One of the most e-mailed New York Times’ articles today just happens to be the one I read first when I settled onto my chaise, balancing a big bowl of bran with bananas, raisins and 2% milk in hand while knowing I’d be safer at the dining table. The headline grabbed me: You Try to Live on $500K in This Town
The story basically shows how it is impossible for bank CEOs in New York to live on $500,000, which President Obama wants those top execs whose companies accept government bailout money to do. While I could easily live on $500K in New York (BTW, that translates to $269,000 after taxes), I am single and childless, attend a low amount of charity functions and there’s always a MetroCard in my wallet.
While it is not impossible for a bank CEO with a mortgage, a non-working spouse and a child to do the same, it would be asking a lot. Then again, asking for a $20 billion bailout is asking for a lot too.
If a CEO has to do without a couple of expensive vacations in 2009 (can’t he find a friend whose place he can use?), the missus has to count her own reps while she works out instead of having a personal trainer do it for her, the nanny has to be laid off (can’t the mother take care of the kid if she’s not employed?), at-home pedicures and manicures become de rigeur, designer dresses at $15,000 a pop have to, gasp, worn two or three times, yank the kid out of private school and put in public school for a year (think of the benefits of the real education he or she will receive), and make some other cutbacks here and there.
We all understand that a bank CEO is accustomed to certain accoutrements, such as a car and driver and expensive clothes, but these aren’t normal times. We’re in a recession. We all have to suffer and bank CEOs should be no different, especially after what has happened to the economy on their watch.
What I found really interesting about this article is that the Center for an Urban Future, a non-profit research group in Manhattan, estimates it takes $123,322 to enjoy the same middle-class life as someone earning $50,000 in Houston. New York is a great place to live but it comes at a steep price. The other day I received a book of coupons for McDonald’s, where I haven’t eaten in nearly a year but could be tempted to with the right coupon. A 20-piece chicken McNuggets is $3.49 with coupon. Except for in Manhattan, where it is $3.99. One can get a McSkillet burrito extra value meal for $1.99. Except in Manhattan, where it is $2.99. All this 50 cents here, $1 here quickly adds up for Manhattanites. I don’t know of one employer who offers to pay an employee more if they live in Manhattan instead of the Bronx.
I sometimes wonder how much longer I’ll need to tough it out in New York. I moved here because it’s the media capital and figured if I can’t expand my publishing network here, then I need to enter a new industry. It paid off as I transformed myself into a bonafide lifestyles writer and landed a book deal, thanks to attending events and networking. It’s been worth it. But for how much longer, I’m not sure.
I have no desire to move anywhere without a great public transportation system because if I have to buy a car then I might as well stay here. A car payment, insurance, gas, car repairs, valet parking, parking tickets, speeding tickets, worrying about whether your car is safe where you left it and road rage- all that adds up too. Which is why New York is my best bet for now, as expensive as it is. Of course if I made $500,000 annually, I’d have no need for a McDonald’s coupon book, which by the way didn’t offer one deal for a salad.