When I wrote about my top 10 list for a young twentysomething woman to know, one of my friends from high school pointed out an important omission—learning about personal finance. I had spent some time wondering if I should include tips on saving , but I would probably need a top 100 list to tell all that I have learned. The sad fact is that I am plagued by thoughts of money, more often than I think about sex, food, or feminism (combined). Recently, my anxieties have kicked into overdrive when I realized that my job didn’t have the capabilities to raise my salary for quite some time, even though I am working below market level. I am by no means impoverished, but I really think there are two kinds of broke “I can’t pay my bills” and “I can pay JUST my bills.” I belong to the latter category. After credit cards, utilities, food, baby showers, etc., I am lucky if I have $50 left in the month. Friends ask me out to dinner or drinks or theater. I accept and don’t show up, or I accept and pretend I’m full as I watch them eat, or I show up and eat and drink and feel guilty about it later. All three are bad options.
My mother says New York and I are in an abusive relationship. My rent takes up 47% of my salary. In order to have the life I want in a reasonable amount of time (a house and a yard before 40), I would practically need to be a millionaire. Or marry a millionaire. I’m just hoping to be a thousandaire.
My youthful dreams about creating a life for myself in one of America’s most expensive cities is becoming a nightmare. I adhered to the American dream of working my way up and going to graduate school and excepting jobs for nothing to get experience. But it’s now The American Dream Deferred. Accepting shitty pay means that your next job will be 8% more than your shitty pay (which is still shitty) and that you will be struggling to pay your student loan long after you get gray hairs. You don’t complain or ask for more because employers (and your friends) let you know that you are lucky to have a job in the first place.
I am trying to change my thinking, but I am continuously demoralized. I panic when someone has a baby or goes into the hospital, or when I get a cold. One unexpected thing could be the death of me. I try to make more with the money I have. In November, I have instituted a buying diet. I try to pretend it’s cool, but in the end it’s awkward to explain and lonely when I come home. I know that building wealth for the future includes present rationing, but I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.