Bryan Trugman articulates a clear vision of his future, one with financial security and a thriving business, a wife and kids, a dream similar to the one his father realized through years of discipline and hard work.
He’s 28, single, and a professional financial planner, managing the portfolios of people twice his age. He’s sharp, well-spoken, upbeat and, like his dad, a member of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce.
He also lives in his brother's home. For now, a place of his own, even a small apartment, is out of the question.
He’s not alone. Long Island communities like Plainview are losing some of their brightest young people because they can’t afford to stay here. The financial statistics are staggering, especially when compared with a previous generation’s. But numbers fail to convey the human toll of the phenomenon called “brain drain.”
In the last decade, Nassau County almost 27,000 residents ages 25-34 and an even more shocking 45,000 residents between ages 35-44 over the same period. The numbers are similar for Suffolk County.
“We’re losing young people because we don’t have the affordable housing they need,” said Pearl Kamer, chief economist of the Long Island Association, Long Island’s largest business and civic organization.
“It’s frustrating,” said Trugman. “You’re trying to be that trusted financial planner and a professional and you don’t earn enough income right away to live on your own.
“It’s challenging when you want to live for today and you are constantly working for tomorrow,” said Trugman, who grew up in nearby Bethpage and now works with his father, Jeffrey M. Trugman, at the latter's North Shore Financial Group.
“I love Long Island,” Bryan said. “But if it weren’t for having a brother who let me stay with him, and parents who are supportive of me, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Long Island doesn't seem to know what to do, either.
“When you lose your work force it makes it more difficult to grow your economy,” Kamer said. “We’re starting to grow private sector jobs on Long Island. … The problem is, and this is particularly for technical firms, they can’t find (qualified, skilled workers) on Long Island.”
One way to look at the issue is through the lens of local rental costs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets figures for fair-market rents. In 2001, the figure for an efficiency studio apartment is $1,218. A one bedroom is $1,407; a two-bedroom - $1,661
Jill Rosen-Nikoloff, director of affordable housing for Suffolk County, said the figures rise by 2.5 to 3 percent every year, with cost of living.
A review of recent published listings for rental homes or apartments in the Plainview area tells the story. The limited offerings are steep and hard to find:
- Four bedroom colonial in Plainview: $2,450 a month.
- Two-bedroom apartment in nearby Bethpage; Walk to LIRR: $1,500.
OK, so Plainview and Bethpage are a bit expensive, with its great schools, etc. Other places nearby can't be as expensive? Right?
- Three-bedroom unit in Levittown: $2,200.
- One-bedroom, Oyster Bay: $1,325.
- Four-bedroom house, Farmingdale: $$2,300
Then, suddenly, in the same publication, there's an affordable-appearing listing for a one-bedroom in Old Bethpage, featuring "a living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, separate entrance. Includes utilities. no pets. non-smoker: $875."
On Long Island, phrases like "includes utilities" or "private entrance" are code. It means the apartment is in a private home, probably a basement.
And it's probably in violation of state and local building and fire codes, experts say.
There's another toll: A human one.
"As any good parent we always hope our children do better than us and lead happy, productive lives, and that was my expectation when he was growing up," said Trugman's dad, Jeffrey. "Now I find that in today’s world, you try to provide all those tools, a good education, a good home, but the reality is that the expectations are not necessarily there
"Living on Long Island is very, very difficult for young people because of the expenses," the elder Trugman said.
Both men are used to helping clients whose fiscal houses are in disarray. Both said they work with people to live within their means and not leverage their futures.
Like so many young people who grew up here, Trugman wants to stay here. After graduating from SUNY Binghamton, he moved to an apartment in Queens he shared with three roomates. After a while, even that became too costly for someone who takes financial planning seriously.
It's easy to see why. Seven in 10 Long Islanders own their homes and most are relatively modest -- less than $350,000 in value, according to a report by Rauch, a Long Island think tank based in Garden City.
Renters tend to have lower family incomes; more than half earn under $60,000 a year, the report states.
Assuming that same $60,000 household income takes out 25 percent for taxes and health insurance costs, what's left is $45,000 a year in take-home pay, or $3,750 per month. If the rent eats up half of that, the young, single renter is left with about $400 a week to work with. That's for gas, food, car insurance, utilities, clothing and entertainment.
Housing costs are a burden not only on young adults but on the lower middle class. According to the Rauch report, among those earning between $20,000 and $60,000, almost three- fifths pay over 30 percent of their income for housing, the conventional figure for affordable housing.
Trugman has an understanding girlfriend, and both recognize that two-income homes have become the standard for living on Long Island. Both are willing to put off the future until it's financially secure. Trugman wonders when that day will come.
“It’s challenging to save for that rainy day and to also live for today,” the younger Trugman said.