I read an article the other night that said that a person earning $250,000 a year in Manhattan is relatively poor, and cannot afford to buy an apartment for more than $800,000. In most other parts of the country $250,000 would buy a lovely home and would be considered close to rich, if not rich per se. As a real estate agent, I can tell you that $800,000 barely buys a one bedroom apartment downtown, and if you’re looking for a full service building forget about it… you need to go over a million.
And renting? It’s almost harder to rent an apartment that to buy one. Landlords want tenants to earn 48 times the rent. So, if you’re looking at renting a small two bedroom in an “okay” neighborhood for $5,000, you need to earn basically the same $250,000 that would buy you the one bedroom in a walk-up in a B minus neighborhood.
Occupy Wall Street? It seemed to have started almost on a lark, but it has grown exponentially. People aren’t earning the money they used to, if they are employed at all. Private college or university educations do not insure jobs after graduation, although the unemployment rate for those who graduate is about half that of those without the same degrees. And, shockingly, 85% of graduates now move back in with their parents when they are done with school.
My daughter’s school took a trip down to Occupy Wall Street last week and she was struck by the intelligence of many of the protestors that she met. She wanted to go back last weekend, but I forbid her to go after seeing police officers arresting teenagers on the news that morning. Luckily she listened, as two of her close friends were in fact among the forty-something who were arrested last Saturday night up at Times Square Occupy Wall Street.
Protest if you must, but surely there is something else to be done. Something has to change in this country. Higher education is about $60,000 a year now, and most students feel that a college degree without a graduate degree added on will get them nowhere. Yet, financial aid is almost impossible to get unless you are seriously impoverished. So, if we send our children to seven years of higher education and spend $420,000, where will that leave us, and where will they be? Moving back in with us to take jobs for $40,000? Paying back loans for the rest of their lives?
My daughter leaves for college at the end of the summer, and my son is two years behind. As I ponder all of this I am left bewildered. When my brothers and I left for college I don’t think there was ever a serious thought that we would not be self-sufficient after graduation, or that we would be moving back in with our parents. We were ready to be adults, paying our own bills and living on our own.
Today I am not sure that our children have the same options, unless their parents are among the one percent of the population who is ruling the majority of the wealth. If we live in a three million dollar apartment we are stuffed to the gills, “needing” a five million dollar apartment. When will it end? And how can we help?
Is there an answer? Or are we just mice running around on our little wheels and never being able to get off?