Mortgage envy and tradeoffs

I love Salon comments. This week, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes about her family’s slow descent into a subprime mortgage  to help them keep on the heels of the joneses who can afford nice brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It seems a little self-absorbed to do an article like this and fail to report outside one’s own situation. It might have at least protected Williams from comments that scorn her for whining about the rich people in her neighborhood when she does not have it so bad. (In her defense, this is an excerpt from a book, so maybe the rest of the book goes more broad). As a few other commenters point out, if she and her husband chose to be freelance writers, didn’t they know they wouldn’t enjoy the same lifestyle as NYC’s  bankers and lawyers? Unfortunately, in New York, that lifestyle is simply being able to afford a house. Anyway, here are a couple of the most interesting comments. Emphasis added, in some places.

What the writer fails to appreciate is that if you want to live an unconventional life, you can’t complain you are unable to afford the perks of those who’ve slaved in the salt mines doing “regular jobs” for years.

I’ve seen this in people who’ve gone overseas on their own initiative and then come home 5+ years later and don’t understand why they can’t immediately live like those who never left. Whatever they did “over there” isn’t on the radar of American employers and the absence of a credit record won’t help them with lenders.

I guess I feel fortunate that I don’t envy the lifestyle of anyone else. I always knew what I wanted and was cognizant of what I would have to sacrifice to achieve it.

Yikes–you’re gonna get killed in the letters section with this!

I can understand wanting to shill your new book, but man are the folks on this site not going to give you the love right now.

She’s not talking about the titans of Wall St, earning multimillion dollar bonuses. She’s talking about people who are doing well.

Why are they so much more comfortable financially than she is? Because they looked at the market and figured out what it took to earn a salary that suited the lifestyle they wanted. They went to B school. They took jobs that maybe weren’t “fulfilling’. I wanted to be a writer, my husband wanted to be an airplane pilot. We’ve spent a lot of our careers in Accounting. We haven’t always lived in the place we’d prefer to live. However, we have a very nice life and we probably are the sort that MEW hates.

You can buy an entire city in the plains states for the price of a New York loft. And believe it or not, there are people outside of New York with a full set of teeth and a head full of brains.

I do have to say, living in NYC is definitely worth some extra money.

Yeah, my daily trip to work is enough to tell me that there are plenty of people out there who are worse off, but if every sad story has to compete in this way, what’s the point? The author’s experience is rather topical and I appreciate the view from the inside.

The lamentations are predictable, but the market has always defined the tradeoffs: How much are you willing to trade safety, convenience, space and stability to live out your vocational dreams in a close-in, culturally hip area? How move-in ready do you need your cultural surroundings to be—do you want to build it from scratch or have others to spend time and do all the heavy lifting constructing it for you? If you opt for the latter, you’ll pay top dollar, so working for the corporate master may be in your future. The built-in equilibrium is that today’s urban pioneers have already left in search of new affordable frontiers. So, your “spoiled” expensive neighborhood has likely become a sterile chain-store filled anywhere USA — filled with self-congratulatory drones living vicariously through the efforts of the former residents, the glow of the area’s former coolness rapidly dissipating.

The way these people put it, the tradeoffs can be pretty easily defined.
Conventional vs. unconventional job=Well-paying job vs. less well-paying job=Carroll Gardens vs. Jersey City. Well, at least it did. Who knows what will happen during the repression (recession+depression).
I know where I come down, at least at the tender age of 25: As Art Buchwald, not Einstein, supposedly said, “The best things in life aren’t things.”

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About elainemeyer
I'm a writer and editor. I work in communications at the Columbia School of Public Health, where I write about epidemiologic research. In the past I've worked as a reporter and studied journalism and history in school.

One Response to Mortgage envy and tradeoffs

  1. hm says:

    interesting! thanks for the selection of comments.

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