Open Letter

This is in response to all those who have read about the recent piece on "Net Worth Obsession" in the New York Times, published the week of May 10, 2010.

May 16, 2010

First, I want to thank all of those who have e-mailed me compassionate responses about your own financial stories. It seems there are many of you out there in the same situation and trying to achieve the same goals as myself. I've received dozens of e-mails of those also living with their folks (most of them still in their late 20s/early 30s) whose ultimate goals like myself are aggressively saving for that house and a new life. Some are even more obsessed with their record-keeping than I am! It's really amazing.

I have decided it's time to speak up because there have been a lot of questions and assumptions made about my situation and lifestyle. There are plenty of clarifications to add to the original piece as portrayed by the author Ron Lieber. Obviously he could not explain the entire situation, as it would have detracted from the main point of the article. But I've decided to write them here and answer your questions.

1. Living at home

Yes, I'm 32 and still live at home. That's been made abundantly clear. And trust me this is not something I'm that proud of. I pay the $700/month rent because I am helping my folks out financially so they can afford to stay in the house we've rented for 14 years, and they help me in return by letting me accumulate a faster savings for that house I'm after. Our rent has increased almost 70% over those 14 years (and my own fair share along with it), which has cornered us into a situation where we either have to support each other, or all of us would have to move, which isn't ideal for any of us at the moment. Had the rent here stayed the same as when we moved in, they could have kept on living here without my help. Although both of them now receive a bit of social security, it is not nearly enough to cover the basic cost-of-living in this area, which seems to have been rapidly increasing over the last 5-8 years. We don't live beyond our means and my folks want to keep to their simple lives in a quiet community retirement neighborhood without financial worry.

Yes, them moving will have to happen eventually when I get out of here, but when I do, my folks will be on a path later this year to find a smaller place just for them, pay less rent and be comfortable without my help. By that time my down payment should be enough for what I want. In the meantime, we all get along with each other. We still eat dinner together as a family (how many out there still do that?). We take roadtrip vacations at least once a year. And I help them when they have computer and network problems (which is a little more often than I'd like, but hey I deal). It's all just a temporary solution.

I'm not unhappy with the current situation. Do I wish I lived out on my own? Sure. Could I move out right now and find a small condo/apt to rent as a stepping stone? Absolutely. But I'm going to stick it out and keep supporting my folks until they are taken care of first. It's the least I can do for them.

2. My collectible crap

Obviously this had nothing to do with net worth. The author saw all that stuff on my website, and decided it would be a good idea to put a "fun" spin on my story, but I think that kinda backfired... (no wait, that DID backfire haha). Anyway, all my Mega Man stuff (save for the poster puzzle you see on the wall) has been put away in storage for years, as my collecting days ended around 2003. The website pages that display everything are just as old and I've left it up only for legacy reference. As for the rest of that stuff you saw on the wall, it's been up there for a long time (some of it since 1996 when we first moved in). At this stage, I'm too lazy to take it down because I don't have any place to put it and just don't want to bother with it right now. I guess it still makes for interesting conversation when a fresh set of eyes see it. Both the author and photographer thought it was awesome (although for me it's pretty stale, and will definitely not be on the walls of the new house, haha). I think everyone's perception would have been different if they used the picture of me in my professional work outfit sitting at the piano in the living room. But no they decide to use the "dork" picture, haha. Oh well, what are ya gonna do?

3. California sucks

For those of you that may not know, Southern California (Orange County in particular) real estate is ridiculous expensive, and has been for the last decade. If we were living in any other state, I could have moved out, bought my dream house and started my true independence a while ago. The median OC home price as of May 2010 is around $440K, with the kind of places I'm aiming for (close to work) in the high $400Ks to low $500Ks. As the article mentions, I'm only interested in detached houses since, as a musician, I don't want to have to worry about sound issues with attached condos (trying to be considerate of neighbors). I have thought about moving out-of-state on occasion (CA government sure pisses me off enough to consider it!) but I've lived here all my life, and all my family, friends, and vast network of colleagues in the area lie here as well. I'm not one to just pack up and move out-of-state. At least not at this time.

So as you can see, the cost-of-living bar is set extremely high around here, which is why I have made sure to save so aggressively. Saying you have $200K net worth while living in Southern California, I think it's pretty useless. And I am not going to be like those who bought a house they couldn't afford and then get themselves in trouble.

4. Bragging?

In 2002, when I was going to college and had a steady girlfriend, my net worth was down to my last $100 plus a crappy car that wouldn't start half the time. No joke. (Those women can be EXPENSIVE!) Long story short, we ended the relationship (for mutual reasons) and I picked up a job that started me on a path, and I worked my ass off for 8 years to achieve the net worth I have now. It's been a long and hard road.

Some people act like I was waving down the reporter in some desperate attempt to get attention. Say what??? The reporter found me, not the other way around. All I did was tell him my story and what he wanted to know, and he took it from there.

The intent here was never to brag. That is just not me. The main intent of the article was to get people to think about their finances, how they could take steps in their own lives to save instead of spend (while still balancing their load between work and having fun in their social life), and accumulate enough money to live comfortably and without being in debt. Self-preseverence, sacrifice, and lifestyle strategy helped me achieve something that not many think they can do. I applaud anyone who makes that decision in their life and takes that stance.

Honestly I did not know the level of exposure this article would be getting. The author contacted me and said he wanted to interview me for a piece about net worth in their Sunday magazine about Money, so I assumed the reading audience was narrowed down only to people interested in financial affairs. I had absolutely no idea that it would be plastered all over the front page of and Had I known that and thought about it, there's a decent chance that I would have passed on the entire interview. If people want to know about me, that's cool (it's why my website is here) but I am DEFINITELY not one to bring widespread attention to myself. I only see me as one of the many people aggressively saving up for a decent place to live that they'll be happy with, but at the same time using my financial records to have a little fun with the "net worth" aspect of it, which led me to NetworthIQ, and ultimately this story.

I'm well aware of the multitude of "haters" out there. It really makes me laugh, actually. I haven't read much of it, but from what I've seen/heard I find it hilarious because the blatant ignorance is so amusing. It's always been a natural thing to make fun of someone you don't know (especially nerds like myself), or to make fun of their lifestyle/situation when so little information has been provided. And I've been on this great internet of ours long enough to know how unforgiving the haters can be, and that you can't really do anything about it. Oh well, honestly it doesn't bother me. It's actually even comical sometimes! Regardless, I am who I am and I have my goals in place to strive to be the best person I can be. And I thank both the mom and dad for that.

Some of you won't care what I have to say. You may still have a firm opinion about me and my lifestyle, or will go on hating. That's all right. It's your freedom to think what you want and say what you will. It doesn't affect my life. If anything it makes me further determined to achieve the goals I've set for myself.

I have made many new friends just in the past week with people who share my ideals and are going through the same scenarios, and I do thank the New York Times and author Ron Lieber for giving me that opportunity to associate with this newfound community.

Thanks for reading.

Joey Kincer