How can I feel better about turning 30?

I just turned 30 this week and am feeling a lot of self-directed pressure to get it together. I’m female, been in a relationship for 2.5 years, and will NOT be having children (genetic risks with both of our families). We live in insane Vancouver, Canada, where housing costs rival San Francisco.

We both recognize we need to leave the city now. The problem comes in deciding what to do next. He used to run his own construction company, but due to an injury has not been able to make the company really run for the last two years. I just completed a six-month certificate at a technical institute for front-end web development. This is following years of basically admin-drudgery, where I was dreadfully underpaid – despite a 4 year degree; don’t get an arts degree kids.

I assumed once complete I could work my way into a remote job in tech and we could relocate to a more affordable housing market where we could buy a modest property and start building some equity.

Tonight I learned that my boyfriend has dwindled his savings down to half. He now claims he is not interested in buying a property, is giving up on working and considering disability assistance (we’re in Canada), and doesn’t understand why I want to buy since we don’t want kids.

Aside from his lack of ambition, we are a compatible couple. However, I’ve been financially stressed all of my life – coming from irresponsible, immigrant parents who couldn’t save a dime. I paid my own tuition, only paying off student loans a couple years ago.

The constant financial pressure is causing me a lot of depression and anxiety about the future. My boyfriend’s increasingly blaze attitude is amplifying my depression. At the start of our relationship he was much more hopeful about his career, this hope has essentially disappeared.

Where to go next?

Is it ok to bribe a kid to practice?

Is it smart to bribe my 5-year-old with video game time in return for practicing the guitar (or doing other stuff)? I don’t actually care if he plays a lot of games, but it seems like a fiendishly smart strategy to limit his time in order to use it as a bargaining chip for chores and learning stuff (like guitar, which he asked to learn) that takes work.

Is that terrible?!

Did your musical kid actually always want to practice, or did you make him practice because you knew he did want it but needed help doing the work?

Is there a way to leverage their love for video games in a way that isn’t going to screw them up?!

Current job vs new job vs boyfriend?

I’m currently a business analyst at a consulting firm. I was offered a position as consultant in another firm and today when I was telling my boss I was quitting she offered me the same conditions the new place is offering me. I honestly don’t know what to do know. My current employer is not as big as the new firm but definitely has big clients and I love the environment. The last year was rough but I’m finally being recognized and I’m allocated in interesting projects. Growth is not that immediate and I think there is a lack of expertise. However I have veery flexible schedules and a lot of room to propose ideas.

On the other hand the new firm is a more recognized company where I could definitely learn a lot, sacrificing personal life.

Boyfriend who lives in another continent and is moving to England and thinks our relationship wouldn’t survive if I take the new job cause of the amount of work and cause I’ll never want to move to London.

I think I want to change jobs but I’m scared I’m making the wrong choice. I don’t really know what’s best for me (career and personal wise).

Letter from the LA Times

Dear Penelope,
I am the new syndicated columnist for Careers Now from Tronc (Chicago Tribune and LA Times online content agency). I found your website and would like to get your input on a question that I have to answer for my next installment of the column. The only catch is that I will need your input by the end of the day this Friday. The answer doesn’t have to be long–I only have room for about 300-400 words


How do I go about making a career change from corporate America to something meaningful?

–Kathleen Furor

Should I buy a franchise?

I’m an INTP.  I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for the last seven years focused on our three boys. The older two were diagnosed with Asperger’s two years ago, so my hands have been full. I was hoping to get your advice on a new direction I was thinking for my career.

I’ve been in discussion with a the founder of a tutoring and college prep company. They did a great job with our oldest son. They work on the social emotional aspects of learning in addition to the technical/academic processes, and have separate programs to work on things processing speed & short-term memory and college testing & applications. So, they focus on serving both ends of the bell-curve.

The company is  moving from start-up stage to national expansion via franchising. I’m considering buying the franchising rights for our area. It would fill a need for our kids, and be a good way to generate a good income stream once we have several learning centers up and running.

Since you understand what it’s like to parent kids on the Autistic Spectrum and you know what INTP’s are like, is this a crazy thing for me to do?

I did take the course you have for INTPs and it was very helpful. I realize this is the kind of small, all-consuming project that you said INTP’s should avoid. However franchises are know for providing a lot of opportunities for thinking outside the box.

My favorite email from this week

Should I be on LinkedIn for home and office organizing?

Also, what do you think about dating in AA? (After having a year sober I’m considering one person.)

What makes a question a terrible question?

Yesterday I needed a few brilliant ideas so I turned to my chat box and saw who among my tech connections are online and it happens that a social media “big shot” was online so I wrote:

“Hi [name]
I was wondering if you could share some crazy ideas. Like what’s the craziest thing you’d do for something you’d really want?”

I fired up the question hoping it was interesting and thought-provoking. I was totally taken aback by her answer:

“What made you think I would share ideas with you?”

I told her I’m sorry if she doesn’t want to answer.

Now I get it, maybe she felt insulted and violated that she’s someone that has mastered her skill. And maybe I have been stupid to ask for her ideas when she’s actually paid to give people ideas. But I must tell you that her response hurts because I really look up to her.

Penelope, I wonder if is that how most “big shots” really respond? Like when a blog reader asks you a question, would you feel insulted that I solicit your opinion or idea for free?

I would really appreciate your comment on this. Perhaps you could shed me and your other blog readers some light as to when is it good to ask questions, or is it even okay to ask professionals like her when she does consulting for a living. I thought it was an innocent question, but what do you think?

Boring job in Ohio vs Dream job in San Francisco?

I have been reading your blog for a while and have found your advice to be incredibly useful.  I recently found one of your posts from 2011 where you talk about relocating to Hermosa Beach.  That post hit very close to home for me because I’m currently going through a similar situation (although I don’t have kids).  I was hoping you might be able to offer a little quick advice.  No one else seems to understand my situation.

I’m a 35 yr old engineer and moved to the San Francisco area in May of this year.  I was laid off from my old job and luckily had an offer from a couple of guys that asked me to help them build a small search startup company.  I make about 150k per year along with equity in the company that would be worth quite a bit in several years.

I don’t mind SF, but I’m from Ohio and have Midwestern values – so San Francisco is a little different than what I’m used to – but it’s tolerable.  My original plan was to move there for 4 years, collect my equity and then leave.  However, recently my old company offered me my old position back at a salary of $108k in Ohio.  That’s a reasonable salary in Ohio, but the job in California is more enjoyable.  It feels good and exciting to help build a company from scratch.

I am very close with my mom and sister  (who both live in Ohio).  My dad passed away 2 years ago from years of medical problems, so we have a close bond due to the trauma we went through.  Needless to say it’s difficult moving away from people I love, especially my mom since she’s getting older and starting to show signs of medical problems.

I don’t want to regret using 4 years for a great career at the expense of any memories I could be making with my family.  Although, it’s difficult to pass up a career opportunity that could be worth several million dollars in a few years time.

This decision has generated a lot of anxiety.  I’ve talked to my therapist as well as others who don’t seem to have a good perspective on the situation.  I feel like you certainly understand the difficulty of this scenario.

If you have any advice or comments, this Midwestern guy in San Francisco would forever be in your debt.  Any help at all would really help me.

Thanks again for all the writing you do, as it’s really helped me in the past.

Which business idea is best for me?

I always thought I’d have my own business by now, but life hasn’t worked that way. Specifically my wife and I had a baby and I wanted a proper job.

Now my wife wants me to start a business that will let me leave my job. She has a point, because I’m not one for sitting at a desk from  9-5. Yes, I hate it. But I would need to get a good deal of cash into that business at the beginning, and we don’t have much savings.  I have a few friends who said they could help me get investors, but I’ve seen all the trouble my friends had getting investors and I don’t know if I could do that.

 So I think I should go with a business idea that my wife and I could do together, for fun. I wouldn’t need to put money into the business. Well, we would have to have a little money, but we could use some savings. It’s just that I don’t know if I like that because the business would not let me quit my job. And my wife is pretty busy, but she likes projects.

You’ve had a lot of businesses yourself, Penelope. Do you know which business would be best for me?

Answer from Penelope:

Your goal for starting a business is to enable you to get out of going to an office from 9-5. That’s a good goal. And the smaller business idea will not meet that goal.

It seems that the only benefits to the smaller business is that you and your wife have fun. But you don’t need to invest your savings in order to have fun. And I’m sure your wife can find a project for herself without you starting a business for her.

So I think your real question is how can you gather enough funds to get the bigger business off the ground.

You are right to think that doing that is difficult, but starting a business that needs funding is often the most low-risk option on the table, and I think that may be true for you.

You have friends who understand the investment community, so it’s not outrageous to think they could guide you. And don’t underestimate the need for a guide – the startup funding community is relatively conservative with stringent rules

The game of launching a business is doing as much as you can to mitigate risk. So, for example, its risky to start a business to get out of your office job, but it’s riskier to plan to spend your life in a job you hate. Here’s a blog post about mitigating risk as you start a business

You’ll have an easier time beating out the competition if you stick to something you have expertise in. So your business should be at the intersection of the idea you like and the expertise you have. You can find practical examples of leveraging your expertise in the book The Business of Expertise, by David Baker. 

Don’t shy away from borrowing money. There’s a reason that most entrepreneurs have bad credit— you have to use anything you can get to keep your business from going under during those early, fragile months. That said,  business owners who have a plan to be profitable often qualify for fast business loans.

If this is all making you sick with stress, try a career change. Just because you hate one job doesn’t mean you’ll hate them all. I would not recommend going back to school for a graduate degree — way too large an investment for something you’re not sure of. But going to a career development site that provides you with a mentor in your field is a good way to make the career change less difficult by helping you to create a network to pave the way.  NYICD does a good job of providing that service. 

And remember that there is no way to live a life without taking some risk. When you ask people at the end of their life what they would have done differently, they almost always say they would have taken more risks. So instead of avoiding the risks of doing the business that meets your goals, try thinking in terms of intelligent risk-taking and then you’re not likely to regret the outcome, no matter what it is. 

Do I have a good plan for an online business?

I launched a website very recently for women starting over in mid-life. My tagline is, “Be Your Own Rescuer”. I want to create a community of support and information for women starting over at a point in their lives when they thought they would be settled. I will offer entrepreneurial opportunities, feature other women who’ve been through it, a blog, private Facebook community, etc..

When I was in that situation, I was in despair. After my divorce I thought all the good in life was behind me. But I started cleaning houses and then I realized I could grow the business by hiring people. So I quadrupled my sales and I have ten employees. Now I want to do more. I want to show women to know they don’t have to settle for the crumbs of the life they lost.

A few things I’m working on:

I am creating a course on how to start a cleaning business, with support from me through the process.

I am also creating an 8 week group coaching course for these same women. At the end of the 8 weeks, I want them to have a plan and know what next steps they will take toward creating the life they want….

My first step is putting a bunch of irons in the fire to build a mailing list, direct them to my site, by offering freebies online through Facebook ads and instagram. Possible example: Offer the overview module to the courses for free, save the meat for the paying. Create freebies my target would be interested in: controlling negative thoughts, overcoming fear and worry, 7 days of radical self-care, the number one thing I did that changed everything, how I went from homeless single mom to successful business owner with healthy, happy, grown sons, “Be Your Own Rescuer” – how I rebuilt my life in midlife, etc….

I could also join online groups catering to my target market, get face-to-face with divorce recovery groups, addiction recovery (addiction and single mom can go hand in hand at times…), single moms groups. Write blog posts relevant to my target, share them online..

My question for you is: Do you sense that I am on track with all of this? Is there anything that jumps out at you that I’m veering off-track with?