Thursday, January 24, 2008

New York Stories #9: Upper West Sider

It's New York Story time again! This time we hear from a denizen of the Upper West Side:

I live in Manhattan's awesome Upper West Side. I make $130,000 per year as a project manager, which is enough for a pretty comfortable standard of living as long as your standards aren't too high. I started out making jack diddly squat since I came here as a graduate student. I did two Master's degrees in three years, working three jobs at a time: one on campus, plus two teaching assistantships and two or three different internships. My first salary in the working world was $62,000 back in 1996, so it's grown about 6 to 7% annually on average.

I became a homeowner in 2001 by grabbing up an apartment right after 9/11. The purchaser bolted and it went back on the market, so I had to decide then and there whether I was willing to make a commitment to New York. I would have done it earlier if I could have, but I went through a very nasty divorce starting early in 2001 and dragging on for eighteen months, so it was just as well that my ex and I didn't buy property together.

At the moment, 15.5% of my salary goes to retirement savings, supplemented by another 3% kicked in by my employer. Most of my personal expenditure goes to travel, with eating out as a distant second. I also have a thang about good coffee, good chocolate, and good things in general. I don't have a lot of stuff, but what I have is satisfying because it's pretty high quality.

I wouldn't say my financial habits changed enormously after I moved to New York. I learned my frugal habits from a couple of very good role models while growing up, so there wasn't much of a learning curve. Seeing the income vs. tuition delta was great motivation to ramp up my already fairly frugal habits to a much higher spot on the frugality continuum.

Living in New York has made me a saver. It's so easy to blow your entire salary and then look back and wonder where it all went. Even earning six figures, the only way to be a homeowner and plan for retirement is to consciously choose a lifestyle that will support those objectives.

I think my favorite line here is "Living in New York has made me a saver." So many New Yorkers would say just the opposite: "Living in New York has made me overspend." Perhaps it is true that the environment of this city can inspire frugality in ways that the suburbs wouldn't. When you are so surrounded by conspicuous consumption and expensive real estate, you realize that if your income is moderate, you'll have to be really disciplined to get a piece of it for yourself, so you're less likely to want to waste money on the little things... unfortunately it doesn't work that way for everyone! Many thanks to this Upper West Sider for contributing a story!

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
New York Stories #8: Comfortable Couple


Lily said...

Living in New York has definitely made me a saver. My job here pays about three times as much as a job I can get anywhere else, and fortunately I don't feel compelled to be a fixture of the club scene or the fashion district. :)

RacerX said...

It is great to see that just because you make a great salary you don't have to get into the "keeping up with the Jones" syndrome. I believe that is how/why many fail!

Ryan said...

Not just NYC but any city. I am a young professional myself making decent but low salary in an entry level job. The salary alone forces you to be ultra-frugal. I just can't wait for that raise/bonus check haha.

****Veteran Military Wife**** said...

Thanks for sharing these NYC stories. I enjoy reading them! We are military and move around a lot, have a comfortable income and a comfortable retirement booty...and even though I think New Yorkers are so much different from us in everything they do...when it comes to the simple things of budgeting and saving...we're all the same. Keep up the stories.