giving employees my family’s personal holiday card, turning down a promotion because of co-op income limits, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Turning down a promotion to keep my income within the range for a co-op building

I live in a city with really expensive rent. Even though I like my roommates, I’ve wanted to live by myself for a long time. I finally found an affordable place where I wouldn’t have to have roommates—a large studio apartment in a co-op building. It’s a really good building close to my work with lots of amenities. It’s the type of place that once I’m in, I will live there the rest of my life if I can help it. The catch is that acceptance into the co-op is based on income. Applicants have to make between $43,000 and $53,000 annually to be accepted. Right now I’m in that range. (Once you’re accepted you can make whatever—the range is only for being accepted.)

In the past few months, my boss has told me that she wants to promote me and that would put me in a higher pay grade that would knock me out of the pay range to be accepted into the co-op. Unfortunately, the raise wouldn’t be enough to allow me to afford a place on my own. She wants to promote me within the next year, but the waiting list for the co-op is such that it will probably be closer to two years until I am able to get in there. My boss knows about the co-op situation and has told me that she wants me to get it, but also really wants to promote me so that I can assist her in managing our department sooner rather than later. I’m the only person with enough seniority to help her with this. I don’t think she’s interested in waiting two years for me to get into the co-op.

So, the question is (as crazy as it sounds), how does one turn down a promotion and raise in the interest of what would be better for me in the long term (moving into the co-op)? I’d LOVE to have the raise and promotion and don’t want to lose that opportunity, either. I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to have this conundrum, and don’t want to sound as though I’m complaining, but is it possible to have my cake and eat it, too?

Would you be willing to accept the promotion if the accompanying raise were deferred until after you got into the co-op? You could explain the situation and ask if they’d be willing to do that (and get it in writing if they are). There’s some risk with this approach — the raise might never materialize down the road (although having it in writing minimizes that possibility), you might leave the company before that happens, and of course you’d be doing higher-level work without being paid accordingly for it. But if you calculate that that’s worth it to you in order to get accepted into this building, it’s one option that could work.

I’d try to avoid turning down the promotion altogether though (if it’s a promotion that you’d otherwise want). That risks putting you in a situation where you appear (especially to outside employers) to have stagnated, and that’s not ideal.

And I know you didn’t ask me about this part, but I’d think long and hard about how much you should arrange your life around this. You might not really want to stay in a studio apartment your whole life, no matter how much you want it now. Lives change, and what might be the ideal housing for you now might not be ideal in 10 years (or even less).

2. Can I give my family’s personal holiday card to my employees?

I know it is too late for this year for this question (I have already done what I’m going to do), but for future reference I would like to ask.

I manage a staff of about 8-10 people (some fluctuation) and every year I get them a modest but decent holiday gift. I put it in generic cheerful wrapping paper and usually use a holiday neutral card with it (such as a snowman). I make it clear that I do not want or expect gifts in return. However, as I was wrapping them this year, I was sitting by a pile of extra personal holiday cards my family sends out. They feature photos of my spouse and children and a simple “Happy New Year” (we stay away from religious messages in our annual card). Would it ever be appropriate to use that card in the work gifts? We work in a public facility, talk about our families, and see each other’s families when they pop in for a visit sporadically.

I would not. Those are social cards, and work is a different sphere. There are loads of good reasons for preserving the boundaries between work life and non-work life, especially as a manager, and sending your family’s personal holiday card blurs those boundaries. Stick with a more neutral holiday card if you use one at all. (Frankly, I’d also say to stop with the gifts, which I also think blurs the boundaries in an unhelpful way. Stick with some sort of food gift for the group, or — better — additional time off or letting people leave early without charging their PTO. Or cold hard cash — from the company, not you.)

3. My new boss misstated my credentials in an email to our team

My future boss just announced my position in an email and said that I have a bachelors of science in biochemistry and a masters of business administration. I do have a bachelor’s degree, but I’m still working part-time to earn my masters. This was addressed on my resume and we did discuss this on my interview. What would be the best way to address this issue without sounding rude?

It’s not rude to reply back with something like: “Just a quick correction for the record: I’m in the process of earning my masters but won’t finish until 2016. (Don’t want to claim more credentials than I have!)”

People are pretty unlikely to care too much, though, so I also wouldn’t worry about it beyond that.

4. I asked a friend of a friend to send me his resume, and it’s terrible

I work for a fun start-up that’s expanding rapidly. Our HR director has encouraged us to refer friends to him, and the company is offering a generous referral bonus. I have a friend of a friend who expressed interest in changing jobs, so I suggested that he send me his resume to pass along. He emailed it to me…and it’s bad. The formatting is terrible, it’s got way too much information (it’s two pages despite his limited job experience), and it just doesn’t make him look like a strong candidate. I actually feel that sending this resume along in its current state would reflect badly on me.

I did some formatting and made it look a lot better, but it feels dishonest to both my acquaintance and our hiring manager to send the new version along. I was thinking of maybe sending the edited version back to my acquaintance, but he didn’t ask for feedback and a resume is pretty personal. (We’re friendly but not super close.) I feel like I’ve put myself in an awkward situation since I promised the person that I would pass their resume along, but that was before I saw it. For what it’s worth, I think this person would be a good fit for our company culture and I don’t have any hesitations recommending them on that account.

Yeah, I wouldn’t pass along the version you edited; that’s presenting him as someone different than who he is.

Instead, I’d email him back and say, “In its current format, I think this won’t reflect as strongly on you as it will if you ____.” (And then fill in with some basic suggestions on formatting, length, and content.)

But if he doesn’t send you back a stronger version, I’d be wary about referring him at all. If he ends up not being great, it’s going to reflect on your judgment — and you want to preserve your ability to vouch for stronger candidates in the future.

5. Resigning when I can’t give two weeks notice

I recently was offered a mid-level job that pays triple what I currently make and is an amazing opportunity. The only stipulation is that I start almost immediately so I can attend the company’s parent company annual training for mid and senior level employees (which is out of state). This leaves me with a one week notice to my current job. I explained that I would like to leave on good terms with my current company and pushed for an additional week to give notice. They completely understood, but wouldn’t budge and gave me a week to think over the offer. I am going to accept, but how do I approach my current company when giving notice?

You explain the situation and that you tried hard to get more time, apologize profusely, and offer to do whatever you can to help with the transition (including offering to be available for questions for a few weeks after moving on, if you’re open to that).

By the way, I’d normally be very wary of an employer that refuses to let you give two weeks notice, unless they appear to really get that this is a bad position for you to be in, and unless they’ve indicated they wouldn’t normally do this but are constrained by something unusual (in this case, the training conference). If they’re cavalier about it, I’d take that as a red flag about their likely level of consideration for you once you’re working there.

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike*

    Re #1: I’d take the advice about “dream jobs” and apply it to “dream apartments”. I’ve been in a few places that seemed great but once you start living there you find the same annoyances. It might be close to work now but if you change jobs or the business moves it might not be.

    1. Fucshia*

      I agree with this. I would actually go for getting a higher raise instead that would let you afford a place without so many restrictions. But, that doesn’t always work if the company has a really tight budget and can’t negotiate.

      1. Zillah*

        The company doesn’t even need to have a super tight budget – in some cities, the difference between living with roommates and living on your own can be thousands of dollars.

      2. Erica*

        In expensive cities there are often only two price levels for housing: super-crazy-expensive, and subsidized low-income, with virtually nothing naturally affordable to the middle class. So it may well be that the raise would knock her out of low-income qualification but nowhere remotely near what it would take to pay market rate.

    2. PEBCAK*

      Indeed. And in this case, the OP really has no idea how long it will take for a spot to open up. Let’s say it’s a 5K raise…if it takes three years to get into the co-op, that’s 15K. Even in a really expensive city, that’s at least 6 months rent.

      1. Ellie A.*

        And there’s no guarantee that the OP will even get the apartment when a spot does open up. I agree — take the raise, OP, and look for a different place to live. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by turning down the raise and potentially ending up with neither.

    3. super anon*

      This isn’t just an apartment, it’s co-op housing. From what I have heard from people who live in co-ops, they’re much better than your standard apartment. They’re vastly cheaper than renting an apartment, and they’re very difficult to get into because they’re so sought after. If the OP lives somewhere very expensive (such as my city, in which I pay $1100 a month for a 420 sq ft 1 bedroom apartment, parking and laundry not included in that price), co-op housing is a very attractive option.

      1. Fucshia*

        How much cheaper is the co-op?

        The $1100 apartment would be like a $20,000 annual income after taxes. If the co-op is half the price, and they can afford the $550, they would only need a raise of $10,000 to cover the difference.

        1. Zillah*

          That’s a pretty significant raise even with a promotion, though – and there’s no indication that those are the numbers the OP is looking at. It could be something even more dramatic, especially given the location and amenities.

      2. neverjaunty*

        It’s still just a studio apartment, even if it’s an upgraded version of one.

        OP #1, you have no idea if you’ll be at your current job forever, or what your life is going to be like five or ten years from now. You seem like you’ve sold yourself on a single apartment way more than is reasonable, to give up thousands of dollars (not just in salary, but in accumulated Social Security, benefits, etc) simply because you MIGHT get this co-op a couple of years from now.

        Don’t do this to yourself. Keep looking for apartments. The market is not static. Six months from now, you could have a friend of a friend tell you “Oh hey, my cousin is moving to Italy to get married and needs somebody to take over her lease,” and it’s the perfect apartment for you.

        1. snuck*

          You are right, we don’t know the life circumstances of the OP, but the other thing to remember is that a couple of thousand a year is significantly less when you take tax out, then divide it by 52. Three thousand equates overall to $25/wk (depending on your tax rate, where I live in Australia it’d be 33%) which isn’t that much to pass up for a year or eighteen months.

          1. Sunflower*

            I would also defer the raise. Farther down OP posted that the rent will be $850/month. I live in Philly(where housing costs are pretty reasonable) and a studio apt at that price here is really really good so where ever she is, that really is a steal. Banking that she DOES in fact get the apartment, it’s probably pretty likely the additional money she would be making would not cover additional rent if she wanted to move out- and I mean like ever.

          2. neverjaunty*

            It’s a lot more than just $25/week. OP is not just passing up a raise, but a promotion. That means OP is also losing future promotions and raises that would have come sooner because she put this one off for a couple of years – plus the associated benefits like extra retirement and savings that she gets with a higher income now.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Even if OP is able to take the promotion at the same pay grade, she is still (as I said) foregoing future raises and associated benefits because she’s not just giving up $X per month. She’s giving up future raised and benefits that step up from that.

                  Also, even if it’s possible for OP to take just the promotion, it’s not a good idea. When you agree to take less money for more work that’s a signal that you undervalue your labor. Plus, if I were an employer I would be very wary of agreeing to this. What happens if a dissatisfied employee later claims I discriminated against them, and as proof shows they were paid less than comparable positions?

                2. Zillah*

                  Which is why if the OP does that, I’d recommend getting it in writing (which protects both her and the company, to some extent) and negotiating something else in lieu of the raise (e.g., more PTO, telecommuting, conferences, education, etc).

          3. Melissa*

            Why does it matter whether you divide it up per week? 33% of $3,000 is $2,000, which is a lot of money. $2,000 is my own rent for two months, or nearly 7 months’ worth of car payments, or over a year’s worth of gas.

        2. BRR*

          I second the you have no idea what your life will be like a couple years from now. Another job might pop up in another city. Another job might pop up in your city that pays more. You might meet someone and want to move in and their salary might preclude you from the apartment. If you could get in right now I would give other advice but right now with a waiting list it’s too uncertain.

        3. Natalie*

          “It’s still just a studio apartment, even if it’s an upgraded version of one.”

          If this is NYC, San Francisco, London, or a couple of other cities, “just a studio apartment” is about the best regular people can aspire. Reasonably sized 2-4 bedroom units sell for *literally* millions of dollars.

          1. Observer*

            I have to point out that NYC has a LOT of “regular” people who are NOT living in apartments that sell for millions of dollars. And they are generally decent housing. Of course if you are going to limit yourself to 2 or 3 zip codes that complicates life.

            1. Natalie*

              You’re right, I got a bit hyperbolic. There are other housing options in these distorted cities, although they do tend to involve a looooong commute. What I was trying to get at is that the housing options and scenarios in a regular sized city are completely different and not generally applicable to a mega city.

              1. doreen*

                I’m sure lots of options are different in the biggest of cities- for example, I’m sure that apartments in my neighborhood in NYC are more expensive than they would be in a small city in Idaho. But it’s not an expensive neighborhood by NYC standards (2 , 3 and even some 4 bedroom apartments are under $2000) and it’s full of bus drivers, nurses ,retail managers, civil servants,truck drivers etc , many of whom own their one or two family houses. During rush hour, lower Manhattan is a half-hour train ride away. Of course, it’s not only in Queens, but it’s in a not-particularly fashionable part of Queens and the apartments are mainly in two or three unit owner-occupied buildings . You only have to chose between “reasonably sized apartments that go for millions of dollars” and a long commute if you are restricting yourself to certain neighborhoods and suburbs.

                1. Natalie*

                  That sounds pleasant. How often do those units become available, though? It seems to me that the holy grail of affordable, reasonably sized, and not an hour away tend to be rented for decades.

                2. Melissa*

                  Relatively often, actually, in some of the less-trendy neighborhoods. In NYC in addition to Queens (and nice areas in Queens) there’s also upper Manhattan. And in NYC an hour commute is not uncommon – but an hour in the subway is different than spending an hour sitting in traffic on the freeway. You do have to adjust your expectations of “affordable” and “reasonably sized” if you want to live in NYC, but if you have realistic expectations those places are not impossible to find.

          2. doreen*

            This is a reply to Natalie:

            It’s not that hard to get an apartment in my neighborhood- people move all the time. And most apartments are market rent , so you don’t have people staying just because they have a crazy low rent. But remember what I said- not fashionable. We don’t even have a Starbucks, much less clubs or nice restaurants. The market rent is lower here because the people who are willing to pay Manhattan/Long Island City/Williamsburg rents are willing because to do so because they want a lifestyle that doesn’t exist in my neighborhood.

            1. Urban_Adventurer*

              What is your neighborhood? I may be moving to NYC in the next few months but have no idea where to look for somewhere affordable.

              1. doreen*

                Just off the top of my head, the whole Woodhaven/Richmond Hill/ Glendale area doesn’t have crazy rents- although Glendale doesn’t have a train so the people there usually take express buses to Manhattan. The Bronx and Brooklyn have similar neighborhoods as well .

              2. Melissa*

                Look in Washington Heights and Inwood (way upper Manhattan), and some places in Central Harlem or Hamilton Heights. You can find moderately-priced-for-NYC places in Astoria and Long Island City. It’ll be cheaper further out in Queens like Jackson Heights, Kew Gardens, Woodside, etc. Basically the longer it takes you to get to Midtown/Lower Manhattan, the cheaper your rent will be, lol.

      3. Observer*

        That doesn’t mean that it makes sense to turn down a raise for it. It’s not just the immediate earnings that the OP needs to think about, but the impact on future earnings. We all know that it should not be this way, but it’s a reality. What you earn today generally has an impact on what you ear tomorrow.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          This is very important. Because raises are based on what a person is earning at the time of the raise, future raises will be lower right from the get-go. As a recent retiree, I advise the OP and everyone else here to think about factors like this. You need to consider the long range consequences. Also, remember that that life constantly changes, and what you expect to happen (or stay the same) either will not, or will be end up significantly different in ways you never thought of.

      4. Melissa*

        Yes, but the fact that they are so competitive is reason why the OP shouldn’t rely on it – they are crazy-hard to get into in expensive cities. I’ve had a couple of friends unsuccessfully attempt to get into co-ops in my very expensive city.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have to say, I disagree. If the OP is living in NYC, those lottery apartments are HARD to come by and they often offer the only opportunity for someone with an income on the low side ($53k in NYC ain’t much) to move into an above-average apartment in a good neighborhood that isn’t an hour away. If the OP wants to live alone– and I cannot blame her one bit– getting an apartment through this lottery is a great deal and she should take it. I would do what Alison suggests– find out if you can take the promotion and defer the raise. In my experience, raises take forever to process anyway.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I also read this, thought that OP might be in NYC, and…yes. It is life-changing to be able to go from roommates to a studio. Everyone who lives here knows at least one person who made a bad relationship decision because of real estate (moving in with someone too soon because you can get a nice one-bedroom as a couple, but can afford only a studio or living with roommates otherwise). Real estate is so insane here, and living with roommates, even at the best of times, is a situation a lot of us don’t enjoy — and so these decisions, which would seem batshit crazy in a less expensive city, somehow start to seem sane. So I sympathize with OP.

        That being said, deferring a promotion — or even taking on the duties and deferring the raise — is *also* life-changing. Suppose it takes OP two years, as she suggested it might, to get into this building. That’s two years in which OP has not been collecting raises, and the next job she applies for could very well lowball the offer based on what she’s making at the time. If this continues, that’s tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the next several years that won’t go into OP’s pocket.

        So I think OP needs to weigh this very carefully, and not discount the effect of a depressed salary over the long term (and, as Alison rightly points out, if OP staves off the promotion altogether, the appearance of stagnating at her current job will hurt her looking for her next one).

        1. Eric*

          I’m also in NYC and I agree with both of you. This is just one of those unique local cultural things that people outside of NYC wouldn’t know about it. If you’re in NYC, see if you can defer the raise, OP.

          1. De Minimis*

            I had the same thought, assuming the OP intends to remain in NYC long term, it’s entirely reasonable to consider doing this.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              If we’re going with defer-the-raise as an option, is there any reason the OP can’t take the raise in phases? Phase 1, OP gets bumped up to 52,999. At some future date, after she gets the co-op apartment, she initiates Phase 2, where she gets bumped up to whatever the too-high-to-get-in salary is. Split the baby, why not?

              1. Kyrielle*

                This. It also depends on how *far* over it would put the OP. If it would put them waaaay over…the raise might be worth it because of future earnings, even with everything that’s been said here.

                But if it would barely put OP over, asking to split the raise so that they stay under the co-op’s cutoff gives the best of both worlds – they get as much of the raise as they can, without losing the co-op option, and they’re not giving up a huge amount.

                (And given that OP is currently within the range, unless they’re almost at the top or it’s a ‘Holy Hannukah Balls!’ level raise, it’s probably just barely shoving them over into the ‘too much income’ category.)

          2. LaurenLaLa*

            I agree with the other NYC dwellers. A nice, reasonable (at least by New York standards) place to live is not easy to come by here. I make almost twice what the OP does and that sounds like a lot of money to someone outside of NYC, but it’s not here. So, I can see the appeal of this co-op. It’s a very unique market; I don’t know of any other cities where paying an apartment broker is de rigeur. AvonLady and Eric are spot on.

            1. Melissa*

              You know, people always say this, but $80,000 is still a lot in NYC. The median salary in this city is not much higher than the median salary in the entire U.S., and the majority of NYC dwellers are blue collar workers just like everywhere else. People who live in Manhattan and work with the upper-middle-class have a somewhat skewed idea of what qualifies as middle-class or “a lot” in NYC, but I lived a middle-class lifestyle in NYC just fine on $32,000 for several years. And no, you can’t afford a four-bedroom brownstone on a $80,000 salary like you could in a Southern city, but you can still afford a pretty nice lifestyle for a family on that much money.

          3. neverjaunty*

            I know people unfairly make fun of NYC dwellers for thinking they live in the center of the world, but this is one reason why. Really, don’t assume that nobody else could possibly understand the trade-offs of housing in a huge and unaffordable market.

            1. Zillah*

              But saying that there are cultures and financial factors specific to your area is not the same thing as saying you live in the middle of the world. Like, at all.

          4. Melissa*

            I’m in NYC and I actually disagree. I wouldn’t defer a raise just so I wouldn’t have to live with roommates. There are plenty of not-crazy, quiet people in the city that you can live with, and the problem is that she’d be turning down a raise for the chance at a co-op, not an actual co-op. She’s on the waiting list and it’s going to be at LEAST 2 years before she gets the apartment, and by the time she gets it (if she ever does) she may not even want it anymore.

        2. Anonaconda*

          Honestly, I live in NYC in a rent-stabilized apartment that felt like winning the lottery to me… and I still wouldn’t defer the promotion. It just seems like the LW is putting too much on this one apartment, and it’s too uncertain if/when she’ll get it. A space could open up two years from now, and it could end up going to someone else entirely. Like others have said, the promotion will affect her future earnings, too—who knows what kind of apartment she’ll be able to afford two years from now? “Close to work” is extremely relative. You never know when a new job opportunity will come out of the blue and take you to a totally different neighborhood.

          Plus, there are a lot of life events that could make living in a studio apartment infeasible in the long-term: moving in with a partner! Having kids! Wanting to get a dog! Having to take care of an elderly relative! I would look at the bigger picture and investigate some other housing options.

          1. Bea W*

            A space could open up two years from now, and it could end up going to someone else entirely.

            This is really key. The OP says “the waiting list for the co-op is such that it will probably be closer to two years”. It could be two years or it could be more than two years, and when a spot opens up, it could go to someone else. If it were a sure thing within x amount of time, it might be worth consideration, but this is hardly a sure thing, and a lot can change in the 2 years or so one will be waiting to get a shot at an apartment.

      2. Sunflower*

        I know nothing about co-ops but is there any chance OP could look at co-ops for higher range incomes? Or do co-ops max out at a certain income?

        1. Lore*

          There is a very small subset of income restricted coops–usually buildings that were previously owned by the city. Usually they also have sale prices far, far below comparable apartments (it’s not clear if the OP is buying or renting but in NYC coops usually = buying). The rest of the coops sell at market value, which could mean half a million dollars for a studio. So…the ability to lock in affordable housing is not something to be taken lightly, especially if she will own it and have the option to sell later.

        2. Lyssa*

          Why are they income restricted like that? The only reason that I can think of would be that they are based on some sort of governmental or charitable funding. If that’s the case, it seems like it would be somewhat unethical to deliberately cap your earnings to gain this benefit, if it is intended for people who are not then able to earn more. (It may not be strictly fraudulent, but at least ethically dubious – sort of akin to people who deliberately limit their earnings to avoid paying more in child support or alimony.) But maybe I’m misunderstanding the reasoning for the income cap here.

          1. Natalie*

            My understanding is that they’re generally not directly subsidized (i.e. a charity or the government pays the difference between the renter’s rate and the market rate) – they’re the result of some kind of agreement between the building owner and the city, where X number of units will be rented at a below market rate.

            1. Natalie*

              Incidentally, because they’re not directly subsidized they cause weird effects in the rental market. Co-ops, rent stabilized housing, and similar are a favorite studying ground for economists.

          2. doreen*

            I can’t speak for the OPs situation, but in NYC there’s a difference between “affordable” and “low income” housing. “Low income” generally means there is some sort of government funding or subsidy while “affordable” usually means there was a tax break , zoning exemptions to build higher or financing in return for a set-aside. Some of them can have pretty high income limits- $50 or $60K for one person, which is not a lot of money in NYC but it’s not low-income either.

        3. Melissa*

          They do max out but not at $53,000. There are affordable housing units in a lot of different brackets in the city, but it depends on the size of your family and the location of the building.

      3. Observer*

        I disagree with you – and I do live in NYC. Firstly, there ARE other options. And secondly, so many other things can change – personal or professional – that tying yourself too tightly to a specific apartment can be a real mistake.

    5. Bea W*

      Totally! “The rest of [your] life” is a long time. Things will change. It’s likely more beneficial for you long term to take the promotion and raise now, when the opportunity is there for the taking. Making more money and advancing your career will put you in a better position to afford a place. There’s no telling when you will be able to get into that particular co-op. For all you know, you’ll be waiting years for an apartment there.

      Sometimes income limits are based on the adjusted income on your 1040, not your gross income. So if the promotion will push your gross income over the limit, it won’t necessarily push your adjusted income over the limit. You may still be eligible. Look into what counts as income and what documents will be used. I was actually in a situation where I changed jobs late in the year and the raise put my new gross income over the limit for a grant program for weatherization. I called the program and found out the qualification was based on the previous year’s income tax forms, which meant I was still eligible. If you’re right on that line, it’s worth doing some research.

  2. carta*

    I like Alison’s suggestion of a promotion with raise deferral re: OP #1. Seems like a good compromise. If OP is in NYC, a cheap spot in a co-op is actually worth a lot of money. For example, a friend of mine pays about $800 for a two bedroom apartment geared for a certain income bracket. The market rate for that apartment is at least 4-5x what she is paying. No exaggeration (Our one bedroom rental in a nearby but less desirable neighborhood was $3,400.) Plus, it stays with you and that same friend half-jokes that that will be the big item for her daughter’s inheritance. Winning an spot at a co-op in NYC feels like a lottery win. Something affordable in a city that is anything but. Good luck to both the job and the co-op. Say yes to both!

    1. snuck*

      I would take a very close look at both the Co Op requirements and the company pay options (including senior management ones). See if you can trade off some salary for some other kind of perk (maybe they can pay for your home and mobile phones and internet coverage or similar) and it won’t show in your salary to the Co Op.

      You could also forgo the payrise for a year or two, and instead ask for other non (obvious) monetary perks – a laptop, reduced working hours (an hour less a day?), extra annual leave, an ability to have the company pay directly for your dry cleaning or travel pass etc. You might find these even easier to negotiate.

      Think creatively. How much over the threshold would you be, and then if you take taxes out of that how much would you be down in your take home pay? That’s around where you start the negotiations… something less value than that – make it attractive to your work to do this, cheaper, easy (ie you will have to offer to do all the legwork to make whatever happen) and most of all smile cheerfully and have a “we can do this easily” approach.

      It will come down to what the CoOp needs to see, how the various parts of your pay is reported and whether that’s acceptable to them.

      1. Lamb*

        I really like this idea; OP 1 should do the math on how much of the raise she would need to forgo to stay in that range (and check whether that is Gross income or Net), and brainstorm ideas that would benefit her now with her current living situation (as opposed to perks that are only really perks once she moves to the co-op, like a transit pass if she currently drives but would use the transit system from the co-op). I think she should come up with several perks that, combined, are worth more to her than the raise she would be delaying/giving up, and then approach her supportive manager and say (assuming it’s true) how much she wants that promotion that’s been talked about and she has been trying to figur out how to take it and remain eligible for the co-op, and ask the manager which perk/combination if perks does the manager think could be worked out in place of the “too much” portion of the raise.
        A few ideas:
        – subscriptions to professional publications
        – membership to professional organizations
        – sending you to a trade show or conference that you wouldn’t have otherwise been sent to
        – tuition for and schedule flexibility to accommodate a course(s) to build your skills (could even be something out of the norm for your role like learning a foreign language you’ve always wanted to know)
        – an altered schedule (a compressed work week during the slow season? Making your other days 30 minutes longer so you can get out 2 hours early on Thursdays and finally join that afternoon choral group that meets across town? I don’t know what would be a perk for you, OP)
        – non-professional membership (gym, Costco, AAA, your favorite local museum, as long as it’s not religious or political there could be some creative options here if OP’s workplace is open to them)
        – parking pass/transit pass/gas card
        – I’m not suggesting regular work from home days, because there’s a greater risk that that won’t work out with this new position (for example you can’t take advantage of the option while you’re learning the new duties so you don’t use that perk for the first 6 months to a year, or you start out using it but something changes and they need you in the office every day, or you find out working from home doesn’t work with your roommate situation or whathaveyou, or you take advantage of it but suffer career setbacks because someone higher perceives you as less engaged/committed/productive because of the decreased face time)

        1. Lamb*

          I can’t believe I forgot driver safety class- if you have car insurance you can save a nice chunk of cash (10% is what I was told when I did it) or get points taken off your license, so it would be worth more to you than it costs the company, and would free up post-income tax money without increasing your income.

    2. rollingmyeyes*

      I think that taking the promotion without the pay raise is a horrible idea. One of two things will happen, the company will start paying others at this level the same wage, this person could depress the wages of other workers. Or someone will find out that this person is paid significantly less than other at this level and it will turn into a huge equal pay issue.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        It’s only a few months, though, and there are extenuating circumstances. I don’t think the consequences will be that dire, especially if there’s some record of the plan, as in, “Jane will be promoted to Senior Teapot Designer in January with a raise effective March 2015.”

        I was once promoted with a ridiculously small raise due to “the economy”, which at the time was bs, but whatever, and no one knew it but me and my boss. I got a raise a year later. I would bet anything that people hired at or promoted to my level in that time made much more than I did until I got my second raise.

        1. Observer*

          No, it’s not a few months. She says that the building has a waiting list 2 years long. That’s a very long time to put your career on hold. What happens if the company decides to move? What if any one of a dozen changes at her company make it necessary for her to look for a new job?

          And, what if her personal situation changes? Talk about making bad decisions because of real estate. It makes no more sense to NOT get into a relationship because you are tied to a too small apartment, than it is to get into a bad relationship because you want a better apartment and this seems like the only way to do it. Not that the OP “has” to get into a relationship or “will” be in the position to decide. But, for most people that seems to be a real possibility. And there are many other types of life changes that can affect how “ideal” a given apartment is.

          “I’ll be there for the rest of my life” may not be as realistic as it sounds. That’s especially true as the situation in the building could also change in ways that have real repercussions for the OP as well. Whether the neighborhood, neighbors in the building, building management etc.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Exactly. OP doesn’t even know that she will definitely get into this co-op in two years; it’s a big maybe.

            1. mel*

              If the co-op is THIS fantastic, that waiting list is definitely longer than just one person. And if you can just say forever regardless of income, I’d be surprised that spaces ever open up.

              1. Bea W*

                Yeh…I would stay with a friend who lived in a co-op in Manhattan, and the wait list there could be 15 years or longer. Once people were in, they weren’t leaving except in a body bag. Parents would put their children on the waiting list knowing they’d be well into adulthood by the time a spot opened up.

          2. Bea W*

            It makes no more sense to NOT get into a relationship because you are tied to a too small apartment, than it is to get into a bad relationship because you want a better apartment and this seems like the only way to do it.

            My mother did this…twice. It didn’t end well either time.

  3. Mike B.*

    I’d go with the old adage about the bird in the hand–it’s not usually a good idea to forgo a good immediate opportunity in favor of one that *might* materialize in the future. There’s no end to the number of things that could happen in the next two years that would make the co-op a less feasible or desirable option, whereas the promotion would immediately advance your career and boost your income.

    This co-op isn’t exactly your last chance at living solo, either, whatever you may believe about the cost of living in your city.

    1. Just Visiting*

      This co-op isn’t exactly your last chance at living solo, either, whatever you may believe about the cost of living in your city.

      If she lives in NYC or San Francisco and doesn’t want to move, it absolutely could be. She should think long-range and defer the raise.

      1. Raine*

        A friend of mine has lived in a sprawling rent-controlled one bedroom unit in Washington, D.C. since the early 1970s. It’s between the Dupont Circle and Woodley Park/Zoo metro exits — in the heart of Adams Morgan. When I met her in the mid-1990s I was so jealous; she was in her mid-40s paying $400 rent a month while I (a new dirt poor graduate) was paying more than double that to live in a tiny room in a group house with five other people. She still lives there. It’s insane — I don’t even begin to know the amount of money she’s saved over the past four decades compared to what she would have been out-of-pocket at market rates, but there is no question it is exponentially more money than all of her raises combined.

        1. the gold digger*

          Do rents go up if the tenant’s income increases? Or can someone move into a rent-controlled apartment at age 23 and the start of her career and stay there forever at the same rent, even though her income quadruples?

          1. Lore*

            In NYC currently, there is a cap on increases for rent-stabilized leases–it’s negotiated every year but usually around 2% for a 1 year lease and 4% for a 2-year. You also get automatic right of renewal except under very specific circumstances. If the rent becomes more than $2500 (over years of increases including the 20% it can be raised between tenants) or the residents make more than $200k (I think these are the current numbers) for 2 years, the apt deregulates. Straight out rent control only now exists for people who leased their apartment before 1973. If the DC example is the same that might be genuine rent control but that gets rarer here. Thousands of units destabilized every year too and then all bets are off.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I have leftover housing trauma from 10 years in NYC, the only place in the country where rents increased in 2008. I got super lucky in my apartment searches and managed to move into places right before they got “hot”. (My last landlord re-rented the place for about $700 more than what we paid when we moved in two years prior.) It is a very special kind of housing market, so I definitely second this.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, thinking long term is why she should seriously reconsider that idea. Moving is a FAR better long term strategy. The few thousand dollars she gives up now won’t be the end of her loss – the impact to her long term career and earnings could be significant.

      4. Melissa*

        No, it’s not. I live in NYC and there’s lots of places that you could live solo on $53,000 – I knew people who lived solo on less, in market-rate housing, in fancy-ish neighborhoods. You just have to be willing to live outside of a select ZIP code or commuting distance to work. Deferring the raise is the opposite of thinking long-range, since the chances of getting into that co-op soonish are vanishingly small unless she knows for a fact that she is the very next person on the waiting list.

  4. AnonieGirlie*

    OP#1 – to give you some perspective, I put my name on a co-op 6 years ago (same restrictions) and am still on the waiting list and was recently told it could be another 2-7 years. I’m in NYC and there are a lot of factors determing where you fall on the wait list – IE a family with children, disabilities, etc. I would not wait for the possibility of this co-op to materialize and let that dictate how you make work choices. If you are in NYC, you definitely can find nice, affordable housing both in the city and the surrounding tri-state area where you can live on your own. When I first moved I was making less than $30,000 and still found a place in a nice area within my budget where I could live alone. But I would strongly advise you not to turn down more money at work because of a maybe situation. Unless you have a guaranteed contract with the co-op stating that you will move in by X dare, it may never happen.

    1. AnonieGirlie*

      Also if the co-op board for some reason doesn’t approve than you’re right back where you started. On a side note, I had a friend who was dismissed by a co-op board and was not allowed to move in, was never given a reason for the decision despite him meeting all the requirements.

      1. Melissa*

        This is the important part – even if the waiting list is just 2 years, you might not get approved. I had a couple of friends who have tried to do co-ops. My closest friends were both gainfully employed, friendly, sweet people who went through several interviews with a nice co-op in a really nice neighborhood and were not approved by the board, and they never found out why. (AND the co-op wasn’t that much cheaper than the surrounding neighborhood, either.)

    2. doreen*

      And that’s assuming it really is an actual waiting list and not a lottery. My son applies for affordable apartments in NYC pretty much every day – and while there are certain numbers of apartments set aside for various groups ( city employees, current neighborhood residents etc ) apartments are distributed within those groups based on a lottery – and his lottery number has been in the thousands because there are that many applicants.

  5. OP#1*

    OP#1 here. Glad to see I’ve sparked so much conversation!

    Just to clarify a few things: The co-op rent is $850 a month for a 620 sq. ft. studio (the building is all studios and 1BR—everyone starts with a studio and can then get on a waiting list to move up to a 1BR if they want one) and that’s pretty much locked in. My friend who told me about the place has been living there for 20 years and is paying $575/month. So, if I would get in, I may only be paying $850 10 or 15 years from now. Studio apartments in that neighborhood (which would all be less sq. footage) are running at least $1200 a month, but more likely $1500.

    I was told by the management company that the waiting list is 1-2 years, and based on talking with my friend about the experiences of others and the pace at which I’ve been moving up the list, that would seem accurate.

    Yes, there’s no reason to believe I will be at the same job all my life, but it’s a career field where institutional knowledge is greatly valued, I’ve gotten nothing but good reviews in my years there, I’m not lowest on the totem pole, and I like my job. So while I can acknowledge that things happen that are beyond our control, there are many things that make the co-op ideal: it’s in the middle of my city, making it easy to travel to any new job, and should I ever lose my job, the co-op will allow me to pay less rent until I get a new job.

    Also, I can acknowledge I may not want to be in this place all my life, but I’m in my late-30s and single. I’m not looking to have a family, so as someone who is looking to settle and find a place to call “home,” this seems ideal. I want to live in the city and have no interest in owning a home or condo, either.

    I do appreciate all the comments so far and am glad to hear the perspectives of others. It’s given me a good amount to think about.

    1. Nashira*

      Is there any education that your company could pay for, with the agreement (written) that it’ll convert to money in hand after X many years?

    2. C Average*

      I lived in my dream apartment in my mid- to late thirties, and it was SO nice to come home to a place I loved. It’s a time in your life when work tends to be hard (you’re neither the brilliant young thing nor the old hand), singleness is sometimes a cause for unwanted commentary from friends and family (whether you’re happily single or looking), and it can sometimes feel like all your peers are settling down while you’re floating from one less-than-ideal living situation to another. I so empathize with your desire to settle down and have a place that feels RIGHT. That’s what my dream apartment was to me at that phase of my life and, though it was a hassle to move in and in my case included a long commute, I loved going there at the end of every day, and I was sad to leave it when I got married.

      Good luck to you! I hope you can make this work. It sounds like you’ve given it a lot of thought and are making smart decisions. If your life does change, you can always move out. It sounds like there’ll be someone behind you on the waiting list happy to take your spot if that does happen.

      1. jag*

        I lived in a cheap rent-stabilized apartment in New York City for about 15 years. Great thing for my life. I saved a ton of money over that time period.

        If the OP wants to stay in the city she’s in, getting into a cheap place that will be very very helpful. Even if “just” for ten years.

    3. Sunflower*

      How does the co-op calculate annual income? That is something I’d look at before you do anything. Is it just based on salary? If so, see if the raise can come in as a way of an annual bonus?

      I also agree with getting creative and seeing if you can maneuver the extra pay around in other ways. I would look to see if instead of cash, the company can cover your expenses. Do you work from home ever(internet bill)? Phone bill most likely can be covered. Some companies give employees a personal travel fund- that could be a good place for them put the extra cash.

      1. OP#1*

        The co-op takes gross income. Additionally, they ask for any other money you have: CDs, savings, checking, stocks, bonds, etc. and add 2% of that total cost.

        My job requires I be in the office, so I can’t work from home.

        Additionally, I’m not so sure it would go over well with my co-workers if I started getting perks they wouldn’t or couldn’t get.

    4. KerryOwl*

      You have clearly thought through the co-op angle, I don’t think anyone else should try to encourage you to re-think that part of the situation.

      I’d look into what some commenters have suggested about other means of compensation in the meantime, like educational reimbursement, bonuses, etc. Since the company is in NYC as well, they should be pretty understanding about the situation.

      1. OP#1*

        Thanks for the comment, but to clarify, I’m not in NYC. I think that was assumed by some of the commenters, but I never stated that.

    5. Natalie*

      OP, do you know how the co-op calculates income? Is it just gross wages, annual taxable income, AGI? Depending on which number they use, you might have some options to receive a raise in a non-regular-wages form.

      1. Sheila*

        I would also recommend checking with your company’s payroll/HR people AND a tax professional with NYC experience. Some “perks” do show up in your W2. For example, if the company reimburses you more than X amount for tuition (somewhere north of $5K) they’ll report that as part of your taxable income. It would be awful for all the planning if you were then ugly-surprised by your tax return!

      2. OP#1*

        As I mentioned in another response, the co-op takes gross income. Additionally, they ask for any other money you have: CDs, savings, checking, stocks, bonds, etc. and add 2% of that total cost.

    6. BethRA*

      If the rent is really locked in, that may offer enough of a savings down the road to make up for some of your current lost income, especially if you do stay there awhile AND can have your salary go up once you’re in. I also think Lamb (above) has some great suggestions for things you could ask for in lieu of salary (extra vacation might be worth considering, too).

      Glad you’re thinking about the things people gave you to think about, but you know you’re own mind. If your company will give you the promotion without the raise, go for it (but do get it in writing if you hope to get the raise later!)

    7. neverjaunty*

      OP, turning down promotions is not something that is going to help you in your career or make sure you are able to keep opportunities in your field. Everybody is focusing on the raise, but it’s NOT just the money; you would be turning down a promotion. And, signaling to your managers that you are uninterested in further promotion. I understand that to you it sounds like ‘hey, maybe next time’ but to a manager, absent extreme circumstances (which this isn’t one), this comes across as you saying that they should look to somebody else in the future.

      This cannot be the only possible housing option you will get in the next two years. Plus, in all honesty, are you looking all that hard elsewhere if you have your heart set on this place?

      1. KerryOwl*

        People are focusing on the raise because Alison recommended accepting the promotion, while working with the company to defer the raise.

    8. Bea W*

      Given that you are in a spot in your life where you are older, still single, and not interested in having a family, it might be worth holding on to *if* you are certain when your name comes up that you will get a spot. I still wouldn’t be placing bets on something that isn’t a sure thing here.

      Do find out in detail how income is counted and calculated. It might be that you can take the raise and promotion and still be eligible.

    9. Observer*

      I see that you say you are not in NYC, but are you in a city with decent public transportation? If you are, that’s something to think about. In NYC it is possible to get decent affordable housing that’s not too far from employment by public transportation. That might be another solution to your problem, and one that won’t cause you to take a hit on your career for something that you don’t have any real surety on.

  6. TheSockMonkey*


    Can you work for a week at your current job, then go to the management training and then come back and work for a second week at your current job? Then you could transition to the new job permanently.

    I know it sounds logistically difficult, but it might ease the sting of leaving your employer with less notice.

    We had a new employee do that last year when she was coming to our company. It wasn’t a problem on our end.

    1. RR*

      This is what I did when I joined my current organization. I explained the situation to my then manager, asked if I could use leave to participate in the new organization’s management meeting, and then return to OldJob. (Normally one cannot use leave once one has given notice). A bit logistically awkward, but it worked out well.

    2. OP#5*

      Unfortunately that is not an option, they need me to permenantly start by a specific date. However, I also should have mentioned my current job is a temporary, entry level position with no benefits or sick days/personal days. The new job is fully salaried, benefitted with sick/personal days. New manager explained this is an extenuating circumstance, not normal and was extremely apologetic at the hectic schedule. Also the holiday also screws up my time line as current jobs office is entirely shut down until the new year. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

      1. Natalie*

        Wait, you’re a temp? That changes things a lot. People expect temps to leave, sometimes with short notice, if they are offered permanent employment.

      2. Sydney Bristow*

        If your current job is a temp job, I definitely wouldn’t worry about it. I had an indefinitely long term temp job and gave my supervisor 2 weeks notice when I left for something better. She was shocked that I did. She said it only takes a phone call and a day or two to get someone new in and she was happy that I found something better. I definitely didn’t burn any bridges with her as she offered me a permanent position about a year later when something opened up. I’d bet your supervisor won’t be shocked by giving less than 2 weeks notice. In my experience, being a temp changes the equation.

          1. OP#5*

            Yep. Temp as coded in their system even though my current manager claims I’m “permenant” in every sense but on paper. I don’t have an “ending date” carved out at the job.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, but as long as you are coded that way – and COMPENSATED that way, you need to treat it that way. You can be sure that THEY would. Which means that any protections in place for regular employees wouldn’t apply to you (outside of discrimination laws.)

      3. Transformer*

        The whole situation shifted in my mind when I read that the current position the OP has is temporary. Take the new job. Give as much notice as you can to be polite but loosing temps to better opportunities is part of the risk of offering temp jobs.

        1. Preston*

          If you are a temp, no benefits, no leave, no real anything… 2 weeks is nice to give but if this company is offering you full time, more pay and benefits. Get a box for your stuff and start this new job yesterday.

          I am going to say something that many are going to disagree with. Giving two weeks is a friendly gesture, that is all. It is not a requirement. It is not the law. I have on one occasion not given it, it has never adversely effected me. I have always felt with at will employment laws, giving two weeks should be considered a privledge to employers.

          But getting off my soapbox, OP take this new job.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    OP, only you know what is right for you. But I seriously encourage you to look at Alison’s last paragraph.
    It’s a good rule of thumb in life to watch out for anything or anyone that limits you, that holds you back. Sometimes things that appear to be a great idea have hidden problems that really undermine the “greatness” of the idea over the long haul.
    I don’t know anything about co-ops. But I do have a couple questions. Do the income guidelines change? If so do they change at a predictable rate? For example: Could your company give you an increase of $x K per year that meshes with the change in the income guidelines?
    Are there other co-ops or other opportunities available where you could toss your app in the hat? This one co-op sounds like all your eggs are in one basket.

    Thinking about the future, suppose in ten years you are fed up with the studio apartment, would you be eligible (get first refusal) for a larger apartment in the co-op? Or are you in that studio apartment for the rest of your time in the co-op?

    Lastly, do you anticipate that there could be more promotions in your future that would allow you to afford a different place without going into a co-op? Don’t answer here, of course. But think about the timeline for those promotions and hold time line up to the time line for the co-op. How well do they match up? I worked for one company that if you turned down one promotion that was it- you were off the radar. But they did promote people fairly often. If you accepted, then you probably were in the pipeline for change every two years or so.

  8. C Average*

    I have been #4 so many freaking times. Often it’s not just a friend of a friend; it’s someone I’ve known for a long time. My company uses an outsource call center (not a terrible one as call centers go, but still a call center) and, because I write some of the troubleshooting scripts they follow and have come to know some of them well, they sometimes come to me to talk about careers at my company. I know many of them to be hard-working, smart, well-spoken, conscientious people who’d be an asset here.

    But their resumes! From all appearances, they’re still using the version they created in their high school careers class a decade ago. I’ve had to tell them, “Look, to get a foot in the door here, you need to look good in print. Here are some things you can do to improve your resume. If you want to rewrite it, I’ll happily look it over for you and give you some pointers. But this document has GOT to be your work product, because it needs to be an honest representation to our company of who you are, what you’ve done, and how capable you are of presenting yourself on paper. Please do this! I know it’s a drag and you’re busy, but this really matters. I know you’re a great candidate in terms of the work you can do, but that’s not enough.”

    In the case of a couple of them, I’ve actually sat down over coffee for several hours to talk through their accomplishments and help them get a sense of what they’ve truly done and figure out how to put it on paper.

    It’s really, really hard to convince people that composing a resume isn’t just a hoop to be jumped through as quickly as possible.

    If I had a jillion dollars, I would hire Alison or someone like her to come do a workshop with them, I seriously would. It kills me how many really talented people are stuck in these awful dead-end call center jobs for lack of a decent sense of how one should look on paper.

  9. AdAgencyChick*

    #4, please don’t give any resume to HR except one that you’re confident about and that the candidate has done himself!

    If you redo it, what happens if the hiring manager asks to see an extra copy of his resume during the interview and he pulls out his hot mess? (Not to mention the larger problem of the resume being a misrepresentation, although I would argue that if writing skills are not a major component of the job and you’re just reorganizing information, it’s not a cardinal sin.)

    If you don’t redo it and it’s terrible, it reflects badly on you. No bueno.

  10. soitgoes*

    #1 I agree with a lot of other commenters: Don’t turn down an immediate opportunity for something that may never materialize. Plus, you may not want to live in NYC forever. You might want to get married and have kids someday, making long-term studio life unrealistic. You might want to live somewhere without neighbors clomping overhead your whole life. Plus, I have reservations about fudging your qualifications to get into this building. If you don’t qualify, you don’t qualify. If I made too much money to apply for a particular building, I simply wouldn’t apply. I wouldn’t do something that bordered on dishonesty. That rubs me the wrong way.

    #2 I think this depends on the workplace. If you aren’t sure about giving the card, that’s your answer. That said, it would be perfectly acceptable in my office for my boss to give us his family photo card.

    1. jag*

      “Plus, I have reservations about fudging your qualifications to get into this building. If you don’t qualify, you don’t qualify. If I made too much money to apply for a particular building, I simply wouldn’t apply. I wouldn’t do something that bordered on dishonesty. That rubs me the wrong way.”

      These applications are quite precise – they’ll typically refer to numbers on specific lines in tax forms, or commonly used accounting terms. Deferring income in an accurate way – a way that someone is compliant with the law and taxation, and then using the same information the person has told the government for taxation, is not dishonest. It’s accurate and true.

      1. soitgoes*

        I’m a little fuzzy on these things, but aren’t co-ops intended for people who fall within certain income brackets? If OP gets a substantial raise immediately after signing the lease, isn’t that going to look un-Kosher?

        1. mel*

          I’m a little curious about that generous lower bracket… I get that income must be naturally higher in NYC, but as someone who also lives in a place with extremely expensive housing (but where people earn minimum wage and just live in poverty instead), what’s the deal with requiring a minimum of $43,000? Trying to keep the actual poor people out or what?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I assume it’s because they calculate that you truly couldn’t afford it below that income level. They don’t want to accept people who aren’t going to be able to keep up the payments (as with any mortgage or rental agreement).

            1. Melissa*

              Yes, that’s why. The OP says that it isn’t NYC, but NYC has “affordable” housing (for middle-class tenants) and “low-income” housing. There are all kinds of different brackets for affordable housing – some have even higher minimums.

          2. Parfait*

            I live in a different expensive city, but I am pretty sure the rules are similar. There is “low-income” housing with an income cap that’s quite low. Then there’s “affordable” housing, where the maximum is set to the median income for the city (here, that’s around $59,000) and the rents are set to ~30% of that maximum.

            Different things, not meant to serve the same market.

      2. MK*

        Accurate and true doesn’t make it honest. The OP won’t be lying about their income, but they will be artificially making themselves eligible for a benefit that they should’t really qualify for. Thes apartments are meant for poeple of a certain income bracket, who presumably can’t earn more, not those who could be making more, but are deffering their raises till they get the flat. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is dishonest, but it’s gaming the system; the OP could be depriving the apartnement from a person who will never make more money that the income bracket, while they will go on to receive raises and pay a reduced rent. Of course, the problem is with the system that allows higher-income people to continue to live in these places, even after they are have started earning a lot more money, while people in the income brackets the coop was meant for are waiting for years, but the OP doesn’t have any moral high ground here.

        There is also a chance that higher-ups in the OP’s company, other than her manager, might look askance at this request.

    2. JMW*

      I, too, am uncomfortable with the ethics of manipulating income to look like you make less than you do in order to gain a benefit that should go to someone who genuinely makes less money. Take the promotion and the raise. Hopefully it will lead to more promotions and raises and the ability to afford a studio on your own.

      1. Zillah*

        I don’t really agree with this.

        It’s the OP’s job to look out for the OP. I don’t think that she should step on people in the process, but I also don’t think that she should take the woes of the world and make them her own. If she were making six figures, I would agree with you, but that would be a pretty enormous raise – it seems likely that the raise will push her just above the threshold.

        And, in addition to that, what the same paycheck means to people can be radically different. If Jane were offered a spot in a co-op, would it be unethical for her to take it because she didn’t have any student loans, as opposed to Caroline, who made the same money but had $40k in student loans? Or would it be unethical for Anna to take the spot over Kate, because Kate had to pay far more in medical bills?

        “Genuinely makes less money” is a lot more complicated than a simple paycheck. I don’t know what the OP’s situation is, but I’m not comfortable with the insinuation that she’s unethical.

        1. Natalie*

          Plus, no one’s suggesting the OP misrepresent her income by getting cash under the table or something. A non-wage benefit, like a transit pass or educational spending as others have suggested, is nice but ultimately not the same as cash money.

        2. Sunflower*

          But the thing is in an expensive city, even if you’re making $55,000, that doesn’t put you in a bracket able to afford standard housing costs. She says she would pay $850/month. In Manhattan, a studio apt is going to cost you a couple grand(at least). Most places require you to make 40x rent so you’d need to make $100,000 or more to afford a standard apartment. The gap between co-op income and standard apt living income is so wide that anyone making between 50-100 grand kind of needs help honestly.

          A co-op is not low-income, gov’t subsidized housing also so people who truly need help are not getting anything taken away from them.

      2. Bluehouse*

        Yeah, I also think it’s unethical. I’m pretty sure I have also applied to this co-op (it’s in Boston, not NYC. It took me two years at my current job to make the minimum income requirement. Before that I made less than $43,000. If you can make more than the income requirement, this apartment is not for you .

        Also, the last time I checked the waiting list I number 40. So 40 people have to move out before I have the chance to move in- it’s going to be a long wait.

  11. Mike C.*

    #5 I’d honestly be wary of any company that begrudged me a 200% raise over not having a full two week notice period.

    1. fposte*

      I dunno, that kind of reminds me of the people on The Amazing Race who ask cabbies and bus drivers to hurry because it’s worth a million dollars to them. As one guy finally said, “So what? I’m not getting any of it.”

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Heh, I don’t remember the cabbie who talked back. But I want to high-five him.

        That being said, I think OP’s situation is different and I agree with Mike C. Unlike the cab driver, OP does have a working relationship with her boss and coworkers. She’s not someone just coming out of nowhere and making an unreasonable demand. If a direct report of mine came to me and said, “they offered me three times the money and I’m sorry, but I have to start in a week,” I wouldn’t exactly be delighted at having to make arrangements quickly…but I wouldn’t fault my direct report for deciding that inconveniencing me was a reasonable price to pay for a life-changing amount of money.

        (Then I’d go to senior management and ask why we are paying so far below market rate!)

        That being said, if OP takes it I’d recommend offering up as much else as possible to make the transition easier — offer to answer questions via email for a certain period afterward, or whatever would help that OP can manage.

        1. fposte*

          I think it was actually some airport shuttle guy, and if I recall correctly, it was to Jonathan and Victoria, so I wanted to high-twenty him.

          I think it comes down here to what we mean by “begrudge.” If this is otherwise a good employee, I’m not going to give them bad recommendations down the line because of this, I’m not going to badmouth them to people, and I’m not going to skip a nice goodbye. But yeah, I’m going to be annoyed, and I think that’s fair–I’m getting stuck with a lot of extra work because of this, and the employee’s good luck doesn’t compensate me for that any.

    2. OP#5*

      Should have mentioned my current job is “temporary” (it’s coded that way on my pay stub, even though my manager swears I’m “permenant. They claim they can’t code me that way or offer benefits because HR “won’t let them”). I’m not wary about the company as it is extremely well known and the salary was made known during the initial phone interview (I actually put $7000 less down on the required salary part of the online application) way before I was offered the job. My problem is how to soften the blow. (If it weren’t for the holidays, it would be a different situation).

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        In this case, you don’t have much obligation to soften the blow. Give your one week notice and be happy. A company where “HR won’t let them” treat employees properly doesn’t deserve much, so you are being generous.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, and if the company freaks out on the person, they’re in the wrong. But that doesn’t change the fact that OP needs to acknowledge that she’s violating a normal professional convention and go out of her way to try to mitigate that for them.

      1. OP#5*

        Thank you for the advice Alison and for posting my question where I can gain insight from your readers! Much appreciated!!

  12. fposte*

    #1 mostly makes me really happy not to live in New York. But I wanted to add that if you’re crunching numbers on this, don’t forget to factor in any difference the raise would make to what you contribute to retirement, because that’s a long-term and compounded effect.

  13. Carl Montana*

    #2 – family holiday card at work

    Alison’s advice seemed weird to me, but maybe I’m the weird one.

    Sending family holiday cards to coworkers has been the norm in my experience. My experience is large corporations in the Midwest and Florida.

    I agree in the concept of keeping work and personal life separate inasmuch that it may be unwise to spend Monday mornings regaling the details of your crazy weekends to your coworkers. But the fact that you have a family is not some facet of your personal life that needs to be kept separate anymore than the color of your hair or if you were glasses. It’s simply an attribute of who you are. And sending a family holiday card, in my opinion, is simply an extension of having a family.

    But again, my experience and opinion may not be the norm.

    1. ggg*

      I hadn’t been giving out cards at all, but this year I got enough family cards from employees that I gave them our family card too. No gifts — we all pitch in to get the admin something, but that’s it.

    2. fposte*

      When you say sending family holiday cards, do you mean sending cards through the mail to their home addresses, or do you mean including them in work-based materials handed out at work?

      My workplace blurs personal and professional like nobody’s business, if you’ll excuse the ironic phrasing, and we send a ton of holiday cards to one another. But I would still not put a personal family card in with a work-related gift, because to me that’s too much crossing of the streams–it’s suggesting that this action isn’t work-based even though it’s happening at work. It’s kind of like getting a gift from your aunt where she puts her business card in.

      1. LBK*

        That’s a great point – adding a personal card like that to a gift given at work implies the gift is being given friend-to-friend, not manager-to-employee. I disagree with Alison that in general a boss giving a gift to their employees blurs the personal line too much (as long as it’s something generic like chocolate or a bottle of wine) but I think the card could push a platonic work gift over the line into something inappropriate.

    3. LBK*

      I don’t think you have to hide the fact that you have a family at work by any means, but I think sending a Christmas card with a picture of them is overly personal. Usually those end up displayed on the fridge or with other holiday decorations – and I think a picture of my boss would be really out of place amongst photos of close friends and family members unless we have an inappropriately friendly relationship.

    4. RFWL*

      I worked at a large corporate in the Midwest and was surprised to see family cards being given to employees from managers. The worst was when I got one from a boss I utterly and completely despised. Fair to say I didn’t even open it, but filed it away to stumble across one day in the future when I have had space and time to laugh about the hell he put me through.

      I know the big family photo card and yearly letter is a big deal in the Midwest, so maybe this is an extension of that, but I felt uncomfortable receiving the card on a general level unrelated to our poor working relationship. The card was way too personal, to me, and as someone who wasn’t very interested in his family and life outside of work, not something I enjoyed receiving. Frankly if it had been a normal card I certainly wouldn’t have thought it odd, but the ultra-personal nature made it awkward.

    5. UnEmplaylist*

      I rarely disagree with AAM– in fact this must be the first time. But I agree with the comment above. Work is a huge part of life, but family is even huger. There is no reason to hide that from your employees. I see nothing wrong with including a family photo with your gift. I would skip the
      Bratty Christmas letter, but a photo of your family that says happy new year? Why not? We are all human beings and I think it’s a nice way of acknowledging that. By the way, happy holidays to everyone!

      1. LBK*

        I think it depends largely on the culture of your department and your relationship with your manager. I would be really uncomfortable getting a Christmas card from my manager that had a picture of his family on it, it would seem way too personal for the level of our relationship.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t see how it translates to hiding it from your employees, since this is unlikely to be people’s only opportunity to mention their families to their colleagues–if anything, it’s even weirder if you’ve never mentioned your family and then suddenly put a family photograph in with a work thank you.

        But the present isn’t from their supervisor’s family, it’s from their supervisor.

    6. Bea W*

      I live in the cranky north east, and have never seen this. I would think it was weird if my co-workers within whom I don’t have any relationship outside of work started sending me family cards. I’ve never met their families!

    7. OP #2*

      This year I gave the snowman card because the family ones felt too personal. But I wondered if I was being too sensitive. We work for a government entity so I sadly can’t do bonuses or time off.

      1. fposte*

        I think that was the right call, but as I said, I don’t think it would been a huge thing if you’d put the other one in. Just that if you’re choosing, I’d choose the one that didn’t bring home life into it.

    8. Sunflower*

      I think part of the reason it feels weird is I don’t know what to do with the card. Like my family gets them from our cousins, aunts, etc and we hang them on the fridge. I’m not hanging it on my bulletin board but I feel bad shoving it in my desk drawer or throwing it out.

      I don’t think it’s a totally bizarre thing to do though and its not going to think anything differently of a person for doing it but yeah it does make me a little uncomfortable

      1. KerryOwl*

        I think Rex is referring to the fact that the first OP was asking about deferring a raise, but part of Alison’s response (and the majority of the commentariot’s response) is focused on trying to convince the OP to give up the idea of the co-op. The OP has already made up her mind in that respect.

        1. LBK*

          Which is why Alison specifically says she knows this isn’t what the OP was asking. In general I find Alison is extremely good at only answering what the OP asks – it’s usually the comments section that’s filled with unsolicited advice. I don’t think a once-a-year exception is noteworthy or merits the snark of Rex’s comment.

          1. Sadsack*

            Yeah, this isn’t a robot advice dispensary, it is an online community — love it or leave it. Just like any other conversation, if you are asking complete strangers for their input, be prepared to get more than you anticipated.

            1. KerryOwl*

              You have to LOVE it or leave it? Really? You can’t like it most of the time, but still be a little annoyed that most of the commenters here are focusing on something that the OP feels very confident about? Rex made a short little comment (with which I agree), you guys are making a bigger deal about it than he did in the first place. And it wasn’t even the OP complaining! Chill out, dudes.

              1. Sadsack*

                I meant the idea of it, not necessarily every single thing that is written here. We’re human, we opine.

              2. Melissa*

                This comment is kind of ironic…Rex was annoyed at the unsolicited advice; the commenters were annoyed at his comment.

  14. Jake*

    I’ve given deferred raises before. I’m a huge fan of them in situations where a raise is actually detrimental (which became far more common with the affordable Healthcare act). I’m actually giving an employee a huge raise on the first of the year because she requested that it be deferred until then for Healthcare reasons.

    1. Bea W*

      I totally under this. For a long time (way back when prior to ACA) I had to limit my income to be able to keep my health coverage under Medicaid, which I could not afford to be without. Being without the ability to cover care for chronic conditions would quickly put me out of work. It was a delicate balancing act until I could finish enough school and get enough experience to get a stable better paying job with health benefits that kept my care affordable on whatever income I was making. It’s a crappy choice to have to make.

  15. Sabrina*

    #5 I had to do this once. It was also because of training. BUT I was leaving a call center. Most people didn’t give any notice, they either say that they weren’t coming back after today or they just stopped showing up. I gave three days notice, and most folks seemed shocked that I bothered. So on the flip side of that, if I ever leave this company, how much notice do I give them?

    1. OP#5*

      The job I left for my current was a customer service hourly job and I gave 2 weeks notice and management was shocked I didn’t just tell them day of as is common in customer service.

      I think 2 weeks is pretty standard to give notice.

  16. JR*

    OP 1: I know your situation well. In my younger days, I qualified for a “reduced rent” apartment because I was self employed and, at least on paper, my after-expense income was very low. I had a beautiful apartment on the 16th floor with sweeping views. “Income review” was done every two years, and once my income passed a certain threshhold, my rent increased to market rate.

    This created a perverse disincentive for me to grow my business. I spent my early 20s working about 20 hours a week since if I worked 40 I would end up with LESS money due to having to pay market rate rent. Unfortunately, it also cost me growth and success, which I didn’t realize until later.

    1. soitgoes*

      I want to piggyback off this a bit (the idea that you can’t keep a raise a secret) and point out that, if you and your neighbors/peers are in your late-20s/early-30s, it’s very obvious when one of us has more money than the others. It’s an odd instinct that people 20 years older than us don’t really understand. We’re all so used to having conversations about student loans progress a certain way, or only being able to afford certain types of furniture, or having to forgo cable and only get Netflix, or not being able to eat at certain restaurants very often. I can walk into a peer’s home and usually assume (correctly) if she received an inheritance or had a nice college fund or something. And there’s nothing wrong with having your parents provide a nice nest egg for you! I just think it needs to be said that the class divides among millennials are very strong these days, and if the co-op is seeking people from a certain class, it would be incredibly difficult to keep mum about the extra income. It’s a bit easier to spot outside of NYC (where I live, you can gauge income by someone’s car), but it’s not like people wouldn’t notice eventually. If OP gets that raise and spends it on visible things, people are going to figure out that his income is more than he initially disclosed.

      I live in a building whose management is trying to transition away from a certain demographic and appeal to a different one. It’s uncomfortable to see the disparities between things like coats, handbags and shoes…who has typical (white collar) office hours and who leaves for work during times that are typical of retail or bartending. We all have an idea of who has more money than others. I find it somewhat hard to believe that a co-op with an intitial income limit wouldn’t care if someone suddenly started making way more money but took up an apartment that was intended for someone with more limited means. Unless they assume that someone with more money wouldn’t stay there.

      1. Natalie*

        “started making way more money but took up an apartment that was intended for someone with more limited means.”

        From what the OP says, I’m not sure the raise is necessarily “way more money”. An extra $5,000-10,000 could easily push her over the income threshold without noticeably altering her day to day standard of living. Depending on her tax rate, it’s going to be somewhere between $65-$150 a week more. Nothing to sneeze at, for sure, but not rolling in it either.

        1. soitgoes*

          I don’t really want to keep hashing out this particular point, but as someone who lives alone in a studio (like the OP plans to), an extra $100 a week would substantially and noticeably change my standard of living. You’re an adult with no dependents and your expenses haven’t changed – $100 a week goes really far.

          1. Natalie*

            Interesting. I’m in the same boat, and roughly the same income as OP, and while I can imagine what I’d spend another $100/week on I’m hard pressed to see how my neighbors would notice. Unless they can ID cage free eggs from standard by smell or something.

            1. soitgoes*

              where I live (in the suburbs), there’s an obvious difference when most of a friend group makes $25k and one or two people make $30k. I’m somewhat comfortable equating that to a $40k vs $45k disparity in NYC. Your neighbors might not notice that your eggs are free-range, but they could easily notice you carrying grocery bags from health-conscious food stores that they cannot afford to shop in.

        2. Melissa*

          Um, $10,000 is an extra ~$600 a month after taxes. I’m in that co-op bracket right now and trust me, that would noticeably alter my day to day standard of living.

      2. Sunflower*

        But I don’t think they care. If they really cared, they’d check OP’s income level every couple years and adjust rent like JR’s did

      3. Manders*

        I would say this is very region-dependent. In my area and age group, thrifting can be a point of pride and displaying an obvious brand name is considered a bit crass. I’ve known people who I thought were barely scraping by based on their lifestyles, and then it turned out they had a trust fund all along; I’ve also known people who spent way beyond their means trying to maintain a certain look.

        I do agree that OP is setting herself up for problems if the co-op’s rules ever change to include periodic income reviews, or if she appears to be wildly out of sync with her neighbors in terms of income. But I also know that there’s a massive gap between what low-income housing allows and what you can actually live on in many cities, and I can’t fault the OP for keeping that in mind as she makes plans for the next few years.

        I’m not sure if this is possible, but would it be possible for the company to give the OP a raise in the form of a housing allowance, which can only be spent on rent? Might that change the way she reports her taxes or income? I know the military and certain non-profits can do this, but I’m not sure if for-profit businesses can do the same.

        1. Melissa*

          I would imagine that a co-op trying to determine an income limit would count a housing allowance in that income, but who knows?

  17. Steve G*

    #1. If you want to limit your income, you are also going to limit your and your employer’s contributions to your 401K, as well as your contribution to social security. That is going to be a problem from you when you get old.

    1. Zillah*

      Sure, but it’s a trade-off; if the OP ends up saving many thousands of dollars a year on housing over the span of many years, it might balance out. I mean, it’s not ideal, but it’s hardly the end of the world, either. A lot of people would choose flexibility or more PTO over a larger paycheck, and if the OP can get that instead of the raise, I don’t think she should lose any sleep over it.

  18. Bea W*

    #4 Reminds me of my brother’s resume where he described one job as being “under the table”. It’s totally okay to go back to your friend (or friend of friend) and suggest edits that will give him a better chance of getting a job. Some people just suck at resumes and writing but are actually good at what they do and are good employees (like my brother, who totally fails at writing) and don’t mind a little help in this weak area if it means they’ll have a better shot at getting a job.

  19. Student*

    #1 You are on a TWO YEAR waiting list for an apartment. A lot of things can happen in two years – you may never get into that apartment. Don’t put your life on hold for something that may never happen – just keep looking for other housing that would better suit your needs.

    They may change their income rang requirement in that time frame. They may add some favored people ahead of you to the waiting list, so that you never get an apartment – relatives of residents, friends and family of the owner, who knows. They may change ownership and restart the wait list and its requirements entirely.

    You might find someone you like having as a room-mate. You might even get married. You might get annual cost-of-living raises that still push you out of this apartment’s income bracket.

  20. Sunflower*

    #2- Don’t send the personalized cards. Someone left one on my desk the other day and it just had the kids pictures and the families first names. I had no idea who it was from or who’s family it is. It was rather creepy honestly. Stick to the generic cards.

    #4- I would reply as Allison said with some tips on how to improve. Depending on how close you are with the guy(sounds like not close), you could attach a generic resume that looks good(or direct him to this site!) Never forward along a resume that doesn’t look good. It’s one thing to forward a resume that isn’t really a fit for a job but its quite another to forward one that visually just looks a mess.

  21. Zillah*

    OP 1 – I totally get where you’re coming from, but I’d strongly caution you to avoid turning down the promotion or more compensation; it could have long term consequences in terms of your continuing to get further promotions and raises.

    That said, I’d absolutely look into getting the compensation in an alternative form. Rather than getting a raise, can you look into getting more PTO, regular telecommuting, or something similar? Preferably, it’d be something that doesn’t have a clear monetary amount attached to it, because then even if the co-op considers other perks as part of your gross income, you won’t be penalized. And, even if the co-op falls through or you find an alternative housing situation that you prefer, you’d be left with something positive, even if it’s not strictly financial. You can make an arrangement (in writing) to revisit the situation in a couple years.

  22. Cassie*

    #2 – We have a faculty member who gives out Christmas cards with a photo of his kids and some staff members like getting it and putting it up on their walls. I personally was a little ambivalent about it – what am I going to do with this Christmas card? I feel bad about trashing it but I also don’t want to keep it. I ended up stashing it in a file drawer for some time and then tossing it.

    I guess the point is it would depend on how close your staff are to you (in terms of on a personal level). I assume you send out photo holiday cards to friends and family because those people would enjoy receiving such a card, since they know you and your family. It’s like families who send out “newsletters” letting friends & family know what has happened over the past year. If you sent something like that to your employees, it would be weird.

    So I guess I’d say “no, don’t do it”. It’s a waste of your money (assuming photo cards cost more than regular cards) and though some people may appreciate it, others won’t (or won’t care for it).

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