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Do they pay you enough to live there?

October 15, 2016


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.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2016 12:49 pm

    Amen. For me there is the added dimension that simply, THIS IS HOME. I grew up here. My people are here.

    Do they pay me enough to live here? Possibly not, certainly not by many measures and some people’s standards. it’s a city that really justifies a 6 figure income. I don’t make six figures. But I’m closer to six than zero, and it’s enough for my lifestyle here. I would honestly be really quite bored in a small cheap town, I wouldn’t be challenged professionally, I wouldn’t get to eat the variety of ethnic food, among other things.

    I can’t say I don’t whine sometimes though, haha.

  2. October 15, 2016 1:24 pm

    We both love our home and being active more than stuff and going out to eat, so even if our income dropped (which our plan for next year is to lose some income), we could still afford to stay here. Neither of us honestly really wants to live anywhere else at this point. We would both be bored professionally in a smaller city. I doubt we would go with only one income forever, but it certainly isn’t necessary financially at all. Which is so weird – I think about Bridget’s post about how your spouse isn’t an alternative income stream a lot: I suppose they’re really just an extra security blanket financially.

    It’s so weird looking at household income figures because we are in the top 2% combined, while one income is in the top 11% and the other is in the top 4%. We could still have a great savings rate with the higher of the two incomes and wouldn’t cut anything out, but we would maybe reduce expenses if we only had the lower of the two incomes. We both grew up with frugal enough parents that we couldn’t imagine maintaining our current spending level on the lower income.

    • October 15, 2016 1:50 pm

      Yeah, we’d change some things surely, but it is sort of a “feel good” calculation. It is not the plan by any means, but things happen.

      For us, I do think there are a few other options that would work out professionally and personally (including the place I visit regularly for work referenced in post). Though for T’s career, it is really unlikely that we’d move and this is a much better university in his field.

  3. yuppiemillennial permalink
    October 15, 2016 4:00 pm

    I get paid enough to live here (tech) but BF (social work) does not. We both like it here though. Our friends and his family are here, plus the ability to get by without a car, all the urban amenities, and be so close to nature is invaluable to me. I guess we could live somewhere cheaper to retire early or be more resilient if I ever lost my job, but it would probably come with a bunch of lifestyle changes to which I am not willing to commit.

    Like you said, this is home.

  4. October 17, 2016 5:00 am

    Yes, I do get paid enough to live and work here, but that would be true of any city in Canada at the moment, I’d wager. Except perhaps the Territories. Food is durn expensive up there.

    Still, my main point would be that this is HOME. This is where I have now chosen to live as my own home and permanent place, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

  5. October 17, 2016 7:29 am

    DH and I together get paid enough to live where you live. By myself I get paid more than enough to live where we currently live.

    Sadly my job is not portable and DH doesn’t make enough for all of us to live where you live and to live the life to which we have become accustomed.

  6. Kay permalink
    October 27, 2016 5:09 am

    Just curious, have you ever reported what your actual income is?

    • October 27, 2016 9:26 am

      No, not in years. It is intentionally vague, but the approximate amount could be guessed based on info posted – I don’t remove all details.


  1. In the world of Save. Spend. Splurge. | Save. Spend. Splurge.

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