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Rich Lafferty's Journal

(mendelicious mendelusions)

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stupid protestants
thinking, perplexed
Sociologist Dalton Conley writes in the New York Times about how the better off we are, the harder we work. I particularly liked this:
This is a stunning moment in economic history: At one time we worked hard so that someday we (or our children) wouldn’t have to. Today, the more we earn, the more we work, since the opportunity cost of not working is all the greater (and since the higher we go, the more relatively deprived we feel).
It's not always easy to say "I have enough", and it's often easier to say "if I made just a little bit more, then I could feel secure enough to relax more."

We've got this clipping from an old Globe and Mail article on our fridge at home, where a bunch of professionals with salaries from $90k through $300k complain how they still feel like they're only barely keeping up. It reminds us that we've decided to not let ourselves end up there.

The precise details of the alternative don't exactly jump out when you haven't had a lot of contact with people that have made that same sort of move, though. I can think of a bunch I know or know of, but not really know well. A lot of them are involved in social justice causes or just generally be beyond "progressive" and more into "leftist", but that could be sampling error too. Or it could be that alternatives that don't appeal to me (and "parenting" is the main one I'm thinking of here) don't really address the things I'm thinking about, even though I know they do for those people. And it's always hard to tell if others aren't thinking the exact opposite all the time -- "I'd love to work more if it meant I could make a lot more.".

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this, especially if you're in the same position I'm in, or if you reached and passed that crossroads a while ago yourself.

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my feeling of barely keeping up is largely due to my addiction to toys. I get all caught up and doing well and go on a toy bender. must break myself of that.

Definitely on the far edge of the left-- they talk a lot about "wealth redistribution"-- but the best website I know of that's talking about these things intelligently is Enough. (That link is to their "about" page, because I think it's a better intro to what they're up to than their homepage.)

I'll be curious to hear what other people have to say about this stuff too. As someone who's within a few years of getting on the publish-or-perish tenure treadmill, I've been thinking a lot about the relative merits of university jobs and others, specifically around work-life balance. I'm also thinking about whether homeownership--- heavily tax-advantaged in the US, but increasingly inaccessible without 2 adult incomes--- is an ethical/moral choice that I could ever live with, and if so under what conditions.

I think where you live factors into this significantly. When I was living in North Carolina, my intro salary at Red Hat didn't seem so bad, and I aspired to six figures. Now, I'm at six figures in Boston, but because Boston is so expensive, I feel like I've got less cash to spend.

This is something that's been on my mind a lot lately, because when I quit Six Apart, the household went from making a very comfortable well-into-six-figures a year to making ... less. And Sarah is not exactly making chump change, but it's tough living in a city, even though the city is Baltimore (cheapest East Coast metropolis to live in, hands down -- our rent is half what it would be in DC and a third of what it would be in Manhattan).

We aren't really into things -- our two major entertainment expenses are books and yarn, really; we don't watch TV, we don't go to the movies, we don't buy DVDs, we don't even really play video games much anymore -- but we're very much of the "we could happily eat out every night at relatively high-end places" school of thought; over half of our non-rent expenditure per month (we've checked) is food-related. We totally have to watch ourselves.

It doesn't help that she and I have massively different attitudes on money management and credit -- she gets antsy every time we carry a credit balance month-to-month, while I tend to be way more lax about that. So we fight over money a lot, especially since I'm not actually bringing any in right now. Sigh.

We'd be in much, much better shape if I could find cheaper health insurance. (I'm still on COBRA from Six Apart, which costs me a lot per month, and even with that, my monthly copays for my pharmacopia and my doctor visits run about $150-$200 over and above that. Don't get me started on the issue of the American health care system. *sigh*)

Living paycheck to paycheck on $100,000

Madness. But I know people like this.

If you live in the USA and the Bay Area, maybe not so crazy. US$100K sounds awesome until you realize that's before health insurance + health care costs, retirement savings, taxes, and the sky-high cost of space (rent/parking/storage).

Moving back to Canada, or telecommuting from other countries, is starting to look really good.

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