Monday, June 23, 2008

A Not-NYC Story: The Financial Life of a Police Officer (and first Money Match candidate!)

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)


$33.00 water
$60.00 electric


$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!


Kizz said...

Supercop, check out or for all your NYC Real Estate porn requirements.

guinness416 said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing Supercop's story.

Anonymous said...

I heart Supercop.

Anonymous said...

Supercop, don't let frugality stop you from dating. Money can't buy love anyway, but it sure isn't a substitute for cuddling up with a cute and frugal honeybaby!

I live in Hawaii and love a frugal guy. We both enjoy taking advantage of all the free events around the island, getting as many student discounts as we can,shopping at Goodwill, watching downloaded movies and cooking great food at home which is so much cheaper and tastier than restaurants around here. Once in a while we splurge but we can have a lot of fun spending very little.

I'd just hate to see anyone let an interest in their finances stunt their personal growth.

frugal zeitgeist said...

I heart Supercop more!!

Anonymous said...

i wish i could force myself to work a 2nd job so i could earn more income. i did once before work full time and i had part time job (which i worked in the evenings and weekends)
but i am usually tired from my main job that i wouldn't have the energy to work a 2nd job.
life is short, i must enjoy it. i will need to find other ways to earn more income. any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Supercop, this is really an insteresting story because I never thought a police officer could have a financial life at all.

Anonymous said...

Only $400 for daycare? Wow, that is hella cheap. I cannot imagine where he must live for daycare (at 10 hour shifts, no less, plus all that overtime) to cost so little, unless the girl's mother shares custody and takes her often.

I also find it interesting that he says he spends all his free time with his daughter, because reading about his schedule leads me to believe he has no free time whatsoever.

I used to work 10-12 hour days, but when I had my son, I cut back considerably to 8-9 hour days (and take one day off each week), just to be sure I had some awake time with my son each day.

I hope it doesn't come across as if I am judging, because I am really just sitting in amazement. I am always impressed by single parents and how they manage to do so much while I have the full participation of my husband and still feel stretched quite often.

Anonymous said...

First, thanks everyone for responding :)

Asset Gatherer and Frugal Zeitgeist: XX!

Anon, I understand what you're saying but my main problem is that I cant afford the luxury of simply going out to go out. Almost everything, including dating, costs money, and that means I have to work that many more hours to make up the difference. :(

Modena604: yes, its hard sometimes to get the motivation to go out and make those extra dollars when all I feel like doing is making a grilled cheese, crawling back into bed, and zoning out in front of ESPN. One of the things that makes it worth it is getting that fat parttime check every other friday and stashing it in savings or paying a large bill off in full.

Unsecured: LOL! I've gotten that alot from people I know well that know a little about my finances.
Even though I think I'm doing well, I'm actually behind the curve compared to some of my co-workers. One of my old sergeants owns a McMansion (about $550k) and he's SINGLE. He's one of the cheapest guys I know. If you went out to get him a coffee, which all of us new guys did, he'd pay you back to the penny and he never heard of the expression "If you fly, I'll buy" Another one lived rent-free in a really bad neighborhood for ten years, saved like a fiend, and paid cash for a 4 bedroom colonial. As I said in an email to Madam X, almost every cop I know is constantly thinking about money.

LawyerMom, you are pretty much on target..I don't have much free time. One thing I failed to mention though is that some of those 10 shifts I work are doubled up, where I'll work from 8am-midnight and then I'll have the next day off. Almost every day that I am off I have my daughter and where its a week where its bad sometimes I'll only get a chance to stop by my ex's late at night after I get off and watch her sleep. Believe me, its something that I agonize over but I'd rather work myself to death now and be financially set, than have her be 5 or 6 and asking, "How come I don't get to see you that much Daddy". Next year I'll hopefully get promoted and I might be able to cut back a day or two.

As far as the day care it's $800 per month and I pay half and whatever other costs come up such as clothes, new high chair, etc.My ex is very understanding about why I work so much and I don't have a bad thing to say about her.

Anonymous said...

EDIT: Lawyer MAMA! My apologies, I haven't had my morning coffee yet. :P

Unknown said...

Supercop - frugal and with good taste - check out that dream house! Can't believe the NY women aren't standing in line!

Unknown said...

I am printing this and personally delivering it to my favorite single women colleagues. Supercop you are a supercatch!!!!

Anonymous said...

A man who can write, has a savings account and brings his own handcuffs? That's a catch right there. Alas, I don't think I'd be right for Supercop because after I read through this I was ready to throw my cat in a tree, hand him $50 and stand back. I don't think I'd be frugal enough.

Anonymous said...

Hey Supercop, thanks for responding to our questions! You're very cute, correcting my "name" like that. No biggie. It's not my real name :)

$800 for daycare sounds a bit more likely. I should have guessed that you were splitting daycare with your ex.

It's great for everyone involved that you two get along so well and that you manage your schedules so your daughter has maximum amounts of time with both of you. Congrats on making a tough situation work, especially for your daughter.

Anonymous said...

Lawyer Mama,

Its my pleasure :) and thank you for the compliment on our time management skills. Its sad when you get along better with someone when you're not together and things go so much more smoothly. The thing that kills me the most is that my daughter will never know what its like to have her parents together and even worse, I won't always be the only man in her life as Im sure my ex will eventually meet someone. Even if I made half the money I make doing my part-time work I'd still do it. Sometimes I think its the only thing that keeps me from getting depressed or becoming an alcoholic. So on that happy note..Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, Caroline, Marylynn...

You ladies are just too sweet :D
If you know anyone in the DC/VA/MD/PA area thats attractive, frugal, and hopefully klutzy you are most definitely on this years Christmas card list!! Just send the info along to Madam Matchmaker :)

Sense said...

ha ha, just found this. what a great idea!!

and boy, it's really too bad i'm taken, because I'm sooooo klutzy it's not funny (boyfriend won't allow candles in the apartment for fear of his life). and i'm frugal and from VA...i'd be the best catch Ever for Supercop!