We finally closed on our new house the week before Thanksgiving, finalizing my move back to Appalachia (although I’d already been in my empty apartment for a couple months). This is our third house, and we are still in our thirties. Which probably isn’t that impressive. Even these days, the age of the average first-time homebuyer is only 32. The three houses thing is mostly a function of repeatedly moving across the country. I am proud that we went from 5% down to 10% to 20% down.
Dave Ramsey is fond of saying that young couples want to start with the standard of living it took their parents 35 years to build. It is a good point, and a lot of people need to hear it. But I exceeded my parents’ standard of living the day I walked out of grad school. I’ve been broke since then, but I haven’t been poor. Broke and poor aren’t the same thing. I’ve been well off, broke, and poor—there is a very clear hierarchy among the three.
I’ve never lived the way my parents did. Doing it as a kid isn’t the same.
I feel a little ashamed about that. Well, shame isn’t the right word. It wasn’t like I won the lottery or married into money. I went to school, I borrowed money to go to school again, I worked, I paid off my loans, I lived within my means and saved and saved some more. I can’t say I’m not entitled to it.
Which is not quite the same as saying I merit it. Rawls is right; to the extent success is a function of intelligence, it isn’t merited. How is a return from brains you inherited any different from a return on capital you inherited? And I can recognize the role of luck in all this. Most of all, I was enormously lucky to grow up in a stable, two-parent home. And I have not (yet) suffered a real financial kick in the teeth as an adult. I can hedge against that; I cannot eliminate the risk entirely.
I don’t want to overly romanticize the grind. But I won’t pretend it is without its romance, either. At least if there is light at the end of the tunnel. Like Corb Lund, I did my share of starving in the city. I wouldn’t voluntarily go back to that, but I do feel like I missed out on something doing it only as a single guy, not a family man. So it was nice to pretend for a week, sharing one bathroom with my wife and toddler and dog in a little apartment for a week.
And who could resist that pic?