charge a 3% foreign exchange fee on all ATM withdrawals of foreign cash, on top of the fee for using other banks' ATMs. Somehow I did not put two and two together and realize that I should really get a ATM fee-free account at another bank before my trip. I have since remedied the situation.

By and large, my parents did a wonderful job teaching me the basics of personal finance. There were some gaps in my education, as is natural, and there are some things that I would do differently as a parent, which I think literally anyone would say. But overall, I had all the tools I needed to navigate money management mostly on my own since age 18, without getting into too much trouble and with a generally accurate understanding of what was happening (though that isn't quite the same thing as always using that information to make wise decisions). Thus, I was equipped to handle things like my credit card accounts, my undergraduate financial aid forms (I always filled out FAFSA on my own, as well as my mom's portion of the CSS Profile), my student loans (I fully understood the terms I was signing up for, though I waited until embarrassingly late to calculate the total balance I'd owe upon graduation and how long repayment would take; but I was approaching my mid-20s when I matriculated, so any failing is solely on me), and the like. What more could any person ask for?

That being said, I'm still one of those people who fusses regularly about the need for more and better personal finance education. Because it's generally never covered at any time in school, we're largely dependent on our parents, or on ourselves, to learn about the important details. And even very financially savvy and responsible parents can't realistically anticipate all of the potentially infinite range of financial questions or challenges their children might eventually encounter as young adults, and potentially make mistakes about.

In that spirit, I thought I would look back on some of the silliest financial mistakes I've ever made, and that I totally regret, in order of least expensive to most. And really, quite a lot of these examples happened while I was in my early-to-mid 20s, when one would think that I would already know better. Despite all my little mistakes and the many gaps in my understanding of personal finance when I was a younger adult, I've actually always thought of myself as being reasonably okay with money nonetheless, because, on the whole, I still knew enough to avoid getting into serious difficulties. Still, it wasn't until I read a few beginners' personal finance books in my mid-20s that I started feeling a lot more confident about what I was doing.

Without further ado, here's the list of the most foolish money mistakes I've ever made:

Purchased Bank of America's completely useless "credit protection" product. (Total cost: ~$18 over a year and a half.) I got my first ever credit card in college. It was a no-fee, super-basic Bank of America ("BoA") card connected to my student checking account. My mom suggested it so I could start building my credit history. I never spent much on it, mostly less than $100/month, consisting of things like a very occasional latte, some snack foods at Trader Joe's, and a piece or two of clearance sale clothing (recall that H&M felt expensive to me back then!). And I'd been taught good credit card habits: I knew it was important to pay my balance timely and in full every month, to avoid incurring late fees or interest. More importantly, and this is shameful to admit, but though I worked each summer and saved spending money for each school year that way, to the extent that shortfalls in my personal checking account happened, I was... backstopped... by mom and dad. They gave me bits of extra spending money throughout the year, including for my birthday and Christmas. They also paid for big things directly, like plane tickets home for the holidays. Had I ever made the unhappy mistake of letting my credit card balance get ahead of me (and I'd only ever dare do it for a small amount, given the spending habits I described), they would certainly have stepped in to cover the extra, no doubt with some well-deserved stern words about the responsible use of credit. 

So why did I think it was a good idea to buy BoA's "credit protection" for my new card? Well it only cost less than 1% of one's balance, and I knew my balance would never be particularly high, so I thought "it's cheap". And I also didn't understand how credit reporting worked, like at all. Despite my plans to pay my balance in full and promptly every month, part of my brain somehow still thought that my credit score could still take hits, somehow, for reasons unknown and out of the blue, and that maybe this BoA product would help? (Don't laugh! I was only 19, and when you're new to the world of managing your money, lots of things are mysterious and kind of intimidating.) Also, silly as it is, I remember being anxious about how making payments to BoA would work, because I didn't have a checkbook (my parents always paid their credit card bills by snail mail, with checks). Could my payments get lost? The obvious answer is a resounding no, as payments were handled by direct transfer from my checking account to my credit card account, using BoA online banking. But again, I was 19, and this was all new to me!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Shopping List Thoughts

It's still far too early in the year to know how my goal of reining in some of the slightly careless, not always well-thought-out, excesses of last year's shopping will ultimately turn out. January was fine, but February was less promising. It's too soon yet to tell how March will be, though it's looking reasonable so far. When I first declared that lofty intention to rein things in a bit last December, I didn't have the clearest sense of how exactly I thought I should go about it. 

Well, fine, I did say one concrete thing, that a few-months' shopping ban might be a good idea, something that clearly has not come to pass. But I also did mention how that was an idea that had never quite worked for me before. Another thing that changed my intentions on that score was that certain plans shifted and were postponed, in part because I balked at what turned out to be a far briefer than expected downturn in the stock market (a protracted one would affect the market for legal services and, therefore, my long-term job stability) and when the federal government shutdown looked like it might be here to stay (if federal courts close due to lack of money, an event without true precedent, my work would be seriously disrupted). I still want to go ahead with my plans, am still very certain of them, but at this point, working around my planned vacation schedule, I'll only be able to set a date in July or later, more likely in September or October. Once the procedure has actually been scheduled, then I think a shopping ban (at least as to clothes for which the fit would be seriously affected) in the few months surrounding the formal date would be a good idea. 

Anyway, I think I have a clearer sense now of how I want to approach my shopping-related goals. Although I fussed about 2018 being a year of somewhat excessive "joy" in shopping, upon further reflection, something resembling "joy" can be good. A form of it tends to correlate with an item becoming one of my "best" buys, my most-loved and well-used items, which is about as ideal an outcome as I could want. It's just that, as I mentioned to Jessica a few months ago in the comments, I can't always reliably differentiate between the fleeting "joy" of a super-impulsive purchase that I will get tired of in a few months and the deeper-set "joy" of something that becomes a well-loved favorite item that I will wear for years, and will want to admire out of the corner of my eye, or every time I pass by a reflective surface, each time I wear it. 

I've also been thinking about how to organize and make more effective use of my one central, consolidated shopping wish list for my wardrobe, the only other particularly concrete idea I had for guiding my shopping this year. It's taken a bit of time to work out a method for making the board well-organized, and to find a way to keep track of things I've tried and rejected, or what ended up getting purchased. I still don't have a perfect system, it's definitely a work in progress, but I've now added more internal organization to the board, by making several sub-boards. Those sub-boards will track items in four different categories, and I'll be moving items from one to the other where appropriate. 
  • First is things I've now decided against, whether or not I actually tried them on first.
  • Second is items I ended up buying. To the extent that I originally picked a different brand's store image to portray a general category of item, or color and type of item, I'll usually swap those images out with ones of the item I actually bought. 
  • Third is things that are essentially "fantasy" items for me, whether because they were discontinued or are long since sold out, or, in some cases, if there's some highly impractical-for-me detail about them. Another factor is if I think the only realistic prices I think I could potentially find the item for, if one was available on the secondhand market, would definitely be too expensive for the purchase to be a good value to me. 
  • Fourth, the list that's illustrated above, is items I'm still thinking about possibly trying and buying, some of which are vague and extremely unlikely fantasies, and some of which are much more likely to be actual potential purchases. In some cases, for the much fancier items, I would need to cut a lot of other things out of my budget, both for shopping and for some other expenses, if I was serious about making room for getting the item. 

And I must say, I'm having a lot of fun using Pinterest recently! I was so very late to the party when it came to making active use of Pinterest, given that I've only really been using it in earnest for a year or less. It's just one of the many ways in which I've proven to be a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to new-to-me social media platforms. (I still haven't figured out Twitter, for instance, and am still mostly too shy to actually interact with anyone or even put out much of anything in my own words there. I pretty much just use it as a kind of weird, mostly law nerd-y, and less visual Tumblr.) Over the years, I used Pinterest only occasionally to find photos to use in some of my posts, and I did keep a personal style inspiration board since the earliest days of this blog, but I didn't log in often until much more recently. 

Please follow the link below for some additional thoughts on the current state of my shopping wish list!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Things that Happen When I'm (Briefly) on Pace to Bill 3,000 Hours/Year*

*Please note that this is said with tongue firmly in cheek. While I did work that much for a few weeks in January, it was mainly due to an unusually urgent project of a type that isn't likely to recur often. At the rate I was working, I still would only have billed 3,000 hours if I didn't take any vacation and also worked at that exact same pace for the entire year. I don't expect to be anywhere near that busy again for quite some time, and thank goodness for that! Now, two months on, I'm already significantly "off pace" for getting anywhere close to 3,000 hours billed in 2019. I'll probably come in around 2,100 at most, if I had to guess.

I'm told there may be a number of biglaw firms where regularly billing close to 3,000 hours/year may be necessary to be a tip-top associate, but hours like that (as opposed to a "mere" 2,100 or 2,200... which is still a lot) are not terribly common. Lots of things need to align just right (or wrong) to get close, including that one's practice group may need to be consistently busy the whole time. A lot of practice areas are subject to the whims of the markets, and not every firm or practice group is always able to bring in enough new business to sustain hours like that. While I was in biglaw, I was on track to fall slightly short of 2,000 billed hours that year, even with significant pro bono hours included in my total (firms generally allow pro bono service to account for a small percentage of an associate's total hours for the year, usually not much more than 200 hours out of a 2000 target). Most of my fellow junior litigators there were also struggling to hit 2,000. I could speculate on what that says about where the biglaw litigation market is going, but I only have a small sample size of my old firm and my friends' firms to go off of.

Back in January, that intensely hectic period was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I didn't mind it too much, actually, I enjoyed having a lot of responsibility, but I was definitely also feeling sleep-deprived and exhausted by the end. At least for me, there is a point at which one works so much that performance and efficiency inevitably deteriorate. In no particular order, here are a few observations about what life looks like with just two or three weeks of working so hard that I'd potentially be on track to bill 3,000 hours that year if I kept it up:

A recent email from Ally, Bank where I keep my savings account. While it's great to save that money from coffee, if one wants to save and invest more than that, then further steps in other areas of one's finances would also be necessary!

1. // Latte factor: I tend to go to coffee shops a lot more often than most people who like to save. (Though I think we're all well aware that cutting out a frequent coffee shop habit wouldn't, by itself, be anywhere near enough when it comes to longer-term saving and investing for retirement and other big needs.) There have been times in my life, when I had a killer commute and needed to wake up hours earlier than I'm used to, that I had a latte almost every weekday morning and considered it "worth it". Given that I'd taken a large pay-cut at that time, I felt extremely sheepish about my habit, but in the end, it wasn't a big deal, relative to my larger financial situation in the long run.

This past January, though, when I started getting that fancy latte almost every morning, I was surprised to find that those purchases gradually started losing their value and appeal to me. I suppose that might have been because the biggest challenge at the time was the intensity of my work, not my feeling tired or sleepy from needing to wake up a lot earlier than comes naturally, so the extra caffeine boost wasn't as useful anymore. Also, the lattes finally stopped feeling "special" because I had them so often. My propensity for going to coffee shops has been significantly reduced in the weeks since that busy period. We'll see if the trend continues for the rest of this year!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Book and Podcast Life Lately

After taking a bit of a break from reading for fun for a few months (I read a few books that were emotionally intense, in a really good way, but I needed some time and space afterwards to reflect on them), I'm easing back into the habit. I've read a few things recently that I greatly enjoyed, and that I wanted to share. First up is Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know, a memoir about the author's childhood as a transracial adoptee and the process of reconnecting with her birth family once she was an adult. It's a really wonderful book, she writes with a remarkable sensitivity, and she has a deft and clear-eyed way of describing the highly emotionally complex things she has experienced. She has a somewhat restrained and understated writing style that nonetheless packs a huge emotional punch. It's a very powerful book, and I think you'll be swept away into her story. 

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While the focus is largely on the emotional and other implications of adoption and transracial adoption, and on her family, All You Can Ever Know also has some very sharp, very real things to say about race in America in general, and the experience of living in this country as a person of color. I can't recommend this book enough. 

I've also been reading a lot of much lighter fare. In particular, I recently rediscovered the work of Mira Grant, whose Newsflesh series I read years ago and found quite clever and fun. (Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, but I've only personally read her work as Mira Grant.) I found her Parasitology series a bit of a dud, unfortunately. It was a cool premise, but the pacing was really off and it would have been much better off as two books instead of three. The first volume of her new series, Into the Drowning Deep, is fantastic however, a fast-paced adventure with a great sense of humor (and a fair bit of horror movie-type violence and gore, I should warn, in case you're sensitive to that). It's so much fun to read and quite original. 

As to podcasts, thank you again to everyone who recommended some in January! It'll take me a long time to get to all of them, but I've already started listening to some, and they're pretty great. In particular, I wanted to second the recommendations for The Dream. It started off as a slow burn for me because I find some pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing schemes ("MLMs") more interesting to learn about than others, and a lot of the ones they mentioned at the start were ones I'd never heard of. But once I gave the series some time, it really grabbed me. They've done a lot of research, and they did a great job weaving together a lot of seemingly very different, fragmented stories that all fall under the same central theme of pyramid schemes and the way they sell that "dream". The episodes about the history of (ultimately mostly failed) attempts to regulate and take legal action against MLMs were particularly interesting to me. 

Another podcast I wanted to recommend, though this is just part of a single episode rather than a full series, is the second half of the February 28, 2019 episode of Stay Tuned with Preet*, which features an in-depth interview with Bryan Stephenson, the author of Just Mercy, one of those two books that had such an emotional impact on me late last year. Mr. Stephenson is extraordinary, and what he has accomplished through his work at the Equal Justice Initiative is so important, even though the nature of such work is that there is always, always more to be done. 

I can also recommend a few other somewhat new and recent podcasts, both in the "true crime" genre. First is The Dropout, which is about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. The podcast doesn't necessarily tread much new substantive ground that wasn't already covered in the excellent and incredibly comprehensive Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, one of my favorite books from last year, but it is interesting to hear the voices of the people in the story, including the whistleblowers and Ms. Holmes herself. Second is a less well-known story, Over My Dead Body, about a murder case in Florida that may be tried later this year. Attorneys or law students who frequently read Above the Law, our main online news source for law school and biglaw industry gossip, may already be familiar with the underlying events, as one of the writers feels a personal connection to the story (he's interviewed in the podcast as well).

Have you read any great books so far this year? Discovered any new podcasts? 

*The whole podcast is very high-quality, but it's just not quite my cup of tea. I spend so much time thinking about legal topics at work that I don't necessarily want to listen to a lengthy podcast episode about it every week!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

On Well-Loved Shoes and Shoe Repair

At the time these photos were taken, my nearly four and a half year old Sam Edelman Petty booties had just been freshly resoled and polished and had yet to be worn since. Otherwise I'd never put them on a desk!

Until after I graduated college, I never knew shoes could be repaired or resoled, sometimes many times in just a few years of normal use. I suppose that gap in my knowledge makes sense. For much of one's childhood and throughout one's teenage years, one's feet are probably growing too fast for shoe repair to be much an issue. And my feet still grew while I was in college, I mostly wore a size 7 shoe when I started, but by the year after I graduated, I wore a 7.5 and occasionally an 8, or even an 8.5. Plus, I was never on my feet as much and never did half as much walking until I moved to NYC. Also, from college through my first year or two of law school, I had a terrible "success rate" with buying shoes that I'd actually wear, probably worse than 50%. (After that particular "after" photo was taken, I eventually decluttered another four pairs of nearly-new shoes from it without ever actually wearing said shoes again.) And if shoes don't actually get worn, they're not exactly going to need a visit to the cobbler.

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I've had this pair of Sam Edelman Petty booties (discontinued in leather, though lingering pairs remain in size 6 only, and they're still available in suede) for a little over four years now, and I've worn them frequently throughout fall and winter each year, a period lasting from late September through practically April most years. They're likely my single favorite pair of shoes, so well-loved that I bought a second pair while my first was still in fairly good shape. That newer edition was made of a stiffer leather, so I've never liked them as much, though I wear them sometimes, mostly on more formal occasions.

I'd only ever needed to get my first pair of Pettys reheeled before, the sole was still in great shape until very recently, when they started to peel off. Thankfully, that was also easily fixed at the cobbler's. My current go-to shop reheels my boots for $20 and replaces the sole and heels for $40 total, which I think is a fairly good deal by NYC standards. Because I generally needed to reheel my Pettys twice a year, and most shops are a little pricier than my current one, I've definitely spent more than the original ~$120 cost of the shoes on repairs by now.

But it's been well worth it, because I don't think I'd quite know what to do when I finally need to replace my main pair of Pettys. I so rarely see anything with a near-identical design. Currently, it's maybe just the Blondo Villa booties, but they use a more suede-looking leather that wouldn't be as versatile in my wardrobe. Neither of the current Sam Edelman booties (the intentionally distressed leather Packer with their more casual look, or the more pointy-toed Walden) are that similar. The Petty booties might not have the most fashionable or interesting look, with their round toe and fairly low heel, but that's probably what I like about them. I even consider them appropriate for court in the fall/winter, when I wear them with black tights and a skirt suit. 

How often do people normally get their shoes reheeled and/or resoled anyway? I go often for new heels for my boots, basically twice a year each for both Pettys and my knee-high riding boots; Generally once at the start of NYC's extended fall/winter season and again a month or two from the end. I'd expect that high-heel shoes with skinny heels probably need new heel caps fairly frequently, but I wear them so rarely that the issue doesn't come up (the also-discontinued Sam Edelman Tristan pumps, which have a slightly shorter heel than their current basic pump, the Hazel, are my current super-conservative job interview shoe of choice, but basically no other event, even most court appearances, could convince me to wear them). I'd never actually needed any repairs done on any of my ballet flats before, I'd wear them out completely in a way that probably couldn't be repaired, by rubbing unsightly holes in the outer edges of the uppers (due to my wide feet and probably how I walk) long before reheeling or resoling was ever an issue. Now that I own a pair of leather loafers, however (another Sam Edelman shoe, the Loraine - clearly I'm very fond of the brand, and their shoes typically work well for my feet), those seem to need reheeling semi-frequently, maybe also once or twice a year when worn on and off all year round, though a lot less often in fall and winter.

This post was partially inspired by my having done some shoe shopping during the recent Shopbop sale. I tried on the Rachel Comey Mars bootie I was so taken by a few months ago, but alas, that particular shoe wasn't right for me at all. There's no zipper, which makes them hard to put on, and the shape of them is such that I had to maneuver quite a bit to get them on my foot, despite having sized all the way up to an 8.5 (which did otherwise fit). I also found the leather a bit oddly stiff and thin-seeming for a shoe of that price, it just wasn't what I was used to. I was terribly disappointed that they wouldn't work for me, because they can look so chic on others. I also ordered the Sam Edelman Leah because of their Chanel-like look and my general good experiences with the brand, but those just didn't fit me, they may run a bit bigger than expected, or just are difficult to get a good fit on because of the slingback design. Both shoes had been on my main shopping list before I made the order, though I took the Leahs off now that I know I'm not going to want them, and could delete the Mars booties too*.

*I guess that's one complication with how I've been maintaining my main shopping list on Pinterest, because I put items on, but remove some inconsistently when they've been purchased or because I've tried and rejected them. It'll be hard to keep track of how the list has changed over time that way. I have to think about whether there's a better, slightly more consistent way to manage the list!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Money Life Lately: Net Worth Zero and Tax Time

Chloe "Tess" wallet (affiliate link)

I'm approximately a month and a half away from a significant financial milestone: "Net worth zero", where my total assets, including what's locked away in my 401(k) and my Roth IRA, will be equal to the balance of my student loan debt. At nearly four years since law school graduation, it's taken me longer than K and most of my close law school friends to get to this point (most of them are so good about aggressive repayment that, if they worked in biglaw that whole time, they were close to paying off their loans in full by then) because I took a year off to clerk, which, due to the timing; the ~7% interest rate on my student loans; and my inability to refinance while I was still relying on income-based repayment to manage payments during the clerkship, created a nearly two-year delay in my student loan repayment schedule. That was despite my best efforts to be good about money during my first relatively brief stint in the private sector. I'm super-excited about getting to net worth zero! It'll feel great to finally be "worthless".

Tax Time: Back to Turbotax 

Whenever it comes time to do my taxes each year, I'm always reminded about just how bad I am at anything to do with tax. I took the introductory tax class in law school, which discusses personal income tax no less, and while I was typically a top 10 to 12% student at almost everything else in law school, I was solidly rock bottom in that particular class. My sheer incompetence in that subject was distressing, and absolutely boggled my mind. I worked hard to study for that exam, possibly harder than for almost anything else! How is it even possible?! I came away from the experience convinced that the way words are used in the Internal Revenue Code does not resemble the actual English language. I'm probably just bitter. I swear though, words actually don't mean what you expect when you read the provisions of the tax code, even more so than in any other federal statute I'm familiar with. While the interpretation of any statutory text can be surprisingly complex, it's only in the tax code that things I think sound like one thing might actually mean the opposite, particularly when the tax code explains how to do some math.

In any case, having a legal education can be surprisingly unhelpful for things you'd think all lawyers might naturally have a comparative advantage at because of the nature of their job. I'm definitely no better at interpreting or navigating my health or dental insurance plans than anyone else (now there's a context in which the way words are used in key documents barely resembles English). I'm not necessarily better at negotiating anything. It seems that I'm also much worse than your average American when it comes to understanding my taxes. If you're able to use just about any other software or self-preparation method for your taxes besides Turbotax, I'm convinced that you can probably count yourself more knowledgeable and capable than I am.