Friday, June 15, 2007

Random Thursday

OK, it was supposed to be Random Wednesday but I ended up working late & then cleaned the house until 11pm, so I just didn’t have the energy to blog. Here’s a few thoughts:
1. New favorite beverage:GRANDE SUGAR-FREE CARAMEL LATTE. So awesome it deserves all caps. I have always been a fan of the grande latte (4 Splendas, thanks), but the addition of SF Caramel brings it close to coffee nirvana. The day they come out with SF Peppermint is the day I buy stock in Starbucks.

2. I read an article online which stated that in a recent survey of kids aged 13-18, “…teenage boys expected to make an average $174,000 annually. Teenage girls expected to earn $114,200.” Really? And where will this salary be coming from? Shall I start calling you Doctor now, or should I wait until you’ve finished 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 5 years of residency, and have begun to pay back the minimum $280,000 in debt you’ll have incurred over those 13 years? Yeah – it’ll be like an EXTRA MORTGAGE PAYMENT every month for the next 15 years (and for those of you teens with no concept of how much that is, figure around $2,600 a month, payable to Sallie Mae) You’ll also be at least 31 by then, and likely unmarried and sans-significant other (after all, you’ll have spent EVERY WEEKEND studying just to try and keep up with the pace of 4-years of biology information crammed into 7 months of med school – and that’s just one class). And that’s if you didn’t flunk out of your sophomore year of college from too much trash can punch and too little parental supervision, or if you didn’t take a year off after college because “going to school for 5 years in a row was a lot, dude” – which then turned into 5 years of working retail and living with 3 roommates. Let me know how things turn out for ya, Doctor.

Don’t get me wrong - $175K sounds great. I could spend all that on kate spade bags and high heels, and not feel the tiniest bit guilty. But here’s a few more stats to digest:
* Median earnings of men who worked full time, year round in 2005, the latest year for which Census Bureau statistics are available, was $41,386.
* Women working full time made a median $31,858.
* Fewer than 5% of the U.S. population makes more than $100,000, according to the bureau.
* Only one household out of six report a six-figure income, according to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

I’ve seen these numbers before, but in the context of teen salary expectations, I find it to be illuminating. This tells me that no one is talking about money – particularly parents to their children (and that teens are watching WAY too much My Super Sweet 16 – but we’ll save that for another day). The only time we talked about money in my house was when my Mom and Dad were fighting about Mom’s shopping addiction. Going into college, and even at graduation, I had no concept of what different jobs paid, what a ‘good’ salary was, or what I needed to do to pay the bills. My first job out of college paid $17,000 a year. That was in 1995, before most of those kids surveyed had even been born. I lived on my own and paid the bills, but just barely.
12 years later and I’ve added a master’s degree (plus more student debt). I work in a field for which I have no qualifications on paper – but I kick butt at my job. I am far exceeding the medians above – both of them. Awesome, yes, but here’s the kicker: I’ve made my choices, and I am the sole breadwinner right now. Despite making what I consider to be a good living, we still struggle with money EVERY month. I pay around 24% in taxes. I also participate in a 401K and have health insurance for the family ($450/ month – the reason I can’t get a new car). All of these things take away from what goes into your bank account every 2 weeks. What DOES go into the bank account pays the mortgage, food, utilities, one tiny car payment, student loans, gas for our cars, car insurance, tithing, occasionally a new pair jeans from Old Navy, and an allowance for both of us. Yes, I am 33 and am once again getting an allowance. Notice what’s not in the above: Trips to Mexico, a new car, shopping at Nordstrom, that new Coach bag, or nights out on the town with friends. Yeah, that’s right – my husband and I both drive 10 year old cars, we get $20 a week to spend, and in 7 days we’re going on our first real vacation in 4 years.

I really want to know how people are paying the bills and getting by. According to the US Census Bureau, the Median income of all households is $46,326. Where do these people live? Seriously, is most of the country living like the majority of the population in Louisiana – in trailers on Momma and Daddy’s property?

Maybe I still have a skewed perspective on money and life. Maybe this is how it is. I’m not really complaining – things are OK. All in all, I feel fortunate that we can pay all our bills and still go get pizza and a movie once in a while. Would more money be better? Maybe. Some say that the more you make, the more your lifestyle ‘matches’ your income. Even when Hubby is done with school (YES, he’s going to be DOCTOR – and not the bs PhD kind), and we’ve paid off all the student debt, we’ll never be a Rolex-owning, Mercedes-driving, Maldives-vacation-taking, country club-membership family. And I’m totally OK with that. As long as I get a new Coach bag once in a while.

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