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Wednesday, July 9, 2008 Survey Says: You Will Be Poor

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 9:55 AM

By Benjamin Wachs

Some days don’tcha just wish you lived in Minneapolis? Or Albuquerque? Or Plano, Texas? Huh?

Well, yeah, I guess so – because according to a survey by those cities are among the top 5 for generating personal wealth … while San Francisco ranks near the bottom.

Specifically, New York City is the worst (uh huh), followed by Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Honolulu and us.

The survey “focused on local salaries, the cost of living and unemployment. Secondary factors, such as diversity of the local economy, residents' education, percentage of population below poverty level and commute time were also measured.”

And I’ve gotta tell ‘ya, I don’t buy it.

First of all, I think they did the sampling all wrong: San Francisco has a disproportionate unemployment and poverty problem in no small part because there are a bunch of people who come here to be chronically homeless and poor. Should those people really count?

Second, they examined only 62 cities, which puts us in pretty rarefied company to begin with … and it misses the point that there are many places in this country right now where there really are no jobs and no way out. Literally no jobs. Unlike them, San Francisco still does have a growing economy. Where we want it? No – but growing.

Finally, surveys also repeatedly show that San Francisco has the highest or among the highest salaries in the nation … so the money is coming in. The trick is how much is going out? And … well … I remember talking to an artist at a coffee shop here who said he had the secret to getting by in San Francisco on no dough.

There are two major expenses here, he told me: rent and going out. Both can be handled. For rent, get a cheap place or an expensive place that you share with a lot of people. Fun? No – but it can be done.

And as for going out? Don’t do it. Go to free stuff, visit the park, and especially hang around with friends, but avoid the city’s “scene” like the plague.

Get those two things down, he said, and you’re set: you can either live on almost no money at all or you can save up a bundle. And he was right.

Of course, if we were the kind of people who wanted to stay home with friends instead of going out and hitting the scene, we probably wouldn’t live in San Francisco in the first place. But that’s the point: you can generate wealth here, and lots of it, if you’re willing to make sacrifices.

But who wants to do that?

What do you think? Did get it right, or is the SF economy the promised land?

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Benjamin Wachs


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