The Depreciating American Dream, Part 2: Doubting The Suburban Fantasy

Owning a home has long played a significant role in the American story; the notion that buying a house is the stepping stone to wealth and happiness goes back a long time. But the housing bubble has burst, and many local homeowners are living in the shadow of the white picket fence. This is Part 2 of a WBUR series: The Depreciating American Dream.

The QUENNEVILLE FAMILY in Merrimack, N.H. · Photos by JESS BIDGOOD for WBUR

MERRIMACK, N.H. — Andrea and Raymond Quenneville think they timed it about as well as they could, taking the plunge at what they considered a low point in the market. They bought a yellow house here last year.

“Four bathrooms, two-car garage, and then upstairs we have five bedrooms,” Andrea says. “For a family of six, it’s nice to have so much space.”

The 3,000 square feet give Raymond enough space for a room stacked with guitars and a sound mixing board. He records music, at least when he has time.  Andrea has her own sewing room. She crafts tote bags with flower and animal prints and sells them online.

“Maybe this is one reason why I have buyer’s remorse. My fabric budget has drastically decreased,” she says.

When Andrea and Raymond first met, they discovered they shared a love of the outdoors. They kept hiking and camping when they had children. Even when Andrea was eight months pregnant, she slept in a tent. They named two of their kids after national parks: Bryce and Acadia.

Raymond misses the days of renting, when the weekends were theirs.

The house with a porch under tall pines looked good to them. Raymond timed the purchased it so they got the first-time homebuyer tax credit. And he figured buying a teenage house would mean less maintenance.

“One of the things the inspector missed was that the roof was in worse shape than we thought. And so the tax credit went into buying a new roof in the fall,” he says.

The day the roofers came was the same day the hot water heater failed, leaking in the basement.

Raymond and Andrea always knew there would be costs to owning. It is just different when you are actually writing the checks. To save money, they are trying to do more on their own, but that means more time for projects such as repairing a bathroom with a leaky shower.

“I think we started this project in July. It’s now March,” Andrea frets.

The Quennevilles haven’t been camping since they bought the house. Now, their weekends are for raking. Soon they’ll have to mow once a week. When it’s not the yard, it’s fix-it projects in the house.

Raymond misses the days of renting, when the weekends were theirs. He is an engineer and works long hours in Lexington. On a bad day, his commute is 90 minutes each way. Sometimes, he gets home to see in his kids the same disappointed look he remembers making when he was young, watching his dad reach for the toolbox after getting home.

“I find myself struggling with that same balance. My kids always want to play with me, and I come home from work and there’s things that need to get done. That, to me, is one of the biggest struggles with the homeownership, is having enough time to play with the kids,” he says.

“One of the things the inspector missed was that the roof was in worse shape than we thought. And so the tax credit went into buying a new roof in the fall,” he says.

Homeownership doesn’t make as much financial sense for the Quennevilles as it did for their parents a generation ago. Raymond is trying to persuade Andrea that it will pay off eventually. He says those big mortgage payments are good because it forces them to put money into the house, instead of another guitar or another bolt of fabric.

But the tradeoffs work against them, too. For now, to manage the payment, Raymond is contributing less to his retirement plan, which means giving up some of the money his employer puts in as well.

The house debt — owing more than $330,000 — worries Andrea.

“I feel like with renting we had more of a safety net. Which is strange. Because everyone thinks you buy a home and it’s stable and safe and you’ll be there for a long time. And it’s the cornerstone of being an adult, and it’s seen as a sign of wealth. Now, in this economy, it doesn’t seem like that’s true,” she says.

The house has dropped in value since the Quennevilles moved in.

Andrea Quenneville realizes this is the choice she and her husband made. They would not pick up and rent today if someone made an offer, but she wants to be a better mother, and she worries homeownership undermines that.

“It’s overwhelming, and it’s a burden that weighs on me. I’m sure it colors how I see other things and impacts how I parent and how much patience I have, and it spreads through your life,” she says.

There are days Andrea is glad they bought the house. Other days she wishes they were still renting.

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  • Becky Chen

    Listening to the Quennevilles on the radio, I sympathized with them about the amount of work home-ownership can be, however, as I looked at the photos of them working in the yard with their children I was reminded of the many days I spent helping my parents rake leaves, shovel snow, and weed gardens. They say in the piece that they feel that they have less time to spend with their children, but doing chores and home fix-it projects are wonderful ways to grow as a family. They are teaching their children valuable skills and work ethic by working to maintain their family home together.

  • Adria

    I agree with you Becky. I grew up in a house that my father designed and my parents built together. Yes, weekends were spent watching my parents build or fix the house but it taught me to have pride in ownership and I plan to instill those same values in my children. Home projects will be a lesson, not a burden.

  • alex

    I don’t understand what the trouble is here. They live in a nice house. It is not like the case of the couple who bought in Mattapan and had to worry about frequent crime on the doorstep.
    I grew up in a beautiful house that was constantly falling apart. It wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t being stuck in an apartment without a garden either, and everything you fix in your house is for your investment. You can make it the way you want it, not put up with someone else’s choices.
    Gardening isn’t a chore, it’s a pleasure…it’s all how you look at it.

  • Lee

    One of the most fun times I have is involving my children in helping me fix things around the house. Renting isn’t necessarily paradise either and many people end up with a rental payment which is above their means also. Not to mention if you end up with an unresponsive landlord. It also helps to make sure you don’t buy more house than you can manage.

  • jeffe

    I think the mistake these people made was not getting a good inspection. I know because I bought a house and had a bad inspection. In my case I went from a condo I owned to a larger house that turned into a disaster. The previous owner lied about the ground water problem when it rained. $5600 french drains and sump pump fixed that. Then there was ungrounded second floor. $2500 to fix that. Then there was the roof $13000. Well at least I knew about the roof.
    You can tell the roof is bad, go into the attic or crawl space look for discolored wood or stains. If you see any stains that means moister is getting through and that means the roof is going. If the seller says it has a new roof they should have receipts and the guarantees.

    At least these people bought when the market was down. I bought when it was high and have lost over 150K in equity.

    Still I’m better off than renting, everyone I know who still rents has to deal with stuff that they can’t control. Like heat going off because of a boiler breaking and a landlord who stalls in fixing it because it’s almost spring.

    Compared to the couple from Mattapan these people have pretty good.

  • http://www.wbur.org/2010/03/30/depreciating-dream-ii#slideshow Pat Rene

    I don’t understand. The Quennevilles can’t spend time with their children because they have to mow the lawn? Or they have to rake the leaves? Children grow up too quickly. Let the grass grow a little longer; let the leaves sit one more week. Spend time with your children. Go camping. The grass and the leaves will be there when you get back.

  • Chi

    I am frustrated with these homeowners. Obviously all of these issues come with owning a home. If they didn’t want all of these chores, they should have stayed with renting. When you own a piece of property, you need to take care of it. It’s that simple. Don’t complain about it because everyone who owns a home goes through the labor. We learn to enjoy it, or else we would have to pay someone else to do it. For all the potential homeowners, please do your research before you get involved in this dream.

  • Tom

    Unbelieveable, cry me a river for crying out loud. When did people become so lazy. Its a house it needs upkeep if you want it to stay looking nice. If you want to take a weekend and go camping, go. The leaves will be there next week when you get back. These people live in a huge house almost twice the size of mine (and we are a family of 5 as well). Big house more upkeep, enjoy it but stop whining about it. Rake the leaves and jump in them with your kids, make a contest who can pick up the most pine cones but stop complaining. The nicer things in life require a little work. I find this families outlook sadly pathetic to be honest.

  • Tanya

    As a person who enjoys the freedom of renting, I have a different perspective than most of the homeowners above might have. As we know, both situations have advantages and disadvantages. I think the lesson of this family’s story is that there is no certain best choice– only the best choice for you, and you can’t let the pressures of the market or society influence this matter. As with myself, perhaps this may not have been the best choice for the Quennesvilles. Yet we often feel encouraged or pushed to buy a house, and especially to buy now! This is most visible when Andrea shares her impression that homeowning is “stable and safe … a cornerstone of being an adult . . . a sign of wealth.” I’m surrounded by friends, family, agents, and a government with these attitudes and I get frustrated by an inadequate acceptance that its simply not the best choice for many people. Who wants to doubt themselves that much? Its a lot to fight against mentally. Perhaps the Quennevilles gave in.

  • Tom

    WOW, Unbelievable, cry me a river for crying out loud. When did people become so lazy? Its a house, it needs upkeep if you want it to stay looking presentable. If you want to take a weekend and go camping, go. The leaves will be there next week when you get back. If you want the yard to look nice now rake the leaves. These people live in a beautiful large house, probably larger than they need (but that’s what they decided to buy). You want a big house, fine enjoy the space but deal with the extra upkeep and stop whining about it. Rake the leaves and jump in them with your kids, shovel the snow and have a snow ball fight take a break and build a snow fort with the kids, make a contest who can pick up the most pine cones but please stop complaining. Your life is different now, you have different responsibilities. The nicer things in life require a little work. Too many people have just gotten LAZY, wanting something for nothing.

    This woman worries about her parenting, stop hovering over your children, you (and so many others) don’t have to be on top of them, directing them every second, let these kids be independent a bit (looks like a great set of woods to play in), its good for them.

    I find this families outlook sadly pathetic to be honest.

  • Tanya

    For some people it is nicer to not be responsible for a house. This is not laziness, it is a different perspective. Some people would rather put their work, time, effort and memories elsewhere. Is this not okay?

    Put simply, this series illustrates that homeowning is not nicer for everyone. And having a different perspective never justifies beind rude. Please find a way to share your perspective without berating these people who will, for sure, read what you’ve said without ever knowing your more thoughtful and considerate qualities.

  • http://twitter.com/ms_q Andrea Q

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments and perspectives about the story.

    It seems that Tanya understands perfectly when she says “For some people it is nicer to not be responsible for a house. This is not laziness, it is a different perspective. Some people would rather put their work, time, effort and memories elsewhere. Is this not okay?” Thank you for stating it so well.

    I also want to specifically thank Becky for reminding me that yard work is a wonderful way to “grow as a family”.

    Overall, the point that we were trying to make with the piece is that as a society, we’re sold the idea of the American Dream. However, the financial, emotional and physical responsibilities that come with home ownership can be more overwhelming than you expect, even when you’ve done your research and *think* you know what you’re getting yourself in to!

  • andrea

    Jeez, people can be so callous! I bought my house in 2005, 6 months after moving in, I had water coming in all 5 rooms. The inspector didn’t do his job, and I had the infuriating task of finding a *reliable* roofer. The maintenance of a home is in its own way, a part time job. Only a homeowner can truely understand that.
    Only a homeowner can understand the constant panic of finding the funds.
    Only a homeowner understands how difficult it is to find reliable contractors (ahem, do roofers ever show up as planned?).
    And yes, only a homeowner can appreciate the old saying “welcome to the money pit”. Because that is what our generation is stuck with now–Devalued properties, greedy brokers/banks and shady real estate agents/inspectors.
    I regret buying immensely. The one biggest mistake I made in my adult life.

  • Alex G.

    With each passing day, I become more pro-rent and anti-ownership. I would just rather do other things with my time and money than worry about the upkeep of something that I don’t have enough skills to do myself (plumbing, roofing, etc.) For this reason, I don’t own a car either, because I am not an expert in its complete upkeep; and I rent rather than own a home. I find that having neither of these and living four miles from work is a very low-stress life, and I don’t want that to change.

  • jeliphish

    These people don’t have problems, they have a list of complaints. Problems happen when you can’t address the issues you have and they compound themselves So far, these folks are meeting their responsibilities but are unhappy because there isn’t as much cash left over at the end of the month and less time to intersct with their children. That’s the problem with building something, like a life or wealth, it takes time and resources. You don’t do it for an immideiate pay-off, but for one that comes over time; one that your children may benefit from. Are we that shallow and immediate gratification oriented that these basic and core values are so far gone?

    If you’re both that miserable, sell the house and walk away. Take the loss if necessary.

  • Monica S

    Yes, being a homeowner has RESPONSIBILITIES attached to it. I say this as a homeowner whose basement currently has a stream running through it.

    I sometimes miss renting. Right now, I could call the landlord, say we’re taking on water – think “s*cks to be you!” and go out to dinner. That’d be nice. As it is, today I spent hours in the basement using the wet/dry vac to suck out over 500 gallons of water cos the stupid sump pump was installed in the wrong place.

    Our house is worth less than it has been on paper. It might even be worth a little less than bought it for. But we were paying about 20k a year in rent before we bought. We’ve been here 6 years. That’s 120k not thrown away to rent.

    There are bumps and your INVESTMENT may lose money. So LIVE IN IT. It’s not an ATM.

    Yes, homeownership is not for everyone. For example, it is not for people who did not think about everything it entails before doing it. And who had not considered that any market can undergo a correction.

    Rake with your kids, enjoy your yard and think how lucky you are you have the problem of this house to live in. I know many many people who would love the privilege.

  • Brian

    Boo-hoo, I’m an engineer, living in a phat house in Lexington w/ recording studio. Whoa is me, my commute is long and I don’t have as much time to play as I used to. It’s called life, get used to it. You made the decision to buy more than you need, buy in the burbs, have a bunch of kids, no one else to blame if you don’t like it.

  • Gregg Z

    There are days like today when I feel absolutely panicked and wish I didn’t own a home. We just invested 80K in a paint job, new garage doors and 26 replacement windows. It took eight years to save the money. Now, some surprise issues have come up that need addressing, and I got laid off last June. Just when I thought we were done with repairs, now the water’s hitting the fan, so to speak! Leaks everywhere, roof, under new windows…and of course, the perennial basement flood. Yes, there ARE days I love my house, but I gotta say, there are many days I wish we were still renting. Yeah…when I think that, I feel like a house wimp…I’m pretty handy and can do a lot of things, but I know my limitations. Values are going down…more repairs imminent…the stress of this definitely runs through my daily life. It’s hard to concentrate on finding a job when new roof leaks are popping up every day…So, give these people a break. Yeah, they probably bit off more than they could chew. We did too…but all first-time homebuyers are ignorant. No one, until you experience it, can really understand the dark side of the American Dream!

  • http://www.lahey.org Dr. Phil Kousoubris

    Homes of all sizes are a labor of love. Bank policies are still a crime against all who labor. My cush newton townhome is down 10% too. And I . Don’t . Care, because at the end of the day, i own something.

  • Peg

    I’m not sure how old this couple’s children are, but I hope that when they get old enough they are old enough they will be expected to help with the yardwork chores. I sure had to do this growing up. My parents were avid gardeners, too, growing both vegetables and flowers. I didn’t always enjoy helping with the weeding, but these days I thoroughly appreciate that aspect of my upbringing and have become an avid gardener myself. These kids are so lucky to have some outdoor space to play and grow in!

    M husband and I just bought our second home in Albany, NY. We bought our first as a HUD fixer upper (lottery house that we got a 50% discount on because f my husband’s occupation) and worked on it for 3 years to make it livable. It needs more work, but the buyer is getting a first time buyer credit to help with these repairs. It’s a beautiful older home (1940 bungalow) and I have to say, I think it pays off to buy older homes because they were better designed and built than newer ones, as long as they were reasonably well maintained and there are no problems like mold, etc. We sold our house for more than twice what we paid for it in 3 years; we know how lucky we are! And yet the one we are buying is significantly smaller and not as charming, But we wanted to not have to spend our time repairing things every weekend. I am looking forward to putting that spare time and money into gardening in our big yard, and, yes, camping.

    I rented in Boston for 14 years. I can’t believe how crazy the market was during that time. One couple I know bought a house far from the city (Leominster) even though they commuted each day to Boston; they had no real interest in Leominster but chose it because that was the closest town they could afford to buy in! They had to walk away from their home when it lost value. They should have kept renting, obviously. I hope those who bought when the market was insanely high are not having too many regrets and at least enjoying their homes.

  • roger north

    Oh Pleaseeeeee…. They have nothing to complain about! Renting has issues as well. They should buy some farm animals and have fun with the house and land.

  • MargaritaK

    Homeownership comes with responsibilities and surprises. Even those who did the *right* things: saved, waited for prices to drop and got a home inspection can be caught off-guard when the home inspector doesn’t do the job right- leaky roof and shower within 6 months of purchase!
    The couple doesn’t pretend they weren’t aware homeownership came with responsibilities and demands, they sound surprised by how drastically homeownership changed their lifestyle for the worse, instead of the better. Their hobbies changed from enjoyable (camping, sewing, music) to drudgery (home repairs, maintenance and lawn duty. The husband tries to convince his wife the “investment” is worth it and will pay off.
    So many still seem homes as “investments”:
    “But we were paying about 20k a year in rent before we bought. We’ve been here 6 years. That’s 120k not thrown away to rent.

    There are bumps and your INVESTMENT may lose money. So LIVE IN IT. It’s not an ATM.”

    Homes are places to live and raise a family and protect your stuff from the elements. Homes are not INVESTMENTS. Home prices increase on average a 1-2% above inflation. The recent housing bubble, with appreciation reaching 20-25% a year was a fluke and will, hopefully, not reappear in our lifetimes.
    For those who do not want to spend each and every weekend painting, tiling, weeding, mowing, roofing and caulking, renting is not a mistake or waste of money. Renters can save money and have a big pile of cash afte r30 years, same as homeowners, without the drudgery and duties.
    It’s all about choice and the lifestyle one chooses to embrace.

  • Joe

    This is not an example of a “Depreciating American Dream”; it is an example of foolish economic choices. The problems they are facing are not an artifact of the current economic conditions. Choosing a house that causes you to commute for 3 hours each day is your own poor decision. Your mortgage should not stretch you budget so much that you cannot cover the inevitable repairs. The size and features of this house (and the couple’s hobbies) would seem like extremely luxuries to previous generations and would not have been considered the standard American dream. I choose the opposite route: I have a short commute but my house is LESS THAN HALF the size of theirs. Since I act financially responsible, the government will soon be confiscating more of my property to support their foolish luxury. Unfortunately, such misleading journalism is what I have come to expect on NPR.

  • http://twitter.com/ms_q Andrea Q

    With all due respect, Joe, I think you misread the article or are making assumptions about our situation.

    As first-time homeowners, we were both surprised by the amount of time required to maintain a house and yard. It’s very much like parenthood–you don’t *really* understand it until you live it. And, yes, the financial burden of repairs is more than we expected, but our bills are paid every month. Other than our mortgage, we are almost debt free. We purchased a home for significantly less than our pre-approval amount. We pay cash for most things. On paper, we’re in great shape and are doing most of the “right” things.

    None of that changes the fact that owning a home is more than we expected. In hindsight, I question our decision to purchase at this point in our lives. That doesn’t make me a bad person…it makes me human.

    MargaritaK, thank you for your comment; I think you understand what we’re experiencing.

    Peg, three of our children are too young to officially help with the yard work, but they love trying! They have small tools and I know that they’ll be a big help someday.

    Roger, we have a deed restriction that limits farm animals. The rest of the family is lobbying me for a dog.

  • Joe

    Andrea Q,

    I enjoyed reading your respectful response. At no point did I say that you were a, in your words, “a bad person”, just that you made foolish choices, which, yes, is human. But I certainly stand by my main point that your current problems are a result primarily of your choices and not of a “Depreciating American Dream”. You mentioned the unexpected time burdens, (“you don’t *really* understand it until you live it”), but had you not been financially stretched, you could have hired someone to do the home improvements you are doing yourself, and this would give you more time. It is true the specifics of these burdens will come as a surprise, but you should know enough to have set aside money for a “rainy day fund”. This is basic financial planning and not an aspect of the current economic condition. Also, you cannot claim that your husband’s long commute was a surprise.

    Perhaps my “government will soon be confiscating more of my property” comment seems snarky or mean to you, but it is my genuine concern. The federal government is talking of further increasing its handouts to “underwater” mortgages, such as yours. So I will live in a small house so that people like you can live in big houses. When our children go to college, since my mortgage will be paid off, your children will receive more financial aid since you are likely to still be paying off your mortgage. By the time we retire, Social Security is likely to be means tested, so I will receive less since you have under-funded your retirement accounts while I have not. My current sacrifices will fund your current well being.

    The reason I wrote my post was not to insult you but to complain about the theme of this series.

    I wish you well, and given your apparent sense of work and responsibility, I think you will prosper.

  • http://twitter.com/ms_q Andrea Q

    Thanks, Joe. I do understand your perspective better now.

  • Karen Harmin

    I’m sorry that Andrea and Raymond have been subjected to so many comments about “whining” and “complaining.” I think this series has been quite valuable; it’s quite true that home ownership is not for everyone. It’s loaded with hidden costs and lots of work.

    But owning a home has no greater impact on the way you live your life than any other major change — having kids, changing jobs, etc. All these things change your life. So now you’ll only go to national parks once or twice a year, instead of several weekends; but now you’ve got a great back yard, so you can get into vegetable gardening with your kids, or put up a badminton net and play outdoors. OK, so now you’ve got to spend many of your evenings and weekends doing repair projects around the house — but can’t the kids have as much fun with Mom and Dad by “helping” them work, as they would watching them put up a tent? My fondest memories of childhood come from the time I spent with my father in the garage, watching him build and fix things, and having him teach me how to use tools.

    Sure, it’s an adjustment — but it doesn’t have to diminish your life. It’s just in how you look at it.

  • Treeda

    One of the issues about the American Dream regarding home ownership is that its dreamlike quality has outpaced reality so that what people currently aspire to is ruinous for many – in terms of personal finances, future economic security and the environment. Largely a product of the post-war years, it is interesting to see how far we’ve come in redefining what the dream means: The average size of a new home in 1950 was 983 ft2 but that rose to 2266 ft2 in 2000. Of course housing prices have risen many fold; in addition to all the other causes, we’re buying much more house than we used to (and more than we need) – at great cost to ourselves and the planet. In terms of space per person, the rise is even more dramatic since we’ve been buying bigger homes as family/household size has been shrinking: 286 ft2 per capita in 1950 to 847 ft2 per capita in 2000 – a threefold rise. So in addition to the expense of the average home, the energy costs to maintain it have increased exponentially. Our expectations are skewed and as a number of the stories in this series suggest, people are under a great deal of social pressure to own more than they can afford and they also rather blindly and (sorry but it’s true) stupidly go into these deals without understanding the implications of ownership and the costs associated with it, including the significant opportunity costs. Also the focus of this family on the home as a ‘sign of wealth’ is part of their problem – their decision to buy something that was not really affordable seems like it had something to do with their need to present a false, idealized image of themselves to the world. When did it become shameful to live within one’s means? The fact that the Q’s are not contributing much to retirement and are leaving the employer’s money on the table to be able to afford a mortgage that is beyond their means is insane and simply illustrates the fact that they are delusional in so far as they think they are doing things correctly. When Mrs. Q replies “on paper, we’re in great shape and are doing most of the “right” things.” the response is: sorry, you’re completely wrong. If you are short changing your retirement savings you’re in terrible shape and you’re doing things wrong.

    Scaling back does not necessarily mean privation. While our lifestyle is not for everyone, it is instructive about how you can manage to be financially solvent, happy with your home and environmentally responsible: after many years of renting and saving, my husband and I bought a 1200 sq ft loft in Cambridge two years ago, spending, by choice, much less than we could afford according to bank calculations. With a hefty downpayment and a 15 year fixed mortgage at a low rate, we spend only about 20% of our takehome on mortgage, monthly fees and taxes. We looked for passive solar and as a result have never spent more than $50 a month in heating bills. We live near the Redline and our jobs subsidize our T passes so we have short, cheap commutes. Without too much house for our needs, an expensive monster commute, or ruinous utility bills, we are able to save over a quarter of our gross income for retirement (and that’s not even counting the employer match), take very nice vacations and still have the time and energy after work to participate in community activities and volunteer work. And our place, while small in comparison to almost everyone in our income bracket, is big enough to entertain frequently, welcome houseguests and have our college aged children stay with us during school breaks.
    One does have to question a lot of the assumptions that go into this sort of report. “Homeownership doesn’t make as much financial sense for the Quennevilles as it did for their parents a generation ago.” Really? Somehow I doubt that their parents had 4 bathroom/5 bedroom homes for 6 people.

  • http://twitter.com/ms_q Andrea Q

    Reducing our retirement contributions for two or three years by $100/$200 per month when we’re young, will likely have little impact on our future wealth. This temporary reduction has helped me to stay home with our children, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

  • Roberto

    Treeda makes many good points — people have to calculate the financial and emotional/time costs of housing decisions. I love the energy focus — kudos to you! — public transport and being sure retirement is full partner on your housing/lifestyle choices.

    My view is too many people took the bait of housing commitment/upside valuations w/out factoring in all “costs” as you have. For young “lower/middle” class folks, the desire to improve on their parents’ achieved status (at end of their “path”) combined with an unrealistic vision of super-competitive global labor market, or high energy/healthcare cost environment, and uber-materialistic society, perhaps compounded by an increasingly less technical education/career path (ie, NOT engineering, science, R&D, bio-tech, or — dare I add — alternative energy?), on average, young people will struggle to maintain quality of life of their parents.

    I fear most for those who are not getting a decent public education at all — who cannot even begin to create a household budget or read that loan commitment form or understand what variable mortgage APRs are! Frankly, we needed to “stimulus” the economy, but the more ways U’Sam bails out the fiscally wounded, the less people will learn about fending for themselves… That will piss off those who did think it through and lived within their means to afford their goals/dreams.

  • Roberto

    Other thoughts:
    –Can Raymond reduce commute time by changing a.m. schedule? Leave really early to avoid congestion on Rte3, and petition boss for one “virtual” day each week (Wed?) to save gas and be around when kids come home…
    –Don’t put off retirement contribs. if you lose matching; that is doubling neg. impact on retirement which grows TAX-FREE!
    –Read all of Michelle Singletary’s columns from 2008 forward and learn about finances and household budgets!
    –Look very hard at your home energy costs; you can get energy audit virtually free (Utilities subsidize 50-75% Minimum) and will find you immediate savings. If you spend 2000 on electricity and another 3000 on heat/A/C, I bet you can save 20% with easy, cheap “fixes”!
    –Since you are home, try hanging laundry 50% of the time; will reduce electric tons~and we know you have laundry with 4 young ‘uns!
    –Hang in there for now; no sense bailing while market is soft unless you have done all your homework and have a solid plan re jobs, schools, commuting, and full household/retirement budgeting!

  • http://twitter.com/ms_q Andrea Q

    Thanks, Roberto, for your positive suggestions!

    For now, we have drying racks inside, but we definitely need to build a clothesline…another project for our list! We did do a few weatherization projects in the fall. I’m sure we’re using less energy, but due to the mild winter, it’s hard to quantify how much they helped.

    And, we have no plan to bail on the house. I’m sure that I’ll feel a lot differently a decade from now when I’ve adjusted to all of the responsibilities involved with being a homeowner. But, for now, it is a struggle to get used to this new way of life.

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