I have an incredibly ugly habit that I’m trying to commit to breaking. And this habit has plagued me for a while now. I wouldn’t necessary call it Karma or even superstition but there’s been a very odd correlation between me making more money and my stress levels. However, here’s the kicker. I think the correlation has been caused by me and only me. I’m pretty sure that I’m the one who’s making myself more stressed out each time I have a good streak of making money. I think many of us suffer from this problem. Let me try and visualize it for you.
When you’re not making a ton of money you don’t necessarily think of grandiose things quite as often. Put it this way. You’re not thinking you’re going to be shelling out $1,000 a night for a hotel anytime soon. Well, I know that’s how I think. But if you start making more money, it’s natural that more expensive things, lifestyle, will start to eek their way into your psyche. While this is natural, what it should never, ever, do under any circumstances is claw it’s way into reality so that destructive things might happen. Let me give you an example.
A promise I once made to myself
I grew up in what’s considered a very affluent town. It’s called Port Washington, and is located on the North Shore of Long Island, NY. In general, real estate is extremely expensive there because of the proximity and train line to New York City. I lived in a part of town which was nice. Nothing special, but nice. However, there’s a specific part of Port Washington called Sands Point which is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of the United States. Growing up I had some friends that lived there and I always told myself, “if I can ever get one of these houses one day, I will.” We’re talking minimum $2.5 million for a nice house, usually with an acre or two, obscene taxes, etc etc. But we’re also talking the best of the best. I never desired to get a $10 million mansion but I have always dreamed of owning what I consider to be a “top of the top” home. Maybe this gives you some insight into my psyche. Maybe not. The point is that vision will always be implanted in my brain.
Where I am today in that pursuit
So after college my quest for that dream house officially began. The cycle is pretty straightforward. I first lived in an apartment with my girlfriend (now wife) in New York City. That was for 5 or so years. When we were earning enough money we then moved to and purchased a townhouse in Long Island. It was a 3 bedroom in a gated community. We absolutely loved it there. Very little pressure. The mortgage was less than our rent in NYC so it was awesome. I just remember feeling very little stress when it came to finances in that place. I also remember feeling super “cozy” in that community. We lived there for about 6 years. At that point we had one child and another on the way. With another child on the way we decided we wanted to go for a little more space and property. The townhome didn’t really have a yard and with 3 bedrooms there was no room for an office for me. Look, in retrospect it’s not like it was small. The place was almost 2000 square feet. However, my business was doing well and we figured we could take on the debt. So we upgraded.
In 2015 we bought a 5 bedroom house sitting on half an acre. We loved it the minute we walked inside. It’s about 3400 square feet and has all the amenities, etc etc we could ever hope for. We love this house. It has a gorgeous pool and we made a seriously kick-ass backyard space. But one of the things that was always tough for me to handle mentally was the mortgage. It was a $750,000 mortgage. Combine that with taxes we’re talking a pretty big nut each month. Oh yeah, that’s not including expenses like cars, food, utilities, etc etc.
*Let me also make something VERY clear. I’m well aware of how incredibly awesome my situation is as compared to most of the world and United States. This is by no means a sympathy ploy. I make a very good living and am grateful for everything I have. What I want to make extremely clear however, is that this is all about listening to yourself.
In my head I always knew I wanted to own a home outright. It was always a personal goal of mine to be free and clear in my 40s. The idea of paying a mortgage always bothered me. Believe me I understand how low mortgage rates are etc etc, but if there’s one thing I learned about investing it’s that first and foremost you gotta do what’s right for you. I always knew that the moment I could pay off that fat mortgage I’d be pumped. Amazingly enough, I had enough money saved and an investment that turned out to be a seriously large windfall that paying off the mortgage was completely realistic and my nest egg would still be intact. In January of 2020 I paid off my mortgage in full. Fast forward to today and here we are. Still in our house, nothing wrong at all. So then what am I complaining about? While I absolutely love my house, I’m not the biggest fan of my neighborhood and town I live in. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. However, it doesn’t match the visions I had in my younger days. Visons that have persisted throughout my whole life. But let’s get to the real heart of the matter.
Another promise I made when I bought my current house
So here I am in my current house. Super close to that “dream home” I want but not quite there yet. But if there’s another promise that I made to myself, it’s that when I paid off my mortgage I would never, ever have a mortgage again. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to owe only taxes on your house. Knowing I own my house outright and not having to plunk down over 5 grand every month is incredibly empowering. I love that feeling and I remember the day that I paid off my mortgage that I didn’t ever want “owe” ever again.
But let’s go back to what I was talking about at the beginning. Remember how I said more money and more stress levels? Remember how I said these stress levels are generally caused by me? Well, those stress levels have reared their ugly heads again. About a month ago, some friends of ours moved into a house that is absolutely gorgeous. It fit every single parameter of what I consider to be my “dream house.” That’s all it took. One sight of that house and all of a sudden I’m reassessing my life. Immediately after that visit I started looking at real estate. I began researching mortgage rates. I started enjoying my house less. I became more angry with the town I lived in.
It just snowballed from there. You know what it’s like? It’s like when you’re working at a job you’re trying to get out of and you interview somewhere else. The place you interview at is the place you really want to work and now that you have to go back to the same job, it’s that much worse. That’s almost how I felt about my current house (which I love, by the way). All of a sudden I’m trying to keep up with the Joneses. The reality is that yes, I kind of want to live in another town but you know something? Not if it brings me as much stress as I’ve seen in the last 2 weeks. Stress that I myself, have created. I started looking at real estate, talked to a mortgage lender to see what I qualified for, have had multiple conversations with friends and family. It’s been more stress than I’ve had in a while. The whole reason I paid off my mortgage was to get rid of the stress.
I make good money, have a good amount put away. What’s the problem? The truth is that there isn’t. It’s 100% self-induced.
Buying right now would be foolish
And since there’s no problem, why in the world create one? The thing is, I DO want my dream house. I always will. But something I realized at what many would consider to be a young age, is that I will never again sacrifice my own mental well-being and financial comfort just to move into a new home, be in a new location, or have any of the “things” other people with more means have than me. I personally believe I’ll get that dream house. It may come later than sooner, but at least I know that when I’m ready to buy it, I’ll truly be ready to buy it. And if it never comes to be, it’ll just continue being my dream house. Is that so bad? Hardly. We all make choices, and I choose myself and my family’s well-being over anything.