Seriously, I can't remember my salary! I was thinking about it just now and I know it is over $100k, but I don't remember how much. At one point it was $102k, but is it now more? $106k? $110k? I have been getting small raises each year, and just got one recently, so I should remember this more precisely, but I just don't.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Monday, January 13, 2014
My, it's been a while, but I have been a busy girl and have lots to tell. I haven't wrapped up all my final numbers yet but I will give you a spoiler: my net worth is now over $900,000. I am wondering if I dare make my 2014 year-end goal the big One Million! Yikes.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Interesting article on the Atlantic's website.
Has Being a Young Adult Always Been a Financial Nightmare?
Scary charts! The one below kind of made me glad I'm getting old! I shudder to think what the addition of a 2000-2010 date range would look like.
"Young people have never had it easy, but they (probably) have had it better. By the turn of the century, 20- and 30-somethings were much far likely to experience a stint in poverty than they had been in the 1970s. Rank's newest research implies it's become even more common today.It is hard to compare. I was in my 20s in the 1990s, and in my first few years of work, my net worth was negative by several thousand dollars due to student loan debt, and my earnings went from $5.75 an hour, to $19,000 a year, to $30,000 a year, to somewhere around $50,000 by the end of the decade. I was lucky enough to be able to live with my parents for a couple of years, and of course their help left me with a much lower debt burden than I might otherwise have had if I'd had to pay for all of my education myself. When I look back at that time, I remember feeling the stress in those early years when I had my first apartment and struggled to pay all my bills while doing at least a little bit of the fun stuff a young adult wants to do.
That said, I think we should be cautious about simple comparisons across time. The truth is, poverty in 2000 was not quite like poverty in 1973. Consumer goods that make life more bearable (think air conditions and decent televisions) have become cheaper and more commonplace over time. We have cell phones and Internet. And some changes in the safety net, though certainly not all of them, have made life near or right above the poverty line a bit less harsh. You don't necessarily have agree that the poor are far better off today than at the start of the Reagan era, as some conservatives will argue. But their standard of living has improved in ways that make it hard to say definitively whether Gen Xers or boomers really had a rougher time when they were young.... "
My career advanced quickly enough to help me get past that stressful time fairly quickly, but the other thing that made the biggest difference was that I didn't procrastinate about saving. I was always aware that I needed to start saving money, and from my first job, I started contributing to a 401k. It might have only been 5% or 10% or 15% of my income at first, but pretty early on, I pushed that contribution as high as I could, knowing that it would be less painful if I learned to live without that money from the get-go. And somehow, as I saw that retirement account balance growing, it made me feel more inspired to save money. For some people, having savings might make them feel like it's ok to spend all the other money they've got coming in. But for me, I saw that having money makes more money, so I kept thinking about ways to cut expenses and debt. I paid off my student loans, and had become a homeowner rather than a renter by my late 20s. Seeing myself succeed in saving money made me feel great-- and when you know you're doing well at something, you want to do it more. It's a snowball effect.
For so many people, it's just the opposite. They start out with debt. They can't get ahead and fall deeper into debt. They live paycheck to paycheck, unable to invest in things that will pay off long term. Thinking about the situation is too depressing, so they put it off til another day. All that lost time is lost interest, lost investment gains, lost appreciation of a home's value. By the time they're 30 or 40, they may be making more money, but without the foundations laid in those early years, they're still in debt, maybe-- or even if they start to get ahead, they realize they'll never save enough money by the age at which they'd want to retire.
And of course none of this takes into account the curveballs life throws at you-- illness, injury, accidents, loss of a job, dependents to care for. I am so lucky to have had none of these to deal with yet, knock on wood. I am always so conscious that my life could easily have gone in a different direction...
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Last night, I saved Sweetie and me about $200 with a fairly minimal amount of effort. Sweetie has a fancy fridge-- not a super-expensive SubZero or anything like that, but a not-cheap fridge with a few extra bells and whistles. So it's been very annoying that it has "broken" a few times over the years, and Sweetie has had to call an appliance repair guy at a cost of about a couple hundred dollars each time.
The last time he visited, the doorman who let him in said the guy had spent a lot of time defrosting the freezer with a hair dryer. So this time, when the fridge started losing its cool, I looked up that model online and found various websites with people discussing the problem. It seemed very likely that the auto defrosting wasn't working and that a build-up of ice was the culprit. With an old-fashioned cheapo fridge like I used to have, this is an easy problem to spot-- you look in the freezer and you see a hardened snowbank where the coils would be. You then attack it with a hairdryer and an icepick until it melts. But with these new-fangled fridges, all that stuff is hidden away, so you have to figure out how to open up whatever's covering them. This is where diagrams and manuals on the internet really help! Within a few minutes, we had figured out how to remove a back panel in Sweetie's fridge to reveal the iced-up coils in all their glory and started blasting them with a hairdryer. A few hours after that, the freezer was nice and cold again, all cleaned out and ready for us to buy new ice cream to replace the ones that leaked out all over everything.
This is just one example. I've fixed washing machines, lighting, toilets, faucets, clogged drains and more and saved hundreds of dollars in the process. And probably bragged about it in many other posts on this blog, because I'm always so psyched when it works!
So here's my simple tips:
- Watch and learn! If you have a home repair that you don't know how to tackle, and you do call a repairman/plumber, etc., pay attention to what they do when they get there. I've learned so much by watching what they do-- some problems tend to repeat themselves, and it's great to know that next time, I can just emulate something simple that I saw a professional do. I also grew up with people in my family who liked to do their own repairs. I took an interest in such things at an early age, and learned a lot of tips I still remember. If you have kids, teach them these skills-- it's not just a money-saving lesson, it teaches responsibility and self-reliance. Not to mention that it can be helpful to have an extra set of smaller, more agile hands, and it can be a fun bonding experience.
- Use the internet! It's amazing how many questions you can answer with a simple online search. "Why isn't my freezer cold?" "How can I stop my toilet from running?" "How do I rewire a lamp?" These and so many more questions are discussed at length in online forums. If you know the brand of model number of your appliance, add that to your query and you may be able to find specific diagrams and videos showing you exactly what to do. Not everyone who contributes to these discussions is always right, so check a couple of sources rather than just relying on the first answer you see.
- Be careful! If you really aren't sure what you are doing, proceed with caution. You don't want to flood your house or get electrocuted. Turn off the appliance, unplug it, turn off the circuit breaker, make sure you are prepared with the tools you'll need like pliers, or a bucket and some towels. Have a friend there to help in case anything goes wrong. Go slowly, and take notes if necessary to remember how to put things back the way you found them.
For so many minor household repairs, significant expense can be avoided with just a little common sense and a willingness to figure things out. And aside from the financial benefits, there's such a feeling of satisfaction when you can say "I fixed it myself!"
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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!
Posted at 3:38 PM
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I was just blown away by a story a friend of mine told me. Her aunt died of cancer a few months ago. The memorial service held a little while later was an interesting event that brought together a diverse group of family and friends, many of whom had never met each other before. The aunt, who I'll call Donna, was an odd character, perhaps a bit bipolar, so she went through phases where she was moody and didn't keep in touch with people, and those who cared about her were often forced to do all the reaching out themselves if they wanted o keep in touch with her.
Posted at 7:46 PM
Monday, July 22, 2013
Such an interesting NYT story about how different various US regions can be in terms of people being able to rise above the economic status they're born to:
In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters
Their sub-head makes it sound like New York and Boston have the highest chances for income mobility, but based on the map, it looks like the Dakotas and Nebraska area is actually the best of all? Odd... maybe some of these areas have had a boom in a particular industry that accounts for it. In any case, the stagnancy of incomes in the southeast is pretty dramatic...
From the article:
“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle.The gaps can be stark. On average, fairly poor children in Seattle — those who grew up in the 25th percentile of the national income distribution — do as well financially when they grow up as middle-class children — those who grew up at the 50th percentile — from Atlanta.Geography mattered much less for well-off children than for middle-class and poor children, according to the results. In an economic echo of Tolstoy’s line about happy families being alike, the chances that affluent children grow up to be affluent are broadly similar across metropolitan areas.