In 2017, I earned $144,000 and I'm living in my car in one of the richest cities in the world...

Dear Dr. Wolff, I feel so compelled to send you an email because so much of what you study, and talk about has moved, and is moving through my current life. Let me begin by saying that 7 years ago I was sharing a zip code with Opra (93108) and by the time I moved out was paying $5,500 a month rent on a 2,800 sq. ft. house in Montecito, California. At that time I was earning about $350,000 a year as a commissioned salesperson working from home. Soon after my life was turned upside down with marriage problems, I suffered abuse from my wife, this made working from home very difficult. At the same time my sales job was becoming increasingly harder to make the same income I had been making, due to Amazon, ebay, etc. There was a long, slow, steady decline in what I could make (selling inkjet cartridges) at the same time that my marriage problems eventually forced me out the door. Since the availability of affordable housing in area of Santa Barbara, California is more scarce that our water, I was not able, being the sole income provider, to even afford to rent a room (which start at $1000 a month in this area), I have children that still live at home, so rather than my family experience a disruption in their lifestyle (even though they became extremely frugal) I moved into my 2014 Nissan Leaf EV (electric vehicle). I have been living in my car now almost 17 months. Yes, I'm a rough sleeper. I'm still separated, my wife rents a house that is $2800 now which is more on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, in 2017 I earned $144,000, I supplement this now with some cash from playing music, but with all the bills from maxed out credit cards, 401k loans, State & Federal taxes, I still cannot afford a place to live. The owner of the sales company I work for just sent this email out to all the top salespeople and it was just so "Trumpy" I had to share it with you, it reads as follows; Subject Line: "Check out who pays the taxes that run this fine country." "If you have an AGI of 138,000 you are in the top 10 percent of income earners in America. The top 10 percent pay 71% OF ALL FEDERAL INCOME TAX. I just returned from Fiji where the minimum wage is 2.00 per hour but food and hotels cost the same as they do here in the states. We live in the country that people all over the world dream of coming too. It is an awesome gift to be a U.S citizen. " I guess what's inside that gift might not be the same, ("your results may vary.") I have decided to tap my 401k (before Trump's cronies get it all) and take advantage of a penalty free withdrawal (I'm only 51) for a primary residence, since you need at least $200,000 for a down payment, I have decided to buy a 35 foot RV that will qualify. Since I'm a musician I welcome being able to get the RV, so that's a good thing to me. It's all just too strange to me, to be living this way in Santa Barbara and I am by no way alone, I am now meeting and seeing others in this same kind of housing crisis as me. And let me tell you, the shame that people have (myself included) is what is keeping it under the radar. I'm telling you all this in the hopes that maybe it can shed more light in areas you are looking for more understanding in. I admire your work so much, it has enriched my understanding and knowledge of economics. Thank you for being such a warrior for truth. I thought you might like to know that even Opra's neighborhood is not immune to our housing crunch. Please let me know if you can, what you think of my boss's email. Sincerely, Greg Korzen

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  • Greg Korzen
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2018-02-14 18:33:13 -0500