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No bullshit

What Presidential candidates won't tell us about money

Via Lifehacker, I think this post by Ramit Sethi is (pun intended) right on the money. The portion quoted in Lifehacker especially hit home (pun also intended):
Not all homeowners deserve to stay in their houses.
Renting is a perfectly reasonable alternative, but the idea of Americans “losing their houses” is politically untenable. Why? Because America perpetuates a mistaken culture of homeownership. Owning your own home is the kind of BS sacred cow that got us into this mess: Our parents tell us to buy a house. Our friends are impressed if we own a house in our twenties. The government literally encourages us to own a house by offering tax deductions. Homeownership is the American Dream!

The truth is, if you’re making the largest purchase of your life, you need more than a slogan—you need to take the responsibility to do some research. (And note that you can’t advocate for increased homeownership and also argue for Americans to keep their houses. By not reducing the prices, younger people cannot buy houses at these inflated prices.)
I've never been more glad to be a renter, and honestly, I don't think anyone is too good to be one. Especially on my "people not to be taken seriously" list are those who espouse concern for housing the poor on one hand and yet wig out that people could lose ownership of "their" homes. Homeownership and housing are not the same thing, and simple math tells us that for more people are to be housed, home prices need to drop and rental must be an option for more of us. Perhaps it's time to dream a different dream for America in regard to housing.


Buying into all that nonsense and buying a condo at 24 was about the dumbest thing I've ever done.

Fortunately I got out of it mostly unscathed, and I'm now very happy to be renting (especially now).
I cannot BELIEVE you are writing about this this morning.

I was walking this morning, and I started to think about the "American dream". What that originally meant, what it means now. It's so rooted in owning things.

I'm a fan of home ownership for a number of reasons, but to make it part of this dream one has as an American that we're entitled to - going into massive debt as a result - it feels manipulative.

I think this entire collapse, while so concerning for many, is going to teach a lot of us how manipulated we've been and how our security is steeped in the financial as we claim it's in something else. At least that's the lesson for me.

Yes, and if we've been manipulated, many of us cooperated fully. It's a mess, and there were certainly predatory lenders and all the rest. Regrettably, at the core, we want what we want, cheer and vote for whomever promises it to us, and look for people (other than ourselves) to blame when it crashes. The truth sometimes isn't nearly as inspiring as what we want to hear, so of course we don't have candidates who will say it.
I was talking about what it took to be mainipulated with some friends at work the other day. That it was typically rooted in laziness, seeing an easy way for us to get what we want.

I love it when you post.
The thing I hate about renting is that I'm vulnerable. If my landlord decides, anything can happen to my situation. It's almost as bad as the eminent domain rulings.

I agree that no one is too good to be a renter. There are so many other things to think about.

Poverty in the USA means that you don't have cable.
Agreed on the vulnerability. I think I want to be invulnerable, but clearly reality doesn't have that in the cards (for any of us).

If I don't have cable, how will I ever hear people telling me the world is ending, and other people—many of whom want my vote—telling me they can fix it?
Tru dat!
"Perhaps it's time to dream a different dream for America in regard to housing."
right on, brother

Edited at 2008-10-11 11:12 pm (UTC)


renting allows you to move freely without being tied down financially. I have had the experience of making money from a house and losing money because I owned a house....if I weren't married to Nicola I would rent rent rent!!!

Re: renting

That is tough—people often think of and speak to the possibility of being "stuck" as a renter, but it's worth noting how much of an albatross a house can become under some circumstances. Seems like it'd be healthy for our culture to see homeownership as a choice with both pros and cons rather than an "investment" that should always pay dividends ("Not so!" says economics…).
THANK YOU for posting this. We just got back from dinner with our family who are dumbfounded as to why we haven't bought a house.

I owned a house by myself for 10 years and now rent and will be really cautious before going back to home ownership.
Yeah, it's not homeownership that's a "problem," but the cultural bent toward seeing it as an unmitigated good is obviously unwise—we've been seeing the effects of that all over, so it's stunning when people still don't get it.

Plus, it's really annoying.
yes amen things have gotten way out of hand and we need to get a grip and reign it back in to some sense of reality!

I'm one of those people who dropped out of the crazy real estate market because it seemed imprudent to spend that much of my take home pay on a house, especially when it was so dramatically more than the cost of renting my little home. I can't be the only one locked out of buying a place due to the increase in prices, but I feel like no one is addressing me in this discussion.
Early in the Presidential race (long before candidates were thinned out), I saw a New York Times article with pictures of the candidate's homes. Nothing has more clearly illustrated the point that these people are not "like us," no matter how populist they may seem (or if they remember how many houses they own—one of these palaces is enough to plant any of them in the "out of my league" category, so the number of them is moot).

So I'm not surprised to see them not address or even get it. The rest of us should start being smarter, though—when the economy is proving our assumptions flat wrong, it's time to let go and move on.


thanks for this. It pisses me off every time I think about how they were GIVING houses away with the mortgates just a year or two ago... "you don't have a good source of income OR a downpayment? no problem!"


A agree that there should be no shame in renting. I don't feel any. Many people act like there is (like mothers, fathers, grandparents of my family), but I'm not ashamed. Another perk is I don't have to fix the place if it breaks, either!

The American Dream needs re-writing. Got a rough draft?

Re: yep.

If I have a manifesto, does that make me crazy?

(I don't, but it's worth checking.)

Re: yep.

I don't think so. Everyone is supposed to have their own personal brand and mission statement these days... At least that's what my instructors in college say ;)