This is a posting that I have been looking forward to composing and have a smile on my face as I type this. My dream house. Perhaps there is a heightened sense of anticipated accomplishment with this item because it is a goal on my list. It could also be because the way in which I plan to achieve this goal is beyond convention in our current environment in which revolving credit is the norm. I plan to pay, in cash, for my first home. No mortgage, free and clear. I spurn credit and everything about it. So for what should be the largest expense in my adult life, credit is not an option for my wife and I. We actually began saving for this goal during the market downturn in 2008, and, depending on whose projections you read (my wife’s or mine) we will have reached this savings goal, either in the summer or end of 2012 (HINT: I’m always conservative in my estimates).
To qualify all of this, let me give you some background. We currently live in Chicago, Illinois. We live in a northside neighborhood that breeds hyperconsumption. Everywhere around us there are rows of bars, clothing boutique stores, overpriced condominiums, high taxes no matter the type of expense, women clad during the summer in maxi-dresses and men who love them for it (i.e. slaves to trends). At best, a modest 1BR condo in our neighborhood, even in the real estate downturn, would easily sell for a modest $200,000
I have no interest whatsoever in owning real estate in this great city. Chicago is a great city, and what makes it great is its neighborhoods. Each one has its own identity and as a collection, make Chicago a great town. For me this has been a fun and great place to spend my 20s post college. But when I think about where I want to lay roots down, raise a family, pay taxes, and the type of people that I’d like to have as neighbors until my children make it to collegiate ages, Chicago is just about on the bottom of my list (Los Angeles is lower). Yes it is fun to take a stroll with my wife around the neighborhood at any time on any given weekend, and make funny observations and create inside jokes of the drunken hyperconsumers decked out in their ugg boots and plaid shirts, as they embrace their Sunday brunch loving ways. But to be in my 30’s, pushing a stroller through Wrigleyville, and having to answer questions such as: Why is that lady orange? Why are sick people stumbling out of that restaurant? Why are so many people smoking outside of those buildings? Why is everyone playing on their phone? Answering these questions is not exactly how I envision parenthood to be. I want my children to grow up with a sense of peace and security in their world, not just inside of their home but outside of it. Sure, the world can be a bad place with people that will take advantage of you. But, as an adult, I am learning that people, for the most part, are inherently good people and are worthy of my trust and love without conditions. It is in my personal boundaries, where I can deepen and develop relationships. And as an adult I have come to believe that people, left to think and rationalize for themselves, are inherently good. Basically, I want my family (and myself for that matter) to establish our own individual boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable in our lives, knowing that people are good, all without the skewed perceptions of growing up around drunken hyperconsumers. So where’s a guy to go?
As if taking a page right out of, “The Millionaire Next Door,” my wife and I have a short list of areas in lower to middle class neighborhoods, where we will research and visit, to raise our family. This short list includes: Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN and Raleigh, NC. On a logistical level these areas are a dream. There are multiple BR homes in each of these housing markets, with at least triple the square footage of anything listed in Chicago, for a fraction of the cost. We plan to pay cash for a home in one of these areas and do not plan to spend more than $80,000 doing it. Through this we set ourselves up to never have a rent or mortgage payment, EVER! Plus, since we currently live on roughly $20,000 a year, there is no pressure to find jobs that are equal or greater to our current salaries. In fact, if one of us wanted to be a stay at home parent, we could with no regrets or financial strain on our lives.
For me these areas represent the lifestyle that I am choosing to lead, and one that I want to impart onto my children. Frugal living, knowing the value of a dollar, living below your means, and good old fashioned community where you actually know your neighbors on a first name basis, these are the things that I want in the next chapter of my life. Chicago has been great to me and I have a flood of great memories from the street fests, winters and my career, all thanks to this town. And while I still have plenty more to make, having the next step in mind helps me stay focused on what I want to achieve in life and where I want to be in the future.