Here's a nice New York Story from a young couple, who, like Escape Brooklyn, are helping to buck the trend of what seemed to be all single female submissions to this series so far!
We are a happy couple in our mid-20's who live a comfortable life in NYC. I graduated from an extremely prestigious college and am now pursuing a PhD in the sciences. My stipend is $29K and my hours fluctuate anywhere from 30 to 100 hrs/ wk. My spouse works in the finance sector and averages 45 hrs/ wk. Together, our household income is about $200K.
Despite our relatively young age, we entered our marriage with decent savings. Neither of us had any debt from college, thanks to a combination of parental help, scholarships, and part-time jobs. We have always paid off our credit card balance in full, maxed out our IRA's and 401k's, and lived below our means, even when our combined income was not nearly as high as it is now. After footing the bill for much of our wedding and all of our honeymoon, we still have a net worth in the low six figures.
As a couple, we are extraordinarily "fiscally compatible." Our foundation for communication (including honesty and openness) is rock solid. We share very similar financial goals and spending/saving habits. At times, I am uncomfortable with how disproportionate my current contribution is. My spouse is completely supportive of whatever career path I choose, but I hope to earn a six-figure salary once I finish my PhD. Obviously, I do not plan on staying in academic research. It's just not for me. I plan on working in the corporate world and hope to find a job that is more rewarding both personally and financially.
We currently rent because my department subsidizes our housing. We pay $1400/month for a 750 sq ft one bedroom in a doorman building with a large garden/ courtyard in the heart of Manhattan. Another major expense is food/ restaurants since we rarely cook. However, we offset the splurges by often enjoying cheap eats in Chinatown, Curry Hill, St. Mark's, Spanish Harlem, etc. This is a common motif in our spending pattern. We take multiple international & domestic trips per year, but we minimize costs by staying with friends/ family, finding great deals, or traveling to affordable places (great exchange rate or off-season). We see lots of shows, but also take advantage of any available discounts and student rush tixx.
I would describe our lifestyle as "comfortable," but not luxurious or overly wasteful. Neither of us subscribe to the values of conspicuous consumption. Some expenses that we do not have include: a car, pets, cigarettes, coffee, luxury goods, high-end designer items, or the latest tech accessory (e.g. iphones or ipods). We believe that there's a big difference between spending within our means and spending within our budget. We definitely do not feel "rich".. at least not by NYC standards. We realize that we still have a long way to go, especially if we want to settle down here. We've fallen in love with Manhattan, but it's so expensive. An 800 sq ft condo in a decent neighborhood would easily cost $1 million!
The amount of money that flows through this city is just mind-boggling. Most of our employed friends make six-figures and a few (traders) make seven-figures a year. So far, peer pressure to spend big has been minimal. I suspect that this has much to do with the fact that we also have many unemployed friends who are still in law school, medical school, or grad school. Since there are several students in our circle of friends (including myself), we often accommodate the lowest budget. When we go out together, we choose places with no cover and drink specials. When we travel, we're okay with staying together at hostels. I wonder how this dynamic is going to change after our friends finish their degrees and more of us start making high salaries.
To keep us grounded (among other reasons), my spouse and I devote several hours a month to volunteering. Through volunteering, we've met New Yorkers from many different walks of life. We realize how incredibly fortunate we are to have such great educations, career prospects, and generally worry-free lives. We also understand how important it is to help those who are less fortunate. In the future, we hope to give back even more.
The diversity of people, cultures, and ideas is what makes NYC so profoundly great. We try to take advantage of everything the city has to offer. Between the two of us, we enjoy activities that range from live reggae to chamber music ensembles, from Broadway musicals to improv comedy, from street cart gyros to Jean Georges, from ice- skating outdoors to African dance classes, from burger joints to Japanese izakayas, from the MoMA to the Gallery Bar... To say that we would be very unhappy if we had to live somewhere with a homogenous population and limited choices would be an understatement. We also love the minimal commute and convenience of public transportation from living in Manhattan.
In summary: We currently live a comfortable, but not luxurious, life in NYC. We are completely in love with the city and want to settle down here. It's terribly expensive, but we are fortunate enough to have the means to stay. We hope to close on a condo in Manhattan by the time we turn 30. We want to continue maximizing happiness and rewarding life experiences (e.g. traveling and volunteering) while minimizing wasteful consumption.
Wow. I wish I had had such a clear-headed sense of my goals and values when I was in my mid-20s! Kudos to this couple for taking advantage of what the city has to offer, and staying true to themselves amidst the influences of friends who are on different paths. And, damn, a $1,400 doorman 1-BR in the heart of Manhattan! Enjoy that while it lasts! Many thanks to Comfortable Couple for sharing their story.
Would you like to share your own New York Story? Email me at openwallet1 ---- at----- yahoo --- dot--- com.
Other posts in this series:
New York Stories #1: Bronx Chica
New York Stories #2: Orange
New York Stories #3: Bama Babe
New York Stories #4: K
New York Stories #5: Frugal Female
New York Stories #6: SandyVoice
New York Stories #7: Escape Brooklyn