Kids + Pets

Can you raise a family in Manhattan on $400K a year?

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | March 9, 2012 - 7:17AM

All New Yorkers of child-bearing age will at some point ask themselves, "How much money will it take to raise my kids in New York?"

One StreetEasy user has taken to the message boards to ask whether his and his girlfriend's combined $400,000 income would be enough for a family of four to live "comfortably...somewhere below Harlem....Or am I destined to be living somewhere in Jersey City or doing the dreaded commute from a suburb.....?"

The answer seems to depend upon school choice.

"You can easily live in Manhattan if you are not planning to send your kids in private school," says one commenter, expressing an opinion almost everyone agrees on.

"[If you do] private school... you will be miserable and squeezed," says another commenter.

Another commenter says longterm happiness comes down to more than educational decisions: "Depends on how much space you think you need. I know plenty of people who live in Manhattan on far less, but if you think you need three bedrooms and 1800 square feet to be 'comfortable,' it will be tough."

To prepare him for a possible two or three-bedroom apartment purchase in the future, StreetEasy responders stressed the importance of "living below your means" and saving now, before the kids come along.

"You and your other have generous incomes, but do you have a down payment? You don't really have the 'buy' option until you have access to a nice pile of ready money that can serve as your down payment," says one.

"Why don't you and the [girlfriend] agree to start a five-year savings plan?" advises another. "With those incomes you should each be able to sock away something significant each year. Say -- each of you can save $20k per year, or 10% of your gross annual income. After five years you'll have $200k, which can serve as your down payment on a nice 2-bed on the Upper West Side.

Other responders recommend that the future father of two stick to rentals.

"My advice -- get married first, rent a 1 bed," coaches one. "If you are still married after 2 years and want a kid.. by all means have one, but still don't buy in Manhattan-- why? because you will want a bigger apartment.. and you will be thinking about schools... And transaction costs are still too high... plus you will want another kid soon and another bigger apartment.. By then, you may want a big house in the burbs with a white picket fence... RENT, RENT, RENT== it is soo much cheaper and easier!!!"

What do you think? Is $400,000 enough for a family of four in Manhattan? Can you believe we have to ask that?

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