the skill of personal finance to deal with cost of living
I work in Silicon Valley for a 6-figure household income, but I don't have nearly as much money as you think

I met a guy who tells me his life is s----y and can't save a dime there. I suspect he's lying! A software engineer with that salary is way above what the average software engineer makes. What do you think?

Lan's answer: He's not lying. I'm living his life, except I'm a DINK — double income, no kids — and it's still terrible.

My husband makes six figures as a software engineer. I make five figures as a technical writer. We live in Newark, California, and work in Silicon Valley. The commute is 30 minutes with no traffic, but one to two hours with heavy traffic.

I have student loans — $1,600 a month toward a $130,000 debt. That eats up all my monthly pay and part of his. I don't regret the investment — I made more than my mother straight out of school, and she has been working 40 years.

We have a mortgage: $3,000 a month for a $530,000 house, the cheapest we could find that didn't need major repairs. This rescued us from $4,000 rent in North San Jose, basically burning money because it wasn't going toward equity. We live in a crappy school district right near the freeway. The only silver lining is low crime.

We also have two car payments because there's no way to take public transportation to work with $1,000 a month total, insurance payments, and utility bills. That takes up the bulk of his paycheck.

We can save maybe $300 to $500 a month if we're careful about eating out, entertainment, and spending. Our savings were blown on our down payment and renovations to the house — the kitchen was not serviceable. We accrued that over three years of living rent-free at my parents' house, a luxury not everyone has.

The salary you listed is not above average in this area. It's commensurate with maybe seven to 10 years of experience working in the competitive market of software and computer engineering. It's above average for the Midwest.

But when I was living in the Midwest, I only paid $900 a month for a two-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse. In comparison, I pay $4,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a quarter of the square footage in North San Jose.

People are always astonished that we can't afford a luxury car and expensive restaurants when they figure out our cumulative salary. They think we're making bad investments or spending money on frivolities. The amount of relatives asking me to foot the bill for things is ridiculous.

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