Makin' Money

Chris Farrell on owning

Chris Farrell Jan 27, 2011

Question: Cathleen is 63 years old and she’s a lifelong renter. Cathleen works as a clinical educator in Minnesota, helping children who need constant state of the art care live at home, instead of in a hospital She has no debt, and has one of the best apartment deals around: A two bedroom townhouse with a backyard for $675.

Cathleen has lived in her rental home for thirty years. The big drawback–besides not owning–is that it’s in a neighborhood populated by college kids. Think Animal House. A solid home is available for around $180,000. She could put down 20%. Is assuming such a large debt, especially at her age such a good idea? It would mean she would have to work full-time for at least 5 more years.

Chris: I think you just answered your own question. You would give up a lot of financial flexibility by buying a home. Even if you were aggressive in paying down the mortgage over the next 10 years you would still have a lot of money going into one asset.

You have what most people want at age 63, financial flexibility. Maybe you won’t want to work full-time when your 65 or 66. Right now, you don’t have to. But if you bought a home you would have a lot of stress because you would have to keep working.

This isn’t a knock against owning a home. It’s about being realistic about the cost and the time frame.

(Edited. You can listen to the entire conversation, including the home repairs Tess faced after buying, here.)

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