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The times, they are hard and biting

“Susan,” 39
Location: Midsized east coast city
Occupation: Director of fundraising at a nonprofit
Income: $92,000
Expenses: $50,000

My story: I was born in the U.S., but lived internationally. I got my PhD in the humanities, but didn’t get a full tenure-track job, so I pivoted to the nonprofit world. I’m extremely lucky to have help with a down payment for my house. I feel extremely lucky in many ways, but extremely vulnerable in other ways. Because I was abroad and also did a PhD, I have very little social security that I’ll be able to draw upon.

When I started full time at the nonprofit, I felt like I was rich—I was going to buy diamonds and a pony. Instead, I can barely keep afloat. I put around $15,000 of my salary in my 401(k) pretax (I get an 8% match). I have to pay $600 a month for student debt. My mortgage is $1,815. My utilities have gone from $150 to about $210 a month, and internet is $85. I try to limit myself to $100 a week for groceries and household supplies—it’s now $125. I have three pets and they all have illnesses, which gets expensive. I spend $100 a month on medications for them, and doggie day care is my second biggest expense after my mortgage.

That last line there. I can barely keep afloat even though I’ve also just said that I’m paying more than $600 a month for doggie day care?

These tossers don’t have a clue, do they? She’s spending more a month on Rover not being bored than 700 million people out there have as a yearly income. She can barely keep afloat.

With inflation, doggie day care has gone up from $750 for a 20-day pass to $1050.

Dear God. Also, WTF is doggie day care? Don’t people have yards any more?

Maybe I should drop my 401(k), but I’m almost 40 and I don’t have much in the way of retirement. If you’d told me as a PhD student that I’d be earning this much and barely making it, I would have said, “Give me the woman’s spreadsheet, she’s gotta be doing something wrong!” I read budgeting tips and I feel like I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t go out to eat, I don’t even really go out. Am I not supposed to have pets?

It just gets better and better, doesn’t it?

28 thoughts on “The times, they are hard and biting”

  1. “but didn’t get a full tenure-track job, so I pivoted to the nonprofit world.”

    It’s not much of a pivot, is it?

    Also, if income is 92 grand, and expenses are 50, what happened to the other 42 (or 23 post-mutts)?

  2. Dennis, Unpublished For Obvious Reasons

    These days it’s hard to know where reality ends and satire begins.

  3. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    “Don’t people have yards any more?”

    You don’t have many WEF-approved habitation pods in Portugal, do you?

    What really gasts my flabber is the graduate in nothing studies on $130k in first nothing job. Is that remotely normal? Also the (public sector) pensioners on $90k.

  4. Couldn’t they find any poor, or even average-earning, people to interview?

    The written equivalent of those grating “my working day at Facebook/google” videos.

  5. I would have said, “Give me the woman’s spreadsheet, she’s gotta be doing something wrong

    And she’d have been right. Perhaps she ought to go into the doggy day business?

  6. Saving grace is she hasn’t reproduced.

    These non-profit types are simultaneously clueless but financially astute.

    $92k salary, filing single:
    $7k payroll taxes – she laments about SS, but that salary level for just 20 years would put her beyond the second ‘bend point’ – $25-30k in benefits in todays dollars.
    $15k 401k contribution plus a free $7k employer match. AGI reduced to $77k.
    Federal tax on $77k for a single is ~$7.5k.
    State tax would be ~5% would be $4k.
    What a life for someone who studied Humanities for a decade, and begs for donations from people with real jobs.

  7. Income is 92k. Let’s call it 70k post tax.

    50k of expenses. Leaving 20k left over. How is that possible ‘barely making it’?

    It’s like these articles find the worst possible examples of ‘poverty’.

    1800 mortgage? Welcome to the real world dear. Mine is 1350 on an income that’s slightly more than her expenses. Next time buy a smaller house. Turn down the heat and AC. Lower mortgage, lower utility bills.

    Also, 400/mo for a single person? I’m fat and my bill is 300 dollars.

  8. “Yes Madam. The boarding for the B Ark is just along there. If you hurry you’ll be top of the list for day care for your doggies. Have a nice day.”

  9. One bad decision after another.

    Go to university? Maybe wise but maybe not – but likely to be unwise if all you study is “humanities” particularly at the, ahem, undemanding level typical of the American BA degree.

    Do a PhD in the humanities? For pity’s sake!

    Did some time, I infer, in a sub-tenure-track academic post: madness.

    Keeps ickle doggie-woggies when she feels skint and doesn’t go out shooting for the pot? Plain silly.

  10. “WTF is doggie day care?”

    It’s for people with pets they don’t have time for, in much the same way as people who have children, then employ nannies to look after them. Usually because they are doing 200 mile round trip commutes to “The City” in order to earn enough money to pay the nannies fees. They’ll be really fcuked when 15 minute cities become the norm…

  11. I used to work with a young lady who lamented that she couldn’t afford to buy a house. At the time (2005) she was paying £250 a month on her pet Guinea Pigs and thought I was mad for suggesting that perhaps if she got rid of the guinea pigs she may be able to afford a house. I kid you not.

  12. Henry,

    She’s not just the demographic that votes democrat, she also probably counts the votes as well.

  13. @Addolff
    Surprised you didnt say eat the guinea-pigs – quite a delicacy in Peru/ Chile – bit like chicken…

  14. Henry. No one’s getting the loan forgiveness, Biden has admitted what he knew before the election (and what Nancy Pelosi had said), he does not have the power to do it. It was a dangled carrot for democrat voting graduates.

  15. This is merely the other end of the social spectrum to the “The government doesn’t give me enough handouts to live on after I’ve spent it all on crack.”

    People who can’t plan ain’t gonna plan very well, whether they have loads of money or none.

  16. One bad decision after another.

    Oh, I don’t know. She owns her own home and can afford to spend more than a grand a month on pets.

    Based on Henry’s calculations and the spending outlined above, she still has $1,000 a month left for clothes, books, socialising, booze, holidays etc. Which sounds fairly comfortable to me.

  17. Surely the point of having more than one dog is you can leave them at home as they have company, if they can’t be trusted a large crate of pen isn’t difficult. I’d also be interested in what non-profit is making their staff come into the office every day as you don’t need doggie daycare working from home

  18. I approve of the doggy daycare bit: dogs provide humanities graduates with child substitutes so they won’t reproduce and other humanities graduates with a job they probably didn’t envisage when they went to uni. But keeps them fed and exercised. Win:win

  19. Addolff

    If you’re still in touch with the young lady and she still has guinea pigs, let me know – I’ve got a couple of excellent recipes.

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