Xbox 1 or Playstation4?

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Spoiler alert!  On this week’s Big Bang Theory, Sheldon can’t decide between the Xbox 1 or the PS4.  Isn’t that so typically Sheldon?

I have nothing against video games.  I bought an Xbox in 2009, mostly out of curiosity about video games and as a gift to myself after getting my grown-up job.  Although now it is more of a glorified DVD player.

But even if I were still into video games, I probably would not be compelled to get a new box (or station) just because there is a newer platform.  Mine still works.  And I am sure there will still be a solid 1-5 years while video games for the Xbox are still made.  By then my Xbox might not still work, the Xbox 1 will be vetted (remember Windows Vista?), and the Xbox games might be phased out altogether in favor of Xbox 1.  Then it would be a legitimate consideration overall.  Enhanced by a few more years of my hundreds of dollars saved and invested.

So why to people feel compelled to get the new thing?  And further to that, to engage in a lengthy deliberation about which to get in the face of a parallel product roll-out?  Come on.. you know people around you are doing it.  It’s not just Sheldon Cooper.

I might have been swayed in the past, but at this point I do not understand hype-based rhythms.  I am happy splurging on something once to satisfy my curiosity, and basically never spending money on it again.  I’ve got a car, a laptop, a bike, and a KitchenAid.  All the gadgets you need in life.  And they all work (knock on wood!!).  I’ve got one beautiful purse and one beautiful watch. I don’t need more.

That last part is important because fashion is just as absurd as technology, or worse.  Fashion tells us we need a new one every season.  Every few months!  Why?  Because turquoise is in.  It’s not that a Heavenly Being invented a new color for the pleasure of all earthly creatures.  Some Earthling just favored a color that already exists – for spring anyway.  The irony is that the cyclical nature of fashion makes trends from previous seasons look like tired fads.  All my clever lady friends know that classic and elegant accessories work all the time, forever.  These are what I prefer.

So back to Sheldon, it occurred to me that there is something about the addictive personality that seems especially prone to hype-based spending.  Sheldon Cooper is addicted to knowing everything about everything.  And specific to the more limited world of his interests, he is particularly prone to Fear of Missing Out.  Logical and prudent choices about money leave no room for FOMO.  Alternatively, FOMO drives lots of addictive spending.

I guess it is common sense, but making a commitment to a prudent financial life requires letting go of hype.  But my experience is that this disciplined and detached outlook also makes the occasional splurges that much more carefree and hilarious.  Kind of the opposite of the picture above.

Image from http://www.gamespot.com

Frugal Hosting

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My lifelong friend came to town for the weekend, and I did my first decidedly frugal hosting.  Hey it’s not like it was the theme or I was advertising it as such… I just figured we could keep it low-key.

Years back when I lived in the city and someone came to town, the weekend would be filled with restaurants, brunch, sights, and diversions.  I just assumed people wanted me to put together a huge agenda of cool things to do.  And then after I would feel crummy from spending a bunch of money.

Fortunately for me this time around, my friend is from New York and was looking for the opposite of the big city.  Good thing we’re full up with that!  The weather’s not good enough yet to do really fun stuff, but we played with chickens, went running, and ate homemade pizza.  One of the days we mixed it up and went for fancy drinks and dinner.

I’m glad that my friend seemed to have a good time.  She reminded me that friends want to spend time with you, not go on a guided tour.  And I was happy not to turn the weekend into a huge spend-fest for myself.  A win-win!

Sweat Equity: “new” white cabinets

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Inspired by Debt Ninja’s success in this area, we pulled the trigger on a cabinets-painting job last weekend.

After the custom tile flooring and the new coat of paint on the wall, updating the cabinets seemed like the obvious next step.  In true form I forgot to take a proper “before” shot, but the old “au naturale” cabinet look is here, midway into taking the doors off:

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And here is the job a little farther along, on a surprisingly similar weather day:

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Already looking better.  It really brightens the room up.  Thus, my new philosophy on the “white” interior design movement: white looks cleaner, cleaner looks newer, and newer looks better…  That must be the appeal.

Those cabinets were amazingly dirty before.  Greasy, fading, scratched.  You could even see where the veneered particle board pieces met the real wood pieces due to uneven sun bleaching:

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So the prep involved copious amounts of washing with non-sudsing Comet spray; rinsing; scuff sanding; and wiping down.  Despite all those steps, the painted cabinets are chipping a little.  But that’s what White Out is for :)  If anyone has any paint prep advice to beat this issue I would love to hear it.  We did three coats, very thin, to prevent clumping.

So with the three coats of paint, we didn’t even use the whole $32 can.  So I would call this a $20 DIY.  Not too shabby.

P.S. How blah does the laminate countertop look now?  It is crying for replacement.  Any color suggestions for the potential granite/quartz/cement replacement material given the new color scheme?

Chicken Stock

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My uncle once said: “kill a fish a day and eat it.”  I was 15; he and my aunt had just finished sailing down the coast in a 43 ft boat they had built in their driveway on Long Island.  Now they were down in Miami, staying with my dad and hanging out with me for the first appreciable time in my life before moving on to the Keys.

He went on to say that the commercial industry is abusive of the fish and the environment, causing overfishing and then leaving too much inventory of fish on store shelves to go bad and get thrown out.  If you have to take from nature, I believe he said, you should have to go through the labor of procuring the food yourself to understand the value and the sacrifice of the animal.  And you will limit yourself to what is sensible for you.  He thought people are lazy and repugnant for plucking cellophane packages off the shelf and looking for the best price without having to lift a finger or acknowledge the slaughter.

Having been 15, just exiting my “MTV” phase and entering my “intense literature” phase, I had little exposure to this type of culinary philosophy.  I found it intriguing.  I didn’t do any of the household food shopping and also did not have knowledge of or access to fishing.  So I found the idea both academic and exotic.  I didn’t know my aunt and uncle very well at that time, and just wondered whether they were out there killing fish in their lives.  Later I came to find out that indeed they were out there hunting their daily food.  And not the lazy way with a fishing pole in a boat; but with a spear, on a breath hold, free-diving into the water.  Throwing the fish up into the boat, and skinning it.  True hunters.

We cannot all be hunters; I am not.  But I still value the idea of taking only what you need, and really getting everything out of it out of respect for nature.  So I make chicken stock.

When I first started cooking after college, I was timid about handling raw meat.  I made only chicken breasts.  Then I discovered roasting the entire chicken.  When you do that, you can also make a stock out of the bones and use that.  So I overcame my squeamishness for a greater cause.  You could even cook the liver separately, which I am still looking into.

But at least if you cook a chicken whole and make stock, there are a number of things you can feel good about.  I start with chickens from local farms or at least from “natural, organic, humanitarian” brands rather than Purdue.  I try to zero in on sources that value and respect the chicken.  Small-time chicken farms are less likely to put chickens into an abusive, over-farming situation.  Small-time farms are more likely to just sell the chicken whole, rather than chop the chicken up into piles of parts immediately with industrial machines.  I just find this gruesome and disrespectful.  Even appetizing-looking plates of wings piled high just remind me of how many chickens had to have their wings cut off for this amusing dish.

Then when you cook a chicken whole, you know all the parts are consumed and accounted for, and are not sitting on shelves unevenly as extra inventory.  Whatever chicken is leftover after a few days becomes a feast for the very happy dog.  And then once I’ve made the stock, I feel I’ve done everything I can with this food, and gotten all my money’s worth.  I don’t think I will be buying chicken stock any time soon either – picture the industrial process and ingredients used for that, compared to the batch I made with my own spices.  I guess I would rather keep everything closer to home.

So in my way, by collecting whole chickens for cooking, making stock, making homemade soups, caring for other chickens and eating their eggs, I think I am upholding my uncle’s principle of “kill a fish a day and eat it.”  What’s your food philosophy?

Composting

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My little composting pot

By request!  Well along with recycling, I started composting pretty seriously at the new house because trash costs money here.  You have to go to the dump, and trash costs $1/bag whereas recycling is free, and obviously anything you can keep out of the trash is better.

I should say: I have really not mastered the art of outdoor composting.  I tried to make a composting bin out of one of those Lowes buckets by drilling holes in it for aeration.  But a) that’s not enough oxygen and b) it was not big enough.  I started putting chicken poop in there to become fertilizer until it quickly filled up.  So I let it sit there through the winter and spring, shaking it occasionally, getting oxygen in there.  Late spring 2013 I turned it over and out slid a giant bucket-shaped chicken poo.  No composting accomplished!  I think I need to buy one of those large rotating dealies from Lowes which you can turn with a crank like a large bingo tumbler.  Then empty and refill whenever.

But I digress… I *have* pretty much mastered kitchen composting.  I started out putting organic waste in little paper sandwich bags (because they were around, and could be recycled afterwards).  I was pleased that it smelled a little less bad than the same waste in the trash barrel.  But those paper bags could come to really smell bad after a while.  And they leaked…  So a few months back we bought this “kitchen countertop composter” shown above, from Amazon.  I think it was about $40… well spent!

It has a filter inside to keep smells in, but also holes in the top for aeration.  It looks nice, and isn’t too obvious or large.  It’s got an inside liner with a handle so you’re not schlepping the ceramic around.  I don’t think this device has enough aeration either: mold is pretty quick to form in there if you don’t empty it about every week or few days.  I got lazy recently and had to even wash out the inside, which I do not wish to ever do again.  But overall if you use it right, it’s a pretty handy thing.

So I chuck everything in there, and then dump it all in a pile in the back yard between the failed chicken poop bucket and brush we’ve chopped down. That’s the whole story.  I would love to hear what successful outdoor composting schemes others have.  Preferably something simple.

So I’m not in the black gold fertilizer business yet, but this process still resonates with my recently developing life philosophy.  It seems right to me to return that which came directly from the earth back to the earth.  Parts of fruits and vegetables that just just sprouted from the land some weeks or months ago should not lie around with McDonalds cups in a heap for years.  At least the organic waste can decompose safely in the yard and become instant snacks for nearby animals, or fuel for the soil later on.  So it goes on to serve another purpose, rather than becoming permanent refuse forever.

I have a strong, almost spiritual feeling that if you must take from the earth, you should use every bit or re-use to the greatest extent possible.  And peaceful return to the earth for absorption and renewed or converted energy is far preferable to integration with manmade material (a.k.a. mount trashmore).

Rental Income Part 2: In Its Defense

To the last post I thought I would add the criticism that the Rental Income course I took did not cover how best to make money in it.  Admittedly the course was focused on legal aspects rather than financial.  But I thought it was telling that the teacher stopped at one point and just said “Discouraged?  Rental income is still the best ROI out there…”

I happen to agree with her.  And it is because of equity.  The wisdom about home ownership is that you pay yourself via equity.  Well rental income is someone else paying you with equity!

I read a Warren Buffett book over the summer that said something like an investment is worth it if it can produce better returns than whatever else you could do with your money.  Well I use Vanguard index funds as a baseline, since they seem relatively easy to invest in, and produce reasonably reliable results given their index nature.  According to Mr. Money Mustache, who has been around investing and writing about it for much longer than I have, Vanguard index funds have a conservative but reliable 7% year after year ROI after adjustment for inflation.  I doubt I could do that well buying individual stocks, or even in my 401K after fees.  7% seems pretty great to me, but I still look to improve on it.

That’s how I got onto rental income.  If you buy cheap but in a good area, get quality tenants, and price your rent right, I think you could manage the risks enough to achieve > 7% ROI.  Very roughly: say you buy a 2 bed/1bath condo for $100K with a $20K down payment.   The monthly mortgage payment might be $600, the condo fee $400, and insurance and other costs $200/month.  Say you can get $1400/month rent for this unit.  You make $200/month, or $2400/year.  So each year you make say 12% return on your investment.  Add the $7200/year equity that your tenants are creating for you, and the annual ROI jumps to 48% (assuming stable property value).  And don’t forget the tax deduction on interest “paid”!

I realize the $200/month of liquid income is not really yours to enjoy.  It should be preserved in a liquid account earmarked for the inevitable renovation or repair cost.  But I’m ok with that!  If you bought in a nice neighborhood, I feel even the equity is money in the bank.  Inflation-protected money.

And even after the course, I feel pretty confident about being able to manage the risks.  If you have a bad tenant, you can get rid of the person within the year.  If things really go sour, you can lean on your insurance program.  And if crap really hits the fan, your property can be protected by a Limited Liability Corporation.  These things would not be good, but they would be downright intolerable if not for the high ROI.

A friend asked me today if I am “considering becoming a landlord.”  It sounded like a weighty and defining proposition when he put it that way.  But I think I would be willing to take a plunge of that nature in order to have others fund my investment vehicle.

Rental Income 101

Back to school like Rodney Dangerfield.

For the past two Wednesdays I have been back to school, taking a two-part night course called “Essential Practices for the Successful Landlord.”  So before I forget it all I will share with you.  If you are interested in rental income as investment, read on!

First, a little assessment: this course was $100 and honestly I felt like they were flying through topics without useful detail.  And there were many handouts that just looked like printouts from publicly accessible websites (some membership websites).  I was cranky about the handouts because I could just go read that stuff anyway.  I took the course in the first place because I was tired of reading about real estate and wanted some personal insight.  But I guess the targeted information is somewhat useful; better than my wandering the internet forever.

Anyway I learned the following, which I really had no clue about before:

  • There is a substantial list (particularly in Massachusetts) of criteria on which you are not allowed to discriminate when selecting tenants.  Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, children, etc. etc.  Well duh, I have no problem with that.  But you are also required to make every effort to rent a dwelling once you put it on the market for “available housing” purposes, and can’t just take it off the market to avoid renting to someone.  So if a gross, smelly person who looks like a needle drug user shows up looking to rent, and this person meets all the financial/credit criteria, I guess you cannot discriminate about that either.  There are many other fine points about this legal aspect of renting that make me nervous.  Because people can sue you, and the MA discrimination fines are $10K-$50K.
  • There is a strangely large amount of leeway about assessing financial eligibility.  It is recommended that you require income information and a credit check as part of your application process, but from there the decision seems entirely subjective.  I asked if there is an established credit score threshold recommendation; apparently there is not.  And the guidance for income eligibility is the usual “rent should be no more than 1/4 of your monthly take-home pay” rule – and this is not enforced or endorsed by any legal or industry entity.  Hmm…
  • Lead is a big deal, and tricky.  Lead makes the difference between whether you can rent to people with kids age 7 or younger (see discrimination, above).  It was outlawed in 1978, but existing contractor material was able to be spent down; so a house from say 1980 could reasonably have lead and you need to confirm.  And the standards have changed over time, so apparently a de-lead certificate from 20 years ago is not necessarily legal now (so what is the schedule?  They did not say).  Ughh…

Actually I learned about many topics like this, just not as much as I would want.  We also had guest lectures from an insurance guy and a mortgage officer.

My main takeaway from the insurance guy was that landlord insurance costs more than personal insurance, and you should be up front about your liabilities to establish an honest relationship (sounds like claims are inevitable). He also talked about things that will cause insurance to cost more (e.g., flat vs. sloped roof).  And how work done on the house needs appropriate permits to be covered by the policy.  A deck made without a town-approved permit will not be covered by insurance.  (But is there a list of permit-required projects?  No.)

And the mortgage officer detailed the many restrictions on investment mortgages vs. personal mortgages (such as higher down payment, higher debt-to-income ratio, and no gifts from parents or anything on your bank statement for 60 days prior to mortgage application).  At the same time though, he said you could buy a house you intend to live in with a personal mortgage.  And if you change your mind later and want to rent it out, you do not need to qualify for the more stringent requirements of an investment mortgage.  While you could only pull this loophole switcharoo once in a while, it seems like an oversight in an otherwise regulated area…

OK so I learned a lot, but I had very specific noobie questions like “how exactly do you ‘run a credit check’ on a person??” that I was too embarrassed to ask given the scope and pace of things being presented.  I would have preferred at least some custom-created course material with instructions like that.  So if you are considering a course like this I would ask about that kind of thing first.

What do you think.. was my $100 well-spent?  And does this totally discourage any of your brave souls from pursuing rental income if you were thinking about it? ;)

Image from http://www.journalismorbust.com

Nay-sayers go ahead and nay.

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You know it’s China from the peace signs.

People (mostly pessimists) like to make fun of optimism.  Like it is all about dreams and unicorns and leads you to false confidence.  But I would like to discuss pessimism, which can be a powerful force in our lives.  I have been thinking about the idea that a [good] thing will usually only happen if you want it to – and more importantly – it definitely will not happen if you do not want it to.

How many times have you considered doing something in your life, but you think “well I’m not sure I can do that,” or even worse, “it’s just not happening“?  And when you embrace this line of thought, how often do you accomplish the thing you were considering?  I am willing to bet basically never.  Telling yourself that something simply won’t happen is the worst thing you can do.  Because you just willed it not to happen regardless of the however-small-possibility that it could have happened.

And it is true that it is often not enough just to repeat vague mantras like “I am powerful.”  But when you start to craft that confidence into an idea that is actionable, like “I will make X happen,” you are now cooking with gas.  Then you can start to think about how to make it happen, and so forth.  People… we are living in the 21st century, with the blazing information rocketship of the Internet at our fingertips.  We should damn well be able to make anything happen that our little hearts desire.

When I was in college, I decided I wanted to go to China to volunteer.  Even with the relatively rudimentary Web resources of 2004, I figured this thing out and made it happen.  There was no Yelp; there was my determination, research skills, and support of my family.  When I was 23 and broke with no job prospects, I decided to find a vocational field I could sink my teeth into for the long term and go to graduate school.  And in 2009 I graduated with Honors and took a position at a major Defense contractor.  And just over a year ago, well into my “adult” lifestyle I decided I wanted to get freaking chickens!  I didn’t know anything about livestock husbandry, but now I do.  And I also have a fridge full of adorable little multi-colored eggs. 

Nothing is ever set.  You can become a farmer any time you want to.  You can become an engineer – indeed, a kickass engineer – after college is done.  I don’t feel I have ever missed the boat on something I have wanted to do.

I have always been a person of desire, creativity, and action.  As far as I am concerned, wanting to do new and bold things is what makes life interesting.  I want to accomplish as many crazy things as I can fit in.  I invite adventure in.

On the other hand, if I had ever entertained ideas like “China?!  What a crazy idea.  That will never happen.  How will I get a visa?  What if my Chinese isn’t good enough?” the whole plan would easily have gotten slam-dunked into the toilet.  But this thinking is contradictory: I can’t envision a pessimistic person ever getting to China, because once you start whining the relative obstacles would seem insurmountable.  I don’t think a pessimistic person would even have the creativity to have the idea in the first place.

I like to remind myself of these brazen adventures I have had, because lately I have felt the pessimistic ideas creeping in and the momentum slowing down.  My latest idea is to organize a 5k fundraiser to raise money for a charity of personal importance.  Despite the other bold things I have accomplished, I find myself making excuses and shrinking away in fear.  Like I could lead a whole defense project at work but could not organize a fundraiser in my spare time!  Nonsense, when I come to think of it.

I have always had supreme confidence that I can make happen anything I want to.  And up until now, I have actually accomplished each one.  I haven’t thought of it this way much before, but I suppose I think the purpose of my life is to make fun and bold things happen all the time.  So to the pessimists I say: what have you done lately?

Sweat Equity: Kitchen Tile

Today I bring you the most brazen and epic DIY yet: the kitchen tile.  We just decided we wanted nice tile and were going to have it.  Unlike most of our other projects so far, this one was particularly destructive and irreconcilable in nature: once in, you can’t go back.  Exhibit A:

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Fortunately enough for us, what was there was easy to take up because it was fake tile.  After we started doing this, I panicked and wondered if there was a chance that this paneling could contain asbestos.  But I learned that asbestos paneling was outlawed in the 1970s and phased out altogether by about 1980 (this house is from 1986).  And as we soon discovered, this was not even the original flooring in this room:

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I had no words.. just.. wow.  “Hey free flooring, we’re done!” was the joke.

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Here was the kitchen in full disarray, Day 2.  Ugly original linoleum shining in all its horrible glory.  Dog highly alerted.  I discovered that this is a wise time to clean the sides of the oven, which is unspeakably gross if you ever pull it out and look.  This was a multi-Q-tip job.

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Here we are stripped down to the sub-flooring and ready to roll, fridge in its new home for the next week.  OK it is possible that we harbored notions of tiling being “easy” or “quick.”  We would have been wrong.  Anyway because we chose to leave the fridge in the kitchen and plugged in, we had to do the tiling in two halves.  This does not seem to be the general guidance but I didn’t think it was so bad.  There was really nowhere in either adjacent room to put the fridge; plus the fridge creates greasy skid marks everywhere you drag it (see photo above).

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We were preoccupied learning how to tile during the whole first half, but here is the 2nd half going in.  Couple pointers: the mortar needs to be spread very thin.  The tile needs to sit on it, but shouldn’t be able to slide anywhere.  Also: mortar is heavy.  It likes to fall off the scraper tool, and hurts your hands to manipulate.  Use little mortar at a time to prevent problems.

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Balance is key!  We wound up getting a tile cutter to make nice cuts for the edge tiles.  But the edge pieces should go on last so you can adjust carefully.  So tiling yourself into a corner is almost inevitable.  And you shouldn’t really step on tiles that are still setting, unless you want to be carefully re-adjusting tiles that are suctioned into the mortar.

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When all that is done you grout.  Again, we grouted one side and then the other, for the fridge’s sake.  And as I recall, both mortar and grout take 1-3 days to dry so with the two halves considered, this project was starting to really stretch out.

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Some words about grout.  It is very messy, and leaves a filmy paste as shown above.  And you really need to stuff it into the cracks.  Even if you think there’s too much, even if you’re running low and you worry it will run out, I would still recommend stuffing the cracks like a Thanksgiving turkey.  You can’t see it while applying, but when it dries any deficits will result in little pock marks in the grout.  Super annoying.

Also, the videos all say to wipe the grout everywhere and just let it fill in the cracks.  I find this wasteful, and focused on the cracks.  Even at that, I wound up with the filmy mess, and you have to wipe all that away with a towel.  And then kiss the towel goodbye.

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There’s the grout, dried on the left and still drying on the right.  Yet *another* note about grout: the color of the grout on the bag is darker than it will really be.  We actually wanted it to turn out like the right side, and instead got the left.  But the lighter color highlights the cool offset brick pattern we went for…

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And voila, finished tile, about two weeks later.  FYI you also need to seal the grout to waterproof it.  I think we did 2 coats of this per the instructions.  With a dog water dish nearby you cannot afford leaks.

Other notes: the videos will tell you to start from the middle and work your way out, to ensure even lines in the case that your room dimensions are not even.  This did not make sense to engineers who had already invested in a tile cutter: so we started along the right side of the photo above, laying even tile along the fully exposed floor.  Then when we got over to the left side where the cabinets and appliances are, we cut the last row of tiles accordingly.

They also say to measure your floor and make sure it’s level before starting, and we probably should have done that.  There were no obvious dips or scratches, so we just went for it.  But the grout is getting cracked and fissured near one tile that is resting on a bump.

Costs:

  • About $230 for tiles (10 packs of 15, marked $1.50/tile)
  • $120 for wet saw
  • Probably at least $50 for the mortar/grout/spacers
  • $10 for the mortar mixer power drill attachment?
  • $10 for grout sealant

So not a totally cheap project, about $420 overall.  But the nice thing is that this touch provides a classy anchor for a partial kitchen reno, which will likely include painting the cabinets white and adding new countertops.  Plus tile is natural, waterproof, and might even have better thermal loading properties than particle board.

Leaning in vs. early retirement

I have been thinking about ladder-climbing, or “leaning in,” the version of the idea targeted at women.

On some level I am a ladder-climber.  I think of promotion as basic workplace preservation: if you are doing well enough not to get fired, you will eventually get promoted.  And if you do well enough to get promoted and applauded all the time, you are very unlikely to lose your job!  And so I am in constant over-achiever mode.  I want every day at work to be a rockstar event, to best ensure my chances of promotion and avoidance of getting sacked.  I would like to be the farthest in the pile from getting sacked.

But you can really make some extreme lifestyle commitments in the name of job security.  Long, unpredictable hours; weekend work; after-work networking.  At some point you need to decide what this is all for.  If you are committed to working your entire life and want to become an executive asap, you should probably spend even more time at work and less time at home or with loved ones.  On the other hand, if you feel you could retire in 10 years and are fine with that outlook date, you should logically optimize your work to find the easiest job you can do while still making the same amount of money you do now.

That is what I have come to.  I am not quite ready to look for an easier job, but it is fair to say that I would rather retire in 10 years if possible than work forever.  But I am also operating under the assumption that it would be fun to get promoted as highly as possible until it is time to retire early.  That is not optimal, but for now it seems ok.  The other alternative is finding the highest-paying job possible to get out of the game asap.  I don’t plan on doing that either – I guess I am too lazy, and have too good a thing going already. 

I am not sure who “leaning in” is for.  If you are a single woman determined to have a powerful career at the cost of a personal life, I imagine leaning in is quite easy – and enjoyable.  If you have a personal life you care about, I see a high-stakes question of priorities if you are going to try to have both.  I don’t think you can do both equally well, unless you don’t sleep.  There are only so many hours in the day.  How many hours in a week does it take to be exceptional at work?  (50 for me.)  And how do you quantify happiness in the home with the few hours that are left?  (I don’t know.)  And how many of those minutes do you spend fretting that you haven’t vacuumed in forever?  (At least 2 every time I walk in the door.)  Is there a way to have a non-zero-sum game out of it?

Which leads me to the question of why people want to lean in.  What is “leaning in” for?  If it is for money, I believe there are a number of high-paying jobs that are reasonably easy to get.  Waste management comes to mind.  I tell myself that I work so hard to make more money so that… I can pay off my loans.  Well that is almost done.  So the next logical goal is getting out.  I have no interest in working long hours so that I can drive fancy cars to fancy pools to swim in until jumping on a plane to fly 1st class to luxurious vacations.  And then work some more.  Especially if there are loved ones to look after!

If leaning in is for the satisfaction of career or even contribution to society, I think that is somewhat at odds with the needs of the family.  I imagine that if I had kids, I would want to optimize my life around spending time with the kids, enjoying them, and giving them the love and attention they need.  I know… old-fashioned alert!  But it is already hard enough now to feel like I am advancing in my job, and also accomplish and enjoy everything I want to in my private life.  I could not see doing that all through my adult life and constantly juggling and trading priorities.  The two goals seem contradictory.

In conclusion, for now, I do not see a sustainable way to lean in.  I guess I would rather reclaim both sides of my life by spending 10 or 15 years working earnestly, gaining rockstar status and accomplishing moderately great things in my young career, and then get out as early as possible to enjoy family and life.  Ideally with wealth amassed and no longer a driver.  Going this way I will never be CEO, might not get to go on exotic work trips (aside from the moderately exciting ones I have already done).  But I am honestly still grappling with this alternative.