I recently finished a history of the Anheuser Busch family – while I realized mid-through that it was most likely yellow journalism and of dubious quality, what I found striking was how closely linked the family’s ability to shmooze /connect /donate/ sway politicians was to the success of their company. Truly, to understand a situation, it is so helpful to understand what the interests and motivations of those involved are. A really simple situation comes to mind – I booked a conference room at work for a meeting, and when one of my colleagues got to the room, he asked incredulously “why are we meeting in THIS room?” because he’d had to trek all the way from a different floor. I laughed and pointed out that this conference room was about 5 feet from my desk – so the meeting was in that particular conference room because I had booked it and it was convenient to me.
Hence my bold statement: the American Dream of owning a home – might kind of be a scam. I can see why the government, businesses (employers), and businesses (non-employers) have a vested interested in having more Americans as homeowners. People with vested interests in a property and a community, people with roots, people who are stable – those are people large companies was to employ, and the government relies on them to keep communities safe. And of course there are large and powerful industries relying on the consumption of property – realtors and real estate agents.
In economic terms, everything has absolute and relative value: stocks aren’t separated into those you want to buy and those you don’t, but rather by what price you’re willing to pay for them. So is the decision to buy or to rent impacted by the relative costs involved: in some areas, buying is more cost-efficient than renting, while in others the decision is less clear. It stands to reason that buying a house is not great for everyone. There is an enormous advantage to being geographically flexible to your career and personal life as a young (or open or undecided) individual. Taking that incredible far-away job, or taking a chance on love, is much easier when there isn’t a home weighing you down. Of course, roots are put down regardless of whether you own or rent, and having friends and family worth staying for is wonderful.
Most Americans pay an alarming amount of interest on their mortgages. But wait, what about the tax deductions you’re able to take? I am mostly ignant on the details there, but I wonder if that option is falsely comforting. Obviously the tax deduction benefits are less than the interest paid – so is this deduction doing more damage than good? Being penny-wise but pound-foolish (cheaping out at Chipotle and forgoing the guac while paying an arm and a leg to live alone instead of with roommates) is foolish. Every individual’s tax situation is different, and just as ‘buy a house’ can’t be great advice all around, the converse is not uniformly wise either. However, I have to question the motives of the industry and businesses that advocate home-ownership: are they really looking out for your best interest?
Y’all, I am becoming the renaissance man I have always wanted to be – my new hobby is dissecting/critiquing conventional wisdom. And I just sewed my first clothing item: PJ pants. Life is sweet.