Do they pay you enough to live there?
I was traveling for work last week, and someone from another (not crazy cheap, but cheaper than here!) area asked me this week if my job paid me enough to live where I live. I was caught off guard, but answered glibly about higher paying jobs if I commuted longer, and how it was expensive, but we do OK.
The real answer is simply yes, but we could certainly be even more comfortable somewhere else. Nationally, and locally (Bay Area) we are in the top ~5% of household incomes in the US. That last 5% has a huge ramp up in income, but if we can’t afford to live here, who can? If we dropped to one salary, we’d still be in the top 25% or so. To be clear, the person asking the question likely makes a similar salary as I do, although I don’t know his family situation. (He’s more senior, but the area is cheaper.)
We make choices that save us money and fit our lifestyle. We are a one car family since we both work close to home. We would love a housekeeper and gardener, but we just do it ourselves (and accept that it is not done as well as a pro). We didn’t spend a lot of time and money “decorating” our new house – we had furniture, most of it worked. We still travel and take vacations, but I use points as much as possible. I honestly get as much pleasure out of a week hiking in the California mountains. We delay having kids. This isn’t totally a financial choice, but it plays into my overall concern about it.
And it isn’t like we are just scraping by. We are saving money for retirement, we’re pre-paying our mortgage in large chunks, we don’t have a tight budget and basically buy the things we want and need without too much thought.
I’m simply not one to whine about how I make $$$ and can’t afford to live in this exceptionally expensive place. Could we have a better life somewhere cheaper? Probably, yes. Our salaries may fall, but not proportional to housing costs. Life could be a little easier elsewhere, but we live here. I love California, I love the Bay Area, I love our small (compared to Midwestern standards) house, I love our neighborhood, and we both love our jobs. It
might not be isn’t the most financially optimal place to live, but it is home.
*Disclaimer: We don’t live in SF proper, despite the photo choice. Income inequality and housing are huge issues in the area, and this post does not claim that they aren’t – just that we personally can make it. You shouldn’t have to be in the top 5-15% to do so.