Welcome back to another entry in my series of breadwinning, six figure, and/or millionaire moms sharing their story. Today I have a soon to be mom – my friend She Picks Up Pennies. “Penny” is a teacher, part of a two-income household, and the family breadwinner. She’s currently in the throes of baby planning while teaching, side hustling, and blogging all about it. I’m so excited that she agreed to be interviewed!
So without further ado, here’s her story.
Tell us about yourself!
My husband and I are both full-time teachers in the Chicagoland ‘burbs. I’ve been teaching longer than he has (but he’s older – I always have to get that little jab in!). We’re expecting our first baby this summer, so we’re officially in the process of trading in our DINK status. As far as hobbies go, I love all things blogging and intentional living. We both love spending as much time outside as we can.
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?
I make over $50,000, and I’ll get a little bit of an increase next year for the graduate work that I’ve been doing. Depending on where you teach, that number is either jawdroppingly low or high for someone who has been in the game for a decade, but it’s comfortable for us. We’re definitely not millionaires, but we’ve figured out how to save enough that FIRE is definitely on the table.
How did you get started in the workforce?
I landed my first teaching job right out of college in the middle of a huge teacher shortage in Illinois (my how the times have changed). There were over 700 applicants for the spot I landed. It’s a good thing they didn’t tell that until after the interview. Talk about pressure. I always say that this first job was the result of hard work, luck, and flexibility. I took a job in a low-income district that a lot of people cautioned against. Had I not been willing to do that, I probably would have been on the hunt for a lot longer.
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
My career path has been pretty straightforward, though it’s felt like the bottom fell out twice. After my first year of teaching, I was rehired. And the next day, the superintendent released all first-year teachers due to budget cuts in a generic all-staff email. Talk about a high and a low! After I was rehired, I worked in that district for another year. In true fool-me-once, fool-me-twice fashion, I parted ways after I was RIFed again the following year. It was too heartbreaking to spend the last four months of both school years not having a clue if I’d have a job in August or not. Since then, I’ve been in my new district for the duration of my career.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
I’m not sure I want to go anywhere other than a classroom to be completely honest. While my husband and I are definitely pursuing financial independence, I don’t know that either of us actually want to retire early. Though, if I my pension still exists when I turn 55, I promise that I’ll be out the door! I do have two graduate degrees/certificates already, and I’m working on a third. It’s partly because I want to be the very best teacher I can be for my students, and also because it’s the only way I can really ever earn a raise.
What’s the biggest challenge in being a breadwinning mom? What’s the best part?
Because I’ve been teaching longer than my husband and my district pays a bit better, I’m the definite breadwinner in the family, and I always will be due to the way salary schedules work. The biggest hurdle right now is knowing that we could live on my income, but not quite on his. It’s not a big deal when we’re both working; in fact, we save well over 50% of our after-tax income. But it is going to be a challenge when I take my unpaid 12-week leave in the fall.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
I used to think that teaching was really family friendly. And it definitely is compared to some careers. But learning that we don’t actually have a maternity leave—I’m actually taking a short-term disability leave—and hearing how dismissive some people are about it has shown me that we have a long ways to go in this field, too. The majority of teachers are women; the majority of educational policymakers are men. I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me at all, then, when someone from my union reminded me, “You know, you don’t actually need to take any time off. You could just come back to work.” Sure. Let me get right on that. 😉
CMO Note – Yes, because women can just roll right on out of that hospital bed and pop right back to work! No physical – or emotional – recovery needed, and those babies don’t really need caring for anyway. (Sarcasm!)
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
Personal finance is a huge passion of mine. We crushed over $50k in debt on two teaching salaries in two years. It’s so important for people to realize that personal finance and money goals don’t have to happen only after you cross that six-figure mark.
Since learning of Half Penny’s impending arrival, we’ve had to pause some of our financial plans because we’d temporarily like an extra large cushion in our savings for the unknown. Our long-term goal is to still be mortgage free by my 40th birthday. If we tackle that, our living expenses will be around $30k a year, which is pretty much the magic frugality number in the FIRE community. Of course, we know there are lots more question marks and exclamation points that we’ll have to sort out over these next few years, too, as our family expands.
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?
Track your spending. It’ll let you do magical things like realize you can feed two people for an entire month on $200 at the grocery store.
Celebrate your strengths. When you’re focused on progress and growth, it’s easy to see all the things you haven’t done yet. But we all kick so much butt every day. It’s vital to remember that.
Remember that money isn’t everything. Though I’m a bit of an anomaly in the personal finance world, I’m a big proponent of making your passion your career. Does it pay as well as other avenues I could have taken? Absolutely not. Would I trade it for anything? Not a chance.
Where can people connect with you?
CMO Here Again
Thanks again to Penny for sharing her story! Preparing for your first child is always so exciting, scary, and full of the unknowns-all at the same time. You know your life is going to change, and you kind of know how based on what you’ve read, but nothing quite prepares you for the reality. I wish Penny and her family the best, and can’t wait to hear all about little half Penny once they arrive!
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!). Know someone that would be perfect for this series, or is that you? Hop over to my “Be Featured!” page to access the request form.
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