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KingLouis

Are You Happy With Your Income?

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This is a tough discussion, because epeeist is not wrong, and shawniebear is not wrong. No one "needs" suits from Harry Rosen or a new car every 5 years or a condo where the kitchen and bedroom are separated by a wall rather than a curtain. But certainly many people want these things, and the absence of them will be grating. I'll adopt the $95,000 USD happiness baseline. I know lots of lawyers who're "happy" to own 2 sportcoats from International Clothiers and a '90s Corolla. If you can drive through Lawrence Park or Rosedale or Forest Hill and say, "That's a nice house, but I'm happy with my 500 sq. ft. condo at Yonge/Finch and I always will be"--well, you're a more ascetic and spiritual man than I am. I want to be rewarded for the objectively good work I'm doing. I'll admit that I feel that such a reward should be greater than, say, what a high school teacher takes home in cash.

We're living in a strange time where any type of privilege is being labeled as toxic. This includes the economic privilege once handed to the middle class. It's at the point where I can see some people saying that if a client hands you $100 as payment for a 1-day trial, you should take it and be happy 'cause it's more than a part-time grocery clerk made that day at Metro.

 

 

Edited by KingLouis
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As a broke 2L, I get a bit anxious watching these conversations, worried about my future finances and whether I'll actually be broke forever. 

Then some comment reminds me...I'd love to own a 500 sq ft condo at Yonge and Finch! Maybe not forever, but it sounds pretty damn good to me now.

 😮

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TIL, as I return from a lovely vacation to my professional managed, newly renovated rental apartment, with a fully stocked fridge, comfy furniture and a big TV, check my bank account that is continually increasing, and then hop on the subway for my 20 minute commute to work, that I am merely “surviving”.

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It’s a different economy out there now.   Property prices have gone through a prolonged period of growth that far outpaced the increase in earnings of regular working people, including lawyers.  To keep up, it might be necessary to be more active, or even aggressive, in looking for investment opportunities outside of our regular job or law practice.   

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I'm articling at a firm in the GTA, earning approximately $45,000. Shortly after accepting this position, I got an offer at a firm in Toronto that was offering about $15,000 more. That was a bit of kick in the pants at the time, especially when I was speaking to some of my classmates who were earning significantly more than me. I've come to be happier with my decision - because I'm outside of Toronto, my partner and I are renting a two-bedroom condo for about $700 less each month, having more dinners out, throwing more money into the savings accounts, and generally feeling more flexibility. Still, even with a post-articling pay increase, I think it'll be a few years before I buy my first Bentley 😉

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11 hours ago, shawniebear said:

After taxes $75k a year leaves you with what, $4000 a month? Im pretty sure its less but lets go with $4k a month. The cheapest condo you can find in Toronto is $450k. If you have good credit and you are lucky enough to have your parents lend you the down payment that becomes a $1500 a month mortgage at-least, and that doesn't include maintenance. Most lawyers need a car to efficiently travel to and form court. Cost of owning a car is what, $10k a year, and thats if you own it. So that $800 right there. 

Now you are left with less than $2000. As I student my grocery bill was about $7-800 a month. After spending $100 a month on your phone plan and other random expenses, you are left with pretty much nothing. Forget about having kids, forget about vacations, or investments, or savings. 

Maybe I am just privileged, but that is not a good quality of life to me. I cannot see myself living comfortably on anything less than $150k a year, which would translate to around $7-8k a month. I can deal with that. 

I think your issue is that you expect all the rewards immediately.

I'm a young lawyer just starting out. I rent my condo. I commute to work on a streetcar. I don't own a car, but for the times that I need to go to a far out courthouse (maybe once a month) I have a carshare plan. I definitely don't spend $800 on groceries. What the fuck. Even with my snobby tastes I don't come close to that. $100 phone plan is also ridiculous. After all of that (plus paying off student debt), I live far more comfortably than the average Torontonian on my first year associate salary. And if I compare myself to the average late 20-something year old in Toronto, I'm living in luxury. I eat at nice restaurants, do not have to restrict myself to the cheapest seats at concerts, and can buy nice stuff every once in a while.

Do I aspire to own a home one day, have a car, go on nice vacations, and have investments? Yes. Do I expect it all as a first year associate? No. That would be completely unrealistic and naive.

Having said all of that, if I am in my current position in 8-10 years, I don't think I would be happy.

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11 hours ago, Jaggers said:

That is a ridiculous statement. It depends on the relative returns of real estate vs whatever you invest in.

Basically the reason my portfolio doesn't really have any real estate in it. A good portfolio will outpace the real estate market which, in some markets, is basically just following inflation. And I don't have to deal with tenants, property management, or special assessments.

There's this notion, and my parents passed it down to me, that you have to own property. Everything else is just a suckers game. I disagree for my circumstances and it completely ignores the compounding returns on a solid portfolio.

Edited by setto
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27 minutes ago, setto said:

Basically the reason my portfolio doesn't really have any real estate in it. A good portfolio will outpace the real estate market which, in some markets, is basically just following inflation. And I don't have to deal with tenants, property management, or special assessments.

There's this notion, and my parents passed it down to me, that you have to own property. Everything else is just a suckers game. I disagree for my circumstances and it completely ignores the compounding returns on a solid portfolio.

Absolutely agree.

I love investing and personal finance, and it makes a lot more sense for me to invest in stocks/bonds rather than real estate at this point. 

As for the original question, I make low six-figures as a junior associate in Big Law. I make enough to afford everything I want, other than maybe a down payment on my own condo or house (but I’m in no rush to get either of these). However, I think my obsession with compounding investment returns and portfolio growth makes me think that what I make now isn’t enough, and that I need to make more so that I can invest more, even though a raise wouldn’t affect the quality of my life in a noticeable way. The curse of ambition I guess.

 

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I'm pretty content with what I make as well.  I make a very comfortable salary but more important are the perks such as the full pension which will allow me to retire at 51 and my 40 hour work weeks.

I'm sure many of my classmates make more than me, but I'm content with what I make and it's allowed me to purchase my own home and car which were important to me.  Also not living in Toronto or Vancouver helps!

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3 hours ago, KingLouis said:

This is a tough discussion, because epeeist is not wrong, and shawniebear is not wrong. No one "needs" suits from Harry Rosen or a new car every 5 years or a condo where the kitchen and bedroom are separated by a wall rather than a curtain. But certainly many people want these things, and the absence of them will be grating. I'll adopt the $95,000 USD happiness baseline. I know lots of lawyers who're "happy" to own 2 sportcoats from International Clothiers and a '90s Corolla. If you can drive through Lawrence Park or Rosedale or Forest Hill and say, "That's a nice house, but I'm happy with my 500 sq. ft. condo at Yonge/Finch and I always will be"--well, you're a more ascetic and spiritual man than I am. I want to be rewarded for the objectively good work I'm doing. I'll admit that I feel that such a reward should be greater than, say, what a high school teacher takes home in cash.

We're living in a strange time where any type of privilege is being labeled as toxic. This includes the economic privilege once handed to the middle class. It's at the point where I can see some people saying that if a client hands you $100 as payment for a 1-day trial, you should take it and be happy 'cause it's more than a part-time grocery clerk made that day at Metro.

 

 

And @Diplock (but your post is briefer, which I'm all about as you can see from how brief this post is...) and generally, a few thoughts - TL;DR: read only bolded.

1. Re the original topic, no I'm not happy with my income. But I could win $50 million lottery prize and not be happy that I didn't have more. I'm not unhappy with my income either, because what I do is often enough intellectually interesting and satisfying and dealings with others including those adverse in interest are generally pleasant. There are also things I could do to improve my income that I've chosen not to do (legal and ethical and moral things!), including changing jobs (trying to return to full-time practice of law or at least doing more legal work than I do), so in a sense, I must be happy with my income, because I haven't chosen to make a serious attempt to earn significantly more at least in the short term. Same for anyone who's made a choice to e.g. improve work-life balance at some cost, or pursue a career they find more fulfilling, or any other choice made for happiness or sanity etc. that reduces income.

2. There's also a factor, happiness re success and possessions and others tends to be relative not absolute. Or if you prefer, happiness is graded - and felt - on a curve. That someone enjoys luxuries, medical care, food, etc. far better than even most absolute monarchs through all of history have, and even if they know that intellectually, it pales in comparison to their friends/neighbours/people they see having better jobs/incomes or cars or inviting them on group outings they can't afford to go on or whatever. I don't claim to be immune to that, but [secret of happiness omitted because you're all not ready yet...]

3. I had some teachers who were fantastic, great teachers, improved the world by improving their students knowledge and ability to learn far more than most lawyers ever will, and earned less than many lawyers. I get what you mean, but disagree with your example and notion of what should be. For that matter someone might be changing the world far less but just win a large lottery prize, or be successful based primarily on appearance, or whatever. If you think about it all the time it will drive you crazy. Now, I agree there are terrible tenured teachers (not that it's tenure, but that was alliterative, I mean their jobs are safe) who you or I deserve to earn more than, maybe even many, but that applies to everyone. There are nice, kind, good people working as clerks or baristas or whatnot who are better even if not as smart or ambitious or skilled than many lawyers or financiers or physicians or whatever who deserve to earn more, should have better cars and houses and whatnot, but that's not how society and our economy works, nor would making such changes be feasible (at least, not until the meek inherit the earth...).

4. Re privilege, I think in a relatively recent discussion I summarized I think a consensus that there's nothing wrong with being privileged per se nor benefitting from it - including being born intelligent or good looking or wealthy or in a safe country with good healthcare or whatever - but it is wrong, or at least aggravatingly annoying, to be oblivious about it; have some fucking gratitude and/or humility. I'm privileged, everyone posting on this board is, in at least some senses - they're literate for one thing, whatever one may think of their posts.

5. Re things and success and happiness and freedom, reminded of something I was thinking about re another post about not wearing suits, I can think of multiple meetings I've been to where everyone was wearing a suit, except for the most important person in the room, a lawyer or expert or client or whatever, who wore whatever the hell they wanted that was comfortable. To me, being free to wear what you want is more of a sign of success than being able to afford expensive bespoke shirts and suits, but also being required to wear them. Though of course out of politeness even the most important person in the room might dress similarly to others...

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All I know is that, at my current salary, we're pretty much having to get rid of one of our cars in order to pay the housekeeper and that just isn't right.

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10 hours ago, Luckycharm said:

Does D& D have their own lawyers?

 

I dunno but JD is doing it right

(It’s diamond and diamond so there must be another diamond tht has to do all the work)

Edited by thegiggler
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Interestingly, the people who would take less money for more meaningful work are by far the majority. Not that meaningful work and well compensated work are mutually exclusive, but it tends to be that the more meaningful jobs aren’t compensated as well as bullshit “office space” type jobs.

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21 minutes ago, thegiggler said:

Interestingly, the people who would take less money for more meaningful work are by far the majority. Not that meaningful work and well compensated work are mutually exclusive, but it tends to be that the more meaningful jobs aren’t compensated as well as bullshit “office space” type jobs.

So they say. Nobody’s going to tell a researcher that they’d rather make 5% more money and do meaningless work for the rest of their lives. But we don’t see people quitting en masse to pursue “meaningful work” so I expect their revealed preference is actually to make more money. 

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1 hour ago, epeeist said:

 

4. Re privilege, I think in a relatively recent discussion I summarized I think a consensus that there's nothing wrong with being privileged per se nor benefitting from it - including being born intelligent or good looking or wealthy or in a safe country with good healthcare or whatever - but it is wrong, or at least aggravatingly annoying, to be oblivious about it; have some fucking gratitude and/or humility.

 

This is probably at its root a discussion about privilege. But there's something more in it--at least for me. Diplock hit it a bit when he mentioned the long runway of building a career outside of an industry where you just get more money because you're older. It probably doesn't make sense to talk about that issue on this thread, because it's so tortured and unrelated that very few posters would understand. But, boiled down solely to the notion of "lawyer compensation," this is still a tricky discussion because I agree that humility is good and hubris is bad, and lawyers earn more than most. But not every acknowledgment of one's talents or abilities is a display of hubris, and so I wouldn't criticize someone for thinking they're worth X but they're only paid 0.5*X. That's where I'm having trouble parsing where we've gone: because it seems like this might now be a discussion of how "I'm worth $xxx,xxx because I'm a LAWYER" vs. "I'm worth $xxx,xxx because I invented 4 successful new Charter defences last year, yet I will never be able to buy a new couch."

Aside from a kind of overarching spirituality in one's life, I don't know how the idea of relative privilege sustains a person from their late-20s into retirement IF they're somehow unable to get or do or own what they want.  

There's no question that we don't tie economic value to the type of service given or how many lives are changed.

 

 

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9 hours ago, thegoodlaw said:

I think your issue is that you expect all the rewards immediately.

I'm a young lawyer just starting out. I rent my condo. I commute to work on a streetcar. I don't own a car, but for the times that I need to go to a far out courthouse (maybe once a month) I have a carshare plan. I definitely don't spend $800 on groceries. What the fuck. Even with my snobby tastes I don't come close to that. $100 phone plan is also ridiculous. After all of that (plus paying off student debt), I live far more comfortably than the average Torontonian on my first year associate salary. And if I compare myself to the average late 20-something year old in Toronto, I'm living in luxury. I eat at nice restaurants, do not have to restrict myself to the cheapest seats at concerts, and can buy nice stuff every once in a while.

Do I aspire to own a home one day, have a car, go on nice vacations, and have investments? Yes. Do I expect it all as a first year associate? No. That would be completely unrealistic and naive.

Having said all of that, if I am in my current position in 8-10 years, I don't think I would be happy.

When did I ever say that I expected to have all of that as a first year associate?

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After reading all these comments I am amazed at what you people consider privileged. I want to live a quality of life comparable to that of a unionized GM autoworker around 30-40 years ago. I want to be able to support a family on a single income. I want to own a home, be able to take vacations, have a cottage and a boat and maybe a ski doo. And I want to know that come retirement, I have nothing to worry about.

 None of this is the life of a millionaire. I know older people who had this type of life style with a middle class job. And this is part of the problem that OP is having. He sees older lawyers form a previous generation who have a quality of life that he thinks is unattainable, despite the fact that they are in the same profession. 

In this day and age, a $75k income is not enough to have that kind of comfortable quality of life, especially not in a place like Toronto. And thats how this whole conversation started. Some said that $75k is all you need to be happy. I disagree. You can't even have a lifestyle comparable to a middle class autoworker 30 years ago.

And once again, I go back to the difference between living and surviving. Unfortunately, in this neoliberal era, most people are just surviving and are 3 missed paycheques away from homelessness. So don't tell me that I should be happy with $75k a year just because thats higher than the median. 

And ya, I understand why my brash tone might piss people off. But I don't mince words, I call it as i see it. 

Edited by shawniebear
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22 minutes ago, shawniebear said:

After reading all these comments I am amazed at what you people consider privileged. I want to live a quality of life comparable to that of a unionized GM autoworker around 30-40 years ago. I want to be able to support a family on a single income. I want to own a home, be able to take vacations, have a cottage and a boat and maybe a ski doo. And I want to know that come retirement, I have nothing to worry about.

 None of this is the life of a millionaire. I know older people who had this type of life style with a middle class job. And this is part of the problem that OP is having. He sees older lawyers form a previous generation who have a quality of life that he thinks is unattainable, despite the fact that they are in the same profession. 

In this day and age, a $75k income is not enough to have that kind of comfortable quality of life, especially not in a place like Toronto. And thats how this whole conversation started. Some said that $75k is all you need to be happy. I disagree. You can't even have a lifestyle comparable to a middle class autoworker 30 years ago.

And once again, I go back to the difference between living and surviving. Unfortunately, in this neoliberal era, most people are just surviving and are 3 missed paycheques away from homelessness. So don't tell me that I should be happy with $75k a year just because thats higher than the median. 

And ya, I understand why my brash tone might piss people off. But I don't mince words, I call it as i see it. 

I'm amazed that there is someone in the world that thinks supporting a family on a single income, owning a house, boat, cottage, car, and ski doo, and taking regular vacations isn't being privileged? Then again, that same person apparently thinks making more money, as an individual, than the average family isn't a form of privilege, so... 

It's fine to want to be privileged – god knows I want that – but to just pretend that having an objectively better life than most of the people in this country (and a markedly better life than the vast majority of people) is silly. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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I’m wondering if it’s even possible to start a conversation around here without the same group of people bringing up privilege. I used to come to this board and enjoy the information and discussion. Maybe I need a break because it turns out every thread I’m interested in devolves into a discussion of privilege. 

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