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Old 10-19-2011, 09:26 PM
 
13 posts, read 27,512 times
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Alkonost, are you serious that its best to have an income of $400k/yr to live comfortably in NYC/Westchester? Mine and my wife's combined income would be around 110-120k. We've been looking at 500k houses 12k taxes in New Rochelle, but we are absolutely pushing our budget to the max. No savings for retirement, and cutting costs in every way possible. This just doesn't seem sustainable. I'm also then stuck with the mortgage and would need to continue to make at least my current salary no matter what or else we wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage. If they didn't like me at the new job, I'd be scrambling to find something else... maybe with a longer commute. It seems its certainly possible to make it in NYC, but only with luck or sheer determination. ie: an 80hr work week.

Port North, you mentioned not being able to find jobs outside of NYC. What field are you in? how far outside of the city are you looking? That's one of my concerns. It seems like a trade-off, either have an easy life with the potential of not finding a job for a while or having a large pool of jobs to pick from but with the quality of life sucking.
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:18 AM
 
1,494 posts, read 2,258,428 times
Reputation: 923
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbook2 View Post
Alkonost, are you serious that its best to have an income of $400k/yr to live comfortably in NYC/Westchester? Mine and my wife's combined income would be around 110-120k. We've been looking at 500k houses 12k taxes in New Rochelle, but we are absolutely pushing our budget to the max. No savings for retirement, and cutting costs in every way possible. This just doesn't seem sustainable. I'm also then stuck with the mortgage and would need to continue to make at least my current salary no matter what or else we wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage. If they didn't like me at the new job, I'd be scrambling to find something else... maybe with a longer commute. It seems its certainly possible to make it in NYC, but only with luck or sheer determination. ie: an 80hr work week.

It seems like a trade-off, either have an easy life with the potential of not finding a job for a while or having a large pool of jobs to pick from but with the quality of life sucking.
I'm gonna get hell for saying this, but yes I'm dead serious about the $400k number for a family, but how flexible that number is depends on whether you want to live inside NYC or Westchester and what your definition of a good "quality of life" is. To be honest I think 110-120k will have you just barely scraping by in Westchester with a lot of quality of life sacrifices.

I am not saying that you cannot squeak by on less than 400k. I'll elaborate but this may be a long post- lol, be warned...

If you have a family with kids and want to be financially comfortable and have a good quality of life in Manhattan, you need a minimum of $500k.


If you have a family with kids and want to own property in Westchester I say a minimum of $350k a year combined, preferably $400k. Property taxes are ASTRONOMICAL in 'chester, much much higher than CT. Property taxes for a modest home were more than some people earn in a year- and you don't get much back as a tax payer other than crummy schools and bloated union contracts. Cost of living isn't as bad in the burbs, but it's still less in CT.

Some people's standards for "comfortable" and "quality of life" differ, so I am going to state what my definitions are.
My "quality of life" standards for being "comfortable" involve earning enough income where you:

  • Do not constantly worry about money, or live paycheck to paycheck to squeak by
  • Live relatively debt free outside of a mortgage, no credit card balances or other loans to pay. You pay any credit card balances in full every month without a problem.
  • Are able to pay cash for large but important purchases so that they do not cripple you: let's say your little one needs orthodontic surgery followed by braces. That would be several thousand- can you take that financial hit? Or would you have to make enormous spending and budget changes to accommodate this? Let's say your teenage kid wants a car, and will need one when they leave for college- can you afford a decent used car for them in cash? Lets say your house floods and your insurance doesn't cover some personal items that were ruined (antiques, computers, etc..). Do you have enough money to replace these things?
  • Have the ability to go on vacation a few times a year (lets say 2 or 3) and not worry about the cost because you know you can cover it, and pay in cash.
  • You don't need to stick to strict a budget for food or clothing for the kids. If they need something to eat or something to wear, you know you've got more than enough in the bank so you go and buy these necessities without giving it a second thought.
  • Have a nice place to live that is large enough for your needs, and you can easily afford to keep it maintained as well as take care of income taxes.
  • You have enough money left over to save for retirement and college for the kids
  • you also have enough money for a rainy-day (or year) reserve should you loose your job- this should be enough to maintain your lifestyle for a year and a half- this money cannot be touched for any other reason.
  • Live in a nice area where the schools are good a crime is low
  • Live close enough to your place of work so your commute time is reasonable.
  • Have money for entertainment or going out to dinner once a week.
  • Have free time for recreation and family gatherings.

So to maintain that quality of life: in the burbs $350k-$400k, in the city $500k.

Again, people do get by for less , but this is where the "quality of life" definition and trade offs come into play. Do you work more hours to earn more moolah and sacrifice quality family time? Do you downgrade the size and condition of property to buy? Do you sacrifice saving for your retirement and the kid's college so that you can eat well and go on vacation a couple times a year? Do you clip coupons religiously to keep your food budget under control, or do you modify your diet to consume only low cost foods? Do you brown bag your lunch? Do you car pool instead of driving your own vehicle? Do you share a car with your spouse so you don't have to buy a second one? Do you send your kids to state and community college because you can't save enough for a private university? Does little princess wind up with nasty crooked teeth because the braces were too large of an investment?

Some people don't see these trade offs as negatives to their enjoyment of life or financial security, maybe because as long as they're not in a soup kitchen it's all good. Nothing wrong with that- I'm just making it clear that you'll need to define what "financially comfortable" and "quality of life" mean to you and then crunch the numbers to see if you can realistically maintain it with your income prospects (after state/city/federal taxes and estimated property taxes). If you think you can move on up in terms of income by staying in NYC, find out what your salary cap is going to be. If it's not pushing you close to the $300k mark in a couple of years, you've got a lot of thinking to do.

If your definition of being "comfortable" and having a "good quality of life" are not as high as mine, sure you can get by on less.
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:29 AM
 
Location: Hamburg, NY
1,172 posts, read 2,296,087 times
Reputation: 1079
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alkonost View Post
I'm gonna get hell for saying this, but yes I'm dead serious about the $400k number for a family, but how flexible that number is depends on whether you want to live inside NYC or Westchester and what your definition of a good "quality of life" is. To be honest I think 110-120k will have you just barely scraping by in Westchester with a lot of quality of life sacrifices.

I am not saying that you cannot squeak by on less than 400k. I'll elaborate but this may be a long post- lol, be warned...

If you have a family with kids and want to be financially comfortable and have a good quality of life in Manhattan, you need a minimum of $500k.

If you have a family with kids and want to own property in Westchester I say a minimum of $350k a year combined, preferably $400k. Property taxes are ASTRONOMICAL in 'chester, much much higher than CT. Property taxes for a modest home were more than some people earn in a year- and you don't get much back as a tax payer other than crummy schools and bloated union contracts. Cost of living isn't as bad in the burbs, but it's still less in CT.

Some people's standards for "comfortable" and "quality of life" differ, so I am going to state what my definitions are. My "quality of life" standards for being "comfortable" involve earning enough income where you:

  • Do not constantly worry about money, or live paycheck to paycheck to squeak by
  • Live relatively debt free outside of a mortgage, no credit card balances or other loans to pay. You pay any credit card balances in full every month without a problem.
  • Are able to pay cash for large but important purchases so that they do not cripple you: let's say your little one needs orthodontic surgery followed by braces. That would be several thousand- can you take that financial hit? Or would you have to make enormous spending and budget changes to accommodate this? Let's say your teenage kid wants a car, and will need one when they leave for college- can you afford a decent used car for them in cash? Lets say your house floods and your insurance doesn't cover some personal items that were ruined (antiques, computers, etc..). Do you have enough money to replace these things?
  • Have the ability to go on vacation a few times a year (lets say 2 or 3) and not worry about the cost because you know you can cover it, and pay in cash.
  • You don't need to stick to strict a budget for food or clothing for the kids. If they need something to eat or something to wear, you know you've got more than enough in the bank so you go and buy these necessities without giving it a second thought.
  • Have a nice place to live that is large enough for your needs, and you can easily afford to keep it maintained as well as take care of income taxes.
  • You have enough money left over to save for retirement and college for the kids
  • you also have enough money for a rainy-day (or year) reserve should you loose your job- this should be enough to maintain your lifestyle for a year and a half- this money cannot be touched for any other reason.
  • Live in a nice area where the schools are good a crime is low
  • Live close enough to your place of work so your commute time is reasonable.
  • Have money for entertainment or going out to dinner once a week.
  • Have free time for recreation and family gatherings.
So to maintain that quality of life: in the burbs $350k-$400k, in the city $500k.

Again, people do get by for less , but this is where the "quality of life" definition and trade offs come into play. Do you work more hours to earn more moolah and sacrifice quality family time? Do you downgrade the size and condition of property to buy? Do you sacrifice saving for your retirement and the kid's college so that you can eat well and go on vacation a couple times a year? Do you clip coupons religiously to keep your food budget under control, or do you modify your diet to consume only low cost foods? Do you brown bag your lunch? Do you car pool instead of driving your own vehicle? Do you share a car with your spouse so you don't have to buy a second one? Do you send your kids to state and community college because you can't save enough for a private university? Does little princess wind up with nasty crooked teeth because the braces were too large of an investment?

Some people don't see these trade offs as negatives to their enjoyment of life or financial security, maybe because as long as they're not in a soup kitchen it's all good. Nothing wrong with that- I'm just making it clear that you'll need to define what "financially comfortable" and "quality of life" mean to you and then crunch the numbers to see if you can realistically maintain it with your income prospects (after state/city/federal taxes and estimated property taxes). If you think you can move on up in terms of income by staying in NYC, find out what your salary cap is going to be. If it's not pushing you close to the $300k mark in a couple of years, you've got a lot of thinking to do.

If your definition of being "comfortable" and having a "good quality of life" are not as high as mine, sure you can get by on less.
Sure 300K-400K is necessary if you want a "perfect" upper middle class life, but 150K is plenty to live a reasonable middle class in the suburbs (Long Island or New Jersey). Westchester maybe a bit more because there are not as many mass middle income neighborhoods as in Long Island or New Jersey but I'm sure still could live fairly decently.
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:31 AM
 
Location: Hamburg, NY
1,172 posts, read 2,296,087 times
Reputation: 1079
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbook2 View Post
Alkonost, are you serious that its best to have an income of $400k/yr to live comfortably in NYC/Westchester? Mine and my wife's combined income would be around 110-120k. We've been looking at 500k houses 12k taxes in New Rochelle, but we are absolutely pushing our budget to the max. No savings for retirement, and cutting costs in every way possible. This just doesn't seem sustainable. I'm also then stuck with the mortgage and would need to continue to make at least my current salary no matter what or else we wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage. If they didn't like me at the new job, I'd be scrambling to find something else... maybe with a longer commute. It seems its certainly possible to make it in NYC, but only with luck or sheer determination. ie: an 80hr work week.

Port North, you mentioned not being able to find jobs outside of NYC. What field are you in? how far outside of the city are you looking? That's one of my concerns. It seems like a trade-off, either have an easy life with the potential of not finding a job for a while or having a large pool of jobs to pick from but with the quality of life sucking.
My job is best described as related to Transportation Planning. My wife is only working part time due to having young children at home (we did the math and it isn't worth her working full time with the cost of daycare). If she was working full time we would be in the 110K-120K range (an solidly middle or even upper middle class income in many other parts of the country, but not in this place!)
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:38 AM
 
2,853 posts, read 6,251,910 times
Reputation: 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alkonost View Post
If you have a family with kids and want to be financially comfortable and have a good quality of life in Manhattan, you need a minimum of $500k.
I have 3 couples that are close friends that live in Upper Manhattan with 1-2 children, stay at home mom (no nanny expense) with a husband that makes maybe 150-200k. They are really comfortable as well, but they don't splurge a lot, eat out a lot, or fly abroad often. It's possible. And they kind of lucked out with their rent (good neighborhoods too). 500k would make them extremely comfortable. I guess it's rare but they've made it happen. Another friend did the Manhattan to Westchester to Stamford move because they now have three young kids. Not a bad commute honestly though. There's options to be close to Manhattan and comfortable without making half a million though.
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:39 AM
 
272 posts, read 161,967 times
Reputation: 49
Hang in there.
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Old 10-20-2011, 08:50 AM
 
1,232 posts, read 1,359,609 times
Reputation: 2152
Also, the public employee unions in the areas surrounding NYC are out of control. We have teachers and police officers earning over 150K and some of them retire at 55 with fully funded pensions for life. There was recently a story in the New York Times where even in Bronxville, one of the richest communities in the USA, they were having trouble maintaining budget. Who do you think pays for their lavish salaries and their retirements? You do! Property taxes here are sky high, and LIRR/MTA costs have been increasing 3x faster than inflation. You pay for these other people in the form of lower after tax take home pay, longer commutes/working hours, higher stress, and decreased quality of life. Don't be a sucker. It's hard enough supporting yourself, don't get stuck having to support imaginary public employee leeches hanging on your back. They will suffocate you.

Last edited by ny789987; 10-20-2011 at 09:00 AM..
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:09 AM
 
Location: Brooklyn New York
15,228 posts, read 23,749,578 times
Reputation: 19847
Welcome to the working world of NY.

Years ago, when i was young, I lived in Staten island, i worked at 55th and 3rd.
i took a bus to the ferry, a ferry to NYC, then the subway to 49th street, walked from 7th ave to 3rd ave...it took 2 hours, I did this for many years as i was young, and had a family to support...................................


I know work in Brooklyn and live in Brooklyn 15 minutes by car away from my job.
You can have Manhattan and do what ever you want to do with it. My time is more valuable than wasting it on a commute............................

just some words of wisdom from an old times that has done the Manhattan thing.

I would rather be with my family that be in transit time.
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Old 10-20-2011, 10:24 AM
 
691 posts, read 885,989 times
Reputation: 806
Default An honest answer

I think Alkonost has given you an honest answer. To live comfortably by the criteria he has described, note, it's not extravagant, and I believe, it's not even considered to be upper middle class (for that, I would say, the additonal criterium would be-can you buy at least $30,000 car all cash?) in my book. We live in a middle/upper middle class suburb on Long Island, and I would say that if you are to buy a house in the area right now, a typical 3-4 bedroom split on 60 by 100 property in a good condition would run you 500K, so you need AT LEAST 200K gross for a family with 2-3 kids, both parents working, because about 40% of this gross goes to mortgage/property taxes/childcare/utilities, 4% is public transporation commute, heck, 8G a year, it's a lot of money, if you want to max-fund retirement plan, that's 16%, contribute max to 529 college plan, that's 5%, food is about 6%, when you add this up, it amounts to 71%, and the other 29%-TAXES!!! So, 200K is really a bare bones budget for a family, note, I did not even list vacations, kids activities, clothes, entertainment, gifts, eating out, for that, I would say, throw in additional 50K.
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Old 10-20-2011, 02:51 PM
 
13 posts, read 27,512 times
Reputation: 19
Thanks for all your responses. I think it helps me decide what to do with this. Also, talking to my family helps confirm my initial suspicions. Thankfully I left on extremely good terms at my old job and am still employed with them per-diem, and they'd like to have me come back. We also still have a house to live in in West Hartford that we can actually afford.
I (and my wife) were young and overly confident that we could make it in NYC and have a lifestyle similar to what we have in West Hartford. I'm seeing the difference between my expectations after I got the job offer and the realities after I started.

expectations: things might be a little harder... like pushing an SUV into a gas station when its out of gas instead of pushing a sedan. ie, harder, but entirely doable

realities: like pushing the space shuttle into orbit, without the benefit of its engines... ie: it's impossible

I still like NYC and I will visit often, but working here is insane. I applaud all the people who are able to do it every day.
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