Monday, June 6, 2011

Does where you grow up skew your thinking?

So, this article was written a few weeks ago, but it was featured on Yahoo's front page today:

In summary, the article states that Falls Church, VA (which, to my knowledge isn't it's own COUNTY) is the the richest county in America, closely followed by Loudoun County, VA, and Fairfax County, VA.

Well, that is where I grew up.  I lived right on the border between Fairfax County and Loudoun County (but officially on the Fairfax side).  I could walk to the border...that is how close we lived to the border.  Falls Church is less than 20 minutes away from the house I grew up in (hence....why I am confused that they are calling it a is a City, not a county).

I do not think that my family was particularly wealthy, but we lived a comfortable life.  4 bedroom house (which is not considered a starter home in that area), pool in the backyard.  We took a few vacations, but nothing over the top (went to Disney once, but mostly it was being dragged to places my parents wanted to go and being bored out of my mind).  Food on the table, clothes on our back (not designer). parents didn't save a dime toward my college.  They co-signed the loans, but I have paid them since graduation in 1996.

But even growing up, I knew the area was well off.  Many families had parents who worked in DC, or in private sector businesses.  While our house was modest by comparison, they lived in NICE houses.  I worked at Baskin Robbins as a teenager, and it was common to have note-worthy people come in (Oliver North of the 1980's Iran Contra Affair was a frequent customer). 

I grew up with stuff all around me.  I grew up with some "advantages" for lack of a better word.  Most of my friends lived a similar lifestyle.

So...did I enter my adulthood with a false sense of reality???  That I was supposed to have these things, or do these things?  My parents were married about 15 yrs when we moved to that house (just 3 years longer than I am now), and that is what they does it beg the I supposed to be where they were then?  (Does that make sense???)

Our salaries between 3 jobs isn't near the median salaries as listed in the article.  But we also have a special needs child, and I paid well over the amount my father did for his education (his entire undergrad degree was like $5000....that didn't even cover one year of school for me). 

Maybe if I grew up in a more "middle of the road" place, I wouldn't feel as bad about my 14 year old furniture, or my car, or blah blah blah.  Do I have some Joneses tendencies under the surface???



  1. We live on the border of Newport Beach, CA. Same city "The OC" was based on. And it is all true, the fancy cars, the fancy houses, and the extravagant vacations. I personally think we have an average income, and if we lived almost anywhere else, we 'd be able to live a comfortable lifestyle. But living in this area always makes me focus on the things we don't have...even though quite frankly, I am very happy. I know that we will get there one day and we're just starting out. My parents constantly remind me that they rented a bedroom and slept in a twin bed when they first got married. And my mother-in-law tells me of how she didn't have enough money for gas when they first bought a house...

    I think because we didn't see our parent's struggles we just assume that we will have all those nice things right away--and it kinda hurts when some of your friends do get them right away...but we'll get there...we'll get there :)

  2. I was the poor kid. We were on welfare, so I have ALWAYS struggled. I still struggle, and that is why this journey to be debt free is important to me.

  3. I am in the NE section of Philly, but I live in a house that has been in my family for three generations. For the most part it has always been a comfortable area but everyones parents worked(some just the dad some dad and mom). Most of us went to Catholic schools but we didnt get cars at 16 and most summer vacations were spent down the shore. Only one family had a pool but it was an above ground one. It really was just our kind of one had allot.

    Some of my friends who have moved to the suburbs or to Jersey complain about how hard it is to make sure there kids have the same things there friends have. I think it just depends on how your family is.


  4. We lived in a very strange place while I was in high school as far as income polarity. We were military and most of us (our families) had an average income, but we all lived minutes from the beach in military housing. All the civilian families lived close to the beach too, but in their million dollar homes.

    A lot of my friends families were quite wealthy. We were not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but there was no keeping up with the Joneses'.

    I think when you can see such a stark difference between lifestyles it becomes clear that not everyone lives the way we do. I think if I grew up in a more average, middle-class area where everyone usually can afford about the same things, than I could see why I would think everyone has these things, I can too.

    As far as you being where your parents were about this time, I think you make a valid point about the expense of everything being exponentially greater. Houses, education, gas:) I always think if we were born 15 years earlier we would have paid half of what we paid for our house now, but then I would be almost 45:)

  5. My little suburb south of Birmingham has always been diverse. However, when I was growing up, my family was one of the "haves" in the town. Now, I'm on the other side -- while I'm not a total have-not, it is still frustrating to say no to a lot of the things others so easily give their children.

    But I plug away at it. I think the thing that bothers me most is that my parents paid for my degree 100% --- I worked during college, but that was for spending money and extras. I'm not in the position yet to pay 100% for Penelope's college --- which will beging in about 14 months. And that just bugs the crap out of me. And no, I'm nowhere near where my parents were.

  6. I too was confused why they were calling Falls Church a county as well, but it in fact is an independent city, and not under any 'county' itself. Weird!

    I grew up in a large city just outside of Toronto, Ontario. In fact lived there from 3 years of age to 24 and while my parents were by no means rich, I feel like we lived a better off life than some of my friends. The area of the city that I lived was always seen as a 'better off' part of the city, while the southern part was always known as a lower income/higher crime stereotype (still is in fact).

    I would be curious to see what the median income is for my town over the years, just to see where it was to where it is now.

    I now live in Clarke County Virginia, and to be honest, I wouldn't want to live anywhere near Loudoun, Faifax or west of the Blue Ridge. Houses are too expensive and taxes are outrageous! When we go to buy, I think we'll stay 'country' and commute in.

  7. I grew up in and still live in Northern Baltimore County, which is probably very similar to N. Virginia (I'm familiar with the wealthiest areas in the Balt./Wash. area which are, to my knowledge, your hometown area, Montgomery County, MD, and Baltimore County, MD.) We have to constantly explain economics to our kids because there are multi-million dollar homes all around us and people with bank accounts to match. There is a little bit of "diversity," but for the most part, it's skewed here as it is in the place you grew up so that "average" for our areas is well above what the rest of the country considers customary and average, I believe.

  8. By the way, we also have a child with special issues and that is just not in fashion, to say the least, in the land of 2.01 blonde-haired Polo-shirted kids and Range Rovers at the country club. Our parents made their way through a different world than we are tackling. Those raising families in the 50s, 60s, and even 70s (being on the heels of those prosperous decades) just inhabited a different economic world than we do. Let's put it this way: I had a maid in white suit to come get me out of my crib after naps if Mom was busy (I still remember this); moms had household help, in a regular (higher-end, though) suburb, as late as the early '70s. Not everywhere, but where I lived. Different times now; different economics for sure.