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Growing Family, Growing Needs, with Jyothsna Tremblay

When a family prepares to welcome Baby No. 2, a lot more gets planned than the nursery colors: wills, medical proxies and long-term financial planning (child care! college!) all come to the fore. Fortunately for her family, Jyothsna Tremblay is a finance pro by day, and her home finance manager by night (as well as wife and mother). She talks with Club Sandwich host Jennifer Owens about expecting, expectations and planning for life's expected and unexpected happenings.

July 2, 2021

MEET OUR GUEST:
Jyothsna Tremblay is a working mother of one — and one on the way. She is Vice President, Strategy and Business Development at Strategic Financial Solutions (Firstly's parent company), knows her way around an Excel spreadsheet, and runs her family's finances.

Jennifer Owens
Welcome to Club Sandwich, where the music is great and the stories are real. Each week we talk about life in the middle — the middle of raising kids, nurturing careers and navigating the ever-changing needs of our aging parents. 

I’m Jennifer Owens. I’m editorial director at FirstlySM, the first financial wellness platform designed specifically for the Sandwich Generation. I’m also the mother of two, wife of one and the daughter and stepdaughter of my children’s grandparents. 

I know first-hand how complex family life can be — and how it can change in an instant. I also know how hard it can be to prepare for the future, especially one that impacts our kids and our parents, let alone ourselves.

Our guest today knows this too. Jyothsna Tremblay, thank you for sharing your Sandwich story with us today!

Jyothsna Tremblay
Woo-hoo! I’m really happy to be a part of this jam. I'm super excited.

Jennifer:
So I am catching you at a pretty busy time for your family: you and your husband are both working remote, full-time, you’re both juggling childcare drop-offs and pickups — something I’m so glad not to have to do anymore — and then there’s the actual parenting! And now you have baby No. 2 on the way in just a few months. 

Jyothsna
Yes, yes. We’re very excited to be welcoming baby No. 2, but you are on point, it is — there are some days I feel like a headless chicken. And then I eventually find it and I screw it back on and so everything sounds great.

Jennifer
So what are you thinking about now as, you know — okay, so my husband and I have a running joke that, you know, one baby, it's, it's something... but two babies. Now, now it gets real. I say something a little bit more profane. But now it gets real. So what are you thinking about these days, as the reality is about to hit you?

Jyothsna
Oh, let’s see. I’m thinking: maternity leave, getting baby No. 2 on the list for daycare, getting, you know, getting our older one and the younger one familiarized with each other and sort of start that bonding process. It’s a lot of things on my mind. But I will tell you: I think the fact that we’re doing this for the second time around, there isn’t as much anxiety as it was with the first one.  I have, I have some memories of, you know, because you’re doing it for the first time, everything is new, and everything is enhanced in your mind.

Jennifer
And with No. 2, No. 1 doesn't let you forget that they're there.

Jyothsna
Exactly, exactly. Which I have a feeling will become even more of a prominent thing in the household, once he actually sees the baby and the amount of attention that's needed. But my hope is that they get along and they love each other. And eventually, they get along so well and they play with each other, so that both my husband and I don't have to be playing with either one of them.

Jennifer
Uhh, I'll let you think that's gonna happen. I'll let you have that fantasy, because...

Jyothsna
Oh, thank you, yes, for a few years.

Jennifer
Uh huh. Yeah, enjoy that thought. So... well, behind the scenes of the family, you know, setting up all the things. What are you thinking about, when it comes to future planning, you know, and and setting up, like your family? We're talking about finances, and we're talking about things like wills and the like, like, what are you thinking about in terms of that?

Jyothsna
Yeah, great question. I think these are things actually we didn't even think of with baby one, which I've started to think about now, which is, you know, exactly along the lines of what you mentioned. Which is, you know, life insurance. What happens if one of us, God forbid, something happens, and one of us is out of the, one of the parents is out of the picture, or disabled? Or, you know, how do we sort of support the income that's needed to keep keep this, you know, machine running? 

Jennifer
Yeah. 

Jyothsna
And wills and, you know, health proxies. And, you know, what happens if both of us are, God forbid, out of the picture, what happens to our kids? So all these kinds of things that you typically don't pay a lot of attention to are things that you pretty much are forced to think through. Because as much as you don't want them to be a reality, the last thing you want to do is be unprepared. Right? So these are the things that are top of mind right now as we're trying to prepare for the arrival of the second one.

Jennifer
Now, did you ever talk to your parents about this sort of stuff, because I never did.


Jyothsna
No!

Jennifer
Like what they did to prepare, like, for our arrivals? 

Jyothsna
No, I don't remember having these conversations with them or even sort of hearing them talk about it, you know, so it's very real. And it's very real for pretty much the first time for me.

Jennifer
Yeah, yeah. It was for us, too, that that we just never — and I'll tell you, honestly, that as we're dealing with parents passing or the like that not only that they didn't talk about it, but they didn't do 

Jyothsna
Right.

Jennifer
Like oh, oh!

Jyothsna
And you don't want to be, you know, at least today, you don't want to be that parent, right? Who's sort of caught off guard — especially with two kids you don't want to be. But I think the other aspect is also you want to pay attention to all these things. But also, you know, I love my job and my career and also think about how I'm going to, you know, how both of us are going to balance that with, you know, with all the time and attention that's needed in the household? That's another big one that quite honestly, I don't think either one of us has an answer right now. I think we're gonna have to figure it out as we go along.

Jennifer
Have you ever seen the Harvard Business School surveys they'll do with, like, upcoming the next graduating year? And they'll ask questions about, "So who do you expect will do the childcare? Who do you expec, how will life look like, work and life? And they'll always say that they always expect everything to be 50/50. And then they'll come back like five or seven years later, and it never is.

Jyothsna
The reality is never that. Oh, yeah. It's such a fresh mindset, right? When you come out of college, you think the world and life works a certain way. And then reality happens down the line, and it's just quite different from what you thought it would be.

Jennifer
So your background is business. So you've been in consulting, you're an analyst, and now you're leading business development strategies, and looking for acquisition targets, and vetting businesses and partners. So that's all about money and planning. So does that mean that you're the money planner for your family? Does it translate?

Jyothsna
Yes, it does. So my husband, as much as I love him, he's not the controller of the purse strings, if you will, of the household. He's very much a creative. And he's ambitious. But he's, you know, he's a software engineer: he can lose himself in the world of, you know, building applications and game development and all that other stuff that I absolutely have no understanding of. 

So I think my background lends itself really well to this situation, because I manage the daily expenses, you know, the bills, saving for goals. We certainly talk about it, and we discuss what to do, but the management and execution of it comes on me. 

And it's, it's easier for me to do that just because of my experience, and how I've spent years looking at these kinds of things. And it just comes more naturally to me, I think, then it would to him. It would be a big task for him; whereas for me, I could just do something in a couple of minutes, and then get back to whatever it was that I was focused on.

Jennifer
It makes me laugh, because the first time I met you, it was over financial modeling. And now I'm like, “Are you financially modeling your family?”

Jyothsna
Yes, I am. And putting that Excel to good use.

Jennifer
All right, got it. Pivot tables and the like. Great, awesome. Well, and so how are you thinking about — bringing it back to baby No. 2 — like, college savings? I mean, that's always the biggie.

Jyothsna
Oh, boy.

Jennifer
You know, it's something I always talk about at Firstly, is that, you know, the cost of childcare when they're very young rivals that of college tuition. But then also, there's college tuition to save for as well.

Jyothsna
Yep. You're totally right on that. The child-care expense, especially in the city where we live, is pretty high. It's almost what you would pay for two kids, if you looked at the combined amount. So it's what you'd pay for private school, or, yeah, what you'd put aside to pay for college for sure. And my hope is that over time, once they're out of childcare, and in public school, that expense will sort of, you know, reduce, and we'll be able to put more money towards college savings. 

But 529 is something that I'm a big fan of, and I've already signed up for that for my firstborn. And I plan to do the same with the second one, just because it's a safe, tax-free way of putting your money aside and you get tax deductions if it's a state-run, plan. And over time that money builds up. So by the time your kids are 16 and 17, and applying to go to college, you have a nice sum of money set aside. Now, I don't know if that would be sufficient, but it should be enough to be able to get them through, at least get a head start on a lot of a lot of things. It also depends on what they want to do, which we have no idea right now. 

Jennifer
What?! You haven't pick their careers for them already? Come on!

Jyothsna
No, No. I have, but you know, life is... it will be the one thing they absolutely do not want to do.

Jennifer
Oh, completely. So pick the thing that you don't want them to do and then promote it. It's a long con.

Jyothsna
I think that's what I'm gonna do. I'm taking notes right now.

Jennifer
Yeah, I'm here to offer tips. So yeah — that did not happen in our house, by the way. And also the idea of saving for and how you're going to pay for college and all that — again, my mom got me through college. And you know, we did say, we had a financial aid package, student loans and all this sort of jazz, but I don't know that ever actually sat down and talked to her clearly about how college was going to be paid for. You know? And like, I have one going off to college in the fall. And we're all talking about it. But I don't know that she hears. Because my husband and I are talking about it all the time. And we have a plan, and we have two babies ourselves, so that we see college as a seven-year commitment because they overlap. But I don't know that she's fully aware of…

Jyothsna
Of what it takes? 

Jennifer
Yeah, what it takes, exactly.  

Jyothsna
Totally. I mean, you know, I remember, gosh, when I was a teenager, I think I paid very little attention to where the money was coming from. You know, as long as I got my pocket money, and I got to buy the things that I wanted to. Your, you know, your sort of universe is limited to that. And I wish I'd paid more attention back then.

Jennifer
But you didn't need to.


Jyothsna
So it's something that I will probably try to tell my sons to pay more attention to. But, you know, who knows? I'm sure my parents tried telling me to pay more attention to these things, and I moved on to the next thing that was on my mind at that time.

Jennifer
I'm sure my mother would, would have completely — if I had sat down and said, Mom, I really would love to know, how are you swinging it to help me get through college? She would have loved to have told me. But I didn't ask.

Jyothsna
That brings up, you bring up a great point there, which is, you know, getting your kids to be financially savvy early on in their life is a huge, huge plus. Whether it's through getting them to do internships or summer, you know, little work assignments in the summer. And, and start helping them think about Okay, so you made this much money over the summer, what do you want to do with it? Open a savings account, you know, simple things like that, and starting to get them familiarized with what it takes to be able to manage your finances, it would be huge. And I think you bring up a great point there, which is that early financial education is certainly beneficial. Yeah.

Jennifer
We did have a conversation just last night with our daughter who's going off to college about, I said, you know, it's not that credit is bad. But the way I entered the world of owning a credit card was bad, which was I got a retail credit card when I was a freshman in college, because they were offering free chocolate mints at this department store in the area. And I'm sure, later, having covered the fashion industry, retail credit cards tend to be like 24%. It's like usury rates, right? They're the worst. And so I said, you know, it's not that, but when the time comes — and we need to talk about that — I need you to come to us and ask about how to use credit and how to handle it right.

Jyothsna
Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I remember my first credit card was from Bank of America. And the reason was, you know, I, it was my, my first entry into the United States. And I'd come here to attend the MBA program at Boston University, and I had no credit. And so the only bank that was giving credit cards to, you know, students, especially international students, was Bank of America. And I remember the limit was $1,000. And, you know, at that time, the, you know, the other students who were there, they were passing on knowledge, and they said, just use it and pay it off, even if it's for little things like groceries and such, because that will help build your credit. And that kind of sort of passing on of knowledge really helped. Because I, you know, otherwise I just wouldn't have used it, or you know, very sparingly.

Jennifer
Because your heart is like, I don't want to expose myself to have this bill. 

Jyothsna
Right. Exactly. 

Jennifer
At Firstly, we are talking about how to have those conversations with your kids. Because, yeah, we think we're an interesting generation, those of us in the middle right now, because — no disrespect to our lovely parents — but I do see things like, we're dealing with probate [from my parents' estates] and stuff that wasn't cleaned up, and I just don't want to pass that on. 

And then we went to college in an era where financial aid couldn't have happened without student loans. Whereas my mom was able to wait, she went to school late, and was able to fund college all by herself by working in a department store — which I could never have done; my college was too expensive. There was no way that without financial aid that I could have done it that way. So I think my experience is going to be much more aligned with what my daughter's experience is going to be: a combination of grants and loans and scholarships. It's a mix. And so I want her to do it the best possible way and to come out with the least amount of loans that I can offer her. 

Jyothsna
Yep. And you know the point you made about how retail credit cards are so attractive. I remember back in the day, you know, like Saks and pretty much any big retailer, they had them and they still do. And when you're young and you're going shopping on the weekend, or what have you: You think, Oh, this is great, I get, like, all these points that I can use toward... And so you start opening these cards, and you don't realize that they're just a big money sink, right? Because they're cards that you probably can use only at the retailers, so you end up going back there to collect more points. And it's not really beneficial for you to have all these little credit cards open versus having a couple that you use more regularly. And so if there were people who would pass that kind of knowledge on to the younger generations, I think they'd be much smarter with money than we were, for sure.

Jennifer
Well, looking at the other generation, our parents. What's your sandwich? What's the other part of your sandwich? Do you have parents or in-laws who are nearby? 

Jyothsna
Yeah, I do have in-laws who are pretty nearby. My parents, unfortunately, passed away when I was quite young. But my husband's parents live about three hours away from the city. And, you know, it's, it's, it's a topic that we talk about at home as well. Probably not as much right now, because we're so focused on, you know, on baby No. 2, but…

Jennifer
Creating a new generation. 

Jyothsna
Yes, exactly. But you know, they were a huge help during COVID, to be honest, because the daycares were closed, and both of us were working from home or trying to work from home. And we had a one-year-old at that time, who needed constant attention and needed somebody to play with, to take him outside, to feed him. And so we relied pretty heavily on my in-laws to come and stay with us and help us through those couple of months till the daycares were allowed to be functioning again. And so we leaned on them pretty heavily for support,  especially around the kids. But we're also starting to think about what do they need. For example, where they live in Massachusetts, it gets really cold in the winter. And I think my father-in-law just does not like that much cold. He says the cold just seeps through your bones. And so we're thinking where could they live or move to that would be still close to us, but they'd have the chance to live somewhere where it's relatively bearable. Those kinds of things, you know, we're just starting to think about that. But I think it's going to become a bigger topic as we move along.

Jennifer
Yeah. And do you guys talk about where their logins are, where their passwords are, you know, like....

Jyothsna
Oh, my God, oh, my god. My father-in-law calls sometimes on the weekends, and he's trying to figure out how to log back into some software that he had downloaded. And, you know, he's, he's not able to find it. And it's just, it's about a one and a half hour call. And then, you know, my husband hangs up and he's like, I could have probably fixed that in like, five minutes, but I just couldn't figure out what it is that he's trying to navigate on his computer. And, you know, they get forgetful. Thankfully, nothing big or disastrous has happened due to their forgetfulness. But we worry about them driving, too, you know, it's a three-hour drive. I try to encourage them to take the train, but it's a lot easier for them to hit the road. 

Jennifer
Right, right. 

Jyothsna
But yeah, we're starting to deal with a lot of those things.

The gift of showing up and untangling the tech is truly something. I do it and I and I'm glad to. I'm glad that my level of IT knowledge is enough to be helpful, you know, because they easily…

Jyothsna
A little birdie told me that you got your mom all set up on Instagram recently.

Jennifer
I did get her set up on Instagram! I did. She's not using it much, I can tell. But she wanted to see my brother's best friend. And that's the only place where his wife, the best friend's wife, is, so she can, you know, see what's happening with their family. They're living in Brazil. And so she wants to see the stories. So I got my mom set up on that. But also untangled — here's the thing, she had gone into just using her phone for a really long time, and then decided she wanted to come back online and get back into writing. And so she got a MacBook Air. And I say that because in those 10 years, it had gone from having a mouse to having a trackpad that you clicked on. And no one told her that. And so it was only in sitting and figuring out, you know, passwords and all that sort of jazz, that she said, Oh, you know, all I needed was that piece of information! She could just never figure out what was the question to ask? And all I think, (A), I'm glad to be able to help her. But (B) is, what are the questions you and I are going to be asking our kids?

Jyothsna
Oh boy, yeah. I'll share another tidbit with you. Bitcoin is something that my father in law is interested in looking into, and so finance is another aspect where we're like, Oh, boy. You know, I don't know if he should be putting any of his retirement money into that. It's something that's hard for, you know, a lot of people to understand. So, you know, there's the aspect of getting their lifestyle more comfortable, but also their finances, right? How do you, do we look at hiring someone to manage their money? Do we do that ourselves, you know, just to be able to make sure that they're not, you know, looking at something that's really risky, or something that they don't understand and putting aside their lifetime savings into something that is, is riskier than...

Jennifer
And still respecting them.

Jyothsna
Yeah. 

Jennifer
For, Hey, it's your lifetime savings. Yeah, it's a balance of respecting their wishes, but also making sure —

Jyothsna
— that they're fully educated about what they're trying to do, yeah.

Jennifer
That's interesting, because with the kids you can just tell them: come to me before you sign on for a credit card. You know, like, I'm still gonna boss you around. Don't tell my daughter that — she's coming very soon to the end of the road where I'm allowed to boss her around. But with the parents, we already know, it's a, it's a relationship. And it's an honoring, and it's a working together.

Jyothsna
Yeah, exactly. And I feel like there's not a lot of, you know, digital tools out there that help people, like my father-in-law, get educated about, Hey, you know, if I'm looking into bitcoins, should I really be looking into that? Or should I be putting my money somewhere else? And how do I make sure that all the bills and everything else that needs to be cleared on a daily or a weekly basis is being taken care of, right? So it's really about sort of targeting the elder market and making sure that there are digital, you know, personal finance tools that help them do all this without having to hire a person? 

Jennifer
Right. You know, 'cause that's the thing, it's like, just because you're older, doesn't mean that you don't want to know about a cryptocurrency, SPACs, bitcoin. So to have that relationship with someone that you can talk to — it's different than financial advising, which I think of more in terms of like true investments. This is like having a conversation about a few things you might want to gamble a little bit on with your investment. Like what what percentage of my investments might I put there, but also then, you know, make sure all my bills are paid, make sure that I'm doing right by setting up — because if you've ever had a conversation with the grandparents, the one way I have found to always have a good conversation about finances with my parents is to say, I know that you want to set something aside for the grandkids. They always want to jump over you...

Jyothsna
And look at the grandkids. Yep.

Jennifer
Yes, they do. And that's okay.

Jyothsna
They certainly have their eyes on the prize.

Jennifer
It's always the grandkids. The minute baby No. 1 shows up, we all go, you know, down to like level number two, in the family hierarchy. It's true. It's so true. 

Jyothsna
It's, it's a blessing if you're on the hierarchy at all, eventually.

Jennifer
Well, so, with baby No. 2 arriving and getting the grandparents set and the childcare set. So is there something that you wish you would have known for baby No. 1, something you would have done differently?

Jyothsna
That's a really good question. If someone had told me it's okay to make mistakes, right? And it's okay to learn and grow as a parent and to figure out how do you balance your career and your child? And it's okay to not know what you don't know. Because when you're doing that for the first time, and it's you know, it's a human being — everything is, you know, high-anxiety-driven. And I think this time around, I'm more confident. I certainly can say that I'm more confident and I'm more forgiving of, you know, slip-ups or, or mistakes that happen along the way. I also know which things I need to plan way ahead for, like, you know, getting on the waitlist for daycare. I remember for the first one I walked in maybe three weeks before I gave birth to him and the daycare was like You do realize we have people on this waitlist that have been on the waitlist for ...

Jennifer
Who just got pregnant. 

Jyothsna
Yeah, exactly. And I was like, Oh, well, I did not know you had to plan that far in advance.

Jennifer
Oh, good to know. Thank you. Thanks for the feedback, thank you.

Jyothsna
So this time around, I did, and you know, so now I know which ones you need to plan way ahead for and which ones are okay to be, you know, last-minute decisions. I think that kind of perspective that I've gained through having my firstborn is certainly a help. And also I think one of the important things is to make sure that you make time for self-care and you make time for things that you enjoy, and don't give up on those because that can negatively impact your attitude towards being a parent. And if your career and your professional advancement is important to you, like it is to me, that is something that I know is okay for me to make time for and balance that with my personal life and taking care of my kids. And so, at the end of the day, one size doesn't fit all. So as much as people are happy to give you advice about what you should and shouldn't do, you should do what works best for you. And what other people do may not work for you. And it may have worked great for them, but it may not be the model that works for you. So you really have to be okay with figuring out your own path in how you manage all these things. And it's okay if what the majority say works for them doesn't work for you. It just doesn't. It's okay to do that.

Jennifer
Well I'm so glad that your path led you to Club Sandwich today. 

Jyothsna
I am, too. I'm so happy to be on the show. It's been such a great conversation!

Jennifer
Our guest today was Josthnya Tremblay. If you are living life in the middle, share your story with us at editors@firstly.com. Please take a moment to rate and review our podcast — it really helps us grow. And of course, if you could use a little extra financial wellness help, visit Firstly.com, created specifically with the Sandwich Generation in mind. Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear it. And until then, I'll see you each week in the club, Club Sandwich.

Are you living life in the middle? Share your Club Sandwich story at firstly.com — and start your own path to family financial wellness. And each week join us at Club Sandwich!

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