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So I was chatting with a guy online, and expressing how I wished I was in Palm Springs. I told him how we have a place down there now and try to spend as much time as possible there. He responded, "Oh, you have a house here and there. I don't even have one house :-(" I explained that this was our retirement house, and that we'd eventually sell the San Francisco house and relocate. He responded with a WASPish "How nice for you."

This left me a little peeved. I grew up in a working-class family. My father was a meat cutter in a supermarket and my mother worked in a sandpaper factory. We had litte money to support five kids, but we did-- we didn't have a lot, seldom ate out (and then it was McDonalds) and I wore hand-me-downs. My parents always told us, and set the example, that you had to work hard in this life to get anything.

I and my younger brother worked our way through college. I have worked continuously since I was 16. For a 10-month period in my mid-twenties, I was unemployed, but did odd jobs and helped fix up my parents' house until I got a job. I finished my bachelors degree while working full-time.

I've had my share of financial setbacks and consumer debt, but by working hard I've achieved a level of financial security my parents never had, but wished for all their children. I've tried to be wise about saving, investing and giving back and as a result am pretty well positioned for retirement. I'm 55 years old and
ready. I refuse to feel guilty for being successful (on the relatively small scale that I am) because what I've done anyone can do if you work hard and try to give back a little.

It also helps that our needs are fairly simple--a comfortable house, not too big but with room for guests and entertaining, low maintenance, broadband, the occasional dinner out or simple vacation. But I'm content cooking dinner, watching TV and crocheting a new afghan.

Anyway, we do count our blessings every day and are so grateful for our success, our friends and family, and for each other. As a wise teacher once told me, "The Universe wants you to be happy.". Go with the flow, work hard and trust in the power of love and you'll be fine. At least that's what I've learned so far, and it works.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.



( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 17th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
Thanks Tim... I knew you'd understand...
Jan. 17th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
Don't let it get to you. Obviously he's not smart enough to figure out how to be a houseguest.
Jan. 17th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
I admit to harboring some envy but I try not to be a dick about it.
Jan. 17th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
I'm with martini_tim on this; while it was rude of him to lash out at you, try not to take it personally. A lot of people have had serious financial trouble due to the recent economy. (Though frankly I'd find it more understandable if you'd made money on selling credit default swaps or something directly related to the economic meltdown rather than working hard and being financially sane.)
Jan. 17th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
I've received a lot of negative crap over the years from renting San Francisco residents, about owning and living in the East Bay. Sneers about how boring and far away from we are from all the excitement, how they have no need to "own" property, and all that. Yes, we've miss out the close-by social life of SF, but I am much happier to realize that we'll own this house in 9 years. So we can both afford to be retired. (As long as I can get health care!)

The fact that you own a detached house SF makes a difference, even rarer to do that without having inherited it!

And for us, having had the place for 19 years meant payments low enough that during my time of 16 months of not working, someone was not trying to evict us, or foreclose, or anything like that. Its like pardon me for having goals so long ago to own a place....if home ownership wasn't something you chose not to have, nor could afford to have, don't try to make me feel bad for succeeding.
Jan. 17th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Great! Good job, Jack!

Glad the Universe has your back.
Jan. 17th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
Totally agree about the inappropriate bitterness. But why WASPish (which implies a cultural/ethnic group) rather than waspish (which implies a nasty little stinging insect)?
Jan. 17th, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
The guy's attitude was uncalled for, I agree. Out of curiosity, how old is he?

I respect you both for working hard and earning what you have.

But something that many Bay Area home-owners who are 40+ yr old don't understand is the desperation that us 20-somethings are feeling over the housing market.

How on earth am I supposed to put together $80k cash to cover the 20% down-payment on a $400k home? Even if I could squirrel away $10k every year for eight years, by the time I saved up $80k the price of the home will have risen significantly and I'll be shit out of luck. It takes two incomes to pay a mortgage these days, and even then my straight married-with-a-baby coworkers are buying homes in Antioch and Tracy.

There's no reason for anyone to be bitter at you for owning two homes, but I, for one, am depressed and somewhat frustrated by the fact that owning even one home is so far removed from my reality.

The American dream is awfully hazy for this latest generation of SF residents. Will I ever own a home? Do I have to be partnered to own a home? Will I ever have my own washer/dryer or a yard that gets enough sun for a small vegetable garden?
Jan. 17th, 2011 06:05 am (UTC)
Every 40+ year-old homeowner who didn't inherit a house knows exactly what the 20-xers are going through. It would be an oversimplification to say that it was the same for us back then as it is for you today.

I think you need to ask yourself what the goal is. If your goal is to have a home that you're going to live in for the next 30 years to raise your family?

If your goal is to own property because you can buy and sell it and buy more and sell it again because you want to make a ton of money—well, good luck with that. It is a common illusion that owning a home is something you have to do. Your math is correct—and it's probably a best-case right now. There are better ways to make money.
Jan. 17th, 2011 07:24 am (UTC)
You're right. It wasn't exactly the same. I was able to buy the "first" house in 1989 with the special CHAFA loan, where, in "certain areas", Read: Civic Center Richmond, you could get assistance on the down payment, and a lowered interest rate with restrictions, all with a very modest income. Yes, Ginnie Mae bond backed loans when they actually were solid investments.

So we happily lived on my qualifications alone, in a cute little house, not in a bad neighborhood, but surrounded by problem areas. But we had good neighbors, and planned for the future.
We were there for 3 years, (As required by the loan). We fixed the place up together. When we sold it, made a very small profit, but were finally qualified to purchase the home we're in now together in 1992.

So made a lot of concessions, didn't do a lot of dining out, traveling, etc during that time....but we had one hell of a garden way back when.
Jan. 17th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
We have a similar story. My first partner, Mark, and I bought in North Fremont in 1989 at the very height of that market. We financed $187,600, which was the lower limit for a jumbo loan. We were in escrow when the '89 quake hit, so all those inspections had to be done over. The market crashed the month after we closed and our home wasn't worth what we paid for it for seven years. We poured a lot of money into that place. I still can't believe we didn't declare bankruptcy because we had no money and enough credit card debt within a year of the purchase to last us a lifetime.

I got the house in the divorce and when I finally sold it, I made a killing. It's still not worth now what I sold it for in 2005.
Jan. 17th, 2011 09:02 am (UTC)
I can't speak for others, but my goal is neither to raise a family nor to turn a profit. I have no illusions of grandeur. I just want a place that is my own, where I can make any changes I want to the electricity, plumbing, cabinetry, etc.

For instance, if I could knock down three 4'-wide wall segments in my studio apartment I could reclaim 100+ sq ft of space that is currently wasted because of the layout.
Jan. 17th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
I just want a place that is my own, where I can make any changes I want to the electricity, plumbing, cabinetry, etc.

Those are the right reasons to want to own a house, so that's great. The cost of entry is so high and the quality fo the housing is so low at the low- and middle- price ranges in SF that buying is a horrible proposition, both financially and emotionally.

Were I in your position, I would be looking either at a townhouse/condo/coop situation (with a roommate) or at some other city like Oakland.

However, my earlier point still stands: we are all conditioned to expect that we will all own a home and it's not at all true that home ownership is the best situation for everyone.
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:43 am (UTC)
Those are the right reasons to want to own a house - Yay!

The cost of entry is so high and the quality fo the housing is so low at the low- and middle- price ranges in SF that buying is a horrible proposition, both financially and emotionally. - *whimper*

we are all conditioned to expect that we will all own a home - I've dreamed of having my own house with a white picket fence ever since I was a little boy.

not at all true that home ownership is the best situation for everyone - Absolutely. I know a couple in their 60's in Austin who rent a house (down the street from my parents) because they don't want to deal with the hassles of home ownership. They could easily afford to buy a house in the neighborhood, but they find it more convenient to let the landlord deal with the maintenance and whatnot.
Jan. 17th, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
Nothing to add here. You got what you have because you made life decisions that were right for you.
Jan. 17th, 2011 05:44 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 17th, 2011 06:46 am (UTC)
I don't think it's acceptable for people to want others to feel guilty for their success. If I wrote my comment in a way that it was taken in a different context, then my appologies.
Jan. 17th, 2011 05:44 am (UTC)
There are many people who believe that no one should do any better than they do. So if they're unhappy with their current situation, the unhappiness comes out—often with claws. They get all snotty about your success whether you're talking possessions, careers, or lovers.

There are a lot of people who are really dealing with grim situations. Someone else's comfortable position only highlights their own less favorable position; I think a lot of the time, people feel as though they're being poked at or singled out or that the world (and you [the general you, not Jack you] in particular) are just piling on needlessly.

I've been on both sides of that and I remember it well. It's normal to be envious of other people. Today we count among our friends not only people living paycheck-to-paycheck (or less) but also multimillionaires and people in between those extremes. I'm envious of many of them for their skills, their insight, their promiscuity, their handsomeness, their intelligence, their creativity—the list goes on. (Or maybe I'm just incredibly needy.)

There's not much you can do except to remind yourself that you're doing the best you know how to do.

Edited at 2011-01-17 06:06 am (UTC)
Jan. 17th, 2011 06:02 am (UTC)
Yes, but your friend doesn't know all this back history.

My youngest brother (when we were speaking) acted like that around both me and my middle brother, like we were all hoity-toity because we were middle class, not scrounging as a bottom feeder like he is/was.
Jan. 17th, 2011 07:54 am (UTC)
Jack, I have known you (and Steve) now for about 16 years. You are one of the kindest, most loving, and most giving fellows that I have ever met. You have shown such hospitality and generousity to many, many people through the years, myself included. Your friendship is something that I have treasured, and you helped me get through a very tough time in my life. I know that you and Steve have *not* had the easiest road, and you have both worked long and hard to get where you are. You have, most definitely, *earned* the things that you have, and you have every right to enjoy them and your life. I wish you and Steve the best of everything, and know that you guys deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labors, as well as the friendship of many people who genuinely care for you both.
Please don't let the thoughtless comment of one person get you down, you have no need to feel guilty.
Jan. 17th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
I guess I've been under the mistaken impression that the only people that could afford a house in S.F. were Dot Com Boom 'Lottery Winners' or through inheritance. Congrats on proving me wrong.
Jan. 17th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
Jack, you and Steve are beginning to enjoy the fruits of decades of work, sensible planning, and dedicated, focused ideas. One bitter pill can't erase that.

Won't stop them from trying to toss water, though.
Much happiness for skullbunny and I came from the purchase of our first home. A well-dressed woman stopped us in the parking garage to ask,"Do you have business here?" "Yeah, we just bought this place", I told her with a proud smile.
"Oh", she choked, red lipstick forming a straight line, tightening the corners of her lips. "Good for you," she muttered curtly. She turned on her stiletto heels and walked off, click click click.
Jan. 17th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
I guess I should say that I could imagine someone using exactly the words you are quoting in person in such a way that it was not meant to be offensive. Sometimes these things don't translate well in written form. (With the proper intonation, these same words could be spoken as an expression of praise and envy.)

Let me play Devil's Advocate here:

I think it's great that you and Steve have two homes, but you have to understand that your circumstances are exceptional.

Every time someone says that they are where they are because of the choices they made there is implied the sentiment that others who are in less favorable positions are where they are entirely as the result of their own decisions. That is an oversimplification.

The path that led to where you are no longer exists. The choices are becoming fewer and fewer and not by accident. Just as it would be silly to point to winning the lottery as a valid career path, we can no longer point to people who are successful as an explanation for those who are not. For some time, and increasingly, people who have done the right things are being shut out of the economy and our culture has not completely adjusted to that reality.

Your circumstances put you in a place where the chasm that is opening where the Middle Class once was is bifurcating your peer group. People you care about are struggling, some through their own devices, but some not, and it's going to get much worse before it gets better.

Perhaps you can understand then that just as when you say you deserve what you have you are not saying that others deserve what they have, that when others say they don't deserve what they have they are not saying that you don't deserve what you have.

In closing, your buddy's comments may have been rude, but maybe they can open your eyes to something that is happening around you. It's not sour grapes, people who did the right things are hurting, and they don't know what to do.
Jan. 18th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
Well said.
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:31 am (UTC)
This isn't a case where you need to apologize or explain anything to him. Let him soak in his bath of envy.
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
You composed this message on the iPhone? I can barely send a text message! :)
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( 28 comments — Leave a comment )