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HerMoney Podcast Episode 242: How To ‘Adult’ Without Burnout

Kathryn Tuggle  |  December 2, 2020

So many of our celebrations have been cancelled and replaced with more drudgery and responsibility. Here’s how to stop burnout in its tracks.

Over the last few months, how many times have you: 

Loaded the dishwasher

Given the kids a bath 

Dialed into a less-than-productive Zoom meeting 

Put on a load of laundry 

… Put on another load of laundry 

Cooked dinner 

The list goes on. The point is that although by now we’ve all found our new ‘COVID routines,’ we’ve also found our COVID ruts… and there ain’t no rut quite like a COVID rut. 

Why? Well, for starters, we don’t have birthday parties, weddings, or graduations to mark on our calendars… We don’t have vacations to look forward to. We don’t even have an opportunity to enjoy a slice of going away party cake around the water cooler with Barb in accounting (who we don’t really know, but we wish her well, and by god that cake looks delicious). 

The point is that it seems all our milestones and celebrations have been stripped from life, and replaced with more drudgery, more responsibility, more ‘adulting.’  And adulting can be hard. No one gets that more than this week’s guest on the HerMoney Podcast, Katina Mountanos, a mindset coach and the author of ‘On Adulting: How Millennials (And Any Human, Really) Can Work Less, Live More, And Bend The Rules For Good.’ 

Listen in as Katina tells us what ‘adulting’ means to her, and how we can all embrace our responsibilities without letting go of joy in our lives. She also offers formulas for getting off the hamster wheel of work-gym-sleep, and shares some of her favorites with us. 

“I think a lot of times when we enter adulthood, we’re confronted with what our identity is, and also we’re living this life that’s on this hamster wheel, and really making decisions based on other people’s choices or values, for what we should be doing at any given time,” she says. “So, for me, really stepping into adulthood is when you start to define your life on your own terms and really start to make choices that align with who you are and where you want to be.” 

Also, many of us are working remotely these days — often from the comfort of our couches and our pajamas — yet we’re still caught in a loop, seemingly more than ever. Katina shares how we can break out of our routines, even though we still need our routines in order to function, and still be successful. (In other words, she shares how we can embrace responsibility without feeling like it’s sucking all the joy out of life.) 

Katina also shares what she learned about spontaneity vs. making plans: “I thought that the whole point of being more conscious and grounded and living a values-led life was getting my planner out of the way and being more spontaneous. But actually, according to some recent studies, when we plan and schedule something fun into our calendar, we actually view that activity as 30% more fun than if we just did it spontaneously.” 

Katina also shares why it’s so important for us to maintain our sense of self when the going gets tough — she says that it’s easy for us to know who we are when things are going as planned, but it’s even more important to know who we are when absolutely nothing in our lives is going like we thought it would. She shares some of her favorite ‘perspective shifts’ that help her clients make it through stressful times. 

In Mailbag, Jean tackles a question on how to reinvest after losing money in the stock market, and guides a listener who is unsure if the recommended 15% contribution to retirement includes money allocated for an HSA. We also hear from a woman who was laid off in May and is wondering how best to make retirement contributions in the years to come. Lastly, in Thrive, Jean dishes on job interview follow-up etiquette during COVID times… In other words, what to do when you can’t send a handwritten thank you note? 

This podcast is proudly supported by Fidelity Investments. You work too hard for what you earn to let it sit on the sidelines. Let Fidelity show you how to demand more from your money. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC Member NYSE, SIPC.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Transcript

Katina Mountanos: (00:00)
I thought that the whole point of being more conscious and grounded and, you know, living a valued life was like getting my planner out of the way and being more spontaneous. But actually according to some recent studies, when we plan and schedule something fun into our calendar, we actually view that activity as 30% more fun than if we just did it spontaneously.

Jean Chatzky: (00:32)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone or adjusting to the unexpected, Fidelity’s there to help you navigate life’s important moments with confidence. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more.

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Jean Chatzky: (00:52)
Hey everybody. It’s Jean Chatzky. Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. So, how many times over the last few months have you loaded the dishwasher? Given the kids a bath? Dialed into a less than productive zoom meeting? Put on a load of laundry? Put on another load of laundry? Cooked dinner? Help the kids with homework because these days it’s all homework? And I could go on. The point is that, although by now we’ve all found our new COVID routines, we’ve also found our COVID ruts. And there is no rut like a COVID rut. Why? Because we don’t have birthday parties or graduations to mark on our calendars. We don’t have vacations to look forward to. We don’t even have an opportunity to enjoy a slice of cake around the water cooler because we are not together. The point is, it seems like all our milestones and celebrations have just been stripped from life and replaced with more drudgery, more responsibility, more adulting, and adulting is just hard. No one gets that more than our guests today, Katina, Montano’s, a mindset coach and the author of “On Adulting: How Millennials (And Any Human, Really) Can Work Less, Live More, And Bend The Rules For Good.” Katina is also the co-founder of the mental wellbeing startup, Daydreamers, and is getting her master’s in clinical psychology at Columbia University. Hey, Katina.

Katina Mountanos: (02:43)
Hey. Thanks so much for having me.

Jean Chatzky: (02:43)
Oh, well thank you so much for being here. I’m thrilled to talk about this topic. I think no matter where you are in the curve of your adult life, it is something that we can all do a little bit better. So, I’m thrilled. Tell me a little bit about you. How did you get going on the concept of adulting?

Katina Mountanos: (03:04)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I couldn’t relate more to your overview of what life is like today. I actually started my career in finance, so I was very much used to the unproductive zoom meetings, in person. I started out in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and pretty quickly realized that that version of adulthood wasn’t necessarily what was aligned with my values. And I really kind of started seeking out what those values were and it wasn’t necessarily anything that I had been taught to do before. So, that was the beginning of the journey. And fast forward a couple of years, I’ve made a lot of personal shifts and hopefully now I’m helping other people do the same.

Jean Chatzky: (03:53)
Katina, how do you define adulting?

Katina Mountanos: (03:56)
Yeah, it’s a great question and one that I think a lot of people have different opinions on. But to me, when I think about the term adulting, it really comes down to this idea of making conscious decisions. I think a lot of times when we enter adulthood, we’re kind of confronted with what our identity is. And also we’re kind of just living this life that’s on this hamster wheel and really making decisions based on other people’s choices or values or what we should be doing at any given time. So to me, really kind of stepping into adulthood is when you start to define your life on your own terms and really start to make choices that align with who you are and who you want to be.

Jean Chatzky: (04:42)
Do you think that this pandemic, that COVID and the fact that so many of us are working, sleeping, eating, living, educating from home has made the hamster wheel that you describe worse.

Katina Mountanos: (05:02)
Totally. Well, it’s made the hamster wheel different in a way, because in my opinion, it’s really forced us to confront a lot of choices and pieces of our identity that we might not have necessarily recognized, if we were running on that hamster wheel outside of our homes 24/7, and really being able to distract ourselves.

Jean Chatzky: (05:26)
For example?

Katina Mountanos: (05:26)
Yes. So, I think it’s definitely something that’s kind of forced us to look at what adulting is and really start to get aware of what our conscious decisions might be.

Jean Chatzky: (05:38)
When you say that it’s forced us to look at our lives in a different way, can you give me an example of what you mean?

Katina Mountanos: (05:45)
Yeah. I mean that, I think that being home and kind of being in this mundane, seemingly mundane, routine all the time has allowed us to sit with a lot of these emotions that we don’t necessarily confront. So, maybe as you so eloquently described, as we load the dishwasher for the hundredth time in one week, we start to really confront like, what is this making me feel? And is this something that I’m okay with? And can I be okay with this if I allow myself to find some joy in other aspects of my life. So, I think it’s really finding that balance and being really honest with yourself at all times. So, I actually see this time as a positive.

Jean Chatzky: (06:34)
I’m glad to hear it because your book offers some formulas for getting off the hamster wheel. For figuring out, you know, what are your hamster components, but then figuring out how to do life differently. Can you take us through that process?

Katina Mountanos: (06:52)
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, interestingly, the book is split up into four different ways, but two of them really center on this idea of like, what is our hamster wheel and how can we make change, using those terms? And one of them is in kind of a big picture, strategic sense. So, really starting to get clear on what those values are that are important to us, what our North star is, what we’re kind of working towards in life. And then starting to see where our relationships and finances and all of those big life components can play in. And that takes a lot of deep kind of reflective work. But on the flip side, there’s a lot of tactical ways that we can make change in really simple ways in our everyday lives, right in this moment. Whether that’s actually scheduling more fun, joy-filled activities into our everyday lives, or really starting to create routines that are mindful and give us the space to sit with those feelings and actually confront them.

Jean Chatzky: (08:01)
I want to ask you about what statement actually took you in another direction, because as you made this change in your own life, what were the words that inspired you to get going? And for everybody who’s listening to us, we are taping this episode during a major thunderstorm and we just switched methods of recording. So, if it sounds a little different, that’s why.

Katina Mountanos: (08:28)
Yeah. And thank you for that question. I think it’s really, when I started really reflecting on what my personal north star statement was, I was looking outside of myself so much and really kind of grasping at what others were doing. And when I took a look inside, I kind of came up with this sentence, which I recommend if anyone has a journal or something to write this down. It’s a really helpful practice to get into. And the method that I used and came up with was a sentence that went like this. I do what to help who so that they can achieve what outcome. And so my personal north star statement is I inspire millennials to find their passion and purpose so they can live a happier, healthier and longer life.

Jean Chatzky: (09:24)
Okay. One more time on those blanks. I do what to help whom or who, right? So that they can X, Y, and Z.

Katina Mountanos: (09:36)
Yeah. The outcome that you want to help them achieve.

Jean Chatzky: (09:40)
Okay. All right. Got it. We’re going to put that in our show notes. So, I think, I think that’s a good way to get going. I want to dig into the small things too. I agree with you. Sometimes we have to make smaller changes just to open the pathway, to give ourselves a little bit of space in our busy lives, in order to do this exploration, right? We are caught in this loop where we absolutely have to load and unload the dishwasher more times than we ever thought possible. I mean, knock on wood. I am so shocked that my dishwasher is still going after eight months of COVID. But we’re trying to embrace responsibility without sucking all the joy out of life. How do you do that? How do you live more consciously, more joyfully, and yet more responsibly at the same time?

Katina Mountanos: (10:36)
Yeah. I love that question. I feel like it’s really the essence of what adulting is seeking, right? And trying to answer. And I think in the small everyday ways, the way that I like to view it is kind of two ends of the spectrum. One is really allowing yourself and giving yourself space to slow down. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to, you know, take naps or do these outward expressions of slowing down. But really just allowing your mind to pause for a moment. And then on the flip side is really, as you said, injecting more joy and fun and excitement into your life so that you can start to really look for ways to thrive and get out of that hamster wheel. So, some specifics that I like to recommend and like to practice myself and obviously, you know, science really backs up all of these different practices. On the mindful side, I really love this practice of turning my phone on airplane mode every night, so that I can still use it for an alarm clock or, you know, being able to wake up. But so that I don’t wake up starting my day in fight or flight mode and really launching into stress because I’m inundated with emails and any kind of notification starting to scroll on my phone, which we know is directly linked to poor mental health outcomes. So, this really small, five second practice is so impactful for me. And it allows me to start my day in a slower, more mindful, more conscious way, which is really a great time for all of us to spend some time slowing down and being quiet. And if you have the space for it, maybe journaling or meditating or something that you’re interested in practicing,

Jean Chatzky: (12:32)
It’s a little like, for me, starting my day with a little bit of exercise. I always know it’s going to be a better day if I started off on the right foot.

Katina Mountanos: (12:42)
Totally. Yeah. And that’s definitely something that we know based on research actually helps us. If we start with one practice that allows us to increase our endorphins or not necessarily, as I said, launch into that intense fight or flight heightened nervous system, we actually view our day in a much more positive and productive way. So, I think that’s a really great practice to have. But yeah, then on the flip side of starting to inject more joy into our lives, when I was researching for the book, I found this really interesting study. And I’m a super type A planner person. And I thought that the whole point of being more conscious and grounded and, you know, living a valued life was like getting my planner out of the way and being more spontaneous. But actually according to some recent studies, when we plan and schedule something fun into our calendar, it could literally be like dancing for five minutes or any thing that’s fun and small, we actually view that activity as 30% more fun than if we just did it spontaneously. And I think that’s kind of a hopeful finding for all of us that, if everything feels too overwhelming and you don’t feel like you have time for fun, you can actually slot it into your calendar and it will be just as, or if not more fun than it would be if you just did it on the fly.

Jean Chatzky: (14:17)
That’s incredibly helpful. Because I am one of those people who sort of feels like sometimes things have to be spontaneous in order to be joyful. But I’m very glad that they don’t. I do want to talk about the balancing of all of this, because I think it’s not just a question, but it’s a financial question. But before I do that, I want to remind everyone that HerMoney is proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. Some of life’s important moments are planned for way in advance, if we schedule them, while others we don’t see coming. And as always, Fidelity is here to help you navigate both the joyous and the unexpected events with confidence. Their resources, guides, and tools can help guide you through important financial decisions when you need it most. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more. We are back having a wonderful conversation “On Adulting.” That’s the name of the book, “How Millennials (And Any Human, Really) Can Work Less, Live More, And Bend The Rules For Good.” So Katina, when we talk about trying to balance responsibility with joy, it also sounds to me like trying to balance work with not work. And the amount of time you work actually does impact your finances, right? It does impact how much you have coming in. And for that reason, I think, particularly, a lot of millennials, who are saddled with student loan debt, sometimes feel like they can’t get off that treadmill. How do you encourage them to do that?

Katina Mountanos: (16:01)
That’s such a great question. And definitely something I could personally relate to. I also went to college and came out with student loans and, you know, money was definitely a mindset shift that I really had to personally work through and talk about a lot in the book. But I think that in my opinion and my experience, this really comes back down to the way that we think about and approach these aspects of our lives. And a lot of times the words responsibility and work and laundry and still paying, can be really overwhelming mentally and feel like an immense burden. And then on the side of fun, we associate that with spending a ton of money or having to live a certain lifestyle in order to achieve that. And I think to me, the concept of adulting and really being more conscious and living a values-led life is something where we could view all aspects of our lives as something we have to work on and towards, and maybe difficult, but they also can bring an immense amount of fulfillment and excitement and joy. So, to me, I think it’s really starting to practice, how do I look at this experience? Is it something that I’m really dreading or something that I am not putting my fullest effort into because I’m scared of it or there’s a lot of fear associated with it? Or am I viewing it as something that I know that I have my fullest potential to achieve. And I really trust myself to start to step into the life that I want to lead. So, I know that that’s not necessarily a tactical answer, but I think that starting to really focus on and get honest with the way that we view our lives, can be really the starting point of this new perspective that we bring to everything that we do.

Jean Chatzky: (18:14)
When we were speaking earlier, you said something I loved, which is that it’s easy for us to have a sense of who we are when things are going as planned. Why is it important to know who we are when nothing is going like you thought it would, i.e. right now?

Katina Mountanos: (18:31)
Yeah, totally. I mean, Oh my gosh, I feel like, honestly, we could say no time ever goes according to plan. But I think going back to that north star statement, it really allows us to tap into those deep aspects and understanding of who we want to be and start to assess if our lives are going in that direction. So, I think a really small example of that is, during this time, I received a lot of feedback from the On Adulting community that the way that they spend their time is in one of two ways and we’ve talked about this quite a bit. Where we’re either working or we’re doing chores, or even scrolling on our phones or have the TV on in the background. And it feels like everything is draining. But I think if we start to really assess how we spend our time, a lot of people would say that they spend a much lower amount of time than they actually do, doing things that they don’t want. So, I think starting to really use that north star statement and getting honest about where we are in our lives and then measuring who we want to be, is a practice that becomes an immense need in times like this, when everything feels like a chore.

Jean Chatzky: (19:53)
That makes a ton of sense. So, really keeping a time log, even if you do it for a couple of days or even a full week. Last question, I know you’ve spoken a lot about giving into your daydreams, and that is a big area of focus for you. What does it mean and how can we do it realistically?

Katina Mountanos: (20:17)
I love that question. So, I think that, especially millennials and I’m sure anyone living in our modern world, we kind of have this high expectation of where we should be at any given time. So, especially in our world right now, we’re kind of looking at what our life should have been like in 2020. And I think that’s where we start to get in this really dangerous pattern, right? Where we’re constantly comparing to what things should be instead of kind of seeing what they are and feeling them as what they could be. So, I think to me, this idea of like giving into your daydream is really starting to understand where does your mind go when you’re in the flow, when you’re doing one of those joyful things? Where does it start to really pick up excitement and steam, instead of in those dreaming moments when you’re like, I wish I could be anywhere but here. And I think getting really practical. Starting to outline where in your life you could practice that a little bit more. And it doesn’t need to be these big things, but maybe you noticed when you go on walks or exercise in the morning, like you said, every day. You feel so good. So, starting to, in that outline that we just said where you kind of map out how you spend your time, starting to really insert little moments of excitement and stuff, where you feel like you’re in the flow. So, you could start to collect more and more of that.

Jean Chatzky: (21:47)
I think that’s fantastic advice. Katina Mountanos. The book is “On Adulting.” And where else can we find more information about you and your work and your community?

Katina Mountanos: (22:02)
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. You can definitely find me on Instagram or any form of social media @OnAdulting or on my website, which is OnAdulting.com. And I would love to hear from you. I’m always available through email or DM. And I can’t wait to hear what you think about the book.

Jean Chatzky: (22:24)
Fantastic. Thank you so much for being here.

Katina Mountanos: (22:27)
Thank you for having me.

Jean Chatzky: (22:29)
And we will be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag.

Jean Chatzky: (22:35)
And it’s time to say hi to HerMoney’s Kathryn Tuggle. Hey Kathryn

Kathryn Tuggle: (22:39)
Hello, Jean. Great episode. Love that.

Jean Chatzky: (22:42)
That was fun. That was fun. Thank you for teeing that up.

Kathryn Tuggle: (22:44)
Of course. Yeah. I think her book speaks to a lot of the things that so many of us are going through no matter our age.

Jean Chatzky: (22:52)
Well, and I know she’s focusing on millennials, but I kept thinking like, hello. You know, you’re talking to me. I mean, I think she is. I think you’re right. She’s talking to everybody who’s listening.

Kathryn Tuggle: (23:04)
Yeah. A hundred percent. I think whether you have kids at home or not, this is just an odd year. And I know she started writing the book well before the pandemic, but it couldn’t be more perfect timing.

Jean Chatzky: (23:16)
My two big takeaways are to schedule those little joyful moments so that I can enjoy them 30% more. I’m very excited about that. We’ll be dancing in the hallways, dancing in the, I don’t know. Dancing in the laundry rooms, whatever, for five minutes. And that if you bother to track your time, you don’t spend as much time as you think doing the stuff you hate.

Kathryn Tuggle: (23:38)
Yeah. I’ve heard this from a lot of people. There’s the, do you know the Pomodoro Method of timing things?

Jean Chatzky: (23:45)
No.

Kathryn Tuggle: (23:46)
Basically, you set a 20 minute timer, and you set this 20 minute timer and you do the things that you hate or the things that you’ve been procrastinating or the things that you’re dreading. And across the board I have found, and I’ve heard from my friends who’ve done it, that before that timer goes off, you’re done with this evil thing that has been hanging over you that you haven’t wanted to do.

Jean Chatzky: (24:10)
Wow. And is that named for spaghetti Pomodoro? Cause it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to make a Pomodoro sauce.

Kathryn Tuggle: (24:16)
No. I think this is the guy who invented it. And I’m probably getting all of this wrong, but you set a 20 minute timer. You do the thing you’ve been procrastinating and you move on with your life.

Jean Chatzky: (24:28)
Oh my God. This is going to be really good for me.

Kathryn Tuggle: (24:32)
And it’s just something about like, we don’t need the 20 minute timer, right? It’s just something about the act of doing it and saying, okay, these are my 20 minutes. I can survive anything for 20 minutes. Let’s go.

Jean Chatzky: (24:42)
Right. And if it’s not done in the 20 minutes, then you’re kind of off the hook because you gave yourself the 20 minutes.

Kathryn Tuggle: (24:48)
Yeah.

Jean Chatzky: (24:49)
Right? You can come back and finish it up another 20 minute time.

Kathryn Tuggle: (24:52)
Exactly.

Jean Chatzky: (24:53)
Cool. Exciting. I’m just parsing this.

Kathryn Tuggle: (24:56)
I hope I’m getting this right.

Jean Chatzky: (24:58)
No. I’m sure you’re getting it right. But I’m I’m thinking about those photo albums that I’ve been meaning to go through, that kitchen cabinet where I know I have stuff that has to go, that I need to toss but I’ve been procrastinating. This is good.

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:12)
I actually, it’s 25 minutes.

Jean Chatzky: (25:16)
Kathryn.

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:16)
Sorry, it’s 25 minutes.

Jean Chatzky: (25:19)
It’s okay.

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:19)
But, yeah. It was invented in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

Jean Chatzky: (25:30)
And is it named for Mr. Or Ms. Pomodoro?

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:34)
Well, it says it was invented by a Francesco Cirillo. So, I don’t know where he got Pomodoro Method.

Jean Chatzky: (25:39)
I’m telling you. It’s the sauce. It’s a quick spaghetti sauce. Like you could make a Pomodoro like very, very quickly.

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:47)
Oh, okay. It says each interval is known as a Pomodoro from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

Jean Chatzky: (25:57)
Wrong again. I’m wrong again. That’s all right. I’m definitely putting this to use in my life.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:03)
I like how we solve a problem here over the course of like 30 minutes with the help of Google.

Jean Chatzky: (26:09)
Exactly.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:10)
Great work.

Jean Chatzky: (26:11)
My mind worked a whole lot better before I was able to look everything up. But I think that’s pretty common ailment. All right. Let’s help some other people before we go down a rabbit hole that we cannot get out of.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:23)
Yes. I’m now Googling for where to buy this little tomato timer. Okay. Our first question comes to us from a member of our private HerMoney, Facebook group. She writes, I’ve been listening to the HerMoney podcast all throughout college and during my first big girl job. I’ve been out of college for four years and have graduated with my MBA, and I’m currently working at a 401k company. You would probably say that HerMoney is the perfect podcast for me. And it is. However, despite being in the finance industry, I still feel lost with stocks. I put money in my brokerage account and I lost so much money over the past year due to a risky and undiversified portfolio. And of course COVID. Finance 101, diversify, diversify. I don’t know what I was thinking. I want to cash out my huge loss so I can at least have some cash to reinvest. I need advice and encouragement here as I’m so disappointed in myself for being a finance major and a huge advocate for saving money. How could I do such a risky thing? One financial rep with an insurance company suggested putting the remaining cash into a mutual fund. What do you think? Please help a young, independent girl who doesn’t want to ask her parents for help on this. Thank you.

Jean Chatzky: (27:29)
Oh, well, thank you so much for writing. And let me just say, I want you to give yourself a break. That’s really what I want. You are doing incredibly well. I mean, four years out of college, I wasn’t even thinking about stocks. So, you’re on this problem with plenty of time, plenty of decades, to turn the situation around from where you are right now, diversify your portfolio, and get on the right track. But you are leaps and bounds ahead of where so many other people your age happen to be. So, I just want you to cut yourself a little bit of slack here. It’s hard for me to tell if the money in your brokerage account is also in your 401k. If it’s in your 401k and you want to rebalance your investment, to get the mix out of these riskier stocks and into a low cost diversified fund, an index fund, an ETF, something that is invested in the whole market, or a target date fund, where it will rebalance as you get older, it’ll take slightly less risk as you get older, I am totally, totally fine with that. The one thing I want to make sure is that you don’t pull money out of your 401k unnecessarily. If it’s in a taxable brokerage account, you can do very much the same thing. Just be careful of the tax implications of what you sell and how you reinvest the money. Because you have losses, you probably won’t have any taxes owed. So, you don’t have to worry about that. But I agree that a fund is probably the better place for you to start. And I would like to see it be a very low cost, very diversified sort of a fund. Then if you want to learn about stocks one by one, if you want to take a little bit of money on the side and you want to put it in a particular stock that you’ve taken time to research, to learn about, to decide on your own that you believe has a particularly great future based on the fundamentals of that stock, in other words, how that company is expected to do in the future, I am good with that. Just try to do it with a little bit of a plan so that the vast majority of your money, a. goes into a 401k, where you get some tax advantages for investing, and b. goes into that very broadly diversified fund. The other thing that I also want to say is that I want you to look at these investments one more time. We have been, since the election, going through some changes in the market, where the things that did well leading up to the election are not the same companies that are doing well in the last couple of trading sessions. It’s called a rotation in the market. You may be surprised to see some of these coming back. So, before you sell out wholesale, have another look at the fundamentals and see if any of these are things that you believe will come back and you believe are worth holding onto for the future.

Kathryn Tuggle: (30:55)
I love that advice. And also I think, to start your career and your investing journey with a market downturn is kind of a trial by fire. I kind of feel like if you make it through this, you can make it through anything.

Jean Chatzky: (31:09)
No question.

Kathryn Tuggle: (31:11)
I think it’s key to just appreciate the lessons that you’re learning along the way, because it’s going to make you a better and more informed investor over the course of your life.

Jean Chatzky: (31:19)
Yeah. Yeah. And you didn’t say where you were working, but the fact that you’re working for a 401k company makes me hope that they have a pretty good 401k. So, I hope that you’ll take advantage of that.

Kathryn Tuggle: (31:31)
Yeah, absolutely. Our next question comes to us from Adrian. She writes, hi Jean and the HerMoney team. New listener here, and I’m enjoying your podcast very much. My employer offers a 401k with a 3% match and I contribute 6%. They also offer an HSA plan for the 2021 calendar year, which I’ll be eligible for once I switched plans. And when I switch, I’ll be paying half the price of my current premium. My plan is to put the difference into the HSA, which is roughly 3% of my total income. I’ve heard you recommend a 15% total contribution to retirement. Do you count this 3% HSA contribution toward that 15%? Or should it not be included since there’s always a chance I’ll need the money for medical expenses before I hit retirement. Thanks so much for your advice and all you do for women and their money.

Jean Chatzky: (32:18)
I love this question because a. it’s open enrollment time for many people right now, and more and more people find that they’ve got the option of putting money into a health savings account or HSA because they have enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. You’re right about the fact that an HSA can be considered a supplemental retirement account. The way these accounts work, you make a contribution with pretax dollars, much like you do with a 401k. The money grows tax free if you invest it like you can in a 401k. And when you pull it out, as long as you use it for qualified medical expenses, you pay no taxes on it. The way it becomes a supplemental retirement account is if you choose to just contribute and contribute and contribute to your HSA while paying for healthcare outside of the account, through your other cashflow. Then that money can in effect become another account that you can just use in retirement to pay for medical premiums, Medicare premiums, other medical expenses, or if you use it to pay for non-medical things that can be treated like a 401k withdrawal once you hit retirement age. That said, I don’t know that I would count it as a part of that 15%. I think that the likelihood that you’ll have zero medical expenses between now and retirement is pretty slim. So, the first question you have to ask yourself is, when a medical expense comes around, are you going to pay for it out of the HSA or outside of the HSA? If you’re going to pay for it from the HSA, then I would say, definitely don’t count the HSA. But the other thing that’s making me think that you should consider that 3% a separate pool, is this annual survey that they do at Fidelity, looking at the cost of medical expenses above and beyond retirement for a 60 year old couple, above and beyond Medicare. And these are non-reimbursable medical expenses that hit a 65 year old couple in retirement. And the number has been going up every year. The last time I looked at it, it was somewhere around $280,000 or $290,000. So, just that piece of research alone makes me think that you probably want to keep this separate. And if you can contribute the full 15% to retirement and the 3% to the HSA, I would go ahead and do that.

Kathryn Tuggle: (35:13)
Love that plan. Thanks Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (35:15)
It’s confusing man. There are a lot of permutations and there’s also the fact that years come along and we’re not able to contribute exactly what we’d hoped to contribute. So, we have to continually reevaluate those things. Oh, one other thing, just one other small piece of advice. If you do go with the plan where you are paying your HSA expenses, your healthcare expenses outside of the HSA. I want you to set up a really, really good filing system for all of your medical expenses from now until kingdom come. And the reason for this is that when you eventually do pull the money out of the HSA, as long as you have receipts to write off against those withdrawals, then you can take the money and you can use it for whatever you want.

Kathryn Tuggle: (36:12)
I love that advice. I mean, record keeping is so important to eliminate so many of the unknowns in retirement.

Jean Chatzky: (36:19)
And so hard. But, yes. You need a plan.

Kathryn Tuggle: (36:22)
Absolutely. Our last question comes to us from Nancy. She writes, hi Jean. I’m a 58 year old married woman who was laid off back in May. I’ve been actively searching for another full-time permanent position with benefits, including medical and a 401k plan. I’m fortunate in that I landed a three month temp gig with a previous employer. But it pays a straight hourly wage with no benefits. For many years, I’ve maxed out my contributions to my 401k plan. What options do I have now for retirement contributions? Are there income limitations that I should be aware of? My husband makes her around $110,000 annually, and he also maximizes his 401k contributions. Thanks in advance for your advice. Love your podcast.

Jean Chatzky: (37:04)
Thank you so much. And I’m sorry about the job, but I hope you find another one soon. Meanwhile, yeah. You’ve got two basic options. Your first is to put money in an IRA. Because you are over 50, you have the ability to make an additional thousand dollar catch up contribution. So, the regular IRA contribution, whether you put the money into an IRA or a Roth for both 2020, but also for 2021, is $6,000. But $7,000, if you are 50 or older. If you’re making that contribution based on your own income, you have to have the income to back it up. But because you have a spouse in the workforce, you can, even if you had no income, make the same contribution. It’s called a spousal IRA. And as long as you have a spouse in the workforce, you are eligible to do that. You asked about income limits. There are income limits for the Roth, for single people, because we have some single people listening. Your modified adjusted gross income has to be under $139,000, for this tax filing year, to contribute to a Roth. And if you’re married, it has to be under $206,000 for this filing year. That’s 2020. The other option that you have available to you, and I put this on the table because it’s a way to contribute more money if you’re able, is to open a SEP IRA. A SEP IRA is for self-employment income. So, if you are getting a 1099 for this job that you have now, or any job that you may have in the future, you’re eligible to contribute up to 25% of whatever you earn each year with a max of $57,000 for 2020. So, whichever is lower – 25% of your compensation or $57,000 for the year 2020. So, if you want to really stash away a very big part of your earnings, the SEP IRA, which you open same place you open a regular IRA, i.e. any brokerage firm, will enable you to do that.

Kathryn Tuggle: (39:29)
Great advice. I love my SEP IRA.

Jean Chatzky: (39:31)
I’ve got one too, from a long time ago. I love it, too. It’s still chugging along very, very nicely. Hey Kathryn, before I talk about today’s Thrive story, a couple of pieces of HerMoney news I wanted to just bring up. We started an ambassador program. And I know that our podcast listeners love HerMoney as much as anybody else. And so, if you guys are willing to spread the word about HerMoney, we’ve got t-shirts. We’ve got hoodies. We got a lot of HerMoney swag, and we would just love to send it your way. But more than that, we would love to have your friends and your family as a part of this community. And so what you have to do to be part of this ambassador program is go to HerMoney.com, subscribe to our newsletters, if you haven’t already. And when you start to see the newsletters, there will be a box where you can share a link to the people that you love to get them on board with the content that we’re producing. And it’s just a way to bring them along financially – like you’ve been coming along financially as part of the HerMoney family.

Kathryn Tuggle: (40:46)
Absolutely. And I think that the content that we’re putting out there right now is so important when people’s financial futures do you feel a little uncertain. And our community is so strong and so vibrant on Facebook and in the newsletters and at HerMoney.com, and we just would love for everybody to join us.

Jean Chatzky: (41:02)
Yeah, absolutely. And while you’re doing that, take a moment. And I know I usually ask for this at the end of the podcast, but leave us a review. It’s been a while since we made a pitch for reviews in the middle of the podcast, but we really do want to know what you think. So, wherever you get your podcasts, preferably on Apple Podcasts, leave us a couple sentences about what you like and why you’re here. And, five stars would be great, but we really do want to know what your thoughts are.

Kathryn Tuggle: (41:31)
Absolutely. And I get every email that comes into [email protected] Comes straight to me. So, if you have an idea for a show, I would love to hear it. Anything you guys want to send to mailbag I’m here for all of it.

Jean Chatzky: (41:44)
Fantastic. Thank you. And thank you for being here for all of it. It makes my life a lot easier, but also a lot more fun.

Kathryn Tuggle: (41:51)
Ah, thanks Jean. We have a dream team.

Jean Chatzky: (41:54)
We do. We do. We do. In today’s Thrive, let’s talk about job interview follow-up etiquette during COVID times. Once you have nailed that zoom interview, which, let’s face it. Is strange enough. Then there’s the hurdle of the best way to follow up with a thank you. If you’re as big a fan of the handwritten thank you note as I am, then, I hate to break it to you, but you’re out of luck. Most employers’ corporate offices are closed these days. And asking for your interviewers home address, that is a sure-fire way not to get offered the job. So, what do you do? Well, first, a phone call is also a no-go. Calls can interrupt your hiring managers workflow during the day and make you stand out in all the wrong ways. That means a good old fashioned email is the way to go. But what do you write? Your thank you note email should always include the following. First, your thanks for the opportunity to meet with the interviewer or interviewers. Second, something you learned about the job or the company and how it relates to your skillset and experience. You want to remind the interviewer that you would be a great fit to the team. And then a final thanks with a sentence letting the interviewer know that if there are any other questions, you are more than happy to answer them. At HerMoney.com this month, we’ve got a story with three job interview thank you note email templates, that will walk you through exactly what to say. But the best ones follow a bit of a formula. So, go ahead and check it out. Thanks so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thanks to Katina Katina Mountanos for her insight on some ways that we can all break free from routine, while also continuing to meet all of life’s ever increasing demands during these crazy times. If you like what you hear, as I said, subscribe to the show. Leave us a review. We really look forward to hearing what you think. We want to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper and our show comes to you through Megaphone. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll talk soon.


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