Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective
06.04.2008
Jumping in with both feet

Creative Commons License photo figure credit: Felipe Skronski

This week I have had little time for writing since I have been getting our yard in shape to host a graduation party for a good friend of mine. My friend is graduating from MIT on Friday — ten years after most of his classmates. I am thrilled to be hosting this party, and thrilled that my friend is graduating. I think it must have taken an enormous amount of courage, and clearly a great deal of effort, to go back to school after being away for 9 years, to finish an undergraduate degree. I think this is, in many ways, far more difficult than graduating on time.

This friend of mine has been very successful in a pretty decent job for the last 9 years, and that’s what makes this all the more courageous: he didn’t really need to do it. Clearly, having a degree from MIT will certainly help his chances for future employment, but nearly 10 years of experience as a circuit designer and programmer will also count for a lot all by itself.

So KUDOS to you, friend! (You know who you are) and best of luck to you and yours with whatever comes next!

Courage does not seem to be in short supply this week, and I would like to highlight a couple of other cases:

  • Some friends of ours confessed this week that they are selling their house. Their house is for sale because they can no longer afford to make the payments. I do not know the details of their inability to make the payments, but I do know that they assessed their situation and made a hard decision — a VERY hard decision. Clearly this is the right choice for them, and I applaud it. I believe that this gives them a new lease on life. Starting over is hard, but without the baggage of a downward spiral of debt and possibly a bankruptcy looming, this family has a great chance of succeeding in the end.

    Owning can be significantly more expensive than renting in our market, and if I had it to do over again, I might have looked a bit harder for places to rent rather than buying our current house. It is clear that in many cases, even with the decline in the housing market, that renting is still quite a bit cheaper than buying in our market. I hope that this family will be able to save quite a bit of money to use to buy their next home when the time is right.

    Our friends have expressed embarrassment over their situation. I don’t think that they have any reason to be embarrassed. We, as a society, are constantly bombarded with advertising and mass media suggesting how we should live, what we should own, drive, etc. Yet most of us learn no more in public schools about money than perhaps how to write a check and balance a checkbook. Who still writes checks as the basis of their finances? This training certainly does not translate into our credit driven economy and as such, it’s no wonder that failures like this occur — in fact it’s surprising that it doesn’t happen more often. I hope our friends make the best of this experience to wipe the slate clean and use this as a great learning opportunity.

  • Lastly, my dear wife showed a lot of courage this week in realizing that she was wrong to spend our money without consulting me. I actually did not even say much to her about how I felt about this, and the next thing I knew she had written a blog to expose her transgression to the world. The 10% that we may have to forfeit for backing out of the agreement she signed is still a lot of money, but I think that it was money well spent if it does nothing but serve as a reminder to both of us that we care for, respect, and love each other enough to consider our partner’s feelings. This is truly a case of “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” (not that this was at all close to “killing” us…)

Have you witnessed any random acts of courage this week? Have done something courageous yourself?

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