ARBOR OUTLOOK: How much house is enough?
“A forty room mansion sittin’ high on a hill; I ain’t ever lived in a place like that and I never will.”
— from “I’ve Got It Made,” as performed by John Anderson
How much house is enough?
It’s a fascinating conundrum for the soon-to-be or cur-rently retired Baby Boomer, one whose home is completely paid for or will be in short order. Does he or she burn the mortgage document in the fireplace, make occasional repairs and enjoy that home throughout re-tirement? Or does he trade it in on something new?
Naturally, the person’s financial situation is paramount in making such a decision. But for some, it’s emotionally diffi-cult to say, “This is the best home I’ll ever live in, and I’m staying here forever.” There’s a finality to it that can be unsettling. All of us have limited time, and none of us want to think of our home as the place where that time will end. And for many, it’s anathema not to continually yearn for something bet-ter. More square footage. Built more recently. Archi-tectural bells and whistles that the current home doesn’t have. Websites and television shows dangle delicious residential eye candy in front of us nightly. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t occasionally imagine ourselves living in greater grandeur.
Ironically, that burning desire to continually move on up, like the sentiment in the theme song to “The Jeffersons,” is probably partly re-sponsible for many people’s rise to good fortune. It motivated us to attain a better life. At what point, though, do we say, “This home is fine for me. I’m happy here.” Is “wanting more” just ego gratification and social recognition, or do we really need more house? Again, every situation is different. For some, absorbing more expensive monthly association dues doesn’t make sense when we’re living on a fixed income. But even for those who can pay cash for a new home and easily afford new costs, it can still be a quandary.
Maybe rather than asking “How much house is enough,” we should ask, “How much happiness is enough?” Do we treasure our current house? Do we enjoy coming home to it? Do we value our neighbors and the familiarity of our surroundings?
I read a wonderful story recently about a woman in east Texas who raised five children in a small, wooden home. Her son became wildly successful and built her a gorgeous mansion directly behind the small house where they all grew up. The family continued to own both homes, and occasionally the mother would spend time in the old house, cleaning and dusting. And if it neared bedtime, she would often sleep in her bed in the old home. She had raised her family there, and it was a comfort to her.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column Arbor Outlook, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered in-vestment advisory firm located near Sandestin.