With rents and housing prices soaring ever higher across Miami-Dade County, how do locals afford to live here? New Times set out to find out by talking to Miamians with varying income levels about how they make life in South Florida work for them. This is the first story in a series.
Maria Andrea Silva, 24
Job: Advertising specialist with Webris
Salary: $42,000 a year
What brought you to Miami, and what makes you want to stay?
What brought me to Miami (from Venezuela) was a scholarship. And actually, the impulse was the situation in Venezuela wasn't that good... I started working during the day and studying at night. I was living in a rented room. I started working in a store at Dolphin Mall, and then from there I was a waitress, and then I had this opportunity to study digital marketing in Miami-Dade for a semester... From that point, Ryan, who is my current boss, saw me doing Facebook ads and asked if I wanted to come in with him. The application was already finished, and now I'm here. This became my full-time job, and I still study at nights. I'm graduating in July.
Which neighborhood do you live in? Do you rent or own?
Well, I just got engaged. I used to live in Doral... then I moved with my fiancé to Brickell. We rent.
What are you saving for right now?
I'm saving to pay my school, because after I graduate, I have this debt. After that, I guess health insurance or something.
When you're not working, what takes up most of your time?
I'm a flamenco teacher. I dance flamenco. I work out a lot. Actually, working takes up almost all of my day... I'm working here as an advertising specialist, and I really like design, so I'm trying to take these online courses after work when I have time.
What is the biggest financial stress in your life?
The loans. I'm already paying them. Because I'm an immigrant, I don't have financial aid, actually, thank God. I've been paying my university since I got here, like monthly payments... At the beginning, it was tough; it was tough as hell. But now I'm like, thank God I did it because now I'm graduating and I don't have $20,000 in debt; I have like $5,000 in debt. It's not horrible.
Do you think you make enough money?
Yeah, for what I need. I never thought I could make this much because I haven't graduated yet... When you have so many jobs that pay so little, like being a waitress, you work on weekends, you work until midnight or 1 a.m. If you work at the mall, you don't have weekends. So here I'm very happy.
Is Miami an expensive city?
Way expensive. Almost all my money goes to rent.
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You just got paid, and you're hitting the town for the night. What's your first stop?
I know it's going to sound weird, but I get paid and I just pay my credit cards... The thing I do to feel better when I get paid is doing my nails; I got to do my nails. But to be honest, I'm not that wild person that goes and parties all day, because I need to pay these things.
What's something you hate spending money on?
I hate spending money on parking, gas, rent. I hate all those because it's so expensive... Rent is where my salary goes to. I pay like $1,200. That's a lot of money.
What's something you wish you had more money to spend on?
Maybe to buy things that I like. I really like going out. I would like to have a bicycle; I would like to have rollerblades... I want to do so many things, but the time is coming after I pay these loans... And I have a wedding. When I got engaged, I was like, "You know I don't have money for a wedding, right? I'm still paying my school."
What's something you consistently spend money on even though you know you shouldn't?
Clothes. That's my weakness. I have enough clothes, but I keep buying.