For this Working Women Wednesday, I’m happy to bring you the fourth in this series on breadwinning, six figure, and/or millionaire moms with my friend Vicki from Make Smarter Decisions. Has it been a month since we first started? I can’t believe it! Time has flown by so quickly, and I’m honored to have gotten the chance to connect with so many amazing women.
Vicki is approaching the point where many of us want to be – financial independence. She’s kicked the “one more year syndrome” to the curb, and is about to take off on a new adventure. So without further ado, lets learn more about her story!
Tell us about yourself!
I’m originally from Western New York and relocated to the Finger Lakes region in NY in 1989 after getting my first teaching job after college. I’m married to a wonderful man who is a retired police officer and I have two awesome kids! They are both graduating this year too. My daughter will be heading to West Virginia for graduate school and my son will be starting his undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont. I will be “early retiring” from my full-time career as a public school teacher, administrator and college professor in June, 2017. We will be spending time traveling out West and at our “snowbird” condo in Florida after I retire! There are so many things I want to do, I can’t imagine every being bored!
Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
This will be the first year I’ll make over 6 figures and that is because I am working more than one job. Since I will be retiring from my full-time job this year, it will be my last year earning six figures too! As an educator, I started with a $20,000 salary and it grew to about $80,000 after 28 years. I took off a few years and taught at private and public universities and I only earned around $55,000 those years (and that is with a doctorate!)
Am I a millionaire? It all depends on how you value a pension. My pension will pay over $45,000/year when I turn 55. We also have retirement accounts and a number of rental properties too. Those don’t add up to a million yet, but it won’t be long.
How did you get started in the workforce?
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. A week after graduating with my Master’s Degree, I was hired and I am still working in the same district. I got my job because they needed a science teacher and a swim coach. It was a perfect fit. I even coached with Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s mom when Ryan was a little boy.
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
I spent 10 years teaching high school science and then started thinking about teaching at a different level. I moved to the elementary school and took a leadership role as the coordinator of science and health instruction for over 90 classrooms. From there, I was encouraged to pursue my administrative degree. I ended up as an Assistant Principal at the Primary School level (K-2) and during that time, I earned my Doctorate in Educational Leadership. I left K-12 schools to be a Teacher Education professor at the college level for four years too. I had planned on leaving full-time work last spring, but agreed to a temporary position back in my school district (in the position I Ieft) just for this year. I’ve also taught college and high school classes online for the last five years.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
I am hoping that I can stick to my plan to not work full-time any longer! We have reached financial independence but one more year syndrome was certainly a problem this year. We have a five-year gap until I can collect my pension, so we need to be creative in covering our expenses until then. We have rental properties and my husband has a pension. I’ll be working a part-time job after I leave full-time work, because it still adds to my years of service and increases my pension.
What’s the biggest challenge in being a breadwinning mom? What’s the best part?
My husband has been retired for a few years, but I have always been the “breadwinner” (or higher income earner). And he hasn’t had to go to work in the last three years. The most challenging part? I still try to do everything and I don’t need to. I also had to give up some things with my kids through the years because of the administrative position I had.
I don’t think it affected my kids at all in the long run, but it certainly made me feel guilty at times. The best part? I have the skills and drive to make it on my own (although that has never been something I wanted). I’m not worried about what will happen if my pension goes away (it’s highly unlikely) because I’m a hard worker too. I also focus on learning new things all the time!
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
The only big issue that I experienced in the workplace was the loss of sick time when I had my kids. But that isn’t all that surprising I guess. We work under contracts and have unions, so there seem to be fewer issues related to gender. At one point, we had many more men in administration – but that changed over time. After reading this question again, I guess I feel like this isn’t really a significant issue for me. CMO note – and that’s a good thing!
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
I have always been good with money and I credit my parents for being amazing role models. We always had what we needed and some of what we wanted, but not everything. My parents bought properties and fixed them up and rented them out. They had four rentals when we were kids. My brothers and I all own rental properties now too. We currently have four rental properties with a total of 10 rental units. And we have our primary residence and a vacation condo too.
These are all investments that will supplement our pensions. Our retirement accounts are held at Vanguard in very conservative holdings. We will need that money to cover expenses in the gap until I can collect my pension.
What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
Since my blog is focused on making decisions, I think learning more about making good decisions is key! Some people say learning from your mistakes is the only way to go, but I would rather try to learn from others’ mistakes too! Decision-making is often tied to money. This is a simple framework you might want to try using the next time you have a big decision to make.
Sometimes when we are struggling with our careers and with money, we are making so many decisions that we can actually get decision fatigue. Are there things in life you can “automate” to leave more time and energy to make important decisions?
Another thing that helps me is focusing on building good habits, rather than setting goals. I reached financial independence without budgets or tracking my expenses. Think about what works for you and build from there! Making big adjustments to your life may not be the best path for long-term change.
Where can people connect with you?
CMO here again, and a big “thanks!” to Vicki for sharing her story. I can empathize with feeling conflicted when you need to miss kids events for work. As the sole earner of my family of five, there are times I just can’t make it to the kids events during the day. My husband is always there, and my mother/mother in law, but I can’t always be there myself.
I’m hoping my boys benefit from growing up around a strong, knowledgeable mom and realize they can decide to structure their family in whatever way makes sense. They can stay home, their spouse can stay home, they can both work, they can work opposing shifts – essentially you can do whatever makes sense for your family.
Also, I did want to note that sometimes Vicki has had people concerned about relying on the pension. I agree with her feelings on the subject – it makes no sense to ignore such an important source of income. Besides, she has plenty of other assets working for her, in case something did happen to reduce or eliminate the pension.
If you know anyone who would be a good candidate for this series (or if that might be you!), drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’m looking for moms that are breadwinners, earn six figures, and/or are millionaires. I’d love to connect and share more amazing stories like this!
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