Can You Afford Life in DC?

You asked, we answered—how can normal 20-somethings afford to live in DC and still make good financial decisions for their future? Lyndsey and Bethany give their tips (and cautionary tales) and tricks for staying out of debt, saving for retirement, and not freaking out about money.

Bethany’s NYP piece on affording multiple kids: https://nypost.com/2019/08/03/prince-harry-may-want-2-kids-max-but-life-is-better-with-a-big-family/
Well & Good article on financial planning for couples: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/separate-finances-in-marriage/

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There are 13 comments.

  1. Max Ledoux Admin

    Fact check: Bethany does not in fact sound like a man.

    • #1
    • August 7, 2019, at 3:42 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Why would you want to live in DC?

    • #2
    • August 7, 2019, at 6:57 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Credit card debt? Sorry to hear about that.

    Yesterday I was listening to an interview with comedians Colin Quinn and Jerry Seinfeld who are great friends who both share a love of New York City.

    Apparently about the first thing Jerry ever said to Colin was, “Why would you RENT an apartment? What kind of goy move is that?” (Apparently Colin was still renting 25 years later.)

    What did Rupert Murdoch do?

    Kids sharing rooms?  Yeah, but during the last season they stuck Greg up in the attic before Cousin Oliver moved in and jinxed the end of the series.

    I think most kids have their own room today just because families are so much smaller, although I know a lot of people who move to a bigger house when family size begins to increase. However, I live in a part of the country where housing is some of the cheapest in the country and where a lot of fathers know how to build an extra bedroom on to their existing house.

    Thanks for the interesting podcasts which discuss different and interesting topics.

    • #3
    • August 8, 2019, at 4:38 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Full Size Tabby Member

    Regarding costs of “stay at home” parenting: Years ago (while our children were young and Mrs. Tabby was a “stay at home” parent) she and I worked with several families who said they wanted one parent to stay home, but didn’t believe they could afford to live on one primary income.

    In most of those cases, taking out the expenses incurred because of the second job (child care of course being the biggest, but also commuting, eating lunch out most days, clothing (buying and cleaning), greater use of take-out or semi-prepared food for dinners, increased marginal income tax rate), the net income from the second job was much less than the family realized. Some of them realized they really could live on one full time income. In one case, it turned out the second job was an economic net negative (they were spending more because the second parent was employed than what the job paid). 

    One family realized that the second job was mostly to afford a nice large house for their son, but then their son was rarely there because he was always in some group child care setting while his parents were at work. They decided having the son at home was more important than the large house, and decided to downsize the house so they could afford to live on one income. I lost a really good administrative assistant, but she ended up a much happier person. 

    In our case, I was able to get promoted faster, and to earn a significantly higher income than many of my professional peers because I could take on tasks at work because Mrs. Tabby had the home front all covered. I could take the assignments that called for out of town travel. I could stay for the late afternoon meetings. I didn’t have to rearrange work tasks to wait for home appliance repair people or to take children to appointments. 

    • #4
    • August 8, 2019, at 7:11 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Full Size Tabby Member

    Another thing we did when our children were young that apparently amazed many of our friends was to hunt actively free or nearly free activities to do as a family. 

    It rubbed off on our kids. During a couple of summers while in college our daughter actually accumulated savings while working a barely-above-minimum-wage job and living outside of our house. Granted, this was in a city with a relatively low cost of living, and we (her parents) let her use one of our cars, so she had to pay only for gasoline and parking fees. But, she rented with several friends a large old house (Bethany – City of Rochester near the western border with Gates), and she and one of the other girls went on extensive hunts for all the free entertainment options around the city. Now she and her husband take our grandson to the free and really cheap entertainments around where they now live. 

    • #5
    • August 8, 2019, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Stad Thatcher

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Why would you want to live in DC?

    If I had the money to live in a nice place, could own guns, and could conceal carry, DC would be a cool place to live. There are so many things to see and do: museums, art galleries, pro sports, symphonies, and all the monuments.

    However, the big negative to me (besides crime) is the deterioration of the Metro. When I started working for DOE (Energy, not Education), I frequently traveled to DC for work in our offices there and in Gaithersburg. I marveled at how the Metro was run, how fares were handled, and the overall cleanliness of the system. Unless things have changed since the last article I read about it, the DC Metro subway is headed downhill just like New York’s.

    • #6
    • August 8, 2019, at 8:01 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Stad Thatcher

    Ricochet Audio Network: Bethany’s NYP piece on affording multiple kids: https://nypost.com/2019/08/03/prince-harry-may-want-2-kids-max-but-life-is-better-with-a-big-family/

    Loved it! We went from zero children straight to three, and I feel there would have been more stress if we had adopted one at a time. Besides, we were already connected with an adoption group, so we got tons of hand-me-down (hand-me-over?) clothes from the other families. One couple had adopted a girl slightly older than our oldest, so we had an exclusive path for used clothes (I worked with the husband at DOE).

    Having kids close in age has other advantages, such as all children having fun at family activities. I think about the couples with one significantly older or younger child. The kid is not likely to be happy if all family activities are geared toward the larger group of siblings.

    I’m thinking of starting a Ricochet betting pool for the date when @bethanymandel announces the next addition to the family is on the way . . .

    • #7
    • August 8, 2019, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. James Lileks Contributor

    Stad (View Comment):
    I marveled at how the Metro was run, how fares were handled, and the overall cleanliness of the system. Unless things have changed since the last article I read about it, the DC Metro subway is headed downhill just like New York’s.

    So some say. Investment and management has not been top-notch. It’s the gloominess of the stations I don’t like – the 70s aesthetic, once intended to be Classy and Subdued and Civil, now looks careworn and dated. It could all profit from a coat of bright white paint. 

    • #8
    • August 8, 2019, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Stad Thatcher

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    I marveled at how the Metro was run, how fares were handled, and the overall cleanliness of the system. Unless things have changed since the last article I read about it, the DC Metro subway is headed downhill just like New York’s.

    So some say. Investment and management has not been top-notch. It’s the gloominess of the stations I don’t like – the 70s aesthetic, once intended to be Classy and Subdued and Civil, now looks careworn and dated. It could all profit from a coat of bright white paint.

    We should send some people over to study the Russian Metro (I’ve ridden it). It has pretty fancy decor, but I still admire the efficiency of the DC Metro, at least when I used to ride it (the 90s).

    • #9
    • August 9, 2019, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. JuliaBlaschke Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Why would you want to live in DC?

    If I had the money to live in a nice place, could own guns, and could conceal carry, DC would be a cool place to live. There are so many things to see and do: museums, art galleries, pro sports, symphonies, and all the monuments.

    However, the big negative to me (besides crime) is the deterioration of the Metro. When I started working for DOE (Energy, not Education), I frequently traveled to DC for work in our offices there and in Gaithersburg. I marveled at how the Metro was run, how fares were handled, and the overall cleanliness of the system. Unless things have changed since the last article I read about it, the DC Metro subway is headed downhill just like New York’s.

    It is worse than NY. It is a disaster. I don’t think they do any maintenance to speak of. Hence you get things like this happening. https://wtop.com/local/2019/07/metro-reports-flooding-delays-due-to-monday-storms/

    • #10
    • August 9, 2019, at 1:24 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. JuliaBlaschke Coolidge

    Stad (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    I marveled at how the Metro was run, how fares were handled, and the overall cleanliness of the system. Unless things have changed since the last article I read about it, the DC Metro subway is headed downhill just like New York’s.

    So some say. Investment and management has not been top-notch. It’s the gloominess of the stations I don’t like – the 70s aesthetic, once intended to be Classy and Subdued and Civil, now looks careworn and dated. It could all profit from a coat of bright white paint.

    We should send some people over to study the Russian Metro (I’ve ridden it). It has pretty fancy decor, but I still admire the efficiency of the DC Metro, at least when I used to ride it (the 90s).

    You wouldn’t like it now.

    • #11
    • August 9, 2019, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Stad Thatcher

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):
    It is worse than NY. It is a disaster. I don’t think they do any maintenance to speak of. Hence you get things like this happening. https://wtop.com/local/2019/07/metro-reports-flooding-delays-due-to-monday-storms/

    Yikes!

    • #12
    • August 10, 2019, at 6:04 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Stad Thatcher

    Max Ledoux (View Comment):

    Fact check: Bethany does not in fact sound like a man.

    No, but it is a more sultry version of her voice . . .

    • #13
    • August 15, 2019, at 10:56 AM PDT
    • 1 like