Here's another New York story, submitted by K:
My parents (blue collar all the way) bought a house in the boroughs thirty years ago for 50K (wow!) they still live in that house. Parents mortgaged it 4 times to 6 kids through college. I went to art school. After graduation I traveled around the world for work in the museum industry and made enough to live on, but was not able to save very much. Yet I have no regrets about having the experience of living in Europe, Asia and South America. What an amazing way to live right after college.
I never worked in an office environment until 9 years later. I came back to NYC and realized if I wanted to live in my home city, I would have to get a job that could pay enough. I picked up skills that complemented my art school tendencies and now I am in my late thirties, with an excellent job with full benefits, 401k, health insurance plus 6 to 8 weeks of vacation.
I live in Brooklyn, rent a gigantic two bedroom apartment in an old brownstone with a garden and share the rent with my beloved. My job has turned into a career that I love, helping other people through technology. Yearly salary is around 75k and I freelanced for an additional 5k last year. My goal is to save enough for a down payment for an apartment in Brooklyn, even though I love my current apartment. I am debt free as of last summer and now I want to be able to buy property in NY within 3 years or so. I am very happy with where I am in my life, love living in NYC and look forward to growing old here. I am lucky, I love all the culture in NYC and I try to attend shows, see art exhibits, go to the opera a few times a year while operating within my budget.
I do not own a car and take the subway or sometimes splurge for taxis late at night. My biggest expense is rent. My biggest luxury is the ability to travel to exotic locales twice a year. I combine these trips with freelancing, so I get to fly for free and get hotel paid for by the client. I live in NY because I like smart people, people who read and who are not tethered to reality TV. I try to sock away retirement $ every year, right now I save 18% of salary for that plus any "found money".
I have one credit card for emergencies and stupid hotel incidental charges. Living in NYC for so long, since I was a kid, makes me look at life in NYC in a different light. I remember when the subways were covered with graffiti, when you had to have a "mugging pocket" so you could give some dough to a mugger but save the good stuff for yourself, I remember the crack epidemic and "wilding", I remember when Manhattan had great eclectic Mom and Pop stores. I liked Manhattan before the chain stores took it hostage.
This is why I choose to live in Brooklyn. The newbies to the city can all cram into Manhattan. I will take the light, greenery, brownstones and cute shops and restaurants of Brooklyn. Not overrun with tourists.
I am content with the money I bring in, but I do think that if I was willing to be part of the rat race and work outside of non-profity land I could make around $120k per year. But I would not be happy. I value my time. That is why I will not take a job with less than 5 or 6 weeks of vacation time.
I read recently that "life lists" are in fashion. If I made a life list right now, 80% of it would be crossed off. Most of my dreams had to do with seeing the world. Right now my big dream is to own a home in my hometown. We have no parents who will give us any $ (those NY Times articles about mommy and daddy giving kids $$$$ to buy apartments are pathetic).
Living in NYC is a challenge, but I would not want to live anywhere else. I tried west coast living, but all the driving made me batty. I adore the subway and even with the dirt, it is the best it has been in 30 years. Sure, it takes sacrifices to live here, but if you can find a little nook of your own and a way to make money that doesn't make you suicidal...it is worth it.
Here's another New Yorker who has consciously tried to find balance between being a free spirit and staying grounded financially. This story is inspiring for those of us who might start focusing on money a little later in life, as K took time to see the world and have fun before settling down, but still managed to be debt free in his/her late 30s by finding the right career and living frugally. Good luck with that next step of buying a home, K, and thanks for sharing your story!
Other posts in this series:
New York Stories #1: Bronx Chica
New York Stories #2: Orange
New York Stories #3: Bama Babe