There has got to be something missing [or maybe not? see below] from Maggie Jackson’s account of the Ayanna family in today’s Boston Globe. She reports that the Ariel and Amiri Ayanna and their two young kids are living in Somerville “on $35,000 a year in unemployment and savings” now that Ariel has lost his job as a $170,000-a-year corporate lawyer.
[T]he job loss had some unintended perks: The family was able to save money — and spend more time together — on a two-week camping trip to attend a cousin’s Texas wedding. And Ariel, who is considering becoming a stay-at-home dad for a year, is around more often to cook, practice violin with their 5-year-old son, and play with their 9-month-old son.
“It’s hard to slow down. It’s hard to step back,” says Amiri Ayanna, who plans to begin a master’s degree program at Harvard Divinity School this summer. But “it’s a blessing in disguise.”
Well, fine. But don’t you think there’s something awfully suspicious about that $35,000-a-year figure? We’re not told if the Ayannas rent or own. But Somerville is a high-cost community. If they were somehow able to get away with paying just $1,500 a month in rent or mortgage payments, then they’ve only got $17,000 left for everything else — heat, electricity, food and (unless he’s teaching himself) violin lessons for the 5-year-old. Their trip to Texas — which they write about on their blog — may have been cheap, but it surely wasn’t free.
Either there’s a large pile of money lurking in the background or the Ayannas are truly miracle-workers. But Jackson leaves us in the dark. Given how many people are struggling these days, it’s pretty cavalier to suggest, on the basis of no evidence, that we could all live like the Ayannas if we were only willing to eat at home more often.
Update: Amiri Ayanna checks in, and says it’s all legit. Hard to see how they make the numbers work, but there you go.