Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Polly the Normal 22 Year-Old Buys an Apartment

Here's an interesting internet brouhaha:

A 22 year old woman named Polly Mosendz writes an article for the NY Observer about how she bought a $250,000 studio apartment of her own at the age of 22, without being an"heiress or start-up sell-out".
Here's that article:
Polly Go-Lightly: Buying a New York City Apartment at the Tender Age of 22

In the comments on the article, a flame war ensues over Polly's claim that she is "normal," given that she had $50,000 available to her for the downpayment on her apartment. This turns into a big discussion of class privilege and how much of the $50k could have been money she worked for vs. being given, whether her not having student loan debt at age 22 means she's a spoiled little rich girl, and whether her whole story is even true, give that public records seem to show that she paid the asking price of $345,000 for her apartment and another person, presumably a family member, is listed as a co-owner.

The story about the story gets picked up by the Huffington Post, Gawker and Jezebel, where haters are hated for hating and general free-flowing anger and defensiveness ensues.

Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:
1) I'm glad all those haters haven't discovered my blog, as I'd probably be ripped to shreds for being an oblivious kleptocrat princess myself. I have always tried to be very aware about where I fit into the scheme of things-- locally, nationally and globally-- and appreciate and acknowledge the luck I've had in life. It is sad, I think, that the framework of the whole debate about what constitutes "class privilege" has shifted. In a tough economy, it seems even more difficult and extraordinary that a child's college costs could be picked up by parents without the child incurring huge debts and having to work all through school. On the other hand, we now have kids who are so spoiled that people who compare themselves to them feel deprived if they don't have a car, an apartment, thousands of dollars in spending money per month, multiple vacations per year, pets, the latest cellphones and laptops, designer clothes, spa visits, etc. etc. And that's all before they even leave grade school.
So I have some sympathy for both Polly and the people who have criticized her seeming lack of sensitivity. It's hard to strike the right balance and be encouraging about diligence and frugality without coming across as a self-congratulatory twerp because you also had a little help along the way.

2) But if she has indeed lied about the price and ownership of her apartment, that is sleazy. The article does a good job of pointing out the difficulties of being a young first time home buyer and some specific stumbling blocks she faced at various steps in the process. In exposing her finances, she is doing what I've tried to do here for years, but she's doing it under her own name, which is risky. I personally have never felt I could really be truthful on this site without being anonymous, but if she felt she couldn't be truly honest about the price she paid, she should have been more vague about everything and spoken in general ranges, and just been upfront about the fact that she needed a co-signer on the mortgage, even if she was paying all the actual costs. Why devalue all the other good points she has to make by introducing factual errors?

3) Wow, people are angry. I know Gawker and Jezebel aren't exactly known for the gentle and well-reasoned discourse in the comments section, but a lot of people were really ripping into Polly's story and blowing it way out of proportion. Suddenly all these people think she is a super-wealthy brat who exemplifies everything that is wrong with the world. But I do think there are some things to admire in her article. Even if Polly did get parental help, it sounds like she has been a good steward for that money. In the Huffington Post follow-up post, she highlights that she worked from the age of 14 and was able to get merit scholarships to cover some of her education costs. She stresses that she prioritized saving money, and wanting to invest in home ownership instead of throwing away money on rent. She says her income is under $80,000-- I'm not sure how far under. So she's not exactly the poster child for evil idle one-percenters. I think her heart is in the right place even if she wasn't able to present her story with acknowledgement of all its nuances.

4) Banks can't be bothered with people who want to borrow "tiny" amounts like $200,000. Her mortgage commitment was delayed for months because the bankers were prioritizing larger loans, supposedly. I guess it makes sense from the bank's perspective... and from a larger economic perspective, maybe it's good that the lenders are busy these days?? Or have they laid off lots of people and not re-hired since the boom?

5) Only in New York. I don't think there's anyplace else where a controversy like this would unfold in quite the same way!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

she got a 50k nest egg from her family she claimed she made while working retail... she is somehow debt free after going to a university that is 40k a year, along with $2,100 a year in rent .. then she goes on to say she bought this 250K apt on her own when according to new york public record , she bought the apt at $345k with another buyer on the contract! she isn't normal,she is just another lying entitled brat who got money from mommy and daddy and tried to make us believe she did it all.. if that happened sure, but don't try to portray yourself like you are "normal" like the rest of us

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Anonymous said...

There is a take away from everything IF you don't compare your life to theirs and don't look for things to be jealous of or pick apart. Many people do have help in life.

My take away was the process of buying real estate in NY and the challenges of being young and not taken seriously.

I bought a condo with my husband at 23 for $238K two decades ago. We had help and we had no student loan debt. We also both went to an in state school. Our parents are first generation born from Asian immigrants. The two generations before us lived frugally and valued education, saved money so that the later generations could attend college and have help. Normal is relative right? I feel I'm fortunate for sure and I feel I'm normal but if anyone called me a "rich" kid I'd have to laugh. I'm the child of school teachers and my grandfather was an immigrant sugar laborer.

Anonymous said...

This is how she saved - "a nest egg from my family augmented by savings that I’d stashed away by working in retail since the age of 14"

So, basically she got money from her family, used that to buy a place, and wrote a blog post about it. I don't think she did anything noble or any hard work to get that place. Anyways, good for her. I still don't think it's a good investment.

- Drew from New York Motor Insurance

Anonymous said...

The comments on this article were aggravating. People were calling this 22-year old rich, spoiled and other unpleasant names that are totally uncalled for. Shame on those people. Just because they didn't have the means, brains, or sweat equity to do that same doesn't give them the right to trash this woman.

I started investing $100 a month from my paper route into the stock market when I was 12 years old. TWELVE!!!! What other 12 year olds know what mutual funds are let alone which ones to invest in? I went to community college which I paid for. My friends all laughed at me because they went to their big universities with their expensive pieces of paper and partied. No one wanted to take a paper route because it's menial work. nowadays you don't see that stuff anymore. Then in college I took a second job to help pay tuition and books and kept putting $100 a month into the stock market. I bought my first apartment at 26 with $50k down of MY OWN MONEY THAT I EARNED. so yeah, it can be done. but those who haven't done it or don't want to make sacrifices (I would never live with roommates! I would never go to community college!!) blame the poor rich girl or the government or their perceived advantages or luck or anything else but themselves. And so what if the author got the money from her parents?!? She's smart enough to buy and not rent and not piss it away on leased cars, expensive vacations, designer handbags and other crap people buy.