This is part of an ongoing series where I dissect and discuss the reasoning behind various facets of my lifestyle. Through this, I’m attempting to separate the money aspect from the decision-making process, showing that I live a lifestyle that’s largely divorced from concerns about money whatsoever. Essentially, this is a lifestyle that I’d live regardless of my income/wealth. These facets thus aren’t about the money at all, but rather the result of thoughtful choices based around what I value and what drives my happiness.
Rent or buy the roof over your head?
It’s a debate that will rage on long after I’m dead.
But I can say that I personally couldn’t care less about the debate. At least not in terms of how it’s usually framed.
Most articles/discussions out there are completely incorrect in how they try to tackle the issue at hand, in my view.
I don’t think it’s really a financial call at all. I mean, you can make a financial argument based on your local market, your unique financial position, and your unique time horizon. All the same, it’s that much more difficult to make generalized statements for everyone across the entire market that is the United States.
Just looking at the financial aspect of it, assuming you’re going to live in one particular space for at least 10 years, you’re generally better off buying if you’re in the middle of the country. Along the coasts, it becomes harder to financially argue against renting. In big cities, renting seems to be the more favorable option most often. These are generalizations. And they may not have any meaning in your particular situation.
That’s pretty much it. As always, you’d have to run the exact numbers in your exact situation in your exact market. As such, the end result will vary dramatically from one person to another. And so it’s silly to debate the issue on the basis of finances alone.
However, I think it’s even sillier to debate the issue when considering that much of the decision of whether to buy or rent your abode is really a personal lifestyle call.
I’ve found that in my unique situation, I’m financially better off renting.
But I can also say this: I’d still rent, even if I were financially better off buying.
It’s a lifestyle call, folks.
For me, renting is actually worth a premium, if a premium were to exist (which I don’t believe does in my case).
You could give me $1 million right now. And you know what? I’d still rent. I’d probably be renting in a different place, perhaps in a bigger city, but I’d be nonetheless renting. It’s a decision I’ve made regardless of my income/wealth.
I rented when I was broke. I’m still renting now that I’m fairly wealthy. And I’ll continue to rent long after I could buy an army of homes in cash.
Why’s renting worth a premium?
It’s an easy call for me.
Being able to make a simple phone call when something breaks, and having the issue taken care of pretty quickly. Limited liability. Not having to worry about maintenance, upgrades, repairs. No concerns about landscaping. Intrinsic flexibility that just adds to my freedom. So on and so forth. This is all worth money to me, because I’m afforded more time, increased happiness, and less concern.
I effectively have zero worries in my life as it relates to the roof over my head. Something happens? Not my problem.
I don’t care about things like having a yard, being able to garden, or putting in a new bathroom vanity. “Putting down roots” means nothing to me. I have no emotional connection to something that provides shelter. I see a house as nothing more than a building. None of this drives my happiness.
In fact, I can honestly say that owning my own home would actually lead to a decrease in my personal happiness, because then I would be adding all kinds of worries and tasks to my life – worries and tasks I neither want nor need.
Instead, having someone else shoulder all of that burden allows me to focus my time, attention, and energy on things that do make me happy. Things like writing, reading, spending time with my pups, exercising, hitting the beach, etc.
In the end, whether someone chooses to buy or rent the building that keeps them from living on the streets is really a personal call. But I do believe it’s less a financial call and more a lifestyle call.
To buy a home because you might possibly end up with a little more money in 10 years, even if you honestly won’t be happier, is just really silly. It’s right on par with continuing to work at a job you no longer need only for the money, even when it decreases your happiness, which is the antithesis of what financial freedom is all about.
There’s just nothing on my personal checklist of things that drive my happiness that coincide with homeownership.
Cutting grass? Nope.
Contacting a roofing company when something starts to leak? Nope.
Spending a few hours in a home improvement store, picking out tile? Nope.
None of that does a thing for me, so I avoid it all by renting.
You see the picture I attached to this article? That’s me… not cutting grass, gardening, or fixing things. It’s pure bliss.
Renting isn’t actually about money at all. It’s a lifestyle call. Renting is in line with my view on life in general. It’s part of a holistic lifestyle that’s custom designed (by me and for me) to maximize my opportunities to pursue happiness.
Now, this is just me. Perhaps you would be happier owning. If that’s the case, you should own. Unless the numbers substantially diverge between owning and renting, one should make the own or rent decision based on what’s going to make them happiest over the long run. But it’s important to be really honest about this.
I rent because I’m happier renting. If I weren’t, I’d buy.
I’m having this dialogue with you readers in order to point out that the lifestyle one creates in order to become financially free at a young age doesn’t have to and shouldn’t lead to a decline in one’s happiness.
Not only does spending more money not automatically lead to more happiness, but spending less money can actually lead to more happiness.
It’s counterintuitive – which makes it that much more amazing. For some reason, people largely believe that money and happiness operate under a constant 1:1 ratio where the increase or decrease of the former always leads to the equivalent change in the latter. But it’s just not true.
And that’s not just due to the permanent shift in one’s internal “happiness thermostat” that one attains after becoming financially free, but it’s also due to the realization that the creation of a more robust lifestyle that concentrates on life and experiences more than stuff and money alleviates oneself of a silly and undue burden. This can actually improve the world around you, which simply compounds the benefits.
Finally, being in a position to make lifestyle decisions not based on money but rather the pursuit of happiness is, in my view, a wonderful way to approach life. I’ve found that I think not about money when I make decisions but instead about whether or not something makes me happy. And it just so happens that what makes me happy doesn’t cost very much money. It’s an incredibly virtuous cycle that’s part of an overarching holistic lifestyle that feeds into itself. Once you open your eyes to it, it’s almost like you can’t help but succeed, become financially free, and live life on your terms.
What do you think? Does renting or buying make you happier? Did you make the choice based on math or what would make you happiest?
Thanks for reading.
Note: I’m not interested in debating renting versus buying from a financial perspective. If you’re intent on debating the choice purely through a financial lens, you didn’t read the article. Please refrain from leaving comments that attempt such a debate.