When Six Figures Isn’t Enough to Live On

This was supposed to be the opportunity.

Photo credit: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0.

So a Billfolder asked if we could discuss this Guardian story about high salaries and high costs of living:

Scraping by on six figures? Tech workers feel poor in Silicon Valley’s wealth bubble

I feel a little bad for the people profiled in this piece, because it’s so easy to snark at them:

“Families are priced out of the market,” [a software engineer making $160,000] said, adding that family-friendly cafes and restaurants have slowly been replaced by “hip coffee shops”.

Which, I don’t know about you, but every coffee shop I’ve been in recently has been full of children. Right? Do Silicon Valley coffee shops not have strollers and laptops side by side, and juice boxes in the glass case next to the sparkling water?

But the people profiled in the article are making a valid point. They’re earning six figures, but they still can’t find a place to live.

One Apple employee was recently living in a Santa Cruz garage, using a compost bucket as a toilet. Another tech worker, enrolled in a coding bootcamp, described how he lived with 12 other engineers in a two-bedroom apartment rented via Airbnb. “It was $1,100 for a fucking bunk bed and five people in the same room. One guy was living in a closet, paying $1,400 for a ‘private room’.”

These workers also represent Silicon Valley’s privileged—first because of their salaries, education, and career potential, and second because they can afford to move out when they get tired of composting their own poop.

“For a senior whose healthcare is down the street, moving might be a death sentence,” [Fred Sherburn Zimmer of San Francisco’s Housing Rights Committee] said. “For an immigrant family with two kids, moving out of a sanctuary city like San Francisco means you could get deported.” She described a building in San Francisco where there are 28 people living in “studio-like closets” in a basement, including a senior and families with children.

Is there anything any of us can do about this? It’s hard to say. As the people profiled in the article note, they could move further out and add a three-hour commute (each way) to their workdays, or they could retool their careers and uproot their lives looking for a better opportunity somewhere else.

Except this was supposed to be the opportunity. That’s the underlying sentiment, the note of frustration that’s going to make it very easy for the rest of us to snark. I thought I had the brass ring and I’m still stuck on the merry-go-round! Yes. You and everybody else.

We’re all working as hard as we can, as I’ve said many times before. And even when we earn more than we ever thought we would, the costs of living catch up.

So I do sympathize with these people. Do you?

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