Stop Justifying the Cost of a Bigger House, You Are Imprisoning Yourself!

Cost of Bigger HouseWhile I’ve written many blogs in the past about first-world slavery (Are You a Slave to Consumerism?, Start Working for Yourself without Quitting Your Job!), I find myself inclined to write another blog on yet the very same topic yet framed in a different manner.  The reason I’m inclined to do so is that first-world slavery is a tough disease to battle because it’s fed by some very resilient bacteria known as misinformation and denial.

Now before you take offense and storm off, take a moment to bear with me and read this through.  Believe me, if this blog gets through to you, I guarantee it will transform your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined.  I may have just added another decade or two to your happy retirement!

Take a moment and write this down: “I want a bigger house because…”  Now, take a couple of minutes and write down all of the reasons that you want to buy a bigger house (or possibly even renovate your current one).  Once you’re done that, take a couple more minutes and write them onto two separate sheets – want and need.  I’ve done this exercise a number of times during my financial freedom workshops and in most cases, if you are being honest with yourself, the items will all end up on the want sheet (bigger yard, more rooms, balcony, higher end finish), in very few scenarios items may end up on the need sheet (new baby arriving, moving for work, etc.).  Be careful and be honest with yourself – the only individual who will pay the long-term consequence for any stretching of the truth in this scenario is you.

Now that you’ve done that exercise, let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios of possible homes you could purchase and/or possibly already live in.  Let’s consider the interest paid and  the monthly payment for the mortgage (excluding additional expense differences such as property taxes, heating costs, etc.).

Mortgage amount

$175,000

$250,000

$350,000

$500,000

Interest paid
(25 year, 3.7% interest)

$92,689

$132,414

$185,378

$264,827

Monthly payment

$892

$1,275

$1,785

$2,549

While this scenario is simplified it serves as a solid baseline for which to perform an assessment (e.g. based on historical data, it is highly unlikely that you will receive a 3.7% interest rate average over a consecutive 25 year period; during this timeframe odds are that real estate interest rates will spike at least twice).

The chart above reveals to us that significant savings will result by buying a less expensive home…

Mortgage amount

$175,000

$250,000

$350,000

$500,000

Total spent

$267,689

$382,414

$535,378

$764,827

Difference
(compared to 4th option)

$497,138

$382,413

$229,449

$0

As you will see above the third option ($350,000 home) saves $229,449 over the fourth option.  Suppose an individual earns $75,000 / year.  After income taxes, this individual will take home $58,297.96.  Buying the more expensive home in this instance will require the individual to hand over the entire post-tax income for 3.94 years salary.  But people live with the reality of day-to-day expenses and this is highly unlikely, even if this individual manages to be extremely aggressive and pay 50% of their salary (an absolutely daunting challenge), it would take nearly 8 years (7.88 years) to pay off the additional upgrade!

Is the upgraded house worth you working an additional 8 years of your life?  Waking up each and every day for 8 years and going to work because you need to, as opposed to because you want to?  Yes or no?  We haven’t even considered any of the lower cost options, but, in all these other scenarios the results get exponentially worse for the upgraded house.

Oh, and one more thing! So is 8 years all I need to consider?  Absolutely not! What could you do with the savings? What if you invested it in index funds (more info) because they are simple and for the most part you can set and forget (I only adjust mine once a year).  How does that impact things?  Assuming you will earn 7.8% based upon the fact that the stock market has averaged a return of 10.1% (7.8% adjusted for inflation) over the last 50 years, how much money would that $764 saved each month earn you in the long term?

Year

Invested

Value

Year

Invested

Value

0

$0

$0

13

$9,168

$209,683

1

$9,168

$9,883

14

$9,168

$235,922

2

$9,168

$20,537

15

$9,168

$264,207

3

$9,168

$32,022

16

$9,168

$294,698

4

$9,168

$44,403

17

$9,168

$327,567

5

$9,168

$57,749

18

$9,168

$363,001

6

$9,168

$72,137

19

$9,168

$401,198

7

$9,168

$87,647

20

$9,168

$442,374

8

$9,168

$104,366

21

$9,168

$486,763

9

$9,168

$122,390

22

$9,168

$534,613

10

$9,168

$141,820

23

$9,168

$586,196

11

$9,168

$162,765

24

$9,168

$641,803

12

$9,168

$185,343

25

$9,168

$701,746

Whoa!  Saving $764 a month not only saves 4 to 8 years of work that would be required in order to pay off additional interest on the higher cost home, if these savings are invested and earn average returns it will also earn you up to a whopping $701,746 in the market!  This could reduce your requirement to work by an additional 12 years (assuming your take-home pay is $58,297.96)!  Even better yet, this also assumes that while you slowly spend your stock market earnings you will continue to earn a 0% return on your stock investments going forward (which is highly unlikely). It also assumes you will have similar expenses when you retire (which most people do not).  This is truly a win/win/win scenario!

So let me ask you again, what does buying a bigger house cost you?  Is it just additional money or are the unnecessary upgrades keeping you a slave to your physical possessions?  Don’t become a first-world slave, don’t fall victim to your own consumerism.  I recommend only upgrading when truly necessary, otherwise I strongly urge you to stay put and be happy for what you’ve already got.  If I had my own advice nearly a decade ago my current house would be entirely paid off and I’d be retired today.  Take the time to learn from my consequence so you don’t make the same mistakes.

Brent Mondoux
Founding Partner, Amplified Investments
brent@amplifiedinvestments.com

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4 comments on “Stop Justifying the Cost of a Bigger House, You Are Imprisoning Yourself!

  1. I want a bigger house…because I want an in-law suite from which my in-laws will pay me $1500 to live in, and subsequently keep our family closer together, cutting down on the 2-3 time per week commute we do to see each other :). The hunt begins in a few months. I also save 5% when I buy since I’m a Realtor and can simply approach home owners and build a queue of potential houses that will suit me in the next 3-6 months, and do it all myself.

    • Hey Marc, I did that for seven years. It works well for a while until you desire more privacy and separation once again (which inevitably will happen). So long as your in-laws commit to a minimum 5-year lease this can work out in your favour and offset the costs of the upgrade – remember along with a bigger home comes additional one time (legal, land transfer tax, realtor – in this case you don’t have this fee, inspection, moving costs, etc.) & ongoing expenses (insurance, heat, hydro, etc.). You will have some cost savings on commuting if you visit your in-laws often, but this will be negligable in the grand scheme of things. Your true benefit here is that your in-laws will be helping you to build your equity into your home. Good luck & congrats!

  2. Hi Brent,

    great article.

    Another way of looking at it… and it’s the one I use every time “I think” that “I need” a bigger house:

    As you explain the difference between a 350K mortgage and a 500K mortgage is $764. That’s all what people may think is the impact on his/her salary, but a salary of 70K per year means a Marginal Tax rate of ~ 31%.

    At Marginal Rate of 31% means that before they have in their hands the extra $764 (to pay the mortgage)… the government would have taken its 31% portion ($236), then in order to pay the extra $764, the 500K mortgage owner must allocate $1000 dollars from his/her salary. Ouch!… money that he/she is not investing.

    Now, what I don’t know, Brent, and maybe you can comment on it… is “How to solve the problem if you made the mistake of buying the bigger house”.

    Let’s say that this person realizes that he/she screwed it up. And, even though can pay his/her mortgage comfortable, don’t want to keep doing it (because is not investing as used to do e.g $236 that are going to the taxes instead of investment portfolio)…

    The most obvious action is to sell the house, make a profit and buy the 350K mortgage house, but what would be another options / ideas, considering that the real estate market for selling is slow and our 500K mortgage owner has not been able to sell the house?

    • Hey Tomi,

      Great input, thank you for taking the time to provide such a detailed comment.

      You are bang on with your assumption that downsizing is the right approach. Not only will you save the $1,000 / month in additional expenses (that you can put directly towards investment) but you will also end up paying less in heat, hydro, hot water, property taxes, insurance, house maintenance, and the list goes on and on and on. Also as you said, all these additional expenses as well will be taxed at a premium of your marginal tax rate (assuming $70K salary as identified above, those additional expenses will also have a 31% premium to their cost).

      Now let’s suppose someone is having a tough time selling their house in a slow market. There are many tips and tricks that can help – a great real estate agent, having the place professionally staged, performing open houses, etc. Even adjusting the price could result in a dramatic savings. In the short term this may cost you several thousand dollars, possibly even $10K, but as we saw from the calculations above this will pay itself off in 10 months (or 7.5 months after the marginal tax expenses). Short term pain for long term gain is the key to remember, a bit of up front cost to save & invest for the next 20+ years is the mindset that you must think about.

      Thanks again for the insightful and thoughtful comment. Much appreciated.

      Sincerely,
      Brent

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