Let's buck up a reader who's second-guessing his smart home buying
A reader recently left a touching comment on a story I wrote about "How much can you really afford to spend on a house?"
The comment says:
- My wife and I bought a home well below our price range in fear that if one of us loses a job, the other one can make the mortgage payments. That was ten years ago. Now move ahead to 2012. Neither one of us lost our jobs, we have our mortgage paid in full and we're living debt-free. Why do I not feel happy? Every time I go visit friends and family and see the lavish homes they live in, I feel as though they are living the good life -- not me.
- I look back and wish we had bought bigger. No reason for us to sell and move to a bigger home now. We have no kids. We've packed thousands into saving and retirement. My wife and I are in our mid 50's. She plans to retire soon. I say again, why do I not feel happy? Someday I will look back on all this and be glad we didn't buy big.
I think it's natural to reach great big goals in life and sometimes feel a little let down. Whether it's losing a ton of weight, getting a promotion or becoming debt-free, the newness soon wears off and we're left thinking, "What was that all about?"
You're doing very well, of course, and made some very smart home-buying decisions.
If you could read the desperate letters I get every week from people your age who have no idea how they are ever going to pay their bills, let alone get out of debt, you might realize just how wise you were.
The fact that calamity didn't strike doesn't mean you made a mistake.
But you don't seem the type of person who is happy knowing how poorly other people are doing.
Comparing your situation to the dire straits of others may make you feel relieved, but it's not going to bring you joy.
Maybe the missing piece is that you forgot to plan a reason for your financial goal.
Your wife found a reason -- she's retiring early and will soon have the freedom to do all the things she couldn't with a full-time job.
Maybe you wish you could do that, too. Whether or not that's feasible, I think you should find some way to make your life more rewarding, starting right now. It shouldn't be hard. Here are some ideas:
- Do some remodeling. For less than the price of a real estate commission to sell your house, you can get a new kitchen or maybe build a "man cave" in the garage.
- Take a leave of absence. It's the new "temporary retirement." Give yourself six months or a year to read, travel or do absolutely nothing. You may return to your career with renewed enthusiasm -- or not.
- Reevaluate your career. If you can't wait to retire, you're in the wrong job. You're still young enough to branch out into something you've always wanted to do or start your own business.
- Do something for someone else. It can be through a charity or just for someone you know. Volunteer at the hospital, give blood or go on an international mercy trip. With your track record, you could even volunteer in financial literacy.
With no debt and money in the bank, you have options other people can only dream of. Don't wait -- make the most of your options today.