Off the Cuff: May 2017

I’ve had it with millennials. We’ve all heard the stories about the absurd environment on our college campuses — the policing of offensive language and the “safe zones” and the silencing of anyone with a view of the world that doesn’t fit into a narrow ultra-liberal box. The idea of college as a time of true intellectual exploration has become a joke in this country. But what’s even more troubling is what happens now when our young people have to leave college — that is, when they depart the safe, coddled, oh-so-pleasant atmosphere of school to enter the workforce. That’s where the real fun begins.

Millennials seem to believe the world they grew up in — where they got trophies for finishing last at T-ball, where every half-assed term paper they wrote was praised, where every need and desire was met — should extend to the world at large. I hear it from friends in business constantly: “There is a sense they have a special right,” a partner at a major Philadelphia law firm recently told me. “They’re entitled to feedback, but if you’re critical, that’s a problem. They are much more sensitive than previous generations, and I don’t know why that is.” Read more »

Spring Cleaning! The Philadelphian’s Guide to Getting Rid of Everything

Photography by Trevor Dixon.

Photography by Trevor Dixon.

You’ve done it. You finally went full-on Marie Kondo and spent a weekend sorting and sifting. Look at you!

But wait, don’t go celebrating just yet. There’s a second chapter to this shedding, and that’s figuring out the best way to physically part with all the stuff you just mentally divorced yourself from. Today, with charities that do pickups, apps that connect you to neighbors who crave your old waffle iron, and smarter ways to dispose of all that toxic junk, filling up a trash bag should be a last resort. Here’s where to go, whom to call, and how to make some bank back on your stuff. Read more »

What It’s Like to Live in Philly on $18,000

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iStock

As an adult, it’s interesting to look back on my family’s financial situation growing up. If there were money concerns, my father and mother, a patient-transport assistant and a certified nursing aide, respectively, never struggled in front of my three brothers and me. I was raised in South Philly, and I can’t recall ever being told we didn’t have the financial means for me to participate in sports or after-school activities. It was a comfortable upbringing.

Snapshot: Family Expenses

Home: $200/month for a three-bedroom house (subsidized)
Transportation: $180/month for SEPTA pass and tokens for kids
Education: $190/month for Catholic school (two kids)
Child care: $124/month for youngest daughter’s after-school program
Groceries: $500/month
Dining & takeout: $50/month
Clothes, tech, other: $100/month
Vacation: $0
Savings: $600/year Puts aside $25 from each paycheck

I didn’t attend college, but my parents helped me financially in other ways after high school. When my children were born, they helped with child care and gave me money from time to time. Now, my son is 18 years old and goes to Kutztown University, where, luckily, he pays in-state tuition. He didn’t always know he wanted to go to college, so I didn’t save for it. He received financial aid, and then I took out a loan, which he’s also on, for the remaining portion. I help him apply for as many scholarships as possible. Seeing how much it costs to attend college nowadays, I’ve already started saving for my daughters, ages nine and 13.

My children’s quality of education is important to me. I send both of my daughters to Catholic school because the local public school isn’t great. There are additional costs, like uniforms, but the tuition isn’t that bad. Plus, they offer an affordable after-school program for my youngest daughter that lets me pick her up at 6 p.m. after I get off work.

I’ve been in my current job for five years but have held similar positions most of my adult life. I’d like to make more money, of course, but I try to take it day by day. It would be easier to not have to worry about putting aside enough money for bills throughout the month. I’d prefer to pay all of them on the first of the month and then use the second check to have a little fun. On the rare occasion there is money left at the end of the month, I might get my hair done or buy an outfit online, where I can search for a deal.

I have very little debt — maybe $150 from unpaid bills I blew off when I was younger. I’m trying to clean that up by putting a little toward those when I can. I save for retirement through my 401(k) at my company, but I also try to save on my own with a separate account. My biggest financial concerns are general monthly expenses, like cell-phone bills, utilities and groceries. There are three of us on my family plan, but my youngest daughter will need a phone next fall, because her older sister won’t be at school with her. Groceries are a killer, but I do have strategies to offset that. I shop only twice a month and buy in bulk at BJ’s Wholesale Club, or I’ll go to the Walmart Supercenter because they’re cheaper than the supermarkets near me.

I want to teach my children the importance of being financially independent and cutting costs when it’s possible. If I were a person who smoked cigarettes and was putting money toward those every day, that would absolutely be an expense I would cut. I used to frequently eat out for lunch, but I completely stopped. I’ll use vacation days and stay in Philadelphia, but it’s been years since I’ve vacationed outside the city. My kids know that if there’s something they want and I won’t pay for it, they can put aside money and buy it themselves. It’s about saving when you can and working hard so you don’t need to depend on other people.

— As told to Marina Lamanna

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First published as “Living in Philly on … $18,000” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

What It’s Like to Live in Philly on $50,000

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iStock

Growing up in Montgomery County, I remember my parents telling me, “You need to pay your bills, and you need to pay them on time, because they’ll follow you.” But it’s hard to understand the concept of credit until you need to get a place to live or a car to drive. Looking back, I wish there had been a high-school course that was mandatory, just like child development, about the ins and outs of credit.

Snapshot: Family Expenses

Home: $900/month for a rented house
Car(s): $477/month for a Nissan
Education: $0
Child care: $0
Groceries: $800/month
Dining & takeout: $160/month
Clothes, tech, other: $40/month
Vacation: $0
Savings: $500/year

I got a crash course after high school. I went off to college, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to study. After my second year, I dropped out, not thinking that when you’re not in school, your student loans kick in. My parents didn’t pay for anything, and I didn’t have scholarships or grants. Now those loans are biting me in the ass.

My boyfriend and I live out in the sticks. We don’t have Comcast or Verizon out here; we have some teeny-tiny company that I don’t remember the name of. Our major expenses are groceries, rent and car payments. Luckily, we’ve been able to avoid daycare. He works as a restaurant manager, which allows for changeable hours, and I’m able to bring my not-quite-two-year-old to my day job at a relative’s law office. When I go to my second job as a server, usually my mom or sister will look after my daughter.

Neither of us grew up endowed. He was one of nine kids raised by a single mom; I lived in a one-income middle-class household. I feel like my parents were more frugal, whereas I’m more of a spend-now-figure-it-out-later type of person. We’re still able to eat healthy. We still manage to go on vacations, even if we’re pinching the wallet. Last year we went to the beach, just the three of us, for four days. Beforehand, we packed food, to avoid eating out. And this year, I think we’re going to do a staycation, with activities like going to the zoo and swimming in relatives’ pools.

Having another baby is scary, scarier than the first one. The first one, you don’t really know what you’re getting into. This time, I know how expensive it is. They’re so little, but they have so much stuff.

If I made a few thousand more dollars, I would put half in savings, and the other half I would put toward my debt. If I could just work on my credit, I would save more month to month, because what I pay in interest because of having bad credit is part of why I’m hardly able to save anything.

With the second baby on the way, it’s about to get more complicated. But we’ll find a way. We always do. It’s kind of far away to start thinking about schools, but I considered it when we moved out to Birdsboro. Right now, anything like private school or Catholic school wouldn’t be in the budget. But who knows what could happen in five years?

— As told to Malcolm Burnley

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First published as “Living in Philly on … $50,000” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

What It’s Like to Live in Philly on $130,000

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iStock

My mother didn’t come from money. Her father was a taxicab driver. Back then, in the ’50s, there were sororities in high school. My mother has always been extraordinarily beautiful, and the rich girls at her Philly-area public high school asked her to join their sorority. But she didn’t like the way they acted and declined. For prom, she wore a borrowed dress from a wealthier friend.

I was more fortunate from a money perspective. My father passed away when I was five and left me a nest egg to do practically anything that I desired. I went to overnight camp. I pursued the performing arts. I went to private school. At the same time, I had friends who would go out shopping and buy a $100 pair of jeans, and if I had done that, my mother, who worked two jobs, would have asked, “What, are you nuts?” Life was comfortable, not cushy.

Snapshot: Family Expenses

Home: $1,940/month for a $425,000 home
Car(s): $0 Volvo paid off
Education: $0 Children attend charter school
Child care: $16,000/year for extracurriculars and camp
Groceries: $600/month
Dining & takeout: $400/month
Clothes, tech, other: $300/month
Vacation: $0
Savings: $2,000/year

When we moved to Center City from the Main Line when I was 16, my grandmother moved in with us. So it was three generations of women, each with different money experiences, all in the same household. When I applied to a private performing-arts high school, I got a scholarship for all four years. It was from a fund for girls of single mothers whose fathers had died. And with the money my father left me, I was able to graduate from Temple without student loans.

Today, I’m raising two daughters — a 10-year-old and a seven-year-old — in Center City while working as an independent contractor. I’m a rental agent, and my husband works full-time in the business world. At first when you have kids, you’re not thinking about college. You’re just trying to get through the day — diapers, crying, etc. But a few years ago, I started setting aside a little bit each month for them — probably not enough to pay for college, but it’s growing steadily. I’m lucky to have a wealthy relative who’s been donating to their college fund as well.

We don’t give our daughters any allowances, but they have a good grasp on money. The four of us have never been on a vacation together. Instead, the money has gone toward sending the girls to the best schools and summer camps. In fact, this year they’re both going to the same camp that I did as a preteen.

When my husband and I met, he was a personal trainer and I was a teacher. We have more financial stability now, but if I have a few slow months at work, I worry. Our car is paid off, so our biggest monthly expenses are the mortgage, health insurance and groceries — food and shelter, really. We’ve recently started to think about retirement. I just opened a 401(k) through the bank. I don’t want to be waiting tables when I’m 70.

— As told to Malcolm Burnley

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First published as “Living in Philly on … $130,000” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

What It’s Like to Live in Philly on $1,000,000+

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iStock

My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, money-wise. Both of my parents came from large farming families. Where I grew up, hard work is paramount — my grandfather was still on his tractor the year he passed away, at 92 — and we understand the value of a dollar. Neither of my parents went to college, but they worked tirelessly and put in overtime to be able to help me financially; they paid my college and grad-school tuition and helped me with a down payment on my first house.

My husband comes from a very wealthy family who have long worked in the financial industry. He always knew he’d join the family business. It was an amazing upbringing, but the stark dissimilarities in our backgrounds definitely gave us pretty different ideas about money. It’s something we butt heads about, but overall, we balance each other out well.

Snapshot: Family Expenses

Home: $0 Mortgage paid off on a $1.1 million rowhome
Car(s): $0 No expenses on a BMW
Education: $65,000/year for two private-school tuitions
Child care: $2,000/month for a part-time nanny
Groceries: $300/week
Dining & takeout: $1,000/week
Clothes, tech, other: $2,500/month
Vacation: $75,000/year
Savings: $0 More about money management than savings

When you make millions and have large trust funds — and still get gifts from your in-laws on top of that — there aren’t a lot of money-related stresses in your life. We don’t have debt and don’t have to worry about saving for retirement or putting money away for our kids’ college educations. The most stressful part of having a lot of money is knowing how to properly preserve it. You want to make sure you’re making smart investments and leaving enough for your children and their children. Even though my husband came from great wealth, his family never talked about financial decisions with him, and I didn’t have any tools because I don’t come from money, so it’s been a learning process for us.

The biggest money mistake we’ve made was investing with friends. When you have money, everyone wants to invest it for you. We would never work with a friend again. We’ve realized that in order to get the most out of our assets, it’s important to stay on top of our financial planners; otherwise, we don’t get the best service and aren’t in the forefront of their minds when opportunities come. One of the things we’ve started doing more recently is talking about money with friends who are in similar financial situations. That’s given us tools and tips to use moving forward.

Even though we have plenty of money, we don’t just go buy luxury items on a whim. I don’t feel comfortable waltzing into Gucci and buying a dress, for example. We’ve never had to cut back on spending, but we try to be frugal with buying. We spend the majority of our money on our kids’ educations (we chose to put them in private schools, and the tuition is crazy-expensive) and vacations (we go to Disney at least once a year and do a bunch of other trips each year). Our biggest splurges are jewelry and watches.

The best thing the money has afforded me is that I can have time to enjoy my kids. I quit my job a while back; now, 95 percent of my time is dedicated to my children. I can’t tell you what a gift that is. I want to teach them to understand the value of a dollar and to be good people. I also want them to know more than we did; we want them to fully understand how to invest, save, spend wisely and preserve their fortune. We do spoil them on Christmas and for birthdays, but we make them save their allowance money, which they get for doing chores, to pay for their own toys and treats.

I’ll probably never go back to work, but my husband won’t be able to retire anytime soon, because he works for a family business and needs to be present to keep his footing there. Would our lives be better with even more money? Well, that’s tough, because whose wouldn’t? I’d love to own a private jet and throw the kids in and travel to Milan any old day, or walk into Gucci and buy 10 dresses without having to think about it. It’s all so relative.

— As told to Nicole Scott

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First published as “Living in Philly on … $1,000,000+” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

From Jim Kenney to Brian Roberts: What Philly’s Biggest Names Make Each Year

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From left: Jim Kenney, Allison Vulgamore, Brian Roberts, Jeremy Hellickson and Sharon Pinkenson | Photo credit from left: Jeff Fusco, David Yellen, Adam Jones, Matt Rourke/Associated Press, Michael Spain-Smith

Brian Roberts, CEO, Comcast, $36.2 million

Bill Marrazzo, CEO, WHYY, $703,718
Marrazzo is among the highest-paid public broadcasting CEOs in the entire country.

Jeremy Hellickson, Phillies pitcher, $17.2 million
Thanks to Major League Baseball’s lack of a salary cap, he’s the best-paid athlete in Philly.

Timothy Rub, CEO, Philadelphia Museum of Art, $556,796

David L. Cohen, Senior executive vice president, Comcast, $17.9 million

Victor Abreu, Attorney, Defender Association of Philadelphia, $179,113

Thomas Spray, Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, $8,376,430
A helluva lot of money, but he performs heart surgery on babies and saves their lives on a regular basis.

Martin Hamann, Executive chef, the Union League, $450,050
We’re pretty sure this makes him the best-paid chef in Philly.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music director, the Philadelphia Orchestra $1,100,000
Major perk: The Orchestra pays his taxes on his behalf.

Sharon Pinkenson, Executive director, Greater Philadelphia Film Office, $228,273

Jason Peters, Eagles left tackle, $11 million
Though Peters was recently asked to take a pay cut, this is what he earned last year. Meanwhile, quarterback Carson Wentz took home about $5 million for his first season.

Amanda Schoonover, actress, $28,477
The popular local actress and playwright is a two-time Barrymore Award winner.

Sister Mary Scullion, Executive director, Project HOME, $97,205
Her CFO earns more than twice that.

Police Officer, New Recruit, Philadelphia Police Department, $49,477
The entry-level salary. Well-known homicide captain James Clark pulls in about $110,000.

John Dougherty, Business manager, Local 98, $406,532

Anthony Clark, City commissioner chairman, City of Philadelphia, $138,889
Not bad for a guy who seems to have trouble showing up for work.

Meryl Levitz, CEO, Visit Philly
$240,000

Michael Weaver, Neurosurgeon, Temple University Hospital, $1,052,918

Bus Driver, Highest-Paid, Philadelphia School District, $44,351

Richard Ross Jr., Police commissioner, City of Philadelphia, $240,000

Terry Gross, Host, WHYY’s Fresh Air, $320,451
Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coane clocks in at $158,061, though we expect she’ll be earning less going forward thanks to her recently announced reduced schedule.

Bernard Havard, President, Walnut Street Theatre, $687,323

William HiteSuperintendent, Philadelphia School District, $300,000
The female superintendent of Abington School District—the highest-paid public-school head in Pennsylvania—makes $4,000 more.

Allison Vulgamore, CEO, the Philadelphia Orchestra, $776,143

Steven Collis, CEO, AmerisourceBergen, $9,978,176

Seth Williams, District attorney, City of Philadelphia, $175,572
Of course, that doesn’t count the free $45,000 roof repairs he got.

Jim Kenney, Mayor, City of Philadelphia, $218,000
One of the nation’s five highest-paid mayors.

Assistant District Attorney, City of Philadelphia, $51,956
The entry-level salary for ADAs.

Correctional Officer, Highest-Paid, City of Philadelphia, $139,201
Base salary is $47,196; the difference is overtime.

Teacher, Highest-Paid, Meredith School, Philadelphia School District, $90,051
Compared to $41,691 for the lowest-paid.

*Many salaries are based on the most recent SEC filings, form 990s and published reports available at press time; some CEO salaries include forms of compensation other than salary, such as stock awards and bonuses.

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First published as “Bold Names, Big Bucks” in the April 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Boomers vs. Millennials: How Differently Do They View Money?

Photograph by Donovan Witmer

Photograph by Donovan Witmer

You know the rap on boomers — those greedy oldsters who elected Donald Trump. And you know millennials — those special snowflakes who spend all their time on the Internet. We found one of each, a fairly typical father and son, and asked them, separately, about their philosophies on money. Dad Jeff Groff, 53, has worked in management positions in the health and dental insurance industries and is an Army veteran; son Matthew, 23, a pilot in the Army National Guard, bartends for extra cash and is engaged to be married. The pair recently went into business together, opening Fat Cow Coffee Roasters in Lancaster.  Read more »

6 Philly Finance Experts Share Their Best Money Advice

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iStockphoto

For the family on a budget

  • “Insurance tends to creep up with inflationary adjustment. Every two years, you owe it to yourself to get additional quotes for premium payments, to make sure you’re getting a competitive amount. It’s cumbersome and time-consuming to keep reevaluating your insurance policies, but the savings can be tremendous.” — Kim Dula, CPA and partner, Friedman LLP
  • “Check out gift-card purchasing apps. I frequently purchase a gift card that downloads to my phone while I wait in line and save as much as 20 percent at places I shop regularly.” — Jeffrey George, wealth management adviser, Merrill Lynch 

Read more »

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