Saturday, November 3, 2007

'Til Debt Do Us Part

Our chances of building a house in the next 10 years are about the same as our chances of starting up a viable snow plowing business using a 1998 Toyota Camry.

For one thing, my wife and I don't have any carpentry skills. The last thing we tried to build was a yard sale sign. It collapsed under the weight of its own plumbing.

But hiring someone to build a house, by the time you account for land, materials, and tips, can result in a mortgage that exceeds the annual budget of most municipalities in Somerset County.

Still, my wife can't stop thinking about it.

She's reading this book called Mortgage Free by Rob Roy, which means that sandwiched around the needs of our two-year-old is a lot of staccato discussion about how to build a house without becoming some bank executive’s personal sado-masochistic plaything.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read. Since the World Series ended, all my free time has been tied up with reminiscing about how great the World Series was.

So our literary conversations tend to list to one side like a leaky yacht:

Me: “Maybe we should get a babysitter tomorrow night and go do something fun.”

Wife: “Yeah. We’ll be too far away from town for that kind of thing if we build.”

Me: “We could always stay home and watch a movie.”

Wife: “The book says it may cost too much to run electricity to our site. We might have to get solar panels.”

Me: “I’m thinking of seeing other women.”

Wife: “In that case, we might need to add a third bedroom. What do you think that will cost?

From what I’ve gleaned so far, Mortgage Free is a fascinating book. The author outlines two primary means to financially independent living:

  1. Get your parents to give you some land with a house on it.

  2. Build a 12’x16’ shed and live in it for 17 years while you fumble around trying to build your own house from raw cedar logs and mounds of clay and rock.

Between these two options, the more probable for us is to travel back in time and arrange to have wealthy parents.

We have friends who have chosen option 2, living for years without electricity or running water before finally moving into their “dream house,” which to this day is not totally “finished,” in the sense of having final touches like paint, trim, and windows.

Seems like a lot to go through to avoid a mortgage (even if it’s true that the word “mortgage” derives from the old French for “death pledge”).

If you’re already stuck with one, Roy recommends using those surplus piles of cash you have laying around to make an extra payment or two per year.

I prefer the financial wisdom I heard on the radio while cleaning cat vomit out of my rug early one winter morning. It turns out many financial experts say you'd do better to invest that money instead.

What a relief! I no longer have to stress about having a mortgage that eats up more than half of my paycheck. I can continue to invest in Boston Red Sox commemorative championship DVDs and expect to be able to pay for my retirement on a remote private island in the South Pacific.

That guy from the bank will never find me there...

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