THE KITCHEN REMODEL is complete. It’s so new that we’re still trying to remember where we put the can opener. Truth be told, we haven’t quite learned how to work all the appliances, either.
Ready or not, our remodeled kitchen was recently put to the test by the visit of two of our children’s families—including five teenagers. There were ongoing warnings like “be careful how you close that drawer” and “don’t put that there,
OVER THE PAST decade, my wife and I have hired others to handle most home improvement projects. It all came down to a lack of time: We had two young children and demanding jobs in the corporate world. But thanks to my recent switch to teaching, I have more free time, so I decided to tackle a few projects this summer. Here are three things I learned:
Painting is possible. For more than a year,
WHEN I TOLD MY WIFE a few years ago that I wanted to retire by age 50, she was supportive from the get-go. The memories of her dad passing away soon after his 52nd birthday played a role in her snap approval. But it took us a while to sort through the full financial implications.
I figured that our lifestyle, including our foreign travels and occasional splurges, would be the same even if my paychecks stopped prematurely.
IN THE PAST THREE years, Jim and I have moved five times—three times in Spain and twice in Dallas. We sold almost all our possessions when we moved to Spain, taking just four suitcases and two cats. When we returned to Dallas, we didn’t bring home much more—five suitcases and two cats.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that I prefer living in a smaller home. I love the design of Spanish houses, which are—on average—just half the size of equivalent U.S.
REAL ESTATE PRICES in California are through the roof. The price of a smaller home in our neighborhood just sold for $80,000 above the list price. Not only is housing expensive for retirees like us, but also the cost of living in California is very high. Gas, food and taxes are a lot higher here than in other places favored by retirees, such as the Sunbelt.
When I was going to school, I was never good at math.
THREE YEARS AGO, I bought a home a few weeks before getting married. The purchase wasn’t so much an investment as a necessity: My new husband and I owned four dogs between us, and we knew we’d have a difficult time finding a rental that would allow that many pets.
I’d lived in the Portland, Oregon, metro area for nearly 30 years and had owned two other homes. I knew which neighborhoods to avoid,
ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO, we renovated our entire Washington, DC, home. The memory is still quite fresh. If you’ve ever renovated a house, you’ll understand.
A home renovation has similarities to personal finance: You can do it yourself (DIY), you can pay someone to do it for you, or you can do something in between. This last approach has worked well for me—both with renovations and financial matters.
Our home consisted of a three-level townhouse.
THERE ARE A GREAT many terrible problems. Having too much cash typically isn’t seen as one of them. Yet that’s where we are. Following our move back to the U.S. from Spain, we found ourselves with an abundance of cash sitting in our brokerage account. And these days, with interest rates the way they are, that cash doesn’t do much more than sit.
The upshot: We decided to purchase some rental properties. We have one rental unit already—our former home—but we plan to make it our home once again.
STOP LUSTING AFTER homes on Zillow. It’s time to get serious about the property market—and ask whether houses today are a good value.
Make no mistake: Real estate is red hot. Bloomberg recently reported that demand is so strong that almost half of U.S. homes sell within a week of coming to market. The S&P Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index surged 12% over the 12 months through February, with the Phoenix and San Diego markets leading the way with 17% gains.
MANY DREAM OF retiring to the beach. My wife and I just did it. We recently sold our primary home outside Philadelphia and moved to our vacation home on the New Jersey Shore. The decision wasn’t easy. It was the result of a number of events coming together, including the pandemic, the hot real estate market and an attractive, but unexpected offer on our primary home.
We’d lived in our old home since 1994.
MUCH IS WRITTEN about whether it’s better to rent or own your home. Not nearly enough ink is devoted to the issue of renting from a bad landlord.
Perhaps personal finance writers avoid the topic because they’re wary of providing legal advice when discussing potential remedies. On top of that, landlord-tenant law varies greatly from state to state, with some states offering greater protection to tenants and others affording landlords wider latitude.
I know a fair amount about this because I not only spent 14 years as an active-duty Army servicemember who had to move frequently,
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am the antithesis of the DIY guy. I was completely banned from home repairs many years ago after I set out to replace an electrical outlet—but switched off the wrong circuit breaker before doing so.
We’ve undertaken two major renovations in the past 12 years. The first was an addition to our vacation home. The second is ongoing—a new kitchen at the same house.
We spent months on the plans. In the case of the addition,
IN MY EARLY 30s, I was a typical blue-collar worker. The only way I invested was through my employer’s 401(k) plan. But I was a good saver, putting 25% of my income into the plan, which was the maximum allowed, plus I got a generous company match of 8%. Still, I was on the lookout for ways to increase my savings and my investment returns. That was early 2006.
I read a variety of books to further my personal finance knowledge.
THERE’S SOMETHING very emotional about our homes—and how we think about their value. Take the conversation my wife and I had a couple of weeks ago.
“Did you see the house behind us went up for sale this week? They have it listed at 141% more than what we paid for our house.”
“Well, there’s no way their house is worth that much.”
“Oh really? I just talked to our neighbor—the one who’s a realtor—and he said they had five offers the first day it went up.
MY FATHER WAS A CAR salesman who, for many years, worked totally on commission, with no paid vacation. In 1953, when I was 10 years old, we went to Cape Cod for a week. A friend gave him a tip on a great place to stay. In his enthusiasm, my father booked for a week and paid in advance.
The place turned out to be worse than a Second World War army barracks. My mother refused to stay.