Friday, March 21, 2008

Running the Numbers

I finally got around to doing my taxes last night, and this morning I was so depressed I could barely drag myself to work. Turns out my total earnings for last year were just over $18,000. According to a 2005 article in the SF Chronicle, you needed to earn about $52K a year in SF to live as well as someone earning $28K anywhere else. That report is three years old, and we've had three years of inflation and increased housing costs in this city, so I'm pretty sure today's numbers are even worse. If we guess that today's ratio would be something like $60K a year in SF to $30K anywhere else, then my $18,000 earnings allowed me to live as well as someone earning $9,000 in Boise, Idaho.

In other words, I'm fucking poor.

It's not that I'm not used to being poor. I've been thoroughly mired in poverty since I left home at 18, and even when I lived with my mom and her husband, who actually made decent money, we lived as if we were poor. Poverty is familiar to me.

But I'm distressed now because last year was the most job-related year I've ever had in my life, and I'm still broke at the end of it. For the first time ever, I spent the whole year in one city, without going to school or involving myself significantly in any other pursuit (I did fiddle around in two bands, and do a little writing, but WORK took the lion's share of my time and energy). Like usual, I quit a job during the year, and I worked part-time at another job before they forced me into a full-time schedule, but even considering all of that, I'd estimate that I was fully employed (40 hours a week) for around 10 of the 12 months in 2007.

And what happened to that $18K, which I sold the last year of my life for? First off, taxes got at least 20%, leaving me with around $13,500. My rent accounts for $540 a month, or a total of $6,480, which reduces the previous sum to $7,020. Another $600 for the cell phone, and $440 for rent at the studio where my drumset lives, leaves me with $5940. We can easily strike another $300 a month for food and groceries (which is probably a gross underestimation, seeing as how a lousy burrito costs $7 in this city), knocking my cash down to $2340. Various other expenses, like car repair, insurance, registration, and gas, as well money spent on plane tickets (4 short trips last year) handily take care of whatever was left.

So, obviously, there isn't any room to enhance my life. I couldn't dream of owning a house on what I'm earning (average house cost in SF is $750,00, and that's after more than a year with a failing housing market), or raising a kid.

Of course, I guess I could always give in, and focus my life around getting a better job. I'm a college graduate, with good references, so I could probably make more money if I committed myself to it. For a long while now I've lived with the dream of producing worthwhile writing, and I'd probably have to give that dream up if I'm to have a chance of making a decent living. In all honesty, the last year of my life wasn't very productive in terms of writing, anyway. Some people say you need to focus your passions and energies on what you're most driven to do, on what you'll do even when you're exhausted and hopeless when you get home from work. I manage to write a couple sorry poems after work, and a blog entry every now and again, but I don't feel like I'm producing a significant body of art. After work, all I consistently feel eager to do is drink beer.

Maybe I should become an alcoholic.

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