Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Locked out of the American Dream

So today (actually yesterday now, it's the middle of the night) I was at a mommy's group get together at this woman's house not far from here. They just bought it for a little under $500K, and are putting a lot of money into it as it was a fixer. She is a full time stay at home mom (sahm) like myself, so all the money must have come from her DH's job at the big local employer (the one that makes software that runs most of the computers in the world). Wow, that place must pay really well! And he must be pretty high up there, too. How else could they afford that? Then one of the other mamas in the group mentioned that she and her dh are building not one but two houses! Sure, she's working as a lawyer part time from home, which I'm guessing pays pretty well, but whew! Talk about brushing shoulders with the rich!

I guess it comes with the territory of being a sahm, since most women work and most women who don't work outside the home have husbands that are well paid, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for myself, and comparing our situation to theirs. We just got our bank statement, and it shows that we exceeded our income this month, again, and are now living paycheck to paycheck practically -- and this is without putting anything towards retirement! And we are living in an apartment. I know part of it is that our rent is going up a lot, and part of it is that ds and I took a trip back east to visit the ILs, but mostly it's the diet -- SCD is breaking us! All the vegetables and meats are just too much money! I would bet we spent over a thousand bucks on food. At this rate, with these kinds of housing prices, we will not be able to afford even the smallest, most worn-out house in this area without buying so far out we'd never be able to get to the nice places to shop like the farmer's Market, the natural food coop, much less fun places like the museums downtown. What's a poor girl to do?

I know I should be happy we have a regular roof over our heads, a car we can use (yes, we have only one car, dh walks to work), and food to eat. There are billions of people worse off than we are. We have internet access, a TV (no cable though) and enough clothes in relatively good condition not to have to wash them daily. Why can't I be grateful for what I have instead of seeing what I don't have? So, we have no garage. So, we have only a 2 bedroom apartment. We're not living in tent city, after all. We may never be able to own a home, but at least we can pay the rent. We have heat in the winter, hot running water, and wow, a washer and dryer (didn't have that growing up -- the washer and dryer that is).

Why is it that the homes here are so out of reach for so many? I mean, it's not as if dh works at a fast food place. He has a college degree, has been out in the working world for many years, but he obviously isn't being paid half what these other women's Dh's are being paid. Why not? Sure, his dad was a plumber who died young and left a widow with a high school education to support three boys. Sure, he's a laid-back hippie who would never want to negotiate for more pay or switch jobs a lot to increase his salary. But why should that mean that we are relegated to apartment living? What about all the teachers, grocery store clerks, bank tellers, and non-profit workers? At this point, even if we could find a house to rent for a reasonable amount, we couldn't afford to pay movers and are too old and physically unfit to move ourselves. I feel so trapped! Is this the depression talking?

I had meant to go on about how the median income in the area is almost double what dh is making, and how that meant that either he was underpaid or I was not supposed to be home with a kid, but I forgot about that. Yes, that's right, the median household income here, in our School District, is over $100K! That includes people who work at the grocery store, etc, which means that a lot of people are being paid really well, or else most women are working outside the home, or both. Where do we sign up to be paid like that? King County (our county) median household income is more like $60K, which is more in line with ours, but that must include inner city areas where there is no income along with rural areas where people can more easily subsist on less. I still can't help thinking, what about the Starbucks employees, the massage therapists? Where do they live? Do they have long commutes? Live with their parents?

Anyway, enough obsessing about money. I need to try to sleep!


chasmyn said...

Well, King County doesn't really have any rural areas. And consider that it is also including all of the local software giant millionaires, of which there are MANY. plus if it's going per hpusehold and not per individual , most folks in King county are in a two income household as well.

You and I also share the problem of having moved here only a couple of years ago, just as the housing market exploded.

I have friends who live in big beautiful houses that they bought ten years ago when housing was still reasonable here. They could never afford their homes were they to try and buy them now. AND we live in the home of the software giant, one of the most expensive areas to live in. There are lots of areas north, east and south of here that are considerably cheaper.

Jen-Jen said...

Thanks. I have a tendency to compare myself to the most well-off people, which is of course folly. Oh, definitely, the prices are inevitably going to be high based on the economy here, and yes, we're a bit late to get in on housing when it was reasonable here.

It's definitely the same story as California, maybe delayed by about 5 years or so. Or maybe a bit less. I actually wish we'd bought in California 10 years ago, but back then we were in no position to buy anything even at the lower prices, at least we thought so (now I realize we could have probably bought in what was then a less desirable area, but that's all water under the bridge).