On Saving for Your Kids and Keeping Up With the Joneses

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Where I live (Santa Monica, Calif.), real estate agents and locals draw precise boundaries between neighborhoods.

Single-family homes tend to populate the area known as "North of Montana." According to Trulia.com, the median sale price on North of Montana properties was $2,308,750 between March and May 2012.

The neighborhood where I live, "South of Montana," had a median sales price of $675,000 during the same period. You'll find some single-family homes here, but condos and apartments make up most of the housing stock.

Given the economic makeup of the north-south community, it's nice to see how well everybody gets along with one another, especially the kids. That said, it's difficult to avoid at least a little snootiness.

Case in point.

A recent school event brought parents into the homes of local families. Upon leaving a presumably smallish apartment South of Montana, a North of Montana parent quipped, unknowingly to a (way) South of Montana parent, "I'm not sure how these 'Southies' live like this."

I got into a discussion with the friend who told me this. He lives in an apartment with his wife and child. We both agreed we really didn't care much about where people lived and that, thankfully, comments like this tend to be isolated.

My friend did have an interesting reaction: The only thing he worries about is that, particularly as his son gets older, he might "feel less than," relative to the "Northies," particularly those who reside in multimillion dollar homes and estates.

As a parent and lifelong investor, I find this incident stirs up many thoughts and emotions.

Why We Work

We might be alike. I work hard for several interrelated reasons:
  • In nine years, when my daughter hits college age, I want her to have options.
  • At that point, I want college paid for, but, I would also like to provide her the flexibility to not have to jump right into college and/or work.
  • Within 10 years, I want to work less than I do today. I love the work I do, but I love other things in life as well. Working a little less down the line and doing the other things more sounds like a plan.

To get there, I save or invest pretty much every last dime after I take care of my financial obligations.

Ever since I moved away from my hometown of Niagara Falls, N.Y. (which is now even more famous thanks to Nik Wallenda!), I have lived in some of the nation's most expensive real estate markets, particularly San Francisco; Orange County, Calif; Los Angeles; and Santa Monica. I never bought into the notion of home ownership as the American Dream in these places. I hardly ever considered it a sensible option.

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