I loved running the New York Stories series because it was a chance to learn more about the lives of some of my readers. But not all my readers live in New York, and it's wonderful to hear from those who live in other areas. Here's an email I got from someone recently, the person who inspired me to start the Money Match series of personal ads (you'll see why towards the end). In fact, I have to make this the honorary #1 entry in the Money Match series, as I think many of my female readers will be as charmed as I was by his story and would love to know more about him even though I can't publicly say where he lives! (Ok, he has admitted it's "DC/VA/MD/PA area.") I'm going to call him SuperCop to protect his privacy (and because I like the idea of him rappeling through an apartment window!) Here's his email:
I've been reading your blog for the past few months. Before I found it, I thought I was the only weirdo that loved knowing what other people make, how they save/spend/invest their money, and how to best control my own finances. The reason why I'm writing you, besides to tell you to keep up the great work, is that I was wondering if you could do a piece on NYPD officers (specifically those that live in the boroughs..New Jersey doesnt count :P ), their finances, and how they manage to survive living in the city. I don't know how it works for them up there, as far as working overtime and working secondary employment, but you can make and save a considerable amount of money as a police officer. When I started with the State Police in 2004, my starting salary was $37,000 per year. As of July 1st of this year, with the measly 2% increase we got it will be $54,000. Where it gets really good is when you add in a take-home vehicle.
I drive an unmarked 2007 Ford Crown Victoria that I can use off-duty and I fill up at the state gas pumps. The only drawback is that I can't drive it out of state unless it's business related. Regardless, I haven't owned a car or been to a gas station in 3 years, I cancelled my internet as I have an in-car computer with access (though it's dial-up), and I got rid of my nextel phone (saves me $100 per month), use my business Blackberry, and make sure to constantly remind friends and family to call me only after 7pm so I don't use up my Anytime minutes.
The next thing is my work schedule. I work 10 hour shifts and it usually works out to where I only work 15 days out of the month. For those 15 days off I work as many part-time shifts as I can. One job has me directing traffic out of a church for $45 per church mass and each mass takes about 15 minutes to clear out the traffic. The church job brings $4704 a year after taxes. The next job is security at a train station. It's 8 hour shifts @ $40 per hour, and I work around 10 shifts a month at the station so that's an extra $38,400 (pre-tax) per year. Miscellaneous jobs (ones where I fill in for someone or it's short-term) adds another $4,000 or so. Our pay rate for different jobs is based on what's expected of us:
$25 per hour - We will provide police presence, mostly sitting in our car, and in my case... going thru myopenwallet archives. I'm on February of this year right now. :) If anyone acts up I'll generally give them the hairy eyeball and if they don't get the hint, gently encourage them to take it elsewhere.
$35-40 per hour - Police presence, foot patrols, proactive enforcement
$50 per hour - I will chase errant crackheads across rooftops, rappel through apartment windows, and climb up after kittens in trees.
The main drawback of working secondary employment is if you get hurt, it's not covered as line of duty, which means if I get hurt badly enough... I'm out of a job and alot of money. That's why businesses get exactly what they pay for. You are not going to get SuperCop service for $25 per hour. Supercop has a much greater chance of getting hurt. The big benefit for them hiring us is people know the difference between rent-a-cops and an off-duty police officer. They know they can pretty much get away with murder with a rent-a-cop but the moment they cross the line, commit a misdemeanor or felony, I immediately go into on-duty status and before you know it they are cuffed and in the back of a paddy wagon.
As far as personal finances go... I'm cheap. Not quite to cheap bastard level yet but I'm getting there. I haven't bought Quicken yet (don't want to spend the money) but I have nice little pocket notebooks that I track expenses in and I obsessively check my banking and brokerage accounts. My net worth isn't that high, only $60,000 or so, as I didn't become a born-again cheapass until a few years ago and had the epiphany, "Wow! Money really IS important, and life ends up sucking if you piss it away." I'm an only child and a Leo. Yeah, not good.
My main goal right now is to save for a massive downpayment on a home, and possibly invest in the next year or two in a piece of land to build it on. I found a 10-acre parcel in a rural area only 15 minutes away and I'm really considering it as it's only $250,000, which is a steal! When I do select my site this is EXACTLY what I want to build:
Granted, I know the costs (materials-wise) will be huge but I figure if I save and scrimp for the next 8 years I'll have $240,000 saved that will help considerably. I don't think it will cramp my living that much as my expenses are pretty low IMO:
$550 per month (Share single-family home with 1 roommate in nice quiet neighborhood. My online snooping shows it's worth around $270,000)
$400.00 per month + $100 for baby food and incidentals. She's only
a little one and doesn't take up a large part of my food budget... yet.
Again, no car payment, no car insurance, no cell phone bill, and no internet.
Food: I need to start tracking this more but seeing how I rarely eat out (try to eat at work most of the time) and I'm not going out partying and drinking all the time I figure it's not much of an issue. Whenever I go to work about 90% of the time I pack a lunch, mostly PB&J and fruit. I DO splurge on the good stuff as far as PB goes... I get all-natural Maranatha.
That's pretty much it. Seeing how I work so much I don't have much as far as entertainment expenses go. I haven't bothered dating (me and my daughter's mother, baby's mama, what have you, are no longer together) as all I could think of is all the money I'd be spending, all the money I could be making, and how I need to focus on my financial goals. Besides, whatever time I do have off is spent with my daughter and she only has her childhood once and I plan to make the most of it. I wish that they had a dating site for frugal/cheap people. Post a profile of how frugal you are, pictures of your hybrid, and thifty singles should be flocking to you! Sure, physical beauty is nice, but there are two things that I find attractive in a woman above all else: 1) Good with her money, frugal, likes to itemize dinner bills, have a pizza and wine budgeting party, etc. 2) She's a klutz. I think I'm the only one in the world with #2 as a fetish. I once saw this cute woman with these little hipster glasses on at a Bloomingdales that was setting up a children's clothes display. She somehow loses her balance, knocks over racks of clothing, and falls right on her ass. At that moment I was in love.
Anyway, I have absolutely no idea if any of this interests you seeing how I'm not from NYC but I wanted you to know that even though my body is elsewhere I have a NYC soul :) Even if I did have the money to live there I don't think I would. I think I enjoy just admiring it from afar and most importantly, my daughter is here and I want to be living no more than 15 minutes away from her. Thank you again for your wonderful blog, KEEP writing, and if I can make one suggestion... post more real estate porn! Nothing would excite me more than getting my $2.49 latte (Dunkin Donuts is MUCH cheaper than Starbucks and NO I don't get any donuts :) ), booting up my in-car computer, and taking that first sip while seeing photos of some high-end Manhattan real-state and the juicy gossip that goes along with it.
I hope SuperCop will keep in touch so we'll know where he's at in a few years: I bet he'll have built his beautiful house, and I just hope his klutzy soulmate doesn't fall down those outdoor stairs!