The American Dream is to own your own home, to have something you can pass on to your kids after you shuffle off this mortal coil. Stocks, bonds, and all of the stuff many think of as investments are great, but owning your own home is the big thing.
After all, it’s the basic building block for creating generational wealth, which is a key ingredient in keeping future generations of your family out of poverty.
However, there are those who seem intent on pushing us toward poverty as somehow a better way of life.
My interest in how this is shaping up began with this headline: “America Should Become a Nation of Renters” from Bloomberg, a news site that supposedly focuses on business news.
But should we?
As institutional investors increasingly enter the housing market, however, the incentives begin to shift. Large investors can expand or redevelop their properties themselves, because they benefit from a greater number of overall tenants, even if rents themselves dip.
Meanwhile, the increased availability of rental properties could benefit homeowners in declining areas of the country. They frequently cannot move to more prosperous areas because they can’t sell their homes for nearly enough to buy a new place somewhere else. In an economy with more rentals, however, they could afford to try a new place for a few years without the commitment of a mortgage or down payment.
A nation of renters could lead to a world where location decisions are driven far more by personal preferences and life-cycle demands. Younger workers might prefer the excitement of the city. A couple just starting a family could reunite with their parents or siblings in a small town.
The U.S. is not quite there yet, and not just because too many people are chasing too few apartments. To see the U.S. as a nation of renters requires a revision of the American dream of homeownership. This country was always more about new frontiers than comfortable settlements, anyway.
In other words, the writer tried to tie the lack of homeownership into Americans’ innate sense of adventure. However, what he screwed up is that most people don’t seek adventure for adventure’s sake. They want some kind of reward. Sometimes, that’s just the knowledge that they did something, but there has to be some degree of reward.
Spending your life renting offers no such thing. Hell, the next to the last quoted paragraph ignores the fact that tens of millions of Americans do just that already, often while buying homes along the way. While houses aren’t exactly liquid assets, they’re usually not that hard to unload, either.
What the writer also fails to note is what kind of a hit this would create in the idea of generational wealth. The stock market isn’t an automatic win for everyone (don’t ask me about my stock portfolio, for example), but buying a house tends to be a safe direction to go. Yeah, there was the housing market crash in 2008, but even then, many people made it out on the other side still better than they would have been if they’d just rented.
My own take on this push is that we’re being conditioned to live a poverty lifestyle.
I mean, there are numerous articles suggesting a push to get us to eat insects for protein, for example. Others celebrate living in “pods,” which are really just like open-bay military barracks in just about every meaningful way. Then there are the popular “tiny houses” which are basically just making living in a tiny trailer cool.
Look, I don’t care how anyone else lives their life, but this idea that we’re supposed to completely reset our lifestyles at the behest of some nebulous master—and while I won’t say there’s a single person responsible for this, it sure as hell feels that way—is a problem. Especially when we know the wealthy won’t be living like this, yet living like this will keep us from being wealthy.
Almost as if it’s by design.
Yeah, I know, time to break out the tinfoil, but take a look for a moment and tell me I’m wrong. We’ve got the media pushing for a complete overhaul of our world, an overhaul that wouldn’t have been tolerated just a few decades ago, and there’s remarkably little pushback.
More and more, it looks like pursuing homeownership will be a countercultural act, as will insisting on actual meat instead of something you’d buy a can of Raid to take care of it it came into your home, and who knows what else.
That’s fine. I’m really okay with being countercultural if that’s the direction the culture is going.
Buy houses. Build wealth. Eat good food that you aren’t disgusted by. Live.
Just because they’re trying to sell poverty doesn’t mean we need to buy it.