The Ex-GF and I were putting together a budget. She’s beginning the transition into a new career, which means for a while we’re on a single income. My income isn’t bad – I don’t know what percentile I’m in for California, but I remember median 4 person households figures for California and I know that well over half of the households in CA have less income than I do.
Now, our expenses are also low. I moved in with the Ex-GF before we got married, and she has got to have one of the lowest rents in LA. We pay precisely what I used to pay for a place in Little Rock, AR – seven years ago. Our cars are paid off. We’re good drivers, so our car insurance is not particularly high. I often work from home, so transportation expenses are low. We don’t eat out often, and we don’t lead extravagant lifestyles. The Ex-GF is one heck of a bargain hunter. I try to put away 10% of my income every month and fully fund my IRA. Other than this more or less automatic saving (and in some months, not other than it), our biggest after-tax expense is our health insurance, and both of us are healthy. We don’t drink or smoke, we exercise, and neither of us have ever had any expensive care. At the moment, there are just the two of us plus two cats.
When I total everything up – reasonably good income, good spending habits, very low expenses, I find that we’re still living damn close to hand-to-mouth. And there is another thing – precariousness. If a little bit of consulting work dries up, or the landlord wakes up from a coma, or I get sick – then everything falls apart.
People a generation older than I tell me this feeling of a complete lack of a safety net is a new thing. I do know I didn’t feel it in the 1990s. I also know its not pleasant. And I also know its not just from being an entrepreneur. Friends of mine with jobs tell me they’re feeling just as precarious, and have been for the past few years.
I can’t imagine its a good thing.