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.
MY SON AND HIS fiancée recently purchased their first home. They’ve asked me about things like how to fix a leaky faucet, but they haven’t asked me for financial advice—which is a good thing, because I’ve had very limited experience buying houses.
You see, my wife and I bought our first and only home in 1986. We paid $89,000, putting down $20,000 and taking out a $72,000 mortgage by the time we added in points,
AH, A SECOND HOME—a fond dream for so many. While we try to justify a weekend house as a “good investment,” they’re often bought to fulfill some emotional need.
For some, it’s a beach house. For others, it’s a mountain getaway. But for me, it’s always been a place in the country. I’m an introvert. The prospect of getting away from crowds and noise to a secluded place of peace and quiet is my ideal.
WHEN OPPORTUNITY knocks, will you be ready? In the past 15 months, my wife and I have had two attractive but completely unexpected opportunities presented to us.
On Labor Day 2019, a neighbor at our New Jersey shore house told us they were selling their home. They had bought a lot nearby and were planning to build a larger house to accommodate their growing brood of grandchildren. They knew my wife and I had a third grandson on the way,
I GREW UP IN a small apartment. Truth be told, I was never enthusiastic about maintaining a house, but I did so for 45 years. Eight years after I retired in 2010, the house and its stairs became too much for my wife and me.
We considered moving to a smaller one-story house and briefly flirted with a continuing care community. We even looked at one community and found it too expensive, especially having to hand over a partially refundable $900,000 upfront fee,
A FEW YEARS AGO, my future husband and I took a trip to southern Utah to participate in a pistol shooting competition. We were taken by the area’s beauty and easy access to outdoor recreational activities. While there, we looked at a few homes and were pleasantly surprised to find the prices quite reasonable. We decided Utah would be high on our list of places to relocate to once I retired from my job.
MY WIFE AND I decided at the end of 2016 to sell our house. Selling a home is the biggest transaction most of us will ever make, and yet—in my experience—almost all home sellers spend too little time trying to find the right real estate agent.
Folks might interview two agents at most and many interview none at all, instead hiring based on a friend’s recommendation. I realized there must be a better way.
IN AN EARLIER article, I wrote about a catastrophic stock market loss that taught me—the hard way—about the benefits of diversification and the importance of managing my own investments. That loss derailed our plans to build a large and expensive home in the hills overlooking Austin, Texas.
We were heartbroken at the time. This had been our dream for several years. But it’s funny how life works out sometimes—and it may have been the best thing that ever happened to us.
BACK IN AUGUST, Adam Grossman wrote a thought-provoking article about regret. He offered six strategies to minimize the chances you’ll end up kicking yourself for a choice you made. That got me thinking about the financial decision I most regret.
I bought a timeshare.
I know this admission will generate strong reactions in the personal finance community. I’d like to claim the ignorance of youth, but I was in my early 50s. I’d like to blame my wife,
WE JUST STARTED remodeling our house. I knew it would be an expensive project. Indeed, my next-door neighbor warned me about the difficulty of controlling costs.
He said they netted $250,000 from the sale of their old house. Their plan was to remodel their current home and use the remaining proceeds to pay off the mortgage on their vacation property. But unfortunately, they blew through their remodeling budget and didn’t have enough left over to pay off the other mortgage.
I SOLD MY CONDO last month and the first thing I wanted to do was celebrate. It was such a relief to get rid of it, because owning a second home requires spending precious time maintaining it. At age 69, I can think of better ways to spend my time than looking after a vacation home.
At first, I was reluctant to put the condo up for sale. I had lived there for more than three decades.
MANY OF US DREAM of owning a second home near the sea, a lake or the mountains. For my wife and me, that dream location was the southern New Jersey shore. We’d both spent many vacations there as children and then did the same with our own growing family. We had visions of taking grandkids to the beach and boardwalk.
In March 2012, we realized our dream by purchasing a three-bedroom condo in Ocean City,
I PURCHASED my first house almost 30 years ago. To call it a “fixer” would have been an understatement. It was 800 square feet of neglected space in desperate need of repairs and updating. Being fresh out of college and working at a job that paid less than $20,000 a year, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on improvements. But I had the energy and enthusiasm of youth.
Over a five-year period,