Carol W Blog | Millennial Regret | Talkmarkets

Millennial Regret

Date: Friday, July 3, 2015 11:44 AM EDT

“To us, our house was not unsentient matter -- it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.” Mark Twain

I remember when my father bought our first house. It was back in the 60's. We had moved out to the suburbs to take advantage of the better public schools and get out from the congestion and crime of the city. My parents bought a 4000 sq ft home next to a golf course with a swimming pool and an interior courtyard. It was considered a dream home. The cost: $60,000 which was pretty expensive back then. My father was so proud of it. He prided himself on being a "self made man" who had only a high school education but ended up owning the largest wholesale florist business in Western NY. He was advised by his accountant to take out a mortgage when he purchased the house which horrified him. He hated credit. Never used credit cards unless necessary and then paid off the entire balance every month. He was frugal about many things ( and I seem to have inherited the same traits!) Every month, he paid the mortgage on time. And he did this for two years. Finally he paid it off in full. And I remember the event like it was yesterday. He took the mortgage out the front door, stood on the lawn and set fire to it with his cigarette lighter. We watched as he performed this rite of passage because then and only then did he truly in his own mind OWN his home. 

Success and home ownership were inextricably linked for him. So much so that he also paid off his mother's mortgage that same year. And I guess he has passed on that legacy to me. My husband and I have owned quite a few homes over the 30 years. Right now as I type this, I am finally in the home of my dreams. A wonderful old colonial on an acre next to a university in a small town in Tennessee. Not only do I love the house with its hardwood floors, and claw foot tubs, but the myriad 100 ft maple and oak trees that surround the park-like grounds. Yes, it's work. There's always something that needs doing but for me it is a labor of love. My neighbors and I are supportive but also, a bit competitive and we pride ourselves on challenging each other to grow the best roses, have the greenest lawns, and of course the best Christmas decorations at holiday time. Plus we are keeping the economy humming with all manner of trips to Home Depot, Lowes, purchases of Hickory Furniture, Whirlpool appliances, Sherwin William and Valspar Paints, Snap on Tools, cans of WD40, lawn care from Dow Chemical, catalogues from Restoration Hardware, and faucets from Wayfair. (Yes I am long all those stocks!) 

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Dallman Ross 5 years ago Member's comment

Personal, personable and enjoyable reading with a financially relevant point. Thanks, Carol. (Oh, and I've owned homes in two countries.)

Susan Miller 5 years ago Member's comment

Brings back a lot of memories...

Derek Snyder 5 years ago Member's comment

Nice piece, though I'm still waiting to buy my first house!

Dr. Duru 5 years ago Contributor's comment

Great article! I love the flourish and sentimental overtones. It sounds like true American dream. I think it is also a good story to remind us of the value of *ownership* in an era where the sentimentality of attachment, bond, and commitment are being casually tossed about and overboard. I particularly loved the references that remind us how inflation have really bitten us in ways that go unmeasured: very few families can afford to get by on just one paycheck, no one could ever hope to pay off a mortgage in a matter of a few years, etc, etc...!

I will soon read the links you posted that give some hope on the desire for home ownership. I also summarized findings from a related Fed survey here:

-- Dr. Duru

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

please post your comments here..share your memories about your first house..I would love to hear them!

Gary Anderson 5 years ago Contributor's comment

My parents owned their first house and were older, two generations from me really. They bought it in 1941 and paid it off in 5 years, refied to go into business and paid it off in another 5 years. Those days are gone. Millennials have seen that house values are inflated and can go down. They have seen their parents being taken to the cleaners by bankers. I loved having a stable house. It was great. You got to keep your friends. But that was then and this is now. Greed and turning houses into commodities is what ruined it for the millennials.