San Francisco

Guardian UK’s Article on “Scraping By” in SF on a Six-Figure Salary

Tuesday February 28, 2017

Ok, guys, we’re going to have to talk about this Guardian article.

Yesterday, The Guardian published a piece detailing how San Francisco techies are feeling the financial pinch despite their 6 and 7 (!) figure salaries.

1) It’s worthwhile to click over and read the piece yourself.

2) You may feel embarrassed because you kind of relate, and because you are probably self-aware enough to accept the premise is absurd on its face.

3) It’s time for a reality check, five-percenters.


Obviously, San Francisco is expensive. A two bedroom apartment goes for, at a bare minimum here, $3500, but the average rent for a 2 bedroom is $4631. And we’re not talking granite countertops or a washer and dryer in that price range. A study out this week found San Francisco to have the highest rental prices in the world.

Buying a home is prohibitively expensive. The median price for a two bedroom apartment is $1.1 million. The median price for a 3 bedroom home is $1.6 million. (And the outlying suburbs aren’t actually cheaper. Actually, many suburban neighborhoods are even more expensive.)

The average cost of daycare is $1900, at a certified daycare center. Most of my friend are paying in the $2500-3500 range for infant daycare at a center. (Fancier ones, and nannies, cost a lot more.)

Even the price of food and services is more here. Supermarket produce and packaged food costs roughly 27 to 72% more in San Francisco than the rest of the country.

SO! Yes, it’s obviously pricey here. If you and a spouse live in an average 2 bedroom home and pay child care for two kids, you’d need, on average, $8431 just to cover fixed costs of housing and child care. Figuring about 1/3rd of your income goes to taxes, that means you would need to make $134,000/year just to have enough money to send your kids to an average daycare and live in a properly sized home. Obviously, you probably need to eat food and partake in transportation and maybe have a student loan and healthcare and some sort of retirement plan, so you would probably need to make a lot more than that to cover those costs as well.

Alright, so San Francisco techies, we are with you to an extent!

But, people, we also need to take a step back.

Housing truly is insane here. Most of my friends with 6-figure salaries are raising their babies in closets. This is true. But, we are also still members of the 5%. You may not feel that your housing situation reflects that, but the rest of your lifestyle surely does.

We take weekend trips to internationally known destinations that show up in Forbes Travel Guide and Conde Nast Travel. We have a stock of Russian River Pinot’s and Napa Valley Cabernet’s in our kitchens.

We live less than 7 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Simple weekend hikes look like excerpts from the New York Times Travel Section. Whipping around Pacific Coast Highway on a Saturday is just a thing we do on the way to oceanfront cafes.

Speaking of, we eat like queens and kings. Celebrating birthdays at a Michelin starred restaurant. Or a Tuesday night at a restaurant Bon Appetit has named best in the world.

What clothes are you wearing? How much did those boots cost?

Reality check: we don’t worry about paying for gas. We don’t worry about paying bills.

In a word, we are not scraping by. In fact, those of us in the 6-figure income category are still living fantastically decadent lives. Yes, even though baby sleeps in a closet. Or you sleep on a Murphy bed.

These articles may be good in that it brings out a certain frustration the 5% is feeling, and there is definitely the shock factor of the headline to those living outside of San Francisco, which I’m sure is partially why it was written. And there is truth to the idea of, “wow, if this is what the 5% is feeling, how about normal people??” If that is the true sentiment, I wish they would have focused instead on the middle class. I’m not sure we need the 5% to do the service for us of shining a light on people who can speak for themselves.

What do you guys think? Are you feeling the pinch in San Francisco and beyond? Or do you also feel like you’re living quite well as a matter of fact. Why do you stay here in spite of it?


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