Monthly Archives: April 2017

To Buy or Not to Buy

I have always been very interested in researching residential real estate, not as an investment, but as a potential future home. Even when I was a teenager I would be excited on Fridays (before Zillow was around) because the local newspaper would release the real estate section of the paper. It would list all the past week’s transactions, plus it had all the current listings with pictures. I used to dream of being able to buy the big property on 100 acres for a million bucks. In the past couple of years Zillow has replaced Facebook as my time-suck when I’m lazy or want to procrastinate.

Now that I have been engaged to my fianceé for about a month, we have more seriously considered buying a place and have been hitting up some open houses every few weeks. We currently rent a condo that is definitely too big for us, but we pay around 20% below market for it and it gets the job done. My issue is I grew up in the country and our current residence doesn’t have a yard which definitely gets me a little down from March through November. My parents still live in the same house which they built in their 20’s, and that home and property are where some of my fondest memories exist. Helping my dad build a porch, or a closet, or fixing who knows what, mowing the lawn, cutting wood, etc., are all things I remember and enjoyed.

I now think I want something like that of my own – a garage to tinker in or a lawn to host friends and family during the summer months. I know owning a home isn’t all roses and I would have to make time for a lot of things I don’t have to do now (if I don’t want to outsource), such as mowing, clearing snow, and general outdoor maintenance, but honestly I don’t mind those things. I kind of find them enjoyable and I can zen out while doing them. I’m also pretty damn handy if I do say so myself.

Now from a financial perspective, I live in a decently lower cost of living area which helps compared to the Northeast, where I’m from. But on the downside, our area seems to have quite the hot real estate market lately and homes priced right are selling within a couple of days. Personally, I think we are ready to own as we both love the area. Financially, we have no debt and the silly online calculators tell us we can “afford” a home that is three to four times the amount we are looking to spend. We definitely won’t be stretching ourselves if we continue to earn about the same income (or even a decent amount less). For the most part, we would not have to sacrifice any of our long-term investment goals if we decided to own, which is a big plus.

Now for the downsides to ownership. I work remotely. If work ever wanted to put an end to that and I wanted to stay in my current location (where we potentially buy a house), I would most likely have to take a pretty significant pay cut. This is one of the many reasons we are looking well below what the online calculators are suggesting we can spend. I think one of our main goals (since I believe my income is a little less “sticky” than my fianceé’s) is to be able to afford the house and daily lives on her income alone, just in case I decide to pursue entrepreneurship or lose my current job.

Even if we decide not to buy for the foreseeable future, I think I will continue to have my eyes open, ready to pounce on the right place. Owning a paid off home has never been part of my financial independence plans, but it definitely sounds like those who have paid off their homes do not regret it one bit.

Do you think we are ready to buy a home? Or due to my current work situation, maybe it’s not the best idea? 

Slowing Things Down

My life has been a series of events which I have tried to speed up. Normal speed just has never cut it. First example I remember was with making money. When I was too young to have a traditional job, I enlisted my Mom to ask her network if they needed babysitting services for their kids. The day I turned 15, I went around town and figured out who would employ a 15 year-old (with actual W2 income). High school came, and college co-op and AP classes took up my time. Then college came and I wanted to get into the real world, making an adult income as soon as possible, so I graduated in three years.

In my first job out of college I thought I should have been promoted after two years, but I was passed over. So I went out and got another job offer, at which point my employer said “if you stay we’ll beat your new salary and promote you now.” I turned them down, and didn’t look back. I didn’t have time for employers who couldn’t keep up with my pace.

After two years at my new job, things were moving too slowly for me in New England. So, I applied internally for a new job, got it, and they moved me to Manhattan for the new role.

As soon as I got to Manhattan, I discovered financial independence and went 0 to 100 real quick. I had already sold my car when I moved, so I had to find other ways to lower expenses. All subscription services – canned. All the eating out turned to finding the best grocery store options. 401k maxed. Roth IRA maxed. HSA maxed. Figuring out how to engineer my life so that I could get to FI sooner was a frequent mission.

After two years in Manhattan and a life of always speeding things up (and a city that never sleeps), I decided to slow things down. I was now in a long term, long distance relationship. I had to make some choices. While my friends were all buying new cars, new houses, and having kids, I moved to the Midwest, bought a bicycle, and continue to rent.

A few weeks ago I took a week off of work and flew to New England to stay at my parents’ and catch up with family and friends. Whenever I come home, I enjoy the slower pace of life in a rural town with less than 3,000 residents. Walks in the woods. Dinners with family at my childhood home. All good stuff and a nice escape from work where hours rarely keep to 40 a week. When I was in New England, I did some thinking about how things had changed in the past year, and for the better, and boy have they.

The most obvious one to me was that I have made a conscious effort to be more deliberate with my time. Time is one of the only things that can’t be purchased. Nowadays, the things most important to me get a time slot no matter how busy life and work become. Weeks of my PTO are now set aside for visits to family and friends. Sixty to ninety minutes, four times a week are slotted for my gym routine. An hour a couple nights a week set aside for Netflix dates. Non-fiction books on topics that interest me over random cable TV shows. Dinners together are now made a priority rather than fit in around work. Getting around town now requires extra time since I try to do it on my bike as much as possible.

It turned out slowing life down is not a bad thing. It has actually IMPROVED my life. I’ve been very happy to see some folks in the financial independence community starting to float around new mantras, such as “building the life you want to live, now” and not waiting until you have a million dollars in Vanguard index funds to live the life you want. Life (and financial independence) isn’t a race. It’s okay to take the path less traveled, even if it means it’ll take longer to reach your end goal. Enjoying the journey is just as important as reaching the end goal.

Have you made a conscious effort to slow things down? Or are you more of a “life in the fast lane” type?