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Money Pit

Richard Quinn  |  May 30, 2019

ON JUNE 6, 2018, we closed on our new condo in a 55-plus community. The time had come to avoid the stairs in our three-story house. Moving after more than 40 years was quite a transition. Still, condo living is great—so much less house stuff to do or worry about. Eventually, our monthly expenses will be greatly reduced.

Notice I haven’t mentioned selling our house. That’s because we haven’t. The thought of cleaning out a house, closing on the sale and moving within a few days was beyond comprehension, so we did what any pair of sensible 75- and 79-year-olds would do. We took out a $600,000 mortgage to buy the condo, which we’d pay off when the house was sold a few months later.

That few months is now close to one year—and the wait could go on for months, if not longer. What the heck was I thinking? This reminds me of 1987, when I bought a beach house four months before the oldest of our four children started college.

Given my confidence that the condo mortgage would only last a few months, I put down just 10%, thus incurring both the cost of mortgage insurance and a higher interest rate. That proved to be a questionable strategy. The “good news” is, our 2018 itemized deductions exceeded the $24,000 standard deduction and we got a whopping tax refund—in return for losing $13,000 to mortgage interest.

For almost 12 months, I’ve been paying property taxes, insurance and utilities on two residences, plus the beach house. I was smart enough to cancel one cable service, though. Did I mention the monthly condo homeowners’ association fee?

It seems we’re paying a high price for our questionable stress-reduction strategy—which lately hasn’t been so good for my stress level. I now marvel at the apparent efficiency of others. A woman moved into our new condo building a few months after we did. She’s fully settled in and has yet to place a single item in the two large storage units that come with each condo. Ours are bulging at the seams, with more stuff to come.

I pride myself on being fiscally conservative, logical and practical, covering all the bases when it comes to money. But as you can see, there are exceptions. Downsizing? You might want to consider a different strategy from ours.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.com. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include Crying PovertyShortsighted and Farewell Money. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.

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