Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I'm not rich, but money has never been an issue in my life. I'm lucky, material things never mattered that much and thankfully, I've always been able to get what I needed and wanted.

I grew up in a working class family. We had an apartment in a city project in the Bronx. My dad worked two jobs so my mom could stay home and supervise their children. When the kids got old enough to be on their own a little, my mom started working part time.

We didn't have lots, but we had enough. My mom was an expert at finding bargains. She haunted the sales tables at Alexander's (on Fordham Rd and on Third Ave) and we always had new clothes that looked nice. We had toys. We went out on weekends. My parents knew all the tricks to entertain their kids without breaking the bank. We went to all the museums (free in those days). We went to the zoo and botanical gardens (also free). For real treats, we rode the Staten Island ferry ( only a nickel each way). We took vacations (not big ones). We went out to dinner. We were never deprived of anything.

I grew up with great values, which I thank my parents for. When I got married, I moved to an inexpensive apartment to save money to buy a house. I put no money into fixing up the apartment, since it was going to be temporary. I drove my car until it didn't drive anymore. I finished my master's degree and my plus thirty within three years of graduation and the start of my teaching career to maximize my salary. No one was giving me any money. I knew I had to work for what I wanted.

My husband and I bought a small house in Queens. It's a nice, old house in a great neighborhood but it is not fancy. We bought a house we could afford to pay for on his salary alone, so when the time came to have children, I could stay home with them if I so chose to (I stayed home for four years.)

We always talked about upgrading to a bigger house in a fancier neighborhood, but never did. I'm glad. My husband had a rough job and believe it or not, he was treated worse than many teachers are treated. At 53 years old, I told him to retire. Enough was enough. I could support us until his pension would kick in at age 55. Our income was more than cut in half with this move but, it was okay. We lived well within our means and have managed to save enough to keep living the same way we had always lived. We even bought him a new car as a retirement gift. We took a bunch of vacations (Italy, Eastern Europe, Jamaica, Alaska) and plan to keep on doing this as long as we are both healthy.

I never needed to buy the best. I never needed to buy the most. My vacations don't have to be at five star resorts. My cars don't have to be brand new. I've worked hard, but I've always lived well within my means. My parents taught me well. I think I have done the same with my children. My daughter bought her own house before she was 26 years old. We offered to help but she didn't need it. My son has more than enough money to buy one too, but he just has to decide where he wants to live.

I know things are different now than they were 30 years ago. Money doesn't go as far. But I don't think that people were as materialistic as they are now. I don't remember such emphasis on designer clothing. And, no cell phones sure meant no money on expensive I-phones. I think my parents were grounded enough to help me avoid these money pit items. I'm happy. I'm not rich in money but all my needs are being more than taken care of.


NYC Educator said...

I'm glad for you, and I could tell a similar story, but I'm really concerned about kids growing up today. Since the 80s, this country has become a different place, and it seems like, since GW stole the 2000 election, the US is becoming more and more like a banana republic. The inexpensive home you bought is undoubtedly well in excess of half a million bucks nowadays, and it's hard for me to imagine a typical young American couple, let alone single, buying that sort of thing anymore.

Unions are on the wane, and we, one of the last bastions of unionism, are under almost constant attack. And the very people who are supposed to protect us, our leadership, seems like they can't wait to simply throw us to the dogs.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Like you I am from a working class background. Having been educated by progressive Irish Jesuits in the late 60's I was taught that material things are transitory and what counts are your actions in this life. I am a "Socialist" in the traditions of the Nordic countries having lived there.

I believe we are part of a noble profession but we must fight those who are deluded or just plain evil in their efforts to destroy the one thing that levels the playing field--A FREE AND QUALITY EDUCATION!

I applaud you!

Chaz said...

Great blog. You sound like a great person.

Anonymous said...

I wish today's generation of parents could get a copy of this post.

I emailed it to my family in hopes it may make them realize that sometimes you can say NO to kids.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

The key to your contentment, it seems to me, is that you have always lived within your means. Too many people nowadays get sucked into buying things they don't need and can't afford because credit is so readily available. But the day of reckoning always comes--and it's never pleasant! As someone so inelegantly said, "There ain't no free lunch."